The entire content of this blog, regardless of whatever eventual, future form it might take, will always be 100% free, with no restrictions placed upon its reproduction, transmission, or use.
There is no claim to ownership or intellectual property rights involved. Quite the opposite, as there is a claim to complete freedom of information and user-sharing.
Areas of high information must always flow to areas of low information. If not, we, as responsible members of “society” must make it so. This imperative reflects the most basic rule of morality, and, incidentally, most physical systems: treat others the way you wish to be treated. Such a relationship can only exist if it is both completely and freely reciprocal. Reciprocal relationships do not exist when a barrier is placed at any point in the system, as this impedes a truly free flow of information and allows it to accumulate in one spot. True, free momentum in all directions and upon all paths (while also forging new ones immediately upon meeting any new contact point) leads to good, and any barrier, even if only one in an infinite scheme, shifts the entire nature of the system to first benefit the one point where the barrier was erected before every other point in the system.
Remember this lesson, as it applies to economics, human rights, environmental concerns, politics, physics, ethics, knowledge, truth, access to the basic necessities of life, and how we should treat all living things. Especially each other.
A system is merely one line drawn between two points: it can be described as a path, as a relationship, as a ratio, as a contrast, as a comparison, as a number system, as infinite, as finite, and pretty much as any way we choose to see it. One can zoom in or out from these two points as much as he or she desires, so there is infinite reducibility and inductibility. However, there are limits to the system of understanding used to describe and map these two points; any such floor or ceiling will also imply that there are real points (barriers) to how far the reductive or inductive measuring of these two points can go.
An example as a simple math problem: Reduce 80% to its lowest fraction. The answer, four-fifths, is only one answer. It can continue to be reduced infinitely beyond that point, but the answer will be redundant (it will always be four-fifths) when expressed in our natural base of 10.
So, understanding there are limits to our knowledge systems might seem trivial, but it’s mentioned as a heuristic: This will be how the blog works.
I always use my mom as a reference point. She does not have Asperger’s (the newest DSM has changed its diagnostic term to “high-functioning autism,” which is technically Asperger’s is, but for sake of convention and ease of use this blog will continue to use the older term). My father’s father did. It’s likely my father and brother do, too. We all exhibit similar ways of thinking, but each with whichever specific area of knowledge we have, for whatever reason, chosen to doggedly pursue. The true litmus test, for me, is to take a subject of knowledge, and then to transmit it in a form that’s not only easily and immediately understood by my mom but one that also makes her interested in gaining that subject of knowledge in the first place.
The second consideration is as important, if not more so, than the first: knowledge is not knowledge if it’s not wanted, as what’s the purpose of its transmission?
I want to arrive at as simple a truth or sets of truths as I can obtain. This would be what most professionals refer to as “the fundamentals” within their chosen métier. The aim here is to continually arrive at as small a set of rules that directly correlates with as much of my chosen subject of knowledge as possible. The “continually” implies that this searching, collating and editing process does not and must not ever stop.
My chosen subject is ars pistorica, the art of breadmaking. The “as much” will imply an investigation into every facet of this process, (both in terms of methods and materials used) from start to finish, as possible.
Another aspect of this blog will be to raise awareness for autism, especially in its adult forms, where its life-long implications compound, becoming vastly more complicated. I do not say this lightly: I have either quit or been fired from every job I’ve ever had, many of them very good. Financial stability, long-term social relationships, real-world day-to-day skills, priorities other than my chosen area of interest, and much, much more all eludes me. What does not, though, is the subject matter of this blog.
I have a proposal for a curriculum, starting with starters. The content of this blog will have a definite scope, as I am only one person, but the content will be original, extensive, game-changing, in-depth, easy-to-use, and, most importantly, with an emphasis on the learning-process found in real-world kitchen environments (seeing is doing; doing is knowing; knowing is doing, then letting others see). There will be no secrets here.
This blog is more of a project, one entitled Ars pistorica (pistor was the Roman Latin word for baker; notice its close resemblance to the words “pesto” and “pistou,” all of which go back to a common Latin word that implies an action of “mixing,” which in and of itself shows the dislogic of Jim Lahey’s argument that Romans did not knead their bread). It is designed to be collaborative, with 100% free content. The model used here will be one that’s user-driven and -oriented, like Craigslist, within the obvious bounds of what’s fungible and not.
I am but one person. Bread is also the story of one person. The story of bread, as you will learn on this blog, shows us that there’s only ever been one loaf throughout our history. The methods and materials (process parameters) are fixed throughout time, minus one: the person making the bread. For there is only one loaf, and so the question each of us, as bakers, must answer is a confoundingly tongue-tying yes or no question. Do we want to make that loaf, carrying on a tradition that has stretched out before us, millions of times, and also, in the process of making, sharing and eating that loaf, indelibly and forever put our mark on it, a mark that stays for as long as the loaf is made, a mark that’ll allow others to continue to make it, too? My answer is yes.
We are all making this very same loaf, each slightly different, and yet they are all remarkably the same, stupid bread every other baker has made throughout history.
My goal for this project is to, one day, have a shared, collaborative editorship, and ultimately attract the sorts of people who make up for my deficiencies, which are, namely, everything. Coding, programming, biochemistry, mathematics—the basic gamut.
The content being introduced in the beginning will immediately impact the way every baker approaches bread, as it provides better tools of understanding and predicting your crumby results than those provided before. I am not much interested in personal attribution, as I, as a person, am irrelevant. The only thing that matters for me is producing good bread and sharing it. Having a form of autism allows me this personal divorce, which might be at odds with most readers.
I have recently moved house. So, I’ve “startered” over, literally. I threw out my old starter, maybe six days ago. This new house has a kitchen I have never cooked or baked in before. The oven is new and it really, really sucks. I have never used this make or model, nor would I wish it upon any of you. The backyard, climate, and city are all also new to me, so the only thing I will be using will be my own personal reference points (i.e., the same as those you will be learning on this blog). Everything I do in terms of making bread will be visually-documented (photographed and maybe one day as video, if I decide at some point to be “personally” involved), thoroughly and simply investigated and explained, with results recorded, and themselves investigated and explained. Errors are very likely, but their rate of occurrence probably low. There is no personal judgment on my part for or against any one particular process presented, but I, as an individual, do have my own personal preferences. (These will be shared, at times, or if ever asked, with the reader’s understanding I view my tastes as irrelevant, and neither better or worse than any other person’s.)
Here's a sample of things to come: how-to’s and tutorials for how to create and maintain a starter; use and manipulate any home-oven for better bread; how to mix and handle dough; dough rheology and fermentation (the how’s and why’s, as they relate to bakers); how to calculate, exactly, your dough’s outcomes, both in terms of time, flavour and overall qualities; high-quality .gifs on how to shape anything using several techniques; the limits of bread; a photographed and extensively documented start-to-finish lesson for: my city loaf; my table loaf; my baguette; my slipper loaf (ciabatta); my pizza; my room-temperature pizze (Roman-style); my brioche; my croissant; my bagel; suburban wheat-growing and -milling; create and understand any formula, easily; behind-the-scenes look at both industrial-sized stone-ground and roller-milling; the science, history, art and sociology of bread.
They say those who can’t, teach. I rarely fit in other people’s “box.” I do know that thinking outside the bread-box, so to speak, has gotten me to where I am. I am not much interested in money, but I am interested in raising money to make this project my (and hopefully other people’s) job. Why? For the betterment of bread.
If you’re sceptical about donating, then just wait or do not altogether. But I do promise you one thing: You’ll get the content for free either way, and it’ll be worth more than your fifty best baking books combined. By the way, how much did you spend on all of those?
Here’s to all of us becoming better bakers.