How's it feel, Felipe?
There are days where we exchange few words across the shaping table. We are too busy, too tired; we have a rhythm that can't accommodate words, or we simply have nothing to say. We spend many days standing across each other for ten hours, and there are only so many movies one can revisit. The one phrase that always has a place around the workbench is the essential question, “how's it feel?”Bread and the act of baking is often considered an art and a science, sometimes one more than the other. But when we are working, bread just is. We have many parameters to control the fermentation and composition of dough, but the microscopic organisms, the various yeasts and bacteria, have a life of their own. It is true that the art and the science behind our work has become intrinsic through our experience, but as we mix, shape and bake, we rely on our senses to adapt to the feel of the dough.
So we ask each other the essential question, “how's it feel?” to adjust to the dough. If the dough comes warm from the mixer, we leave it in a cool place, or we shape it early. If the dough is slack, we shape it in such a way to give it more tension to better retain its shape. If it's a warm day, we let the bread ferment slightly less before baking so that it doesn't overproof and flatten out.
How each dough feels becomes second nature after a few months working in the bakery. Knowing when a cut of dough is 20 grams too light becomes a thrill. You familiarize yourself with the texture, the lightness, and the strength of the dough. And thus, bread just is.
It is on the days where things go wrong that knowing the underlying science and art become the essential bread savers. And thus, we keep daily records to help in making adjustments.
So when the day is going well and the sun slowly begins to reveal fresh snow, we break the silence with, “how's it feel?”