Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Pushing It To The Limit

photo by Sara Silverstein

In my last post I showed a resurrected loaf that only minutes before was a charred wreck. Often it's possible to weasel out of difficult situations, but if those situations never present themselves, then in my opinion I'm really not exploring my full potential as an oven builder/bread baker. To arrive at a place that I am comfortable with, I'll never know where that is unless I push myself to extremes. For example, how hot can I get my oven so that I can do multiple bakes without burning to a crisp the first batch of bread. Well, I really won't know until I burn a few loaves.
Once when building an oven, I first added way too much clay to my mix, and the oven really developed horrible cracks. I tore it down even before I removed the sand mold, and built it right the second time.
Last summer, in the middle of a workshop I was giving I had an oven totally collapse because there was was too much sand added to the mix. Sure, I should have been more attentive, but I wasn't. Miraculously, in one hour, we reformed the sand mold and rebuilt the oven with the correct proportions of clay to sand. And one hour after that (no joke), we were baking pizza in the oven.
When making sourdough bread, sometimes I might be unsure of how much starter to add. I might try a tiny amount and then try a humongous amount. If I don't push it to the extreme I'll never know what the limitations or the exciting possibilities really are.
Yes, I could engineer my breads as professional bakers must do, because they are very concerned about consistency since they sell their product, but for me, being an amateur can be much more rewarding. That's the place where I want to be. I have no one to answer to, and every new bread I bake becomes, really, a quest for the grail.
After all these years, I still believe that Dylan had it right. "There's no success like failure and failure is no success at all."
Just stay with it, and don't worry about making mistakes. It's all going to work out.
Look at the photo of the bicyclist. He's not afraid to take chances, but does he know what will happen if he adds just one more box?

Monday, November 23, 2009

"Slightly" Rustic

Yes, the oven was too hot, to put it mildly, but all was not lost.
The only sure way to kill a loaf is by under baking it.