Here’s to the homely loaves, the misshapen ones, the misfits and the troublemakers. The loaves with the blown-out sides, the ones that refuse to rise to the occasion, the ones that go their own way, no matter what you do, to make them pretty and light and colourful. 1
You can vilify them. You can apologize for them. But the one thing you shouldn’t do is reject the misshapen loaf outright. Why?
Because it’s bread, after all, it nourishes. It’s food. It sustains. And this bread may even delight you with unexpected flavours or textures. It was made with human hands and strength until it sprang to life and developed its own soul.
Never mind the scorched bottom or the billowed, bubbled crust. The “crustular explosions.” So often, these so-called imperfections are marks of character that emphasize the bread’s humanity and humility. They’re an opportunity to slice into and savour a small or large piece and experience bread differently.
As your humble baker, I battle against the misshapen loaf. I want the perfectly shaped, perfectly baked loaf with beautiful colour and excellent oven spring; a certain rustic quality, but not too much. I want controlled rustic-ness.
Sometimes I achieve this ideal, and those loaves are the ones I take pictures of and proudly post on Instagram. Putting my best foot forward so customers and bakers alike can admire them.
Less visible on that Instagram feed are the accidents, the mistakes. Like the loaves baked too close together and form a messy kind of “mind-meld.”
Or the charred loaf I once discovered in the back of Mildrith, one week after the last bake. Completely black through and through, a forgotten loaf!
There’s a bit of shame in these accidents, but they’re also a check on our egos. Reminders that the bread itself is a living thing and that we can never completely control it. The dough is a seething cauldron of enzymes and natural bacteria. The bread’s shape can’t always remain in our control, especially in the wood-fired environment.
The perfectly shaped loaf is a modern phenomenon. For thousands of years, bread was only sustenance. No one gave much thought to bread’s beauty. Its purpose was to nourish and accompany other foods, placed on the table, bring family and friends together. Shape and colour were incidental, secondary to feeding people.
Yet modern bakers take a perverse pleasure in showing off their worst loaves, their mistakes. On Instagram, you can search on the hashtag #showusyourfuckedloaves and see all varieties of errors. Lots of charred-through loaves, ones with massive holes and almost no crumb. Overflowing dough bins and pretzel messes.
There’s even a short video of acclaimed baker Chad Robertson saying, “You can be sure that none of those ones 2appear on our social media. Only our ‘aspirational loaves’ make it online.”
The misshapen loaf is an opportunity to learn from mistakes, to see what caused it to go all wonky. A problem in the dough mix? A shaping mistake? A faulty sourdough starter? Or just a moment of inattention?
It’s an opportunity to bring your next loaves closer to perfection.
The homely loaf is never to be reviled but celebrated! Just make sure the embarrassed baker is not around, worrying about whether anyone will ever eat his or her bread again!
But they’re also a reminder of what makes us human, and as such, they can be savoured and enjoyed. We can even argue who in the family gets to cut off the misshapen bit and eat it as if it’s an honour, the greatest reward.
Happy Monk Tidings - February 15, 2023 🍞 - BAKER'S CHOICE: Cinnamon-Raisin Sourdough; BLOG: The Magic of the Grouse; VIDEO: How Bread Was Made in 1962; FINAL REMINDER: New Delivery Times/Prices - [Campaign URL]...
Happy Monk Tidings - February 3, 2023 🍞 - HAPPY MONK BLOG: Save Something From The Time Where We Will Never Be Again; BAKER'S CHOICE: Sesame Sourdough; NOTE: New Delivery Times and New Prices [ See LinkTree in Profile ]...
Cinnamon-Raisin bread, an enduring Happy Monk favourite. And here’s proof of Mildrith’s (the wood-fired oven) recent health check, as she just baked 41 loaves of this (and another 40 of Seed Feast) with lots of heat left to spare. Long live Mildrith and long live Cinnamon-Raisin bread!
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 - September 28, 2022 🍞 - Baker's Choice: The Approachable Loaf; Blog: This Island of Apples; South Pender Growers and Makers Market [ See LinkTree in Profile ]
#apples #applebread #applelove #approachable #approachableloaf #breadlabcollective #breadlab...
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!...
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 ]...
These words are borrowed and adapted from the inspiring “Think Different” Apple commercial, “Here’s to the Crazy Ones.” I thought for the longest time Jack Kerouac or Allen Ginsburg wrote them. They were, in fact, written by the advertising visionary, Rob Siltanen, specifically for an early Apple commercial. It was at first reviled by Apple CEO Steve Jobs, who later embraced and read the words in the ad.↩
3 thoughts on “Here’s to the Homely Loaf!”
So, what does the monk do with the “homely loaf”? In a sense, bread is a spiritual thing. You describe it so well 🍞🤗. I for one would find it difficult to discard it to the trash!
Ha! What a refreshing article. I personally delight in the variety of shapes, colours and oddities of your fresh baked bread. The taste is always amazing. When I cut off that odd protruding lump or corner before anyone in the family sees it, no one knows I just ate the best part. We are so grateful to have your baking skills on our little island. Thank you again! Cheers
[…] Chad Robertson 1 calls them “aspirational loaves.” Not the ones on #showusyourfuckedloaves. Other bakers call them “homely loaves.” […]