How many times have you heard a scientist say, “The experiment has failed.” In movies, probably a bunch. In real life, not so much.
The reason for this is that movie scientists are always trying to prove something, usually at a critical juncture in the film. “Will this device stop the asteroid? No, the experiment has failed.” “Does this compound cure the pandemic? No, the experiment has failed.” “Can we stop the zombie hordes with this? No, the experiment has failed.”
In real life, scientists aren’t trying to prove a hypothesis. They are trying to test it. An experiment succeeds or fails depending on how well it tests the hypothesis, not on whether the hypothesis passes the test.
Which brings us to my kitchen this evening.
Two Steps Forward, One Step Back
For Christmas I got a new 16″ pizza stone. I’ve never been a baker. Baking is the one thing I can’t do in the kitchen. But since I got the stone, I’ve been trying to make a decent pizza at home.
At first, my efforts were not so great.
But over time, I’ve gotten better.
I’ve improved by carefully changing one thing every week and learning from the feedback. A little less sauce. Move the pizza stone to the top rack. Add a bit of semolina flour to the dough.
Attitude Doesn’t Help!
This week I got cocky. I thought I’d gotten good enough that I could change three or four things and still produce something better than last week’s.
I was very wrong.
I wanted to get back to a more New York style crust, so I switched from a mix of AP, semolina and bread flour to almost 100% high gluten flour. My daughter didn’t like the canned sauce I’d been using while experimenting with the crust, so I tried to make a sauce from scratch. I worried that using fresh mozzarella was making my crust soggy, so I switched to low moisture cheese.
The result was a mess. Everything was bad about this week’s pizza, but I can’t tell you what went wrong. I changed too many things at once, so I can’t pin the blame on any one factor.
A Failed Experiment
In this way, my experiment failed. It failed in the only way an experiment can fail. It didn’t test any one hypothesis in any meaningful way.
If I had just changed the flour mix in the crust, I could have said the all high gluten flour was better or worse than the mix with AP. If I had just changed the sauce, I could have known which direction to go next Saturday to make progress. If I’d measured out the fresh mozzarella I had been using, instead of heaping on mounds of a new low moisture variety, I could have at least pinned down my soggy center crust problem.
Instead, I made two edible but not great pizzas and learned nothing.
Back to square one next week.