I've been reading the forum for awhile and posted a few replies but I thought I should introduce myself. My name is Greg and I live in Mountain View, CA. I was a math geek in college and most of my life after that I've been a software engineer/project manager. I recently graduated from Fuller Theological Seminary. It's not clear what I'll do next for a living, but I'm currently doing part-time software contract work and handyman/small construction jobs. My hobbies & interests have included wood-working, metal-working, photography, scuba diving, ocean cruising, sailboat racing, flying planes, backpacking, hunting, competitive shooting, archery, probably other things I've forgotten about, and of course baking bread and pastry.
I've been baking several years and it's turning into an addiction. It's a constant battle between wanting to bake more and not wanting to eat so much that I turn into the Goodyear blimp. I live on a cul de sac and am constantly giving away bread and pastries to my neighbors. My wife takes the excess to work and shares it with the folks in her office. I've always baked bread off and on but success was random and besides I never thought bread was all that exciting to eat. A friend gave us the book Baking Illustrated (from Cook's Illustrated magazine) several years ago and I learned to consistently make acceptable white sandwich bread. The book showed me that it was possible to turn out consistent bread. Later I tried their rosemary-olive bread and rustic Italian, etc. I was completely hooked. Peter Reinhart's BBA was next. I took the Artisan Bread I & II classes at the San Francisco Baking Institute in South San Francisco and am signed up for the German bread class in September. My wife's best friend can't eat any wheat so I'm trying to learn to bake a 100% rye bread that's really good. So far I'm not too happy with the results and I have high hopes that the Germans really know how to do it.
My kitchen is miniscule and the oven is even minisculer. I keep telling myself it's cheaper that way. Besides what can I do? If I put in a bigger oven there would be any room for the refrigerator. Since I can only bake two batards at a time or one medium size boule, I've gotten pretty good at retarding several batches of proofing loaves so they can bake one after another. Maybe a backyard wood-fired oven is the answer but it turms out my backyard is pretty miniscule too. At least with a wood-fired oven I could get rid of all the hardwood scraps in the workshop that I can't bear to throw away.
My wife, Carol, must have a dream of being a farmer because over the years we've lived here she has planted a LOT of fruit trees. Last summer I started making apricot, pear, plum, and apple tarts...Fig bars, and cherry pies, too. She took the Viennoiserie class at SFBI, and since then we've been trying to duplicate the amazing croissants she made in the class in our poor little oven at home.
Anyway, enough about me. I'm glad to be here and thankful for all the truly friendly and helpful people who kindly share their experience and knowledge on this forum.