I’m not sure why this is, but it seems that people equate making artisan bread with sourdough. I’ve shown several people pictures of the some of the loaves I’ve made and to a person they ask if they were sourdough loaves. What? Is making sourdough some kind of rite of passage?
To tell you the truth, while I like sourdough bread, my personal preference in taste is for yeasty, non-sourdough bread. Both traditional French and Italian loaves are not sourdoughs. They’re yeasty with an expansive crumb and have crisp crusts. But still, many people who have been following my posts still ask if I’m going to make sourdough. I answer that eventually, I’ll get around to it, but I’m not in a big rush.
But to be completely honest, even though my tastes run to the non-sourdough variety of bread, I have been completely immersed in developing my technique. Like any good cook, I’ve totally focused on my mise-en-place and working out my moves.
I don’t want to just bake different types of loaves or work with different dough hydration rates. I want to make a consistent product. That takes doing things repeatedly and developing my sense of all the ingredients and implements I need to get me to a high level of consistency – mise-en-place.
I don’t have any aspirations of being a professional bread baker, but when it comes to cooking, what I do aspire to be is a great craftsman. This is why I’ve geeked out on bread making. For me, it’s not enough to be able to say I know how to bake bread. I have to KNOW how to bake bread; that is, I have to have developed the craft so that on any given day and in any given environment, I can produce loaves of the same quality. For me, when I learn to cook something, I need to get to the point where the process becomes intuitive.
Take grilling meat, for example. I’m known in my local community as the guy who cooks whole pigs over coals. I’ve been doing it for over 40 years, having learned how to do it from my father when I was teenager. I’ve done it so much that I instinctively know what to do given the size of the pig, the temperature of my pit, the ambient temperature of the day, etc.. In other words, I can roast a pig with my freakin’ eyes closed, and I’m not bragging when I say that. It’s just a matter of fact.
I’m not there yet with baking bread. I’m getting there, that’s for sure. But there are so many things that I still need to learn before I can confidently say that I’ve attained a level of expertise. And because of that, I’m in no rush to make sourdough bread.