Saturday, April 9, 2011

Robert De Niro's Method Baking Techniques?

For years in Hollywood, films were sussed out in a cookie cutter fashion where it really didn't matter all that much who starred in them. For a movie to have box office success, all you really needed to do was attach a good looking protagonist to a creepy villain and weld them to a screen play that wouldn't trip over itself.

Much of this changed during the 1930's when a new approach was taught to actors. It was called method acting. Some have said this approach sprouted from Moscow, while others insisted the concept originated in New York.

Personally I don't really care all that much, I'm just glad that this ideology evolved.

Method actors were taught to no longer let the performance of their character be effected by the actors own mental warehouse of experience.

For instance, when Robert De Niro watched Christopher Walken shoot himself in the head during "The Deer Hunter", De Niro should not think about his mother dieing, or dog getting hit by a car to produce the tears that will be needed for that scene.

Instead, the method actor must put all.....every single bit of their focus on their external means.

Stella Adler wasn't the first teacher of this concept, but she does get street cred for instilling this method into the careers of Marlon Brando, Warren Beatty and Robert De Niro (who simply asks me to call him Bobby).

The same paradox which faces actors also is relevant to the baking community, the professional and home enthusiast alike.

We are taught that if our objective is to make a perfect loaf of sourdough,all we need to do is look at a recipe book and follow the instructions. Often times people will subscribe to this theory, but then they'll end up twice as confused when they end up pulling a brick, or a pile of goo out of their oven.

How could this have happened?

Well my friends, recipes are tricky. there so many variables.

The first things I like to look for is when were the recipes made? If you are reading something out of a cookbook from the 1970's, there is a good chance that they were using a flour with a weaker protein content. Ingredients change in strength and flavor over the years.

Also it is good to look at where the recipe was formulated. If your cookbook is Spanish and has sourdough recipes, I'll bet you a monkey to a dollar that their starter is liquid and fueled by vegetables. Trying to implement that concept in Minnesota during the winter would be foolish, you'd have better odds keeping a cactus alive in a snow filled garden.

My point here is to not argue over specifics, as much as to explain that the difference between a good baker and a Master Baker is their willingness to adapt.

In just a couple hours I will be heading over to the General Mills world wide headquarters to teach a weekend baking seminar to members of the Bread Bakers Guild of America.

Our class will take place in a laboratory that does have the advantage of climate control, so Klecko wonders if his students will use that as a crutch to follow the recipe from top to bottom w/o putting any thought into what adaptations might be required.

In addition to getting to meet some interesting people, it will be fun teaching these people Method Baking, and who knows?????

Maybe one day I will become the De Niro of General Mill, just saying.........

*KLECKO SAYS* "Don't react to your recipe - react to your environment!"


  1. As we reach into a new season, with new temps and humidities, truer words were never typed. To paraphrase Bobby, you ARE talkin' to me.

  2. This is absolutely wonderful! I hope everyone reads and understands your passion. I would definitely vote for you as the next De Niro!

  3. Kitchen Poet...LOL, you scare me. Heritage Cook...flattery will get you everywhere.