Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Hooked on bread making - some more rules and observations

1. No matter how many breads one makes, there will be an ever-growing list of breads one hopes to make in the future.

2. You have a life away from bread making. Tell yourself to respect and enjoy that. Tell yourself to fit the dough activities and baking around your life and not, the other way around.

3. At least occasionally, ignore rule #2. This might be more than occasionally.

4. When you are in the groove - reference rule #3 - you will fantasize about five or six a.m. wake ups to get a dough in the oven or set to rise at the right time. You will be excited about that.

Madison, WI, political "theater": watched while eating cheese bread.

5. Mistakes, perhaps big mistakes, will be made at five and six a.m.

6. Your instincts will be correct 90 percent of the time, no matter what the recipe  printed in a book or on a webpage states. You will be in the dark about determining what is in the 90 versus the 10 percent, often too late. Let it go; just learn.

7. I am still figuring out when time can be set aside to delve into my sourdough challah quest. Definitely not at least until October because I have lots of High Holiday baking before then.

Digression for personal conflict
This all brings me to the minor personal conflict between my religious Shabbat practice and making bread. I work full time, giving me limited evening slots for bread-related activities and then the weekends off. I am attached to Shabbat, to the approximately 24-hour weekly practice of putting away the cell phone, the laptop, even mostly TV and radio (okay, not movies, yet), and not shopping or doing laundry. I generally go from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday. Adding to that the walk to synagogue, the walk back, attending a rather traditional service, though an egalitarian one, and a slow afternoon, and I have a day set aside for peace, reading, talking to friends, even study and sometimes doing some art (that's a little deviation from more religious folks). This set aside of time is very peaceful, contentment-producing, and recharges my batteries.
Windmill in Mendocino in Northern California.

Yet the urge to work on breads is strong and pulls me away from Shabbat every once in a while. That is the downside of not being formally or officially religious; I do not have strict limits and I am not part of a whole community that observes those restrictions. I tried earlier on in the 108 bread project to rationalize bread making on Shabbat, but really, to me, if it feels like work, it is work. And when I do work - even lovely, joyful bread work - on Shabbat, then Shabbat does not happen; it is taken away for that week, lost is that one peaceful day to savor. 

8. No matter what else is going on, my thoughts return at some point in the day to doughs, to breads, and to fantasies of Roman-inspired wood-fired ovens. 

9. Not only are there an endless number of breads I would like to make or variations to try out, the more breads I make the more I want to rescue the mediocre ones by making them again with some seemingly brilliant tweak (or tweaks).

10. The more photographs I take of a particular sponge and dough in its various incarnations before turning into a bread, the greater the chance the bread will not be good. This is my karma; you have yours.

11. I have anxiety with every bread. I worry it will not turn out well. I worry that I am moving on to the next stage too early or too late. I worry that I am getting it all wrong. Only once in a while I am right. I have been on the 108 breads quest for about a year and a half and this stays true no matter how many times I have made any kind of bread.

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