Monday, January 24, 2011

"There's No Success Like Failure"

It has been my experience that to excel in just about anything, I have to take big chances. In reference to baking, I don’t accept anyone’s gospel on how to do something. For example, once I spent a lot of time on a bread recipe from the New York Times, only to discover that the proportions stated were not right, and important explanations were omitted. Only after putting the recipe aside and following my own instincts was I able to achieve what I was looking for. 
Be aware that It’s almost hopeless to measure flour accurately if you're scooping it. Either weigh it, or better still, let your experience dictate when enough is enough. It’s okay to use too much, and it’s okay to use not enough. The third time you’ll probably get it right.
I need to take things to the limit and then beyond to really understand their properties. You really won’t know how much salt to use until you use too much or not enough. And how much sourdough starter do you need to leaven one loaf of bread? Is it ¼ cup, ½ cup or 1 cup?
When building earth ovens should I use 1,2 or 3 parts sand to 1 part clay? I only really know, and then maybe, when I’ve experimented with lots of combinations and gone beyond accepted practices. I know I learn more from my failures than my successes. Of course, Bob Dylan had it right when he sang “there’s no success like failure and failure is no success at all.”
Be outrageous at least some of the time. Well, maybe more of the time. Don’t search for a niche. Be all over the place. If I think I’ve “arrived,”Then what’s next? Now there is nowhere to go, and I’ve stopped developing. It is the lure of unexplored territory that harbors the most rewards for me.