So . . .
I know it’s been quite a while since I last posted anything. I apologize for my long absence, and for all the unanswered comments and emails left in my wake — I am sorry for the neglect. Truly.
I have no good excuse. We’re all busy and trying to juggle too many things at once – I just happen to be particularly bad at it. My time management skills are piss-poor, to say the least.
But on that note, I did manage to accomplish one productive thing while I was away – I wrote a book! Well, an eBook. That still counts, right?
So yeah, this post is a sales pitch. I know, I know. Rest assured, this is the only pitch I will make. I am no salesman. I figure if people like the book, then word of mouth should do the trick. And if they don’t? Well, then I have no right trying to sell a crappy product anyway.
And I certainly won’t be putting up banner ads or sneaky pop-ups on this site. I hate that shit. At most, I’ll include a product page in the menu, and link to my book when relevant.
What I’m really aiming for with this post is to make sure that only the right people actually buy this book. It’s not for everyone. And I figure an informed buyer is more likely to end up a happy buyer than an uniformed one. I’ve said it here many times – expectations matter. I want to set appropriate expectations. Or to put it another way . . . I want to scare you off.
So with that in mind, here’s my “pitch” . . .
In brief, this is a long and text-heavy discussion on the topic of achieving an open crumb. Yes, there are plenty of pictures. But it’s such a long book that the picture-to-text ratio is quite low. It’s not meant to be a slick-production picture book like all the rest. I mean it — don’t buy this book for the pictures.
Also, it does not cover bread baking from start to finish. It is highly focused on its one narrow subject. It is not an instruction manual for beginners. It requires a certain familiarity with sourdough baking in order to make sense. And the discussions go deep. It’s an attempt to transfer a career’s worth of knowledge from my head into yours. It is not made for light reading.
And just to give you a taste of what you can expect (and to further scare you off if I haven’t already), at the end of this post I will include the “Preface” from the book in full.
If you want a better idea of what’s included in the book, then please see the selz product page. In the “images” section you will find the complete Table of Contents.
Again, if you’re not sure whether this is something you might be interested in, it’s probably best not to buy it. Eventually, word of mouth will get around and you’ll have a clearer idea of whether it’s worth the money or not.
I told you, I’m not a very good salesman.
Anyway, if you got this far then I offer you my thanks and appreciation. I hope to soon return to a schedule of more frequent content creation, and to provide a better stewardship of Breadwerx. And as promised, below is the complete preface to my book. Cheers!
The following passage has been excerpted from “Open Crumb Mastery: For the Intermediate Sourdough Baker.”
This section would better be labeled as “Disclaimer.” Because that’s what this is. Or, at least, it’s a clarification. I want to be as clear as possible regarding what this work is and what it isn’t. The more informed you are as a potential reader of this work, the better you’ll be able to decide whether this is a product you’re willing to invest in. This book isn’t for everyone. It’s probably not even for most. Many folks might best be advised to simply move along.
So let’s start off by detailing what this work is not . . .
This is not a work of science — I am no scientist. And while I may touch upon science here and there, I will actively try to avoid getting bogged down in it. Heavy science has its place, but this book is not it. There are plenty of written works regarding the science of baking out there, and written by far more qualified individuals than I.
This is not a book of technique — if you’re looking for a bread baking instructional manual, this is not it. This is not a “how to” of baking bread. While certain techniques will inevitably be discussed, that is not the focus of this work.
This is not a collection of recipes, formulas or methods — I will provide few recipes or formulas in this book. It is not a cookbook. There are plenty of fine recipe-based bread books available. That is not what this is about.
This is not some “authoritative” manual by a world renowned expert — my only qualifications are my 15+ years of baking, most of that time spent as a professional artisan baker working in a variety of production environments. Fifteen years of baking and obsessing about bread. That’s it.
This is not even a work of fact — but to understand that statement, it’s best that we move on to what this work actually is . . .
This book is an in-depth look at my current understanding of the nature of dough. It’s a peak into my mind. A snapshot of how I view dough, and how that perspective can be used to first grasp, then manipulate a whole slew of variables to achieve certain characteristics in dough structure, and ultimately in the finished loaf.
As such, this is entirely a work of opinion. Let me repeat . . .
This is a work of opinion, and opinion only.
While I may touch upon science to support my point of view, there’s no guarantee that I’m understanding that science correctly (or that I even have my facts straight). Likewise, though I may occasionally appropriate the language of science, do not take that to mean that my statements have actually been vetted by science. Despite that I often write with an air of authority, it’s best if you mentally preface each statement I make with the unspoken clause, “I believe that . . .”
So when I state, “Well-developed gluten is essential to achieving an open crumb,” you should read that as, “I believe that well-developed gluten is essential to achieving an open crumb.”
And bear in mind, I make a point to note that this is my current understanding of dough and crumb structure. Opinion and understanding aren’t static things. They change as we change. Fifteen years from now I may have a completely different view of the subject. Perhaps I’ll need to write another book.
It’s also worth considering that my opinion is just that — my opinion. Other bakers will have their own opinions developed from their own experience and their own understanding. Their opinions may be completely contradictory to my own. I might say that “Action X” causes “Effect Y,” while another baker may shake his head in disagreement and declare that “Action X” actually causes “Effect Z.”
In the world of bread, it’s possible that we both are. Dough is a highly dynamic and responsive thing. And it may respond differently to me than it does to you. Therefore, what works for me may not work for you. So you may need to perform “Action X” to cause an effect, while I need to instead perform “Action Y” to cause that same effect. There is no “one” correct method that will work for all bakers in all circumstances — or even just one baker in all circumstances. The variables are simply too many for a one-size-fits-all prescription.
You did mentally preface that prior paragraph with, “I believe that . . .” right? Good.
Now then, if you’re still reading at this point then you may be just the kind of baker that this product is aimed at. Only the very serious bread baker will truly benefit from this book. While it’s certainly possible that less serious bakers might come away with a nugget or two of insight, their time would be better spent browsing through other fare.
What you’re in for here is a very deep exploration of the nature of dough, and how we can apply that understanding to achieving an open crumb (or any crumb for that matter). This is not some superficial skimming of previously written bread literature. If you’re looking for a light summary of baking’s best practices then you’ve got the wrong book in hand.
Within this book you will find a discussion of subjects and ideas that you won’t find anywhere else. To my knowledge, there has never been another bread book like this. Certainly not in the English speaking world. Now whether that’s a good thing or not remains to be seen. But if you’ve ever wished you could peer into the mind of a professional baker in order to understand why he does what he does, then this is the book for you.
By necessity, there will be some complicated topics we’ll have to work our way through. It’s taken me a lot of thought on how best to relay this information, and I expect that it will require some thought on your part in order to fully understand it — it is not for those with a short attention span. But to try and oversimplify something that’s inherently complex doesn’t do justice to the topic. Sure, I could summarize the entire book in just one sentence . . .
Open crumb is 80% fermentation and handling.
However, that provides you with neither insight nor much in the way of applicable knowledge. So instead, we’ll be digging deep into a variety of subjects, many of which might require some creative thinking in order to fully grasp. Topics will overlap and so we’ll be revisiting certain notions again and again, but always with a growing comprehension of what fits where and – most importantly — why.
The purpose of these deep and somewhat tangled discussions is not just to help you understand dough and get that fabled open crumb. Yes, that’s a desired result. But ultimately, what I hope for is to help you see the process from a certain perspective.
Because perspective is everything.
And it’s this perspective that will provide the most value to you on your baking journey. No book can transfer skill. Just because you read this in its entirety doesn’t mean you’ll be able to suddenly make wildly open crumbed bread to your heart’s content. It doesn’t work that way. Hand skills come with practice.
But when you have perspective and understanding, you have power — the power in knowing what to do under what circumstances and why. That’s far more useful than a simple hand technique here or there. With this power comes versatility, adaptability and confidence. When you lift the veil on the mysteries of baking — when you clear the fog — you suddenly gain insight and clarity into the entire process. The variables are exposed. It ceases to be guesswork, and instead becomes craft.
So while you may not be getting a transfer of skill from this book, you will be getting a transfer of knowledge. Deep knowledge that only comes from experience. Unique knowledge that only comes from approaching the process with a certain point of view.
Herein you will be provided comprehensive knowledge that I’ve accumulated in over 15 years of baking bread. This is knowledge that comes from the heart, the hands, and the gut. This is not classroom stuff. This isn’t something you’re going to find in a blog post or a video. You won’t even find this in the current crop of bread books, most of which just manage to repackage the exact same information in slightly different ways.
This is knowledge that is uniquely mine. This is my way of understanding dough. And through this work, I hope to pass that onto you. You can pick and choose the parts that resonate, and discard that which does not. You can adapt this information to your own viewpoint and your own way of doing things. In short, you can make it yours.
The knowledge provided herein is both relevant and exclusive. That I can assure you. But is it useful? Only you can decide. Of that, I make no guarantees. I can promise but one thing . . .
To share with you my mind.
Shall we begin?
Trevor J. Wilson