Baking with the Right Side of the Brain
I don't know what I am doing hanging around a culinary activity that largely demands, and attracts, precision-oriented individuals and the sort of methodical, careful procedures that lend themselves to notekeeping. I am a right side person. I don't keep records of my bakes. I do measure my ingredients by weight but I often make arithmetic mistakes. I fail to take account of variations in temperature and humidity in my apartment. I share the drive for self improvement in baking, but I don't crave the utter perfection of some, unless it comes through my hands and experiential learning, rather than through scientific or quasi scientific trial.
I envy those with stable environmental conditions. I'm amazed by professional bakeries, which have their procedures right down to the number of revolutions of the mixer. But being a right side type, variation more than consistency inhabits my home bakery. I've learned to accept it.
Take Nancy Silverton's walnut bread, the best walnut bread I've ever had anywhere, by a mile. I've been baking it since the book was published and it usually turns out more or less the same. Yesterday, though, the dough wanted a good deal more water, and the dark rye flour seemed, somehow, to make up more of the dough than usual. For scheduling reasons, fermentation and proofing went on longer than they should have. Not by much, but by enough to make a difference. By the same token, Silverton calls for a fairly intensive mix, so taken all together, this is a loaf with a relatively close crumb, albeit one in which the cell structure should be evident throughout.
This is one the best specialty breads I've come across. The taste is very rich and complex, creamy and deep. The crust shatters all over the place. It's great out of hand, but it is spectacular with cheese. Highly recommended, even if you are a right sider, like me.