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.
Yesterday I seriously thought I had died and gone to hell.
I had a lovely weekend in Seattle, but the minute IFBC was over it was quite downhill from there. The 18 or so hours before I would arrive back in California involved an excruciatingly painful event (think childbirth) that left me sleep-deprived and limping, an airport clock that was exactly one hour behind (come on people, Spring Forward!), and close encounters with staining liquids (both the hot and cold kind).
Normally this is not, to put it mildly, the sort of day that makes me want to be bold and adventurous. It is the sort of day that makes me want to seek shelter under a nice ample rock. Certainly not the kind of day that typically makes me say to myself, “This seems like the perfect time do the thing you’ve never done before because it terrifies you more than just about anything else in the world! Why not just go ahead and Deep Fry Something?”
If you’ve been baking for a while, or even if you’re a new baker, chances are you’ve done some experimenting with ingredients or techniques to see what works best for you. Maybe an experiment goes something like this:
You have a choice of two flours, and you wonder which will produce a better bread. So you take your favorite recipe and bake it twice, once with flour A, and once with flour B. Except for changing the flour (the experimental variable) you keep everything else the same: the other ingredients, the fermentation time, the baking time and temperature. You like Loaf A better, so you conclude that Flour A is better.
Here is an experiment I did a while ago, but I’m not going to say what the experimental variable was, just yet.
I like the loaf on the left better because the grigne (cut) opened up much more nicely than the one on the right.
If you’ve looked around Wild Yeast, you know that I frequently adapt and post recipes from some of my favorite baking books. This is common practice among food bloggers, and OK from a legal standpoint, as recipes are not subject to copyright protection.
Legality and prevalence notwithstanding, doing right is important, and it has always been my belief and intention that when I post my take on another person’s recipes, I respectfully communicate my admiration for that person and their work, while sharing my own thoughts and processes. However, my recent posting of an adaptation of Flaxseed Rye, from Jeffrey Hamelman’s wonderful book Bread: A Baker’s Book of Techniques and Recipes, prompted a reader to challenge me a little. Wasn’t it impolite and disrespectful to reference another person’s work in this way without his permission?
Taking a deep breath, I decided to ask Chef Hamelman what his thoughts were. He has given me permission to share his eloquent and gracious response:
“I’ve given some thought to your emails. To me, bread is rich and deeply historical, and is one of those very fundamental things that has lineage. And part of respecting the lineage is in doing just what you have been doing—giving attribution of recipe sources and inspirations. This is how we keep the links intact. It’s a value thing, an ethic … If you read the introduction in the book BREAD to Horst Bandel’s Black Pumpernickel and Miche Pointe-à-Callière you will get a sense of what my personal values are. So I’m saying yes, continue with what you are doing.”
One of the fun things about Google Analytics is I get to see what Google search terms land people here on this blog. The top ones are, not surprisingly, things like “wild yeast,” “instant yeast,” and “sourdough bread recipe.”
But thanks to some of the more interesting comments people have left on some posts, I can report that people can, and have, also found Wild Yeast through such search terms as:
“ugly bagel recipe”
“sourdough starter smells like vomit”
“Spongebob’s flax meal bread”
“rosca de reyes swallowing the baby jesus”
and my favorite:
“why are my balls cracking when i coat them?”
I have an accordion recipe file, the kind that has a pocket for each category, and when you want to find a recipe you have to dump everything in the pocket out — the index cards, the magazine clippings, the scraps of paper torn from whatever legal pad was handy at the time — and sift through them one by one for the one you want.
I’ve had it since 1982, and I don’t use it too much any more, but there are certain old recipes in there that I use regularly but that never made it onto the computer, like my mother-in-law’s pork tenderloin and Christmas cookies, and many more that I never used and never will but never got around to tossing. It’s a mess, really.
I can’t even tell you what I was looking for in “Cakes, Pies & Baked Goods” the other day — it won’t be cookie season for a while — but what I found was this: