The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Floydm's blog

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Floydm

As I mentioned three weeks ago, I've been working on upgrading this site to a newer version of the software it runs on. While I am doing that, I'm refreshing the user interface, trying to make the site cleaner and easier to use, and well adapted to mobile phones and tablets.

If you are one of those folks who likes to get "behind the scenes" and want to take it for a very preliminary spin, you can do so now by visiting sandbox.thefreshloaf.com.  You'll need to use the name "crust" and the password "crumb" to get to the site, then you should be able to login as usual using your account (assuming you've been a site member for at least three weeks, which is the last time I imported the site data).  

As you'll see, it is not done yet. If you click around you'll see some red error message and you'll find some things are missing.  But hopefully you'll notice some of the improvements too.  

A few notes:

  • If you can't find a page and want to, find the URL on the current site and copy and paste everything after the .com onto the URL on the new site.  There is a good chance it is there still, it just isn't easily discoverably in the new design yet.
  • The left rail is gone and useful items have been moved to the right rail.  There is still work to be done making sure everything important is in the right rail and in an intuitive order.
  • Forums topics weren't imported correctly, so if you try to create a new forum post I believe you'll run into issues there.  I am aware of how to fix this when I reimport the site content.
  • If you have the time, try logging in and making a fake blog post there.  Maybe post about your impressions of the new design.  Anything you post on the sandbox site will get thrown out the next time I refresh the database, so don't post anything hugely important there, but go ahead and try making a few test posts.  
  • If you do post, you'll note a few changes:  
    • For one, there is an "Image" field right at the top that makes it really easy to upload a single image that represents the story.  Once people start using that, I'll be able to do all kinds of cool things like auto-generate thumbnail images for the stories or make sure that those images get used when people post the stories to Facebook or Pinterest.
    • There is also a new "Media" button the right end of the editor toolbar button that allows you to upload images and use YouTube URLs to embed the videos.  Give it a shot.
  • You should still be able to upload images the way you could before too.   
  • None of the email related functionality (subscriptions, notifications, etc) is turned on there yet because I don't want to accidentally start sending people messages from the development version of the site too.  It will be there before the new site goes live.
  • Many ads are missing too.  Advertising is, I believe, a reasonable way of offseting the site's hosting and development costs and connecting vendors with potential customers is a legitimate part of the ecosystem created by a site like this. I want to keep doing that, but I do not want to make the ads any more intrusive than they are now and want to make sure that any ads display appropriately on the device they are being viewed on. Keeping the ads unobtrusive is tough because market pressures have been pushing for more intrusive ads that are less distinguishable from content ("sponsored posts" and such) for a while now.  I don't intend to go there, though it would be financially beneficial to do so.
  • Try it on a mobile device!  You'll see that it isn't perfect yet, but it is going to be a lot better than what we have now.
  • Oh yeah, take a look at your user profile (or mine, once you are logged in).  You'll see that your recent blog posts and bookmarks are there now.  I've made some changes to the way the bookmarking works too - it should be easier to find your favorite posts.  You can also add links to your other social media profiles on your profile page if you want to.  There is still more work for me to do here, but I'm really excited about these improvements and think it'll make it easier for community members to connect to one another both on TFL and elsewhere.    
  • Don't worry about performance (how quickly the pages load).  This week I set up a new, move powerful server and will deploy the new site there as soon as it is ready.  
  • For giggles, take a look and the homepage (or any page) on the new site on your desktop computer, then grab the edge of your browser window and make it narrower.  As you do so, notice how the elements of the page change to better fit the small viewport. Some will even disappear.  Pretty neat, isn't it? :^)

Let me know what you think!

Personally, I am really excited about the new version of the site and can't wait to get us there.  The toolset is so much better... it is going to make making further improvements to the site much, much easier.  

Alas, it is going to be a little while yet.  

First off, it is tax season, and with multiple employers in multiple countries and residency in two countries this year, this year they are going to be a doozy.  Fortunately we are in touch with tax professionals in both countries who'll help us file everything properly.

Following that, my family and I are heading to Poland to visit family very soon.  We've not been there in over 10 years and are very excited about it.  I will continue to check on The Fresh Loaf while I'm there, but I don't plan on coding while I am travelling.

Realistically, I won't be able to put much more energy into the site upgrade until after Easter.  In the best case scenario, an updated version of the site would go live in mid-to-late April, more likely would be May or June.  The date will depend on how much further I take it before switching over and how much other work I have lined up when I get back. But I wanted to put this out there now so you could all see what's been consuming much of my energy this past month - it is happening and will be happening soon!

-Floyd

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Floydm

As I've mentioned previously, as time permits I've been chipping away at an upgrade to TFL.  Progress was slow through the holidays what with the kids home and so many things going on, but recently I've cleared my plate so I can get serious about it.   

There are lots of things I'm trying to accomplish with the upgrade:

  • Move the site from Drupal 6 to Drupal 7 - Drupal 6 will soon be unsupported, so this is just a technical necessity.
  • Make the site render well on mobile devices - cell phones, iPads, and other tablets are now over a quarter of the site traffic and growing.  The current design is mediocre on those devices, at best.
  • Improve media handling - both image uploading and embedding videos from YouTube and Vimeo. 
  • Make user profiles meaningful - the profile pages here right now are pretty useless.  It'd be great if they listed recent posts and comments by user and generally were worth clicking on.
  • Clean up the keywords - tags can be useful, but we've got so many now that they are a mess.  I never use them anymore.  I want to trim the list down to just a couple of hundred of the most useful ones so they can be used meaningfully to find related content. 
  • Do a better job surfacing the depth of community content here - Much of how I designed the site back in the day was to make it look big and full of content when there still wasn't a lot here.  Now there is a ton here, but it is difficult to track down some of the older gems.  I'm trying to improve that.
  • Be more contextual - the sidebars on the site really don't change.  I'd like to make it so that, say, if you are on someone's blog post in the sidebar you get a list of their previous posts. 
  • Clean the site up - both visually and content-wise.

I still have lots of work to do before it is ready, but I'm excited about the progress.  Here is a little sneak peek: 

Cleaner, isn't it?  The current site has so many boxes and borders and lines... I find it visually exhausting.  I'm hoping the new design will be easier on the eyes while remaining very familiar. 

That's it for now.  I'll keep folks posted as I progress, and definitely will give everyone an opportunity to try it and give me feedback before upgrading.

-Floyd

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Floydm

Fed the starter dark rye flour Sunday evening.  Monday morning combined:

1000g bread flour

680g warm water

Left that as an autolyse for half an hour, then added:

20g salt

180g ripe starter

Mixed it briefly.  Stretched and folded every hour over the next three hours, then put it in the fridge.

Mid-morning Tuesday, pulled it out of the fridge and divided the dough into three loaves.  Shaped them and let them rise for about 90 minutes, then baked them at 465F covered for 15 minutes and uncovered another 30. 

 I'm pretty pleased with the result I get when I feed my starter dark rye flour then bake with bread flour.  The rye livens up the starter and adds just touch of tang, but the loaf is still quite light. 

Floydm's picture
Floydm

My fight against scurvy (not really) and the wintertime blues (really) by baking fruity things continued today.  This time I went for raspberries and made a Raspberry Cream Cheese Braid using the Blueberry Cream Cheese Braid formula on the site.

 Very very good, as expected!

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Floydm

Today I baked a sourdough loaf in a pot...

and cinnamon rolls too.

10% of the sourdough loaf was whole wheat, otherwise it was the same as my previous loaves.

I hope everyone had good holidays and New Year! 

-Floyd

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Floydm

Lots of Christmas treats baked this weekend.

Magic Squares, Cranberry-Pecan Bars, Berlinerkrasner.

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Floydm

Earlier this week on a rainy day working from home, I fed my starter with 50% dark rye flour and 50% bread flour.  The next morning I made a dough with 10 ounces starter, 11 ounces water, 16 ounces of bread flour, and a teaspoon or two of salt.  All measurements are approximate: this wasn't something I tended to carefully, just a "background process" that I had running while doing other things.

That was a much larger proportion of ripe starter to fresh flour than I usually bake with but, boy, let me tell you, did this  dough ever pop.  I folded it two or three times during the day, shaped it in the afternoon, and an hour later baked it in the pot I got with the Average Joe Bread Kit.  465 preheat, 425 bake, 25 minutes covered and another 30 minutes or so uncovered.

It came out great.  One of the best rising loaves I've ever made, and incredibly thin, crackly crust.   The only real flaw was that I overdid it with the flour on the outside while it was rising, but that's easy enough to brush off.  

* * *

Hey! If any of you are Tumblr users, we started a blog for The Fresh Loaf there.  Follow us!  It'll mostly just point recipes and posts here, though we'll also recirculate good baking posts we find on Tumblr.

 

Floydm's picture
Floydm

Today, I baked. I baked a no-knead loaf, a sourdough loaf, and batch of Hamelman's Cinnamon Raisin Oatmeal bread.

Something else exciting I worked on this weekend...

 

That doesn't look like much, but it is early stages of porting TFL to Drupal 7, the newest version of the CMS that powers this site.  Drupallers will recognize the Omega theme at play here, which is a responsive theme that will make the site render well on mobile devices like cell phones and tablet computers.  There is still a lot of work to do but I'm excited to finally be started on it.  

Community members have no need to worry.  My hope is to keep the site behavior as familiar as possible, though if I could make things like image handling a bit simpler that would be a big plus.  I will also give folks a chance to try it and give me feedback before I roll anything new out.  And it is still going to be a while... my best guess would be January or February, after the holiday craziness is behind us.

That's about it.  Vancouver has been lovely this fall.  If you care to see pictures of the places we've been exploring, you can do so here in our Vancouver blog.

-F

Floydm's picture
Floydm

We had plans to make a pot of barszt (borscht) this weekend, so I made a rye loaf to go with it.

I leavened it with  both my starter, which I fed with dark rye flour the evening before, and a teaspoon of instant yeast.  The loaf itself was about 30% dark rye flour, 70% bread flour.  The hydration... very approximate.

It is good stuff and seems to be keeping quite well.  

-Floyd

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Floydm

We've been having a lovely fall here in BC and I've been getting back into the baking routine.  These sourdough loaves were shared at our Thanksgiving dinner.

Then we had pizza night a couple of days later.

And last weekend I made a big honkin' miche with 5% rye flour, 10% whole wheat.  

I forgot to get a crumb shot, but it was pretty nice.

Of course, what would autumn be without apples and apple pie?  

Recently I learned a trick for making the crust: rather than trying to cube and cut the butter in with forks like the cookbooks always tell you to do, just toss the butter in the freezer for an hour or so before making the crust, then use a cheese grater to slice into little bitty bits.  It is so much easier and having the butter that cold to begin with makes the crust considerably flakier.

Happy baking!

-Floyd

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