Smell you later, 2020
smell you later forever
There’s no one who needs me to tell them what a horrorshow 2020 has been, as we’ve all experienced it firsthand. So I won’t dwell on any of that here, especially since my own COVID lockdown experience has been a healthy, productive, and relatively happy one.
The only reason I bring up COVID at all in this context is because without it, we wouldn’t be here at all. Had the planet not been plunged into a pandemic last spring, I would never have launched this newsletter in the first place, much less have it become the primary focus of my work by year’s end. If not for COVID, I’d no doubt still be (mostly happily) working full time at Cook’s Illustrated magazine, without any sense that there might be any other viable way to structure my time or my work.
It’s even highly likely that, without COVID, there wouldn’t even be an audience for this content. I’m sure that many of you who turned to bread baking for the first time during quarantine would have found your way to it eventually without COVID. But I’m also quite sure that had not so many of you found yourselves stuck at home looking for an escape from the pandemic awfulness just outside our doors, I’d never have found the critical mass of readers necessary to make a go of this.
Which puts me in the uncomfortable position of having COVID to thank for a positive development in my life. (Surely I’m not the only one with a similar tale.) But I suppose it’s better to make the most of whatever silver linings appear in the midst of disaster, so here I am. It’s a fact that this newsletter is a positive development in my life, and I am grateful for it, despite the circumstances surrounding its inception. Which means I am grateful for all of you as well, since without you I wouldn’t be here either.
This initial partial year for Wordloaf, the newsletter was one of fits and starts and floundering around to find for its shape and focus. Though it remains very much a work in progress, I am getting there, and wanted to outline some of what I have in store for the new year:
I’m working up a series of recipe templates, each of which is meant to represent a class of breads that call upon similar formulas and techniques. Each one will detail a “master” recipe, followed by a series of variations that differ only in ingredients and amounts. (I’ll likely append new variations to the templates over time as I develop them, and let you know when I do.)
These recipes are going to continue to be posted to Substack directly, sans email, and I will mention them once they are live, to keep errors and omissions out of your inboxes. And I will be adding a downloadable PDF to each recipe, to avoid some of the annoying formatting issues that come with saving or printing recipes from the newsletter.
Because most breads can be shaped in a variety of ways, I’m going to publish a series of shaping technique posts for you to consult, starting with basic boule and bâtard shapes. And I’m going to keep shaping instructions separate from recipes, to keep the recipe templates themselves streamlined. I’ll also have similar technique posts on things like folding, proofing, and steaming.
As far as specific recipes I have in store, I’m still working out exactly in what order to roll things out, here are a few on the list: a sourdough challah, a sourdough apple cider/grated apple bread, a chocolate-cardamom-sour cherry-sourdough pan bread, some whole grain loaves, and a couple of baguette formulas, both sourdough and yeasted (which will come with a baguette shaping post as well). And I have more pizza and flatbread recipes to share soon as well.
Some of these upcoming formulas will be available as sneak preview/experimental recipes for paying subscribers over the next couple of weeks, so please consider becoming a paid subscriber if you are not already. I also plan to ramp up my subscriber exclusive recipes considerably this year, so there’ll be plenty of incentive to bump up to paid, beyond the warm feeling you get knowing you are supporting my efforts here.
Collaborations! I have a lot of these in the works, though how soon the first one will drop is hard to say. Look for some possible appearances from people like Johanna Kindvall, Amy Halloran, and Emily Nunn.
Finally, I want to continue to engage with all of you here, so that I have a sense of exactly what kind of recipes and instruction you all are most looking for. Please let me know below what burning questions you have or what things you most want to learn in 2021, and I’ll do my best to get around to them soon.
Finally finally, I want to thank you all (again) for being here and supporting my work, financially or otherwise. I’m having loads of fun doing all this, and I can’t believe it’s how I get to spend a good chunk of my time now. (In case you are wondering, thus far newsletter proceeds don’t exactly make up for the salary that I turned my back on earlier this year, but the numbers are growing steadily, and I’m beginning to feel like maybe it wasn’t completely reckless to quit my job in the middle of a global pandemic.)
Wishing you all a happier and healthier New Year. Here’s to 2021.
Concerning list item 1, Chef Mike Kalanty took sort of that approach in his book, "How To Bake Bread: The Five Families Of Bread." Don't know if you've seen that already.
I'm looking forward to the recipe templates and variations--that's exactly the way I approach food! And thanks for the printable PDF--a very thoughtful addition (which may also keep my tablet much cleaner. . .).