Monday, 23 June 2014


As the newest member of The Dusty Knuckle, the third addition and one with the least baking experience, I have had a lot to learn these last few months. The huge learning curves in business, social media and cash flow are minor compared with the mountain of knowledge there is to learn about baking bread.

When I joined the team, I had good knowledge of food, I baked often at home and had bundles of enthusiasm - so I was probably a bit cocky to begin with. My first Friday dough day however quickly knocked any ideas out of me that I might have had about myself and my capability to bake. I struggled with pouring the flour (way too quickly so that I was left snowy white from head to toe); I struggled with mixing the dough (spilling it out of the bucket and leaving big lumps unmixed). And that was just the beginning. When it got to being taught how to shape the dough after the 3 hours of fermentation I didn't understand how Max's fingers worked with the dough like that, moulding it into the perfect rounds without ripping the structure or getting it stuck to his hands - and all so quickly and effortlessly.

The isn't the only hurdle. Scoring, loading the oven, learning to feel the dough, reading the dough... it is never ending.

They were and are very patient with me. When the loaves I had shaped left the oven looking like little monsters, they didn't mention anything but instead made helpful comments on how I could improve - and pointed out the ones I had shaped that looked ok (I suspect that often these were ones that they had actually done).

I have been watching, trying and messing things up every week now for nearly 6 months. Next week The Dusty Knuckle bosses go to Glastonbury and I will be making 40 kg of dough and manning the 330 C oven all on my own. With their encouragement over these last weeks, I no longer feel that nervous sickness that I used to feel when I started. I'm pretty excited to get stuck in on my own now. Cross your fingers for me at 5am this Saturday, when I'll be traipsing from Peckham to Islington to bake my arse off.

I suppose it goes to show. Progress takes time and, although it can be slow, it's amazing what you can achieve with good teachers, a bit of drive and lots and lots of encouragement.

Can't wait until our young people get to learn that lesson too.


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