Degassing, a technical term

I still kind of want to kiss the screen when I chisel out a beautiful turn of phrase from a raw block of unedited thoughts. You won’t find any such turns here, but I need to do a little throat-clearing before I get to the business of writing my book. And how you know I’m back to writing a book is when you see an uptick in my procrastination. Case in point: blog posts.

And baking. And watercolors. And drawings.

There is nothing I like more than when the kids are off from school, which they are this week. It means time together luxuriating, in our pajamas, watching The Great British Bake Off, playing scrabble after dinner. Um, except now that I’m a Wellness Coach at WW, Weight Watchers Re-imagined, it means I have to shower occasionally.

Today I’d scheduled some time to work on my next book. And yet, here I am, blogging about how blogging is a procrastination. Because if I’m writing here, it means I’m not writing the book. I’m sitting in a Starbucks inside a Target store, where I’ve written all my books, and I’m thinking about what ingredients I’ll need to bring home later. Abigail wants to bake rolls from scratch.

I have every ingredient known to every specialty food store already stocked in my home. The other night, Phil was looking at a recipe, and he turned to me and said, “Do we have psyllium husk powder?” Yes. Yes, we do. Because I’m just that psycho (he surprised me by making me low-carb blini with creme fraiche and caviar). When it comes to baking, I have “scarcity thinking,” fearing that on any given pajama day when I want to lounge and bake, our pantry will be missing an ingredient, and then I’ll have to drive to a store. The thought of having to leave the house to pick up a single ingredient is off-putting enough to me, that I’ll refuse to bake anything. I stock up on bars of white chocolate (it must have cocoa butter listed in the ingredients, as the white chips do not), and our cupboard is always fit with at least five types of flour: all purpose unbleached, cake flour, bread flour, coconut flour, almond flour.

Still, to be sure, I’ve looked up a recipe for rolls, so Abby and I will have everything we’ll need for our midnight bake. This is when it came to mind that there are different styles of decision making.

Phil is a strategic thinker. He’s also utilitarian. It doesn’t take him long to make a decision. He jumps right in, confident that whatever choice he made, he’ll live with it. It doesn’t have to be the best choice. Just a choice. If something doesn’t work, so you learn.

I don’t have regrets. I’m confident in my ability to do just about anything. I might suck at that anything, but I know I’ll figure it out with practice. What’s different about our styles is that I’m a major researcher. I don’t like to buy anything until I’ve read reviews and done my research–this is why people ask me about the best knives, pans, vitamin c serum, moisturizer, mascara, cookbook, watercolors–you get the idea. I don’t jump into a random recipe without researching the author, and also the recipe itself. So, it takes me far longer than others to actually get started, but once I do dive in, no doubt or regret.

I have a few cookbooks (1,095 to be exact, and no, that’s not a joke). The books appearing in the featured image of this post are just a sampling of the bread books I own. While in Target, I’ve pulled up my digital copy of The Bread Baker’s Apprentice, looking for a recipe for rolls. Immediately, I turned to page titled, “Stage 4: Punching Down (Degassing).” This is my kind of book because it explains why you need to do what you need to do.

“Punching down dough, while very dramatic sounding, is more accurately called degassing. There are four reasons for degassing dough. The first is that it expels some of the carbon dioxide trapped in the gluten network, and too much carbon dioxide will eventually choke off the yeast. Second, it allows the gluten to relax a bit. Third, the temperature on the outside of the dough is usually cooler than the interior, so the punch down helps equalize the interior and exterior temperature. Finally, when the dough is degassed it allows for redistribution of the nutrients and triggers a new feeding cycle”

Excerpt From: Peter Reinhart. “The Bread Baker’s Apprentice: Mastering the Art of Extraordinary Bread.”

I feel like there’s an analogy to be drawn between baking bread and relationships. When Lucas was a baby, and just verbal, I had him on a changing table and asked him an important question. Believing that children are closer to the mystical forces of the universe, more in touch with intuition, I asked Kind Sir, “What’s the meaning of life?”

To which he replied, “Pan,” which is the Spanish word for “bread.” We had our magical nanny Norma speak to the children only in her native tongue. I’m going to ruminate on this tonight as I punch dough into place. Though, upon further research, we’ll likely make a “Rich Man’s Brioche,” because why make poor bread if you can make rich bread? Which might not call for as much manual labor, being such high-brow bread. We might have to save the big punch down of degassing for another day. To be determined by more research. For now, I’m off to write a book. Then off to coach people on how to overcome the activation energy required to move an object at rest.



  1. Oh my god – back on form!!!!

    More blog posts and you are writing a book!!! Subject??

    So happy :-)

    One question – why is your baking done so late in the evening?

  2. Dear Stephanie,

    Good morning, and thank you for being a brave voice in the world for all! I’m a novice to your work, and happened upon your memoir, Moose, during a recent library scavenge. I’ve just come to the almost end, the bittersweet part of the near close of camp, color war, and felt compelled to reach out and drop a line. Thank you, Klein, for being the only good thing in front of me right now. I am currently in a personal valley, but I want you to know that you have been and still are part of the peak. Thanks!

    Dani Fisher

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