The Fresh Loaf Handbook
At long last, there is a project afoot to develop a Fresh Loaf Handbook.
The idea behind the Handbook is to distill the baking wisdom of The Fresh Loaf community into a compact, well-organized, accessible document.
I've been thinking of it as "an Open Source Bread Baker's Apprentice" or "a bread baker's version of Wikipedia." Not that we want to compete with or replace either of those resources, but we can better serve new bakers searching for information on how to get started baking artisan breads if we take the time to organize our thoughts into something more accessible than the constant stream posts typically featured here (which I love and don't want to change... It just would be useful for the site to also have something more stable to compliment it).
Take a look at what is in the Handbook already. Jeff (JMonkey) combined content from The Fresh Loaf with his own research and knowledge and put together a baking book for his friends and family this Christmas. Much of his work is already in Section II and Section III of the handbook. You'll also see David Snyder's wonderful tutorial on scoring, which he was kind enough to let me reproduce in the handbook.
Frequently Asked Questions about The Fresh Loaf Handbook
(Well, maybe not frequently asked questions yet, but questions I anticipate people asking about the Handbook.)
How does the Handbook differ from the rest of the site?
The handbook pages can be edited by more than one community member, so each page should get cleaner and more accurate as time goes on. There also will not be comments on the handbook pages. The ideal is to keep things in the handbook tight and concise. A separate forum has be created for discussion of the Handbook.
What should go into the Handbook?
The community will have to figure that out.
I suggest that we start with the basics: basic information about the process, the ingredients, and the techniques involved in artisan baking. Something like 30-50 standard recipes would also make sense.
In my mind the goal of the Handbook is not to be exhaustive. Rather it is to provide something that an enthusiastic new baker could sit down and read in one evening and, upon completion, feel excited and well-prepared to start baking artisan breads. But, as I said, as a community-authored document, the community will have to determine what purpose the Handbook serves.
What about the tone of the Handbook?
The tone of the Handbook should be friendly, encouraging, much like the tone usually found on this site. Once we have the basics covered, I suspect we'll want to add sections or essays for advanced bakers on "Advanced Topics" or "Eye-Opening Techniques." In those I suspect we'll want to allow more leeway for individual voice and stronger opinions, but the basic sections should remain encouraging and author-neutral. At least that is my opinion.
What kind of license is the Handbook being developed under?
The Handbook is being developed under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial Share-Alike License, which is a commonly used license on websites like Flickr.
So what does that mean?
It means that you are free to reproduce and modify any images or text included in the Handbook for non-commercial or educational use as long as you include a credit with the source listed as "The Fresh Loaf (http://www.thefreshloaf.com)". You may alter, transform, or build upon the Handbook to create your own work, but you must distribute the resulting work only under the same or similar license. Any of the above conditions can be waived if you get permission from the copyright holder.
So if I contribute something to the handbook, does that mean I'm giving up my exclusive ownership of that content?
If you contribute something to the handbook you are giving up exclusive ownership of it and allowing the community and others to build upon or alter it. And you are granting me or whomever else might own The Fresh Loaf in the future the right to grant permission to a newspaper, magazine, or publisher to reproduce your content in a commercial setting if they ask for permission and it seems appropriate.
(The previous clause is in here because it wouldn't be feasible for me to try to track down every person who had ever contributed to a page any time there was a request to reproduce a recipe in a local newspaper. But recall that you too will have full permission to reproduce or build upon any content from the Handbook for projects of your own, like Jeff's Bread Book. The goal of the Creative Commons License is to encourage knowledge sharing and to allow the content to continue being adapted for years to come in ways the original author cannot begin to imagine, not to make anyone rich.)
I have a favorite recipe from Reinhart/Hamelman/Beranbaum's book. Can we put it in the Handbook?
No, we should not, since we do not have the right to release them under the Creative Commons License.
Many of us use recipes that originated from books but which we've baked often enough that we've "made them our own" by modified them to better fit our taste, the ingredients available to us, or by combining something we learned from one source with a technique we learned from another. These recipes, the ones that are distinctly "our own," seem to me to be the best candidates for the Handbook. But even in these cases, we should try to give credit to the author of the original recipe. As I said earlier, I don't imagine the Handbook replacing The Bread Baker's Apprentice or The Bread Bible, only offering an accessible entry point into the art of bread baking. Hopefully at the end of reading it, the new baker will want to continue to learn more and have a good idea of which author is likely to provide them with the type of information they seek.
This sounds great! How do I get involved in the Handbook project?
A few long-time members-- Jeff (JMonkey), Eric (EHanner), and David (DMSnyder)-- have already been given access to the Handbook. They can add new pages into the Handbook and edit existing Handbook pages. I think they can add new subsections and change the order of Handbook pages too, though I'm not certain we've tested that yet.
If you'd like to get involved in working on the Handbook, Please post a comment in this thread, in the Handbook forum, send me a private message, or send an email to floydm at thefreshloaf dot com. This is a volunteer effort and we're all new at this, so we may not approve access for everyone all at once, but as things ramp up we will continue to grant access to more and more community members.