On a very muddy run with a friend recently, we were chatting about the benefits of incremental gains; making tiny changes - to great effect. She had read a book about how the British cycling team had done just that, drilling down to the smallest details and putting their success at the Rio Olympics down to those - sometimes miniscule - tweaks and adjustments.
So while there's no doubt that making small changes and can be a powerful thing when it all adds up, it takes patience, an open mind and a willingness to accept failure with good grace.
So what does this have to do with baking?
When I first started baking bread, I wanted to try everything, and expected to be able to do it all, perfectly just through sheer enthusiasm for the subject. I devoured any writing on baking I could find, and I tried to change so many things at once that I couldn't see what the hell was - and wasn't - working!
So back to the drawing board, I decided that if I was going to learn anything, it needed to be a much slower process. In these days of instant gratification and short attention spans, learning something slowly can take a shift in mindset but like learning a language or a musical instrument, the feeling when you get it right makes it all worth all the effort.
So my point is this: whether you've been to one of my classes or not, if you're trying to broaden your baking repertoire and it's not going according to plan (or if you're running a small business and finding the same), in my experience it pays to go back to basics, start with what you know, then change just one thing at a time: the amount of water, the type of flour, the oven temperature... That way, if it doesn't turn out as you hoped, at least you can treat the failure as an opportunity to learn. And there's a great sense of achievement as your experience builds.
And just remember, most baking failures still taste great as toast!