In my bookshelf, right next to all the baking books, I have a collection of small notebooks, full of notes of my bread-making experiments.
At different steps in the process, I write down any changes I make to the recipe, whether planned or accidental. Things such as “Some trouble getting the baguettes in the oven — maybe a peel of a different shape could help?” or “Yet another sourdough experiment. The recipe is otherwise the same as last time, except that this time I used 711 grams of starter at 100% hydration…”
Then, when the bread is ready, I take some photos, taste the bread, and write down my impressions. This way, by combining the results of the bake with information on what I did differently during the process, I can learn about the effects these changes have to the bread I’m baking.
Sometimes the recipe works out, and on those events, I will come back to the recipe over and over again to make the same bread that I know I have enjoyed in the past.**
If you have just started your journey into bread — or if you haven’t picked the habit of writing notes about your bakes — this is one habit I recommend you adopt as soon as you can. Get yourself an empty notebook, open the first page, and start writing.
Start with the date and time, followed by a short note on which recipe you’re making (with information on where the recipe can be found). Then, keep the notebook and a pen near as you bake and write down thoughts and impressions as they come to your mind. If you are in the middle of working the dough, it might be a good idea to try to keep your thoughts in your mind until your hands are clean again!
There are also some other useful things that you can write down for later analysis if you have time, such as the room temperature, the temperatures of the ingredients, and the humidity of the room in which you bake.
At the end of your bake, write down a summary of whether the recipe was a success or not.
Once you have gotten started with the habit of taking notes, don’t forget to review your notes from time to time. They will prove to be an invaluable resource for improving your baking skills as well as a nice diary documenting your journey.