Breadder Burque Ch. XXIII: Trust the Process

I’m not the most patient person, as pretty much everyone who knows me will attest. I can be short tempered and irritable when, for example, I can’t get a jar open or my dog repeatedly pokes my butt with his pointy nose. I’m easily frustrated with instructions (see previous blog post on cookbook errors), and often don’t read them all the way through.

I’ve been struggling for some time with enriched doughs (BRIOCHE!)—the ones that call for an obscene, gotta-go-to-the-store-for-a-pound-of-butter-type breads. Generally, I’ve been successful baking these with commercial yeast. But with natural yeast (aka sourdough), it’s been a different story.

These sourdough disasters have all been classic cases of over-thinking, micro-managing, and impatient futzing. This past week I anxiously foretold similar failure, telling Better Burque:

  • “I don’t think this one is working.”
  • “These didn’t rise enough. They are little hockey pucks.”
  • “They’re not floating to the top.”
  • “This dough just feels too heavy and wet.”
  • “It’s not going to puff up.”

But this past week I was, finally, dead wrong.

This repeatedly expressed lack of confidence may stem from a variety of environmental issues—starting with a strong feeling that the fate of the free world will be decided tomorrow, November 3rd, 2020.

We’re also about to go back into lockdown. The separation between me and people with Covid has shrunk to 2 degrees (a friend’s son’s girlfriend; my trainer’s client’s masseur’s partner). The possibility that someone in my inner circle or even myself will get Covid is thus that much less abstract.

I’ve got a new job, too, developing a course, which, while I’ve certainly developed university courses before, I’ve never had the official title, “course developer.” So that’s cool, yet nerve racking. Imposter syndrome rages beneath this confident exterior (cue sarcasm emoji).

Bagels that began filled with doubts

This week’s bakes—bagels and babka—(alliteration notwithstanding) are two favorites from my commercial yeast days. I’ve made enough bagels that I don’t necessarily need a recipe (although I always consult one just in case). Babka I’ve made perhaps a half a dozen times, but never with natural yeast. In both of these bakes, I continually fretted over proofing times and readiness.

Chocolate babka is a story in layers

And sure enough, perhaps because it’s gotten suddenly colder, things just didn’t puff up. Many fretful thoughts and out-loud comments later, I poked the dough, waited for the tell-tale gentle finger-tip impression spring back, and decided 6 hours was enough, spring or no spring.

Would these layers spring? I finally decided they would.

It went into the oven. And the result was beautiful, if I may say so.

This babka didn’t last long in the eating and I’m getting demands for more

I should have trusted in my own knowledge, which has gotten fairly deep these days, and sort of innate—10,000 hours and all that. I can’t really explain how I know when the dough is ready to move to the next step, but I do. I just know.

I wish other elements of life, including tomorrow’s election, were as ultimately comforting—that the uncertainty would last only a few minutes and the consequences of errors, real and imagined, could end up as metaphorically tasty as this past week’s bagels and babka.

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