As this year starts to wind down, I wanted to share with you a quick picture to encourage you to keep baking and never stop experimenting!
Not all of my bakes are home runs, not all of them are delicious, and certainly not all of them are blog worthy! I probably experiment with my baking more than most and the picture above proves it.
Here are a few of my key takeaways for this year:
- Keep a baking journal. I started doing this last year to keep track of my bakes, especially if I’m trying out a new formula or using new ingredients. This can be on your phone/tablet, or a text document on your computer, or even the old fashioned spiral bound notebook. Whatever it is, use it! It helps you look back after a bake and critique yourself. Should you have let the dough proof longer? Note it! Should you have used less yeast? More water? More salt? Note it down and try again with your new ideas!
- Pay attention to the temperature. After you’re done mixing your dough, take a probe thermometer and note down the final dough temperature (FDT). Next time you bake, use colder water and see that it will take longer for the dough to proof. Then the time after that, use warmer water to see that the dough proofs faster. Find a temperature that fits your schedule and run with it.
- Preheat your oven. I usually time my bakes so that I’m loading the loaves in the oven after the kids have gone to bed and I’ve had a chance to finish up my to-do’s. This ends up being around 9pm. Sometimes I get a late start and it’s tempting to put the bread in the oven before it’s fully ready. This compromises the final product and all the effort you put in to making the bread. Always preheat your oven and make sure things are good and stable! If your oven is drafty like mine, use a dutch oven or a le cloche to provide a more stable environment for the bread.
- Have fun! By far the biggest reason why I bake is because I think it’s so fun to just make something so delicious at home. Next time you’ve loaded your loaves in the oven, wait 10 minutes and step outside for 5 minutes. Come back in your house and smell that delicious bakery smell right in your own home. You’ll be amazed, surprised, and even encouraged to keep at it. Get dirty, make bread, and have fun!