6000 degree-minutes

If you use the same recipe you get the same bread.

That's the White Bread Warning from Jerry Weinberg's truly excellent The Secrets of Consulting.

I was thinking about that the other day and I realized something important. I realized that when I read the word recipe I thought about the ingredients but not really about the non-ingredient related instructions in the recipe. About time. A recipe doesn't just tell you what to mix with what, and in what order, it tells you how long to apply heat. And how much heat. These two things matter just as much as the ingredients. If you change the ingredients you'll get different bread. But if you change the time or the amount of heat you'll also get different bread. Although it might not look much like bread.

Suppose the recipe says to heat the oven to 200 degrees and then cook for 30 minutes. That's 6000 degree-minutes. Now 1200 degrees for 5 minutes is also 6000 degree-minutes. But the bread will be predictably black. Similarly 1 degree for 6000 minutes is also 6000 degree-minutes. But the bread will still be ingredients. Or rather it won't. You see 6000 minutes is 100 hours. Which is 4 days as near as makes no difference. That matters because ingredients are organic. They have a shelf life. A sell-by/eat-by expiry date. They decay. And even if baking the ingredients for 4 days at 1 degree did produce something vaguely bread-like the extra time would create extra cost. In lots of ways. Extra time does that.

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