The unattended bread machine will, however, go on strike.
I threw in the ingredients, pushed the button, and left. 3 hours and 43 minutes later, after I'd been home for awhile, it beeped.
My bread didn't rise. It was dense and lopsided and raw in the center. I thought briefly I could make croutons, but decided "this is for the birds." Literally.
The second loaf rose, was perfectly symettrical and golden brown. Honestly, I prefer to knead my own dough, but my friends don't mind eating around the divot formed by the paddle. This beauty will accompany a tub of fig/orange/spice preserves, which I whirred together in the food processor on a whim. It will be my offering to my handy friend who hopefully will be able to extract the paring knife that slipped through my soapy hands and despite my efforts to extract it with needlenose pliers, chopsticks and a wad of gum attached to the end of a toothbrush, remains securely wedged in the drain.
I am a cheater and a fraud. I am a seat of the pants cook, a mad scientist who compulsively reads cookbooks, but seldom follows a recipe. I'm is applauded by my friends for my ability to substitute ingredients and create something from nothing, but I am undeserving of their praise. It's the alchemy of the kitchen.