We’ve all been there, when we open the oven to find a horrible raw-burnt-and utterly inedible piece of failed dough. Our hearts sink and if you’re a beginner this might be enough to put you off from trying again in a long time and if you’re an experienced baker this can seriously make you question your abilities.
After a disastrous fail MrD gave me a tight hug and said: It’s ok Pinky, it’ll keep you humble, you’ll get it right, I still believe in your bread. >Tough love at its best!<
#1 Rule to succeed: in order to improve you have to fail and fail fast.
Lesson #1 The autopsy.
Don’t throw the monster away! understand exactly what went wrong, either make real or mental notes: is it dry? Too wet? Too dense? Did you get the flavour right? Too salty? Partially burnt? This will be important to find out the causes behind this result. Sometimes simple things such as forgetting the yeast or killing it with too hot water can ruin the whole loaf.
Lesson #2 The recipe.
Did you follow a specific recipe or did you maverick your way around it? In my case I tend to experiment a lot, and I mean A LOT with recipes by adding more or swapping ingredients, making variations in the method, proving times, etc.
This of course leads to great discoveries and the occasional great fails too.
The important thing is to make notes of the things that worked and the things that didn’t.
Lesson #3 The Flour.
Every flour and every brand has different needs. Some flours are thirstier than others, meaning they will require more liquids or longer kneading/proving times. It is great to experiment but also try making small variations to the amounts and types of flours you already use otherwise it will be more difficult to replicate a successful bake and/or harder to spot the fail.
Lesson #4 Check your supplies.
Old yeast, rancid flour, spoiled seeds, contaminated sourdough starter, they’re all a killer.
Make sure you keep your ingredients in safe containers, clean your equipment and working area before and after baking, all this will add up not only to reduce food cross contamination but also to get in the habit of having fresh and well-kept ingredients.
Lesson #5 Get right back on track!
After learning as much as possible from that fail. Start again, bake your heart out and pay attention to every detail, after all, no one was born knowing how to bake, it’s a constant learning process!
And there you have it, that’s my speedy 5-step ladder to pick yourself and dust yourself up to get you closer to baking success.
Be adventurous, don’t let any old burnt loaf out you off. Happy failing!