15 January 2009

Kitchen improv

This morning, I made an improvised recipe of bread dough. I started with the basic french bread recipe, doubled it, replaced half of it with whole wheat and then added some vital wheat gluten, melted butter, sugar and an egg. Other than the fact that it took 5 hours to rise because it was so cold in our kitchen, the loaves turned out well. They are soft and chewy and delicious.

Improvising baked goods sort of reminds me of improvising music. In order to have a nice improvisation, one has to be aware of the basics that provide structure and also have at least a vague idea of what the end product should look like. In music, that means being aware of the harmonics of a piece and the more one knows about how the music should sound, about the period, about the limits of instrumentation, etc., the better the improvisation ends up. In baking, it is knowing the basics of flour to water ratio, what ingredients leaven, what ingredients soften, what texture one should look for, etc., that leads to a nice ending.

And, in both music and baking, improvisations get better and more reliable, the more they are practiced. And sometimes the improv just doesn't work. Today's did. And it will be a tasty addition to tomorrow, too.

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