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TIMING In Baking

 The following is a question i received today and it was basically what is bread making is all about so i am posting it here. The hype over the iPhone 6 coming out is in the open but let us bread makers take note of some interesting points here before we lose our heads. Not an apple fan but i am sure everyone is salivating over this new release.

Here it goes:

On my 3rd batch - i made a sponge for my 2 kilo bread. Ginawa kopo ung sponge around 3pm, by 12am nilagay kopo sa freezer (ndi ko na kinaya magwork napagod po ako) - nilagay kopo sa freezer then by 8:30 am - nilabas ko, medyo matigad pero i smelled it - parehas prin ang amoy - pwede pa po ba itu even though lumagpas na sa 12-14 hours mark? Huhu :(

For beginning bakers, there is nothing unusual about what she did here. We as beginners get excited, we start a project and we thought oh, at so and so i am going to mix this one. When you hear the word sponge, and by industry standards, if it is a sponge, we usually do it or mix it at night. Here you can see that she mixed or made her sponge at 3 pm in the afternoon. So if your fermentation is for 12 hours, then that means you have to get up at 2 and mix it an hour after, at 3 am. That is madaling araw, which i know most old time panaderos do.
Now here is the problem. From what i have been accustomed to doing, it is called an overnight sponge.

And when it is an overnight sponge, that means you mix it at night and then you wake up the following day with the task at hand, that is to mix the sponge you made the night before. I know i make my students do this as an assignment. I would ask them, what time they go to bed. If they say 10 or 9 pm, then i say mix your sponge minutes before 10 or 9. They wake up, they take the sponge with them to class and we mix it by 9 or 10 in the morning, at class.

If you can see from her email, she was not able to mix it because she was tired already. Quite understandable, it happens to me all the time, but if you look at it, she placed herself in a very squeaky situation. Something she could have handled smoothly, only IF SHE MIXED HER SPONGE THE NIGHT BEFORE AND NOT AT 3 PM.

That's error number 1. If you stray from what i teach you in class at the stage when you are still learning, you will really slip. If she called me and i found out that she will mix her sponge at 3 pm, i could have warned her of the consequences. I would have said, are you sure? Do you really plan to wake up that early and mix the bread at 3 am?This is taking into account whether she intends to make a 12 hour sponge, i do not know. 

She placed the sponge inside the freezer at 12 am, or midnight. Confusing to me because it tells me that she really was planning to mix way later in the middle of the night which you normally do not do. I have no idea what she was planning to do, because at 12 am, that means the sponge only fermented for 9 hours. Nothing wrong there but same thing, same problem. Unless you are superman, if you have another job, mixing late in the day is tiring and it is not fair for the bread.

 So you see, that puts you in a tight spot. I do not know of her schedule so maybe she thought she can make the bread that night, so i give her that. But people do not bake  or practice bread making when they are tired already. That is what i tell people. We do not make bread as a side chore, or something you need to do just because. Bread comes first. If this is a career you want to excel in, make it your priority. Not something you will do just in case.

Bread makers have a routine. We go by the rising of the sun, and by the waning of the moon. Our built in time clocks tell us when to start mixing the sponge, when to knead it into a dough, when to add the yeast, when to shape them etc. etc., Even the smell of the baking bread has its own place in the world. You don't smell it at 12 midnight. You smell it early in the morning, or in the middle of the day, the hot pandesal sometimes at 2 or 3 pm for merienda, Oddly in the midnight.

We all learn from our mistakes. I am the person who can tell you that to me mistake means 1 sack of wheat flour. That many. But i welcomed it, i embraced it, and i sure do learned the heck from it. That made me the baker i am today.

Now, i want to smell the sponge she is talking about. To me, aside from what it looks like, the smell is very important. This is exactly why timing is of the essence. You have to be sure when you are really baking the bread and not compromise its integrity because the frustration can build up and you might lose it over time. Stick to the basic, do not bake out of whim just because you are too excited to bake.

I remember another student who took the artisan class with me. She made the sponge at 10 am, and this is an Ensaimada she is making. So she did a 12 hour sponge, mixed the dough at 10 pm, and because she could not wait for the dough to rise, she baked the bread  at 1 m even if it is not fully risen yet. See what i mean? There is a reason why it is called an overnight sponge my dear. When she called me around 11 pm that night i was almost screaming at her. Not mad screaming but screaming smiling and almost laughing. I knew, at that time, she is going to be awake all the way through midnight, Ensaimada is a long and slow process, so i hope she learned her lesson to never do it again.

For bread making hands on lessons, please go to, My October to March class is open for reservations so please email me if you have a question.


Joey Constanza said…
I would have to agree with you that timing is everything when it comes to baking. Leave something in the oven for too long and it's overcooked, not enough and it's undercooked. It's easy to make a mistake but it is also easy to correct that mistake. Granted I'm not the best cook so for now I'll have to buy my bread supplies and such. Perhaps sometime in the future I'll be able to make my own bread.

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