"But you are bakers, not scientists," Thomas reminded us as he finished explaining a graph of amylase activity and temperature. The whiteboard was covered with such graphs, as was the easel to its right. This science, he wanted us to remember, was a tool to add to our baking arsenal, alongside taste, smell, memory, and tradition. It could not define our work. At this point in the march of knowledge, a master baker still knows more with his hands about making good bread than do all the scientific publications combined.
We were midway through a weeklong course titled Modern Bread Theory: A Scientific Focus, but because we were bakers, not scientists, we spent most of our days in the San Francisco Baking Institute's sprawling warehouse bakery, putting those classroom lectures into practice.
I was lured by the science's apparent clarity. This view of wild fermentation, defined in pH, temperature, and well-understood enzymatic reactions, felt so readily masterable. I know, after all, now to read and synthesize scientific literature. It's what I was academically trained to do. But again and again, I watched Thomas put his hands on (or in) the dough to asses it's molecular workings through touch. "It's ready," he might tell us, "hurry." Or, "Turn the mixer up to second for a few minutes." Those hands, with their twenty years of baking practice, knew things I would never learn by reading.
And besides, I'm not a scientist anymore. I'm a baker. Science, now, is not the end in and of itself, but a tool to better understand the practical workings of the world.
Red & White, Mountain Rye, Vollkornbrot
Bittersweet Chocolate and Malted Chocolate Chip Cookies
WILD & SEEDY!
See you soon!
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