9.26.2007

a lesson in bread



Last week I took a breadmaking class. I spent two hours listening to complicated, obscure rules about how to care for the San Francisco starter i was going to take home with me. I watched a fat pillow of pre-risen dough flop onto the work surface and saw it unceremoniously severed into sections for us to form into rounds.

My first pass at shaping the dough failed, as the surface of the dough ball broke and I was advised by the instructor to just "let it rest for awhile." So I sat back and watched as the question and answer session devolved into the question and more question session and then, when enough time passed, took the dough in my hands again.
A few swift folds, pats and pinces later and I had a round fair enough to place alongside the others to bake in the oven. And then, at the end of class, we cut into the steaming rounds of our collective efforts and reaped the rewards.

Unfortunately, the bread was terrible.

Dense. Undercooked in the center (but with a nice crust), far heavier than what I was expecting. It just made the whole class, the whole process seem entirely not worth it. I'd come to learn how to make bread, and I hadn't learned much of anything.

But then something happened the next day. A moment of the class came to mind when an old friend and I were talking about work. We were talking about the nature of the creative process, and how for me, I've always thought that if you work something to death, you might just kill it. I've had a lot of luck with the first round of things being the best, the freshest, and I'm often loathe to go something over and over again. But then, the thought of shaping that dough came into my mind. That yes, you might work something until the point that it breaks, but what happens if you let it rest for a bit? You don't force it, don't give up, just back off for a few. Move on to the next thing. And maybe the next time you come back with fresh from rest and with a dose of perspective, it might be a little more forgiving this time around.

Now of course, there's something to be said about the fact that the bread itself came out terrible. That despite the process, it might not seem to be worth it in the end. But then again, I took something away from the experience I didn't expect. All I needed was a little time to get it.

1 comment:

Lani said...

I told the teacher that I didn't like the bread—that it was too sour for me.