The Art of Technique

The Art of Technique

The tag line for The Upper Krust states that the site is “Dedicated to the art of making pie and pie crust”. Key to the statement is the word “art”.  While it may seem like an over-the-top goal, consider the following.

I was and still am to a great extent, a strict recipe follower, meaning, I try to closely follow the exact recipe measurements and instructions. The measuring spoons and cups are always at the ready, ingredients measured out to the exact ounce, or precise gram, instructional steps never altered. With this due diligence, I have expectations that the efforts will result in the delicious outcome that the recipe describes. For the moment, think of this approach as basically developing and executing on technique. Technique being a series of steps that when followed should deliver quantifiable and predicable results.

Technique is an important factor in accomplishing anything in life at a high level. In the earlier part of my life as a professional musician, acquiring technique was paramount. The learning of scales, breathing techniques, articulation, tone production; these were all repeatable fundamentals that were both foundational and necessary to acquire in order to perform professionally.

In musical performance, baking or any life pursuit, building technique is a prerequisite to success. But I offer this challenge. How many times have you read and precisely followed a recipe but were disappointed with results that clearly did not match the stated outcome of the recipe. This is the moment when you realize that there is more to creating a masterpiece than just following the directions and executing on basic technique alone.

Taking technique to the level of artistry comes through experience and a willingness to creatively veer off course, never abandoning the fundamental techniques but rather at times stretching them to create something beyond the ordinary.

To bring these thoughts to play in perfecting pie crust, think of it this way. I can guarantee you that you can follow the crust recipes to a tee but you will not necessarily achieve that magical flaky crust that you desire. Rather, the art of the crust will be achieved by using the techniques as foundation and altering fat, liquid, flour by degrees until you gain the feel for a dough that will yield a work of art.

If this all sounds too difficult and arbitrary and not worth the effort, don’t despair. Basic technique and following the recipe instructions should consistently produce a quality result. I am just offering the following thought. If you desire to truly elevate your efforts to an artistic level, technique is fundamental but by stretching the fundamentals through experience, trial and error, and a consistent desire to raise your level of achievement, you move from the level of just executing on technique to delivering a work of art.

And for the record, I am still trying to follow my own advice.

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Bake on.

Pie Guy

  • Deloss Schertz
    Posted at 10:23h, 16 December Reply

    Amen, better said.

  • Don Yost
    Posted at 09:49h, 16 December Reply

    I think there might be two ways to bake: (1) as an artist and (2) as a factory. In a factory, the goal is reliability. In art, the goal is transcendence. In a factory, we reduce risk to approach zero. In art, we seek risk or at least accept risk as a means to transcendence (the unusual rather than the usual).

    It’s interesting because I think technique reduces risk in both art and in the factory. But in the factory, the effort stops when technique has reduced risk and we accomplish reliability. In art, technique frees us to seek or accept new and different risks in order to experience a transcendent moment.

    If my goal as a baker is reliability, I stop experimenting when my technique produces a reliable product that meets a general standard of quality. If my goal as a baker is transcendence, I never stop experimenting, never stop risking even though the occasional result is mediocre or even disaster.

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