Sometimes it all goes right. Shape, color, texture, finish, the weight in my hand: all just the way I want them. But perfect bakes are rare. More often the tops are too dark, the bottoms too light. Or the loaves curl up high and tight in the unsteamed oven and blow out their sides. Or there’s a hole through the center, so that if you cut off the ends and hold a loaf to your eye you can peer down it like a spyglass. Or the rye gaps. Or the skin of the wheat tears as it rises. There are a dozen mistakes to make, a hundred, a new mistake for every day and every bake.
Back when I was young and just beginning, the ugly loaves were a personal shame. Someone, or everyone, had convinced me that results, and not effort, were the measure of one’s worth; mistakes were to be feared and avoided. This is a stupid way to live in the world. I’m still working to unlearn it.
These days I note the imperfections in my bakes with curiosity and the occasional pinch of annoyance for a mistake I should have known better than to repeat. I discount the ugly loaves and send the lot off to be eaten. Maybe with a deck oven and a mixer, or with another decade to master my craft, every bake will be beautiful. Maybe. Probably not. The grain changes with the harvest. The weather changes with the season. The sourdough changes, or the baker. Or nothing big changes and still the bread is different because even the most domesticated sourdough is still a little wild.
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