A meditation on craft & success

I began baking bread over a year ago as a creative outlet, a way to relax and to have bread for a busy family. A hobby that leaves your house full with the scent of a warm loaf has its own rewards. Over time, I have become passionate about learning more through continued practice. Bread banking has become a meditation on a craft.

Many of the lessons of that meditation contribute to success in any discipline:

Hands on: The best results are when you get hands on. Recipes and other guides don’t adjust for the exact circumstances of your work. Machines might cut some of the effort but you will need to get hands on before you are done. The best judge of how you are going is the feedback from your hands in the work.

Success takes time: If the dough takes an hour to rise, it takes an hour to rise. You can do other things in the meantime, but you can’t hurry it without changing the result.

The right ingredients: Not the best. Definitely not the cheapest. Right for the task.

Timing matters: If you want fresh bread for breakfast, start the night before. Getting your preparation and timing right to act is much more important than the perfect loaf an hour after the meal finishes.

Practice matters: My first loaves weren’t much to write about. Each failure helped refine a skill or teach a lesson that moved closer to a better loaf.

Take the advice of masters: I went on a great sourdough class from Brasserie Bread and came away with a much better appreciation of how techniques work in action. A little bit of 18 yo sourdough starter also helped.

Be observant: I have learned a great deal by watching other at work with dough from local bakeries to my local pizza place.

Pursue perfection: no two recipes for the same bread are identical. Everyone is trying to get closer to a perfect ideal. Everyone does not agree on what that is.

Experiment: Try variations. Learn from the outcomes. Try again. You will discover new opportunities to improve. You can still eat most of your failures.

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