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.

CommentsLeave a comment

  1. says

    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. says

    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. Kristen says

    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!

  4. says

    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.

  5. says

    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!

  6. says

    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.

  7. says


    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!


  8. says

    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…

  9. says

    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 :-)

  10. says

    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!

  11. says

    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….)

  12. tallwoman813 says

    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.


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