A thing I’ve “known” for some time is that refrigerating bread dough for some period of time during the rise can improve the flavor, the crumb, the crust — pretty much everything about the bread. But it is something I rarely do. I’m impatient and generally don’t plan that far ahead. Unless I’m making sourdough, which requires refreshing my starter days ahead of time and then a two day mixing, kneading, rising process, I generally make bread as quickly as I can.
Then I read the NY Times this week. Their Wednesday Food Section was dedicated to all things bread. There I learned about Josey Baker and his new bread book. He refrigerates his dough for days before baking it. The description intrigued me. I started poking around the internet and found this article about refrigerating pizza dough. The writer made enough dough for ten pizzas and stuck in the fridge. Every day for the next ten days, he took out enough dough to make one pizza and recorded the results. His verdict was that refrigerating the dough for 3-5 days produced the best results.
What did I do? I raced home and made pizza dough Friday evening, stuck it in a baggy and put it in the fridge. I was planning on making pizza today anyway, so why not try it. The dough was only the fridge for about 40 hours before I took it out this morning, but that’s certainly longer than I’ve refrigerated dough in the past. I made five pizzas. They have two different kind of sausage on them. Whiskey fennel and green chile.
How did they turn out? Well, I don’t know. I was making these pizzas to put away for lunches at work in the next week or two. As much as I really wanted to have one today, I resisted. I do know this, however. I don’t think I’ve ever had my crust look like this…
See those pockets of air. That’s a good thing. There was also more blistering around the edges of the crust than usual and the bottom was well charred. Not burnt, but charred and crispy. So, I’ll be doing this more often in the future. And, hopefully add a day or two to the refrigeration. Not just for pizza but for bread as well.
What you ask does this have to do with whispering?
Absolutely nothing. The whispering refers to something wholly unrelated. I’m in need of a writing whisperer. I haven’t written much in the last couple of weeks. Haven’t blogged much either. I worry that I’m falling into the thing I didn’t want to. Unlike many writers, I haven’t been writing since I was knee high to a grasshopper. I didn’t spend my teen years journaling. I didn’t take creative writing classes in college. I have not spent my life as a writer.
What I have done is spend most of my life looking for things to motivate me, to challenge me, to stretch my limits. In sports, I’ve played baseball, softball, golf, tennis, and who knows what else, including playing organized soccer for the first time at the age of 45. In other areas, cooking is a constant source of opportunities and possibilities to experience something new. I have tried to learn the violin, classical guitar, saxophone, and harmonica. In other words, I am constantly in a search for something, that thing that I can do well and take to a different level.
Writing is the thing that has stuck with me longer than any of those other activities and I think I have, as a result, got better at it than anything else I have tried. Here’s the problem though. I think I’m getting stuck. I’m not sure if I’m moving forward anymore and, maybe even, I’m moving backwards.
I discovered something about where I’m at with my writing this week. I tried through the last few days to write a short story, a couple of different variations. I kept falling back on the same kind of idea, which is a repeat of so many things I’ve written, and worse than that — I was writing in the same style. The short, choppy sentences, frequently incomplete, that has started to fill my writing. And I don’t want to do that with every story I write. Doing so would mean I’m getting lazy, falling back on a gimmick.
A few years ago I read The Book Thief. The author had this thing in that where he would describe somebody making a statement and how the words of the statement would flow into the room and do something there. At first, I didn’t think too much of it, but by the end of the story, it was one of the things that made the story so incredible. Much to my disappointment, I then read another book written by the same author and he did the same thing in that book. So, it wasn’t something particular to The Book Thief, it was this author’s gimmick.
Stephen King has a gimmick or two as well. One of them is his voice — the kind of snotty, know-it-all, teenage smart aleck voice. I think that’s what bothers me the most about what he has been doing for years now — it’s always that voice. Why can’t he ever write in a different voice.
Now I’m doing the same thing. Or at least I feel that way. I need a writing whisperer to coax me out of this.
That’s one thing I need. Here’s another — something good to happen with my writing. Something to tell me that all of the mental and emotional energy I invest in this, the time commitment, and everything else that goes into being a writer is worth it. Because there are very few things I do just to do. As much as I may not want to be like this, there has to be a reason for doing what I do with my time. Particularly something like writing. I enjoy when I write, when I’m spinning words into a story. When I get that feeling that I figured out something and got it done. When I feel like I’ve done something special. But there needs to be something more than that. I’m not even sure what that “something more” is. I just know that I don’t write just for me, just for the sake of writing stories.
Anybody know a writing whisperer? Anybody know the reason why I write? Why do you write?