The Fresh Loaf

A Community of Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts.

Unnatural elation at bread success

leemid's picture

Unnatural elation at bread success

What kind of people are we that success, or even the hint of success, should elicit in us such a feeling of euphoria? Or is it just me?

A little reminder: About a month and a half ago I broke my oven, never mind the details... Two weekends ago I fixed it and last weekend baked the first bread in that long. It was one of my favorites, a WW/rye sourdough I call Country Rye, which makes wonderful sandwiches. Ate them all week. But when it came time to toss in some steam, my wife hollers from the other room, "Are you sure that's wise?" Big blustery reply, "Of course. I'm not doing that idiot thing that caused it's demise last time." without much feeling of confidence that I wasn't, in fact, seriously risking the newly replaced control unit. But it turned out alright, although not as good as usual. Perhaps I was out of practice.

Now this weekend I needed to bake some regular sourdough and both Otis (Oregon Trail starter) and Franco (SF starter) were getting weary from only one refresh during this whole oven down time. Thursday evening I refreshed them to my usual 125ish grams, left them out overnight to grow. Friday morning Otis was fully grown, but Franco, as is his pattern, was sadly weak.compOtisFrancocompOtisFranco 

I built  Otis up to 400 grams for his recipe and took him along with Franco to work to keep an eye on them. Otis continued to grow at his excellent rate and had to be chilled by early afternoon, Franco plugged along slowly and finally doubled by mid afternoon and also got chilled. After work I made Otis’ dough and built Franco up to 400 g. The Otis dough got a couple of folds and then into the chiller for the night, Franco stayed out. Saturday morning Otis got scaled and couched for final rise, baked up in the late afternoon to some good crumb.

Otis crumbOtis crumb 

Saturday morning Franco was ready for dough so I made him up and let him ferment at room temp until Otis’ baking time when he was ready for scaling. I took my wife out for the evening expecting to be home about 9:30 to bake Franco but met some friends that delayed that until about 11:00PM. Of course Franco was over risen by then. What was I to do? I stuck the dough in the fridge overnight, took it out Sunday morning and let it warm up. Baked it late AM and it actually turned out alright. Good hole structure, decent crust. Franco crumbFranco crumb 

Sadly, both batches are lacking in flavor, having chosen to cut back on the salt what turned out to be too far. I don’t like weighing salt because my scale is too lenient and I get too much, so I spoon it. Just cut back too far, now I know better and have the right amount after quite some experimentation for this recipe.

The really odd and wonderful thing about this batch of Franco is that in all other times I have used him, since acquiring in the front half of the year, is that he has always been extremely sticky to work with. This time he was not. He behaved a lot like Otis, except for Otis’ speed. The bread is definitely sourer with Franco, but I can’t taste the distinctive SF flavor in this bread. I am hoping this is due to the weird time frame/over fermentation process. But when Franco wasn’t uncontrollably sticky and made both a workable starter and dough, I became as a little child with a new toy, the new sled on Christmas morning to use on freshly fallen snow, the cutest girl in school saying yes to a date, an A on the test I thought I would flunk… E-lation.

So now I have a few loaves to give away, a bit more knowledge to keep myself going forward on, an oven that bakes again, and a little kid inside that thinks this is all wonderful. After all, my parents just gave me permission to go sledding with that cute little red-haired girl because of my good grades…

That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.


browndog's picture

Which goes hand in fist with the unnatural depression generated by bread failures or starters that won't. Well, you definitely get a pat on the head and a pinch on the cheek for this batch, Lee. Nice.

Larry Clark's picture
Larry Clark


 What time and temperature did you bake these?




leemid's picture

They go in at 475F for 5 minutes with steam every minute and a half or so, then to 450F for 8-10 minutes, turn 180 degrees and another 8-10 minutes or until good color and at least 180F inside temp, usually higher. Of course, all of this is on a well heated stone. I use a 3/4" thick slab of black marble I got from one of the many stone countertop suppliers found everywhere. I think it cost me $5. Had to cut it shorter to fit the oven.


bluezebra's picture

that can never be taken away from you!

AnnieT's picture

Lee, your bread looks great and you have every right to be totally thrilled - and you know that this is the place to share your perfectly natural elation. We have all been there, even if the duds show up now and again. My family roll their eyes if I tell them too much about my baking, but I notice that they very happily eat whatever I give them. A

TheDrkHorseOne's picture

I cannot disagree with this at all. It may even be that this sort of satisfaction is bred (ehem) into us? I know when I begin to even smell the fruits of my labor wafting from the oven, those endorphins start kicking in and I have found myself sitting in front of the square glass of my oven, peering in like my favorite TV show was going on inside. There's something quite poetic about that singular creation. Something out of nothing. For me, that's indefinable. I'd liken it to giving birth, but I think that degrades the feminine side of our species and what a phenomenal accomplishment that is. 


Perhaps this is the closest us of the masculine set can come?


A secondary, but nearly equal rush for me is the sharing of the end product. Having my boss come to me a few days after I gave him a loaf asking when I'm going to make more, because his kids just loved it! A fulfilling feeling. Nothing really like it.


And the failures.... Personally, they make me more determined to do it right or do it until I know what's wrong. The loss is negligible. Some flour, a little yeast, fiscally insignificant. Time is the biggest loss. Learning from that loss is the equal or greater gain. I'm just a hobbyist. I expect that. Turning a failure into a decent loaf, or better, into something to be proud of can be as satisfying as getting an A on a test, or finding a revelation in a book upon it's second or third reading.


Yeah, I know what you're talking about. Good stuff.     

leemid's picture

Occasionally I am disappointed that recipients don't call back and gush, but hey, lives are busy. I try to thank people profusely for their gifts, but this is after years of not doing so and trying to change. I guess we all develop at different paces.

But it is gratifying to find that I can almost always make something, even what I could call a 'failure', that is better than anything I can buy at Safeway.

That's my story,


TheDrkHorseOne's picture

Although personal satisfaction sometimes takes a back seat to a compliment, I prefer the former to the latter. That may sound selfish, but I didn't begin this hobby to please others.


That said, Franco and Otis are very good at what they do. Must be their father's upbringing, heheh.