The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Floydm's blog

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Floydm

I walk out the door and all hell breaks out here, eh? Thank you JMonkey for doing your best to stay on top of it. I owe you a bottle of wine.

The people spammer has been banned and I've deleted all of the old people spams.

SD Guy has been banned. His ISP has been banned. Every IP he has ever used has been banned. I'm sure he'll figure out a way to sneak around it, but he is banned for good this time. As soon as I figure out it is him, I will kill the account again.

This is the fourth time he has been banned.

I have bent over backwards to try to accomodate him. He is the only person I've had to ban (except for plain old spammers). I don't even think I've had to ask anyone else to mellow out but once or twice. Every drama on this site that has happened in the past year has involved him. The rating feature, which took me a weekend to program, was one attempt to try to accomodate him. So was redoing the front page and the comments list to allow multiple conversations to occur simultaneously. It isn't worth it. I won't allow that kind of vemon on this site even if the baker wins the James Beard Award. That does not mean I hate him or have it out for him, but that won't go here.

I know he has at many times (most even) been helpful. People who still want to ask him questions can find him on rec.food.sourdough. I don't think it will take you long to figure out which user he is.

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Floydm

On Mother's Day I found myself without a prepped starter or poolish. There were some leftover mashed potatos in the fridge, so I hit the cookbooks and found a recipe that fit the bill in Bernard Clayton's New Complete Book of Breads.

This made wonderfully soft, sweet rolls. They weren't as rich as brioche, but they certainly tasted much richer than what I normally bake. The crumb was even and very soft, soft enough that my 2 year old was petting it.

Soft! "Purr purr"

Sister Jennie's Potato Bread Makes 1 dozen rolls 1 cup mashed potatoes 2 eggs 1/2 cup sugar 1 teaspoon salt 1/2 cup warm water 1/2 cup (1 stick) melted butter 2 teaspoons instant yeast 4 - 5 cups all-purpose flour

I combined everything and then let it rise until it had approximately doubled in size (90 minutes).

I scaled the rolls to between 4 and 5 ounces, which was on the large size (almost hamburger bun sized). There is enough sugar in them that they need to baked at a fairly low temperature and on a higher shelf than usual unless you want burned bottoms. I believe I baked them for around 20 minutes at 375.

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Floydm

I was looking at The Fresh Loaf traffic stats in the newest version of Google Analytics today and, I gotta say, I've never seen charts like these. For example, here is a visitor report for a typical website:

Weekend traffic is lower. Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday have the highest traffic because most people are in the office those days and most web surfing, even if it is for pleasure, happens while people are at the office.

There is a similar curve throughout the day, with the highest traffic on most sites being between 10-2 PM Pacific Time, when people on both the east and west coasts of the US are in the office. Traffic from Europe and Asia can, obviously, impact how much off hours traffic you have, but I've never seen a US-based website whose traffic that didn't peak in the middle of the business day here.

Here is my chart for the past month.

The spike at the end is when StumbleUpon featured The Fresh Loaf. I think the dip on the 7th was when my server was acting up. Otherwise, it is almost a straight line. Traffic is higher around the holidays, but overall my traffic is extremely constant, with about 65% of traffic coming from new users and 35% from returning visitors.

What is really unusual is the visitor loyalty report:

When people return to The Fresh Loaf, they return. A lot. That almost 20 percent of my traffic has been to the site more than 9 times in the last month and that almost 5 percent has been here over 200 times is unheard of. I've never seen stats like that. This just reinforces my sense that you guys are crazy that we have a very enthusiastic community here. People come here and either decide this isn't what they were looking for and go away, or they decide this is exactly what they were looking for, so they come back again and again and again...

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Floydm

Per community request, I deleted the trying-to-be-offensive-but-mainly-just-immature post from this morning. When I first saw it I thought about deleting it, but I was trying to be good to my word about not meddling or doing anything that can be construed as trying to censor folks here. But given that it annoyed other long-time community members and the poster wasn't a preexisting community member (they joined this morning and that was the only post they've ever made), I went ahead and deleted it.

Sourdoughgirl153: if you are legitimately an amateur baker with questions about sourdough starters, please post your question again omitting the phallic white bread photo.

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Floydm

I thought I had nailed the problem, but the server slowed down again this evening. Looks like it is running out of RAM. I've ordered more RAM, but it may take a day or two for it to get installed. Thanks for your patience.

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Floydm

Lately I've been thinking a lot about what this site is for. Part of the reason I've been thinking about this is my recent employment at Mercy Corps, but the disputes the last few days have brought to my attention that we don't all come here with the same expectations about what this site is trying to do. So let me riff a little about what I think think The Fresh Loaf is about. I'll admit up front, I'm not entirely certain either, and as the site has grown my feelings may have changed and probably will continue to do so. Still, some reflection is worthwhile, and hopefully it'll help explain why some things set me off.

The site is a little over two years old. In that time we've had people come and go, but a decent number of regulars have hung around. Many of them (as well as new members) have commented that they don't tend to post to online communities but that this one is different. People here are more helpful, more courteous, less judgmental, more humane than on most other boards.

As the site grows, I'm coming to realize that *that* is what I want to cultivate here. More than the recipes, more than the photos, more than anything else it is the kindness and the humanity that I want to see flourish. Given the choice between this become the most authoritative bread baking site online but run by a bunch of a**holes or a site full of compassionate, caring, but perhaps mediocre bakers, I will hands down choose the latter. That said, I think we have some very talented bakers here and the site content keeps getting better and better. I don't think kindness needs be thrown aside to achieve greatness.

Mercy Corps' motto, which I see and think about every day, is a quote from Gandhi: "Be The Change." In our every day interactions with one another, we can make the world a better place. I honestly think what we've been doing here is consistent with that mission. Every time a baker on one side of the world helps a baker on the other side of the world regardless of borders, race, or religion, we make the world a better place. Every time someone who has been wanting to try to bake something but has been too intimidated to finally tries it because we gave them the confidence to and it brings joy to them and their loved ones, we make the world a better place. Every time we post a tip or a hint we are focusing on our common humanity by sharing our passions with one another rather than focus on our differences and by doing so, in a small way, we are making the world a better place.

As I've mentioned, I worked with Peter Reinhart and the other Brother Juniper's bakers while in high school. I watched how they took something as simple as neighborhood cafe and used it to bring kindness, joy, inspiration, love, and caring into people's lives. They did things far nobler that anything I've done here, such as provide food for the terminally ill and employ a number of people with handicaps that made it difficult for them to find work elsewhere. Their model has inspired me to think about the mission of this site as something more than just exchanging recipes.

I'm continuing to think about how we can use this site to be an agent for positive change in the world, both on micro-level ("offer encouragement to excited new bakers") to the macro-level ("could we do a World Bread Day fundraiser for people who can't even afford to put bread on the table?"). I think we can do more with it.

All that said, I am grateful to the people on this site who come here each day and share their talents and experience. By doing so they enrich my life and the lives of many others.

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Floydm

We had a lovely dinner over at some friends house this evening. The only downside was there was no bread or starch of any kind with the meal. Being the carbivore that I am, I was very pleased that I had some sourdough loaves waiting to be baked when I got home.

I haven't baked sourdough in three or four weeks. I was pleased to see my starter is still alive:

Not the best sourdough I've ever made, but not bad. It does seem to have been improved by the fact that we were out for 6 hours and it got an extra long final fermentation.

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Floydm

This was the second time today I've prepared a post and then lost it. Perhaps I should take that as a sign and log off.

This is the latest variation on the whole wheat honey bread I've baked. Less honey and with sunflower seeds. Quite good, quite simple to prepare.

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Floydm

Though I haven't posted much in a while, I have been baking. I baked Hot Cross Buns for Easter.

Some sourdough loaves and Hamelman's pecan golden raisin whole wheat bread last weekend

Tonight I made calzone.

And my Honey Whole Wheat Bread.

I'm a bit off my game. The new job is taking quite a bit more of my attention than my previous job. And with spring here, the yard and garden beckon me constantly. To top it all off, my boy figured out how to ride his bike without training wheels last weekend, so every spare dry minute is spent at the high school track letting him practice riding laps. Good times, but less time for baking right now.

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Floydm

Sourdough loaves

I baked three loaves of sourdough yesterday. The dough was lower hydration than I typically do, but they turned out real nice.

I also made pita bread for lunch. The kids loved rolling them out and eating them. I have to remember to make them more often.

The new job at Mercy Corps is keeping me very busy, which is why I am less active here. I'm extremely excited about being there though. It is a great organization full of great people. I couldn't ask for a much better place to work.

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