Saturday, April 14, 2012

Seriously, Does Bread Talk?

Recently I was reading Arnold Schwarzenegger's encyclopedia of body building, and to be honest, I was surprised to hear how profound...almost spiritual his approach to weight lifting was.

In one of the chapters he talks about his "Mental Approach" to his craft.

I am going to totally Klecko - paraphrase here, but he said that every time he enters the gym, after a series of stretching or warm ups, he then sits down, closes his eyes, and then he tries to visualize what he is going to accomplish during this current work out session.

When the work out officially begins, the two things he really tries to do is....

#1 Block out the surrounding environment. That means he not only rejects socializing, but he drowned out those around him who are.

Music isn't welcome. Television is forbidden.

Everything in the external world must be made to vanish.

According to Arnold, it is not only impossible to be a champion if you don't apply this strategy, but without complete separation, you won't even meet modest goals.

#2 Listen to what your body is saying. According to Mr. Universe, he just kinda prepares the method, but then he let's the object of his focus steer him.

When I read this, I felt a sense of relief, because during my best baking sessions, that was exactly what I have done.

So why don't all my baking sessions turn out A+ then?

Probably because after most of us clear the first few hurdles, and have a little success under our belt, it is fairly natural to loose focus, we know that we know the system, so maybe we'll start to multitask, or worse yet...get bored.

Me.....maybe I will set up a rye dough while that sourdough is mixing....

You, perhaps you'll talk to your daughter about her trip to Texas while your loaf of brioche jostles around in your Kitchen Maid.

Baking bread has so many variables.

Variables - Variables - Variables - Variables - Variables - Variables - Variables.

Baking bread is extremely complex if you approach it through science and theory, but I have found that my results have turned out considerably better when I close my mouth and listen to the bread while it is mixing. is true, bread does talk.

It doesn't matter if you have 600 pounds of dough in a Peerless barrel mixer, or if you are blending the ingredients by hand in a stainless steel bowl....

That dough will talk to you.

Am I starting to get a little too Zen for you?

Alright, I'll get to the point......these are just some of the conversations FLOUR-DOUGH & BREAD can have with you.

When the water hit that flour, did you pay attention to how quickly it absorbed?

Humidity is such a bid deal.

Your kitchen may be quite cool, but if the previous day (or even week) it was hot & sticky, you can bet that this will have a huge effect on how your flour accepts its liquid base.

How quick did your ingredients come together on the dough hook?

Are you paying attention to how long it takes?

Often times when I am about 90 seconds in, I know exactly where my moisture level is. This is pivotal because although you can add liquid to doughs in later stages, it will take longer to mix.

When you over mix, you can still make a loaf worth eating, but your final products integrity will suffer.

Always try to have every bit of that water in between 90 seconds or 2 minute tops.

Development is next.

How does God warn us that it's time to despise our children?

They get squeaky voices and hair under their arm pits.

In my opinion, puberty is nothing more than a siren for parents to warn them that their kids are about to turn insane for the next 36 months.

Well....bread dough has a puberty of its own as well.

Many of you L.A.B. Rats understand what the "Windowpane Test is", once the ingredients are completely incorporated, how do you know when the dough is done.

Well, many old timers go by their timers on their mixer.

2 minutes on low - 10 minutes on high, and they'll do it like that, day after day, after day.

I guess Arnold would tell you that he sees people who go to the gym everyday, and they simply don't see noticeable gains, even though they show up so often.

Repetition is only 1/2 of it people.

When dough comes together, and a windowpane come into affect, it can keep its integrity or "Hold the Pane" for 4-4 1/2 minutes.

So at what part of that 4 minute stretch should we stop the mixing process for good?

It isn't an answer of time, but an answer of sound.

Most doughs will actually talk when their mix has been completed, but when dough doesn't scream.

It whispers.

Thousands of microscopic bubbles forms when the gluten has developed and your dough is done mixing.

Those itty-bitty bubbles make tiny little popping sounds as they burst, but it's not even as loud as a bowl of Rice Krispie's Snap-Crackle and Popping.

Bread speaks in a voice that won't offend Nuns or Librarians.

Bread already knows the truth, but if you want to have to give 100% focus.

I know some of this sounds kinda New Agey.....but w/e.

It's true, not just in body building and bread baking, but pretty much any task we jump into.

If our effort is going to be of a champion caliber, we simply have to surrender to our object of focus.



Poets Are Lame (and other things Mike Finley taught me)

Its also on Blogger - enjoy


  1. Rod McKuen had a book called LISTEN TO THE WARM. It was terrible. But LISTEN TO THE BREAD will belong to the ages.

    1. However...sometimes in January....I do want to listen to the warm.

  2. After the bread is done talking, it will SING to you!