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Humility

The bread recipe formula says let the dough ferment four hours. The dough says nuh-uh! I’m almost done! The dough doesn’t care about the recipe!

Let me tell you something: The dough wins. Always.

There’s no point in cursing the dough. No point in cursing the recipe. The dough just wins. Period. And all you can do is accept this … with humility.

When I started working with sourdough, I followed the 35-page recipe for Tartine Country Bread (including pictures and in-depth commentary), from the now-classic Tartine Bread, by Chad Robertson. There were three ingredients: flour, water, salt. The measurements were simple, there was more than enough description in the recipe. I read it over many times. I chose a bake day and felt a rising sense of excitement and nerves as it approached. What could be the problem, though? Stick your nose in the book, I thought, and turn out one of those exquisite loaves in the colour pictures.

As it happened, that first bake was a huge success! A big airy crumb, with beautiful, pearlescent holes. Flecks of bran and wheat germ, a gorgeous show of gluten structure. The crust was caramelized, shiny and thick, and it shattered when you cut into it. The flavour was creamy, and you could actually get the grassy, earthy taste of real wheat. This was a revelation! Bread never tasted so good! This is easier than I thought, I thought.

I was strung out on the Country Loaf. Couldn’t wait to get my next fix.

Turns out that first loaf was beginner’s luck. Subsequent loaves were dense, heavy. Sometimes, they didn’t rise. Came out flat as pancakes. I ate them grudgingly. They tasted OK, but it was a long while of weekly, sometimes bi-weekly, bakes for me to match the perfection of that first loaf. Humility.

So I immersed myself in bread culture, read dozens of books, talked with bakers, watched every single YouTube video on bread-making ever made. Befriended bakers across North America through Facebook, Instagram. I joined the Bread Bakers Guild of America.

I learned a few things, but most of what I know, now, comes from doing. Baking countless loaves, adjusting ingredients, timings, temperatures. Spending more time mixing, developing the gluten structure. Finding a light touch to shaping the dough, just before the long, overnight proof.

Any bread book author worth his or her salt will tell you all the things you need to know. You just have to be ready to hear them. Hear the dough. When I go back to the Chad Robertson book, all the things I thought I’d learned about honestly — by doing — are right there in his writing. Had been all along. I had read, but not taken it heart. I hadn’t listened to the dough.

During last week’s bake, I uttered these words to myself: Be present with the dough! Instead of rushing through the formula’s instructions, following the timing … follow the dough. If it’s too moist, hold back on the water, give it a few more folds to add strength. Pay attention to the temperature: the recipe doesn’t know there’s a cold draft coming off the window, but the dough does. The recipe doesn’t know the flour was freshly milled the night before. Nor does it know there may be residue soap on the towel the dough is resting in. The dough rules. Listen to it!

At least now I’m a novice. When something goes wrong, I know what my mistakes were. I long for the wisdom to feel the spark of life in the dough, where it’s going to go. What kind of crust it will have, what colour. What the room temperature means, and should the dough go into the proofer or sit by the window for awhile. Or outside on the porch. When to add the spice or add the seeds. I’m learning, finally. But there’s a ways to go.

The recipe doesn’t know. The dough knows. And accept this with … humility.

Happy Monk Tidings - December 14, 2022 🍞 - Baker's Choice: Fruit Sourdough Pan Loaf; Happy Monk Blog: The Year in Bread ... and Gratitude! [ See LinkTree in Profile ]

Happy Monk Tidings - December 14, 2022 🍞 - Baker's Choice: Fruit Sourdough Pan Loaf; Happy Monk Blog: The Year in Bread ... and Gratitude! [ See LinkTree in Profile ] ...

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Happy Monk Tidings - December 7, 2022 🍞 - Baker's Choices: Fig and Fennel and Rye-Currants; BLOG: The Noble French Baguette; Last Bake next week! [ See LinkTree in Profile ]

Happy Monk Tidings - December 7, 2022 🍞 - Baker's Choices: Fig and Fennel and Rye-Currants; BLOG: The Noble French Baguette; Last Bake next week! [ See LinkTree in Profile ] ...

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Happy Monk Tidings - November 30, 2022 🍞 - Bakers Choice: Cranberry-Pecan Sourdough; BLOG: Tassajara Wisdom/Perfect Loaf Mastery; REMINDER: Happy Monk holidays fast approaching! [ See LinkTree in Profile ]
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#theperfectloaf #perfectloaf #perfectloaf #maurizioleo #tassajarabreadbook #tassajarabread #tassajaracookbook

Happy Monk Tidings - November 30, 2022 🍞 - Bakers Choice: Cranberry-Pecan Sourdough; BLOG: Tassajara Wisdom/Perfect Loaf Mastery; REMINDER: Happy Monk holidays fast approaching! [ See LinkTree in Profile ]
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#theperfectloaf #perfectloaf #perfectloaf #maurizioleo #tassajarabreadbook #tassajarabread #tassajaracookbook
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Happy Monk Tidings - November 16, 2022 🍞 - BAKER'S CHOICE: Spelt & Toasted Buckwheat Sourdough; BLOG: Mysticism and Bob Dylan; Extra: Happy Monk Search [ See LinkTree in Profile ]

Happy Monk Tidings - November 16, 2022 🍞 - BAKER'S CHOICE: Spelt & Toasted Buckwheat Sourdough; BLOG: Mysticism and Bob Dylan; Extra: Happy Monk Search [ See LinkTree in Profile ] ...

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Just rockin’ the Olive Sourdough at 4:30 a.m. in the morning. Into Mildrith’s fire they go!
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#woodfired #woodfiredoven #woodfiredovenbread #bread #realbread #naturallyleavened #baker #bakery #bakerslife #bbga #artisanbread #breadhead #breadmaking #breadmaking🍞 #sourdough #sourdoughbread #coboven #earthoven #earthenoven #olives #olivebread #olivesourdoughbread #penderisland #southpenderisland #happymonkbaking #happymonkbakery #happymonkbakingcompany #southerngulfislands #southerngulfislandsbakers #southerngulfislandsbakeries #penderisland

Just rockin’ the Olive Sourdough at 4:30 a.m. in the morning. Into Mildrith’s fire they go!
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#woodfired #woodfiredoven #woodfiredovenbread #bread #realbread #naturallyleavened #baker #bakery #bakerslife #bbga #artisanbread #breadhead #breadmaking #breadmaking🍞 #sourdough #sourdoughbread #coboven #earthoven #earthenoven #olives #olivebread #olivesourdoughbread #penderisland #southpenderisland #happymonkbaking #happymonkbakery #happymonkbakingcompany #southerngulfislands #southerngulfislandsbakers #southerngulfislandsbakeries #penderisland
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Happy Monk Tidings - November 2, 2022 🍞 - BAKER'S CHOICE: Cinnamon-Raisin Bread; BLOG: A Vancouver Neighbourhood; BOOK OF THE WEEK: The Philosophy of Modern Song by Bob Dylan [ See LinkTree in Profile ]

Happy Monk Tidings - November 2, 2022 🍞 - BAKER'S CHOICE: Cinnamon-Raisin Bread; BLOG: A Vancouver Neighbourhood; BOOK OF THE WEEK: The Philosophy of Modern Song by Bob Dylan [ See LinkTree in Profile ] ...

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Happy Monk Tidings - October 26, 2022 🍞 - BAKER'S CHOICE: Apple Rye Bread; REPRISE BLOG: Out here the mind would empty. [ See Linktree in Profile ]

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Happy Monk Tidings - October 19, 2022 🍞 - Baker's Choice: Sprouted Kamut Bread - ORDER TODAY; Blog Reprise: Here's to the Homely Loaf!; EXTRA: Trapped in Bread! [ See LinkTree in Profile ]

Happy Monk Tidings - October 19, 2022 🍞 - Baker's Choice: Sprouted Kamut Bread - ORDER TODAY; Blog Reprise: Here's to the Homely Loaf!; EXTRA: Trapped in Bread! [ See LinkTree in Profile ] ...

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Happy Monk Tidings - October 12, 2022 🍞 - Baker's Choice: The Approachable Loaf; BLOG: The Gingham Tablecloth at Nick's Spaghetti House; NOTE: An Ordering Hack [ See LinkTree in Profile ] ...

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Happy Monk Tidings - October 5, 2022 🍞 - Baker's Choice: Pender Island Apple Bread; Update: False COVID scare - back in business; VIDEOS: Pizza is Art; Or it isn't! [ See LinkTree in Profile ] ...

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Happy Monk Tidings - September 28, 2022 🍞 - Baker's Choice: The Approachable Loaf; Blog: This Island of Apples; South Pender Growers and Makers Market [ See LinkTree in Profile ]
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#apples #applebread #applelove #approachable #approachableloaf #breadlabcollective #breadlab

Happy Monk Tidings - September 28, 2022 🍞 - Baker's Choice: The Approachable Loaf; Blog: This Island of Apples; South Pender Growers and Makers Market [ See LinkTree in Profile ]
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#apples #applebread #applelove #approachable #approachableloaf #breadlabcollective #breadlab
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Happy Monk Tidings - September 21, 2022 🍞 - Baker's Choice: Harvest Bread; BLOG: Greetings from St. Francis and Mildrith; The Wood-Fired Oven's Back in Business [ See LinkTree in Profile]

Happy Monk Tidings - September 21, 2022 🍞 - Baker's Choice: Harvest Bread; BLOG: Greetings from St. Francis and Mildrith; The Wood-Fired Oven's Back in Business [ See LinkTree in Profile] ...

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Introducing this bread, Raven Ring Bread (a take on Hapanleipä, a Finnish bread) a recipe borrowed from @ravenbreads. The stand is made by my neighbour, Ken, a gifted woodworker. See you at the South Pender Growers and Makers Market, if it don’t rain too hard!

Introducing this bread, Raven Ring Bread (a take on Hapanleipä, a Finnish bread) a recipe borrowed from @ravenbreads. The stand is made by my neighbour, Ken, a gifted woodworker. See you at the South Pender Growers and Makers Market, if it don’t rain too hard! ...

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Happy Monk Tidings - September 2, 2022 🍞 - Baker's Choice : Volkornbrot (German Rye); Blog: The Golden Loaf of Gorsefield Rye; NOTE: We're closing two weeks for Mildrith Maintenance [ See LinkTree in Profile ]

Happy Monk Tidings - September 2, 2022 🍞 - Baker's Choice : Volkornbrot (German Rye); Blog: The Golden Loaf of Gorsefield Rye; NOTE: We're closing two weeks for Mildrith Maintenance [ See LinkTree in Profile ] ...

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Happy Monk Tidings - August 24, 2022 🍞 - Baker's Choice this week: Spelt and Honey Sourdough; Blog: The Great Kind Mystery; SPECIAL NOTE: Mildrith needs an upgrade [ See LinkTree in Profile ]

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It was a dirty day, Wednesday. The sky hadn't been washed, the ocean was soiled, and the air was muggy and smelled oily. Then, moments before the rain started, the sun shone through and a glorious slash of colour opened up. And a rainbow! No unicorns, sadly.

It was a dirty day, Wednesday. The sky hadn't been washed, the ocean was soiled, and the air was muggy and smelled oily. Then, moments before the rain started, the sun shone through and a glorious slash of colour opened up. And a rainbow! No unicorns, sadly. ...

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Happy Monk Tidings - August 3, 2022 🍞 - Baker's Choice: Anadama Bread; BLOG: Dog Days of Summer; Special Note: No Bread August 19 [ See LinkTree in Profile ]

Happy Monk Tidings - August 3, 2022 🍞 - Baker's Choice: Anadama Bread; BLOG: Dog Days of Summer; Special Note: No Bread August 19 [ See LinkTree in Profile ] ...

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Dog days. The beginning of summer mellowness. Baked in languor. But sometimes it's hard to let go. Shouldn't I be baking something? [See LinkTree in Profile ]
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#penderisland #southpenderisland #happymonkbaking #happymonkbakery
#happymonkbakingcompany #dogdays #dogdaysofsummer #southerngulfislands
#southerngulfislandsbakers #southerngulfislandsbakeries #southerngulfislandsbc

Dog days. The beginning of summer mellowness. Baked in languor. But sometimes it's hard to let go. Shouldn't I be baking something? [See LinkTree in Profile ]
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#penderisland #southpenderisland #happymonkbaking #happymonkbakery
#happymonkbakingcompany #dogdays #dogdaysofsummer #southerngulfislands
#southerngulfislandsbakers #southerngulfislandsbakeries #southerngulfislandsbc
...

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Happy Monk Tidings - July 27, 2022 🍞 - Baker's Choice: Whole Grain White Wheat; Blog: Call Me Ishmael; Video: How the U.S. Ruined Bread; Announcements [ See LinkTree in Profile ]

Happy Monk Tidings - July 27, 2022 🍞 - Baker's Choice: Whole Grain White Wheat; Blog: Call Me Ishmael; Video: How the U.S. Ruined Bread; Announcements [ See LinkTree in Profile ] ...

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Happy Monk Tidings - July 20, 2022 🍞 - BAKER'S CHOICE: Rye and Currants; BLOG: Blessed; EXTRA: World's Oldest Sourdough? [ See LinkTree in Profile ]

Happy Monk Tidings - July 20, 2022 🍞 - BAKER'S CHOICE: Rye and Currants; BLOG: Blessed; EXTRA: World's Oldest Sourdough? [ See LinkTree in Profile ] ...

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Happy Monk Tidings - July 13, 2022 🍞 - Baker's Choice: Bird Seed Bread; Blog: Down to the Crossroads, Medicine Beach; Baking your own bread guides - [ See LinkTree in Profile ]

Happy Monk Tidings - July 13, 2022 🍞 - Baker's Choice: Bird Seed Bread; Blog: Down to the Crossroads, Medicine Beach; Baking your own bread guides - [ See LinkTree in Profile ] ...

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This is James Morton, my father, who would have been 100 years old today if we hadn't lost him 36 years ago. I've surpassed him in living age and spent more years without him than with him, yet he still whispers in my ear and is a great listener when I talk to him. Taken at 14th Ave. and Burgess St., Burnaby, 'round about 1955. Handsome devil, ain't he?

This is James Morton, my father, who would have been 100 years old today if we hadn't lost him 36 years ago. I've surpassed him in living age and spent more years without him than with him, yet he still whispers in my ear and is a great listener when I talk to him. Taken at 14th Ave. and Burgess St., Burnaby, 'round about 1955. Handsome devil, ain't he? ...

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