Are you ready for ‘the secrets of my hiatus? Well, they may not be literal secrets, but they surely are not mainstream – for whatever reasons. Let’s call them ‘fringe’ baking practices, which one would certainly expect from Drfugawe, since he is surely a fringe kind of guy!
I think I’ve mentioned here that once I’ve added a new dish to my rotation of favorites, I begin looking for ways to make its preparation easier, without -of course- the loss of any quality or taste, which was probably the reason it made the list in the first place. Baking bread is no different – Yup, I’m constantly looking for ways to make the baking of my breads easier, quicker, and more consistent – And if you can find ways to do that, why in hell would you not do it!!!
Now, there is a rather obvious secret inherent in the above paragraph, but it is one that is continually resisted over and over again in the billions of home kitchens of the world – and that simple secret is that if you want to learn how to make a dish, or a bread, consistently well, easier and quicker, you have to make it over and over and over again! Simple – and absolute!
How do I know this simple secret is resisted world-wide, even though everyone knows in their hearts it is true? Because I once taught 7th grade grammar and writing. And my friends, if you’ve ever had the pleasure and pain of teaching 12 year olds how to write, you know that once a 12 year old has written the last word of an assignment, or a paragraph, or even a sentence, the very last thing in the world they want to do is to re-read what they have just written! The logic of the 12 year old is, ‘But I read it while I was writing it.’ They haven’t yet learned that the whole is different than the sum of the parts!
Yes, I’m contending that cooking and baking are just like writing (and tons of other things too) – Practice makes perfect.
I wasn’t a good teacher – that’s why I left teaching – but the kids in my classes at least entered life with the ability to make what they write comprehensible to their fellowman – or at least they were introduced to that skill, and why it was important. And I hope some of them took that with them into life.
But there’s a second reason why I know there is universal resistance to this universal rule – because I myself HATE this rule! Yes, I am to this day extremely dismayed and annoyed to be forced to ‘try’ to interpret what my friends are trying to communicate in their emails – and their inability to communicate is only happening because they refuse to re-read what they write before they click ‘SEND’. But friends, I’m a Psych major, and I went that route for the same reason why all other Psych majors did – to get to know why I behaved as I did! So, I know well that the habits of other people which bother and annoy me the most, are simply those which are so deeply embedded in my own behaviors.
Yes friends, I’m a resister! I am a universal resister. I hate making the same dish twice (I always think there’s something better in a different recipe) – I’ll always choose to go to a new restaurant rather than return to an excellent one that we know well (really dumb) – I hate going down the same road twice (I want new things to look at) – and yes, I even hate having to re-read what I’ve just written – but I do it anyway, and I do all the other things that I resist – because I know the value of going against my own natural inclination – I know I possess a lazy psyche – I’ve learned to live with it.
But I digress – back to my point: Rule # 1 – Never make a brand new dish (one you’ve never made before) for a dinner party.
If you don’t know this rule yet, either you don’t do enough dinner parties, or, sorry, you’re just not a good cook yet. This is the rule that proves my secret. I guess Rule # 2 could be, Always make dishes you know and love for dinner parties. But then, if we adhere to rule 1, we don’t need rule 2 – do we?
One of the things I did during my hiatus was that I choose a simple formula for a basic sourdough loaf and I jotted it down on a small piece of paper, and I taped it to the fridge – here it is:
- 8 ozs sourdough starter
- 1 tsp yeast (I’ll tell you later why I used the yeast)
- 2 tsp kosher salt
- 10 ozs water
- 14 ozs flour (sometimes changed up the type of flours used)
That’s it – a simple 2 lb loaf. And I made it over and over and over again. Techniques may have changed a little each loaf (sometimes not) but the ingredients never changed, except for the flours as noted. And guess what? Those breads just keep getting better and better! Why was that?
I think the answer to that is contained in the subtle lessons I was learning each time I baked – and in the consistencies I was building into the techniques I was employing – all of this I will lay out in the coming days, as we open even more of the ‘secrets’ I learned.
I hope you are finding some fun in this – I know I am. But I do think if you stay with us over the next week or so, you may find a few new tricks you can slip into your own bread techniques – and who knows, you may also find your breads getting better, and easier, and more consistently good.