Two O’Clock

When I was in graduate school, we had a talk on cultural differences by an anthropologist who told a story about one of her students.

The student was in the South American rainforest, waiting for a ferry that would take her down the river. The attendant at the ferry landing told her the boat would arrive at 2:00. She waited, and looked at her watch. 2:00 came and went. 2:30 came and went. 3:00 came and went.

She remarked to the attendant that the ferry was late. The attendant said, “No, it’s not 2:00 yet.”

The student pointed to her watch and said, “Yes, it is well past 2:00.”

The attendant replied, “No, the boat has not come yet. Therefore it is not 2:00.”

So it is with bread.

When the recipe says mix for 10 minutes, check the gluten. If it’s not developed, the 10 minutes have not passed.

If the loaves need to proof for two hours, check them at 60 minutes. If they’re ready, then two hours have gone by.

When your calculation says the bread should finish baking at 2:00, look at it. If it is still pale, it’s not 2:00 yet.

Post a comment » 27 Comments

  1. Isn’t that nice; not everything is regulated by time. Just let it happen and enjoy the proces.
    Maybe that’s what most of us breadmakers like.

    thank you for this lovely story.

  2. Great, delicious little story. This is something I always try to emphasize when explaining how to bake; people get obssesed with precise directions, timing, etc. I think I’ll quote your story (with full credit!!!!) ;) Regards from Barcelona.

  3. Its kind of true of life in general, eh? Its not done until its done is my general motto. But, then again, I am almost always late for things.

  4. Susan, this is so true! Thanks for the chuckle!

  5. That’s a great reminder for how to live life and bake bread :) Fun story!

  6. I love that! :)

  7. I love this! So far in my limited bread-baking adventures I’ve discovered that the times are pretty well on, but the amount of flour isn’t. I somehow always wind up needing to add more. Then again, that’s my rule with garlic too. And chocolate. Add more, always more!

  8. I guess my method is working then? I never check the time, too lazy!

  9. Great post! I find that so many people are much more concerned with fermenting, kneading, proofing, and baking taking specific amounts of time than they are with feeling or looking to see that things are right. I am not a perfect bread baker, but I never rush the process and give myself plenty of time. Often things take different amounts of time than I originally estimate!

    This is a wonderful anecdote, and I think it is perfect.

  10. That is so true! I was so excited when I discovered that if my loaves weren’t big enough, I could just wait until they were to bake them. They look so much better fully risen!

  11. My sort of time keeping, for sure! Great story…

  12. Perfect way to describe how to bake bread. It sets the time, not that annoying ticky thing hanging on the wall.

  13. I like this parable! I just got a new mixer (an SP5) and since it is made to knead large amounts of dough and I barely make more than 2 lbs at a time right now (I’ll use it at full capacity when summer comes and there’ll be many of us in the house), the gluten gets developed way faster than usual and the 4 or 5 minutes I would normally wait before I check the dough consistency shrink to 2 or 3 minutes…The first time it truly caught me by surprise.

  14. What a nice story, and so true, not only for bread baking but also for life. Thanks for the laugh!

  15. Wonderful!

    This is a powerful “teaching story,” indeed. The term “parable” came to me, as it did to MC.

    I’ve been saying, “Watch the dough, not the clock.” I think I will now advise bakers that “It’s not 2 o’clock yet” and link to your story.

    Very …. errrr … timely tale!


  16. Watch the dough, not the clock. So true.

    We all come across moments where time time is neither linear or consistent. So why should it be the case with baking?

    By the way – have you ever asked for directions in southern Africa? Same phenomenon, only with distances…

  17. There’s a lot to think about in that story. Thanks.

  18. That is the wisest thing I’ve heard in a long time. Thanks for the insight.

  19. Nice aspect of baking.

    Consider a recipe as a guideline, not as an excuse to stop using your own judgement.

  20. Yes that can be difficult for us sometimes! In my early baking days I got frustrated a lot when it all went different from the time-scale of the book. Now I don’t really time a lot, just wait for that 2 o’clock ferry :-)

  21. Perfect! I bake by this philosophy. Thanks for the thought and the chuckle.

  22. This is so true! I’ve been learning this the hard way since I don’t always know what a “bubbling sponge” or “gluten development” is supposed to look like I follow the recipe to the letter and am perplexed when it doesn’t work out. It is definitely a challenge!

  23. This is the best lesson! And my husband is going to love it too. Not too many bread bakings ago, he said he could smell bread. I nodded knowingly and said that the timer had ten more minutes. He pressed his point, saying it smelled done. My reply: “It’s not done; there’s ten more minutes on the timer” as I stomped into the kitchen to prove him wrong and…

    Yup. The bread was done and just beginning to get a little too dark on the bottom. (The timer bell rang ten minutes later….)

  24. Sweet :)

  25. I love this parable. I’ve used it in my life for years to explain away my family and friends. “see you tomorrow”, “call you right back”, “I will be there at 3″… obviously in life, tomorrow, right back and 3 haven’t happened yet, and I wait patiently until it does. I do not look at it as bad behavior on anyone’s part. We all don’t march to the beat of the same drummer. Thanks for the reminder to take life as it comes.

  26. I’m afraid, you’re right. Hmmm…

  27. [...] course, in matters of baking, it takes however long it takes. So updates to come whenever this dough has decided 2.5 hours has [...]

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