Monday, May 17, 2010


Every baker knows this one: You've done everything just the way you're supposed to, but as you open the oven door and take one last look at your "product" you realize something is wrong. Furiously you do a mental checklist, and when you discover that missing or over-abundant ingredient, a sinking ship drops through your guts. Do you have time to make it right before the family/guests/inlaws/boss arrive? *&^**!@! What to do?

That's when we take on the guise of football players at third down 12 to go and punt.

My latest punt moment came two days ago in front of six workshop participants. When I pulled a proofing boule from its warm chamber I realized it was far too slack. Desperately I stuck it in the refrigerator, hoping the dough would perform like motor oil and lose viscosity as it chilled. But no such luck, at least not in the time I had. So, feigning calm and distracting 12 eager eyes with a story about oral thrush, I began adding flour to the gluey mass.

I was sure I'd bake a brick, but when I peeked in the oven part-way through the cycle, what actually was happening blew my mind: monstrous oven spring.

The loaves we baked that day had a crumb like I'd been trying (UNSUCCESSFULLY!!!) to obtain for years; they tasted good and were crusty-outside-moist-inside. (I'll post a photo as soon as one of the workshop participants sends me one).

Which leaves me with a big and interesting problem: What happened? Was all that wondrous gassiness caused by de-slackening the dough? Or by the local water? Someone secretly blessing the bread? Or something else I've not yet figured? Estrogen in the air?

At any rate, that's one of the things I'm taking home from this trip to the PNW - a mystery to solve. (Other items include some great honey - thanks Vanette and TJ - the satisfaction of sharing ideas, new friends and 20 pounds of Expandex.)

I like mysteries. Hopefully I can nail down this one without punting in front of a class again!

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