Time & Temp

With all bread making, but especially when using wild yeast, time and temperature are everything. The time between starter feedings, the temperature it ferments at; the amount of time the dough is mixed; the temperature of the water, the room and the flour; the time the dough bulk ferments and its temperature while doing so; the time the dough rests before shaping, after shaping before heading to the fridge, all work together to make a great, or not-so-great loaf of bread.

Moving home to bake, with the varying microclimates of prep room and kitchen, coupled with the distraction of being home, have proved to be a challenge I didn’t foresee. The commute is great, early or late hours aren’t a problem, I’m never without an ingredient or piece of equipment, and you can’t beat the rent, but there has still been a learning curve to producing bread in this little Cottage Bakery of mine. I have been baking bread for thirty-plus years, most of that at home. When I wasn’t baking at work, I baked here. I’ve made loaves upon loaves but usually not more than four at a time, and always in my usual kitchen, with usual house temperatures, and with distractions that didn’t matter since there was no self-imposed pressure that this bread be perfect.

I am a firm believer that learning happens all the time, that it is never too late to learn, that opportunities to learn should be greeted with open arms. Routine is good and helpful to cope with the many moving parts of life. Routine gets the house tidied, the work surfaces cleaned and sanitized, gets the ingredients measured. Sometimes, however, routine can lull a person into thinking things are fine, when actually they forgot to set the timer, they guessed on the water temperature, they didn’t take notes during a bake-something they always tell their students to do! This auto-pilot state of routine landed a spate of inconsistent bakes. These less-than-my-ideal loaves sent me back to my textbooks, back to my note-taking and flow chart creation, back to the scrutiny of time and temperature. This also means baking more bread, with or without orders, getting repeatable results. The photo above is from today’s bake. Now to repeat this tomorrow.

Baking naturally-fermented bread is a life choice. Baking it well brings me back to the place of noticing, of taking time to know the dough, each batch unique to itself.

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