The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

How did you start baking bread?

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JMonkey's picture
JMonkey

How did you start baking bread?

Bread baking used to be at the heart of a family's kitchen, so 50 years ago, a thread on this question would have been plenty boring -- just reams and reams of "My mom taught me." But in the middle of the last century, bread baking moved out of the home and into the factory, only recently returning to a few domiciles here and there. So I thought it might be worth starting a thread.

Anyway, here's my story. In graduate school, I was flirting with vegetarianism for two reasons. First, meat was expensive and I had precious little cash. But second, it seemed to be the moral and healthy thing to do. I later went back to eating fish and poultry, but at the time, I thought I was in it for the long-haul, hard-core. So I busily devoured all the vegetarian cookbooks I could find. Naturally, (pun intended), I found Laurel's Kitchen. She makes a big deal in the book about making whole wheat bread, a task that I'd not considered before. Imagine, roughly $1.00 for five loaves of tasty, wholesome bread! What could be better?

So, I proofed the active dry yeast, mixed all the ingredients together, and kneaded, and kneaded and kneaded. And waited for the dough to rise. And waited. And waited. And waited. Finally, I lost hope and baked my doorstop.

I imagine that the culprit was the cheap whole wheat flour I'd bought at the Food Lion. Winston-Salem, NC (home of RJR Tobacco) is not known as a health food mecca, and I'd not be surprised if that flour had been sitting on that shelf since the previous summer. I didn't know that, however, so I just assumed bread baking was beyond my abilities.

Flash forward 12 years to a vacation in Vermont. A friend of mine had made some in-freaking-credible chocolate cookies for a contra dance I'd attended a month before, and when I asked where he'd gotten the recipe, he said from the King Arthur Flour Baker's Companion. Being a Southern boy transplanted to New England, I'd not heard of King Arthur Flour. White Lily and Pillsbury were the extent of my flour knowledge. So when I saw that very book in the gift shop of the Cabot Creamery, I figured, "What the heck?" and picked it up. I never intended to bake bread.

That was October 2005. But by January 2006, I'd convinced myself after having read the bread-baking chapter that this bread baking thing might not really be too hard. My oven gave birth to a brick a week later, but I was determined, and my next effort was loftier. (Part of my problem was that I was determined to make at least a 50% whole wheat loaf.) Once I was able to make a decent yeasted sandwich loaf, I decided that the sourdough section didn't look too hard either. And so, in Feburary ... well, that's how I got started anyways. Now I've got a pantry with about 120 lbs of whole wheat, rye and corn, a dozen bread baking books, a grinder, a spaghetti jar of instant yeast in the fridge, and two sourdough starters (Arthur the whole-wheat starter and Rhonda Rye), plus a whole host of other gadgets.

So, how about you?

TRK's picture
TRK

I started baking bread in college.  I lived in a co-op (there were about 40 of us in a converted frat-house).  We did our own cooking and cleaning and everything.  One of the weekly jobs was to bake bread.  We would start after dinner cleanup (around 8:00) and the bread would come out of the oven around midnight.  I learned to bake from Mollie Katzen's hand-drawn illustrations in The Enchanted Brocolli Forest.  I still give photocopies of that section to people who say they want to learn to bake bread, because I think it is one of the best descriptions for a first-time baker.  I haven't given it to anybody in quite a while, but I would cut about a cup of flour out of her recipe if I gave it to somebody today.  Most beginning bakers (myself included) put way too much flour in their loaves, and a lot of recipes are written for too dry a loaf, IMO.  I got spoiled, having fresh bread every day (except on weekends) and when I left the co-op, I continued to bake sporadically. 

 

I tried sourdough a few times, but had bad advice and tried to make starters spiked with commercial yeast.  All the recipes I found at that time also had you feeding them far too infrequently.  After a few little grey bricks, I gave up on sourdough, convinced that I couldn't do it.  About 5 years ago, my sister gave me The Cheese Board Collective Works cookbook, which had a recipe for sourdough starter (very similar to the one in BBA).  My wife had a snake, so we kept one room of the house consistently warm, and I grew a very nice starter in there, which I still have (in whole wheat and white).  That kind of reinvigorated me, and took me from an occasional baker to someone obsessed with bread.  I got BBA and baked all the recipes in it.  I read The Bread Builders and Artisan Baking Across America.  I decided I wanted to build a brick oven and try my hand at selling bread at a farmers market (still waiting to live somewhere where I can afford to buy a house for that one).  I actually sold bread to co-workers for a while (on a CSA model, I was baking about 20 loaves a week) until I decided it felt too much like a job (on top of my full time job) and called it quits.  

 

Now I bake all of the bread for my family of four, ad almost always bring bread to potlucks and parties.  I haven't bought a grinder yet, but it is on the list of things I want.  I am thinking about where to site a small cob oven (which should be cheap enough that I could afford to build it in a rental) and am looking with great interest at JMonkey's post about Desem.  I, too, have been trying to find good 100% whole wheat hearth bread (enriched sandwich bread I have conquered).  

 

I also brew my own beer and can jam and peaches in the summer. 

NinaJane's picture
NinaJane

I started baking bread when I got married in 1985.  Someone gave me a kosher cookbook with a recipe for challah. I've been baking that bread ever since. Then, someone gave me the Tasajara Bread Book. It had the best illustrations for how to mix, knead, etc. It also introduced me the to the concept of making a sponge.

I didn't make a whole lot of bread besides challah until the No-Knead recipe came out in the NYTimes last November. I thought the bread it made was okay, but not stellar. So, I bought BBA and took Hamelman, Glezer, Berenbaum, and Fields, etc. out of the library.

Since then, I've baked 4 or 5 loaves a week and started my own sourdough culture.  It DOES become an obsession!

This is a FANTASTIC WEBSITE.  Thanks so much, Floyd.

NinaJane

KNEADLESS's picture
KNEADLESS

Like many older guys. I got caught up in the bread machine craze maybe 8 years ago.  It was okay (waking up to the smell of baking bread is pretty nice!)  After the first year I was using the machine strictly as a mixer for French or Italian loaves baked in the oven. The books I was using didn't mention artisan loaves, and I was disapointed that my loaves tasted good but I could not get a crisp crust to last for more than a few hours. Then about two years ago, I discovered this site.  I now have mixers, bannetons, couches, La Crouch, a kitchen scale, and more ideas for the next loaves than I have time to bake, even though I am retired!

 

What a great site this is.  Most other bread sites are one person talking about what he or she did. Here we have many people exposing and analyzing successes and failures.

 

George 

happymama58's picture
happymama58

Like George, I bought a bread machine about 7 years ago.  I wanted fresh-baked bread but I didn't know much about baking or cooking beyond the bare basics, so I figured this was the way to go.  I'd bake a loaf or two of white bread every weekend for awhile, but then my son was selected to a traveling baseball team (there went Spring & Summer weekends) and a traveling basketball team (from November to the end of March), so that pretty much came to an end.

Last April, we bought about 50 acres in the middle of a very rural county and started building a house (we're still not finished & are living in it as we finish the interior). We've downsized and have really simplified our lives, and I find myself being drawn to a much more healthy lifestyle, so when a friend emailed me the link for this site I was really excited.

I don't have a clue where the bread machine is (I tried to sell it in the garage sale before we moved, but it's in a box somewhere) and I don't even have a good stand mixer, but I'm determined to learn about the bread-making process and start making bread.  I can't wait to sit down and browse through this site and the forums more carefully and then get started!

 

 

Some people search for happiness; others create it.

Drifty Baker's picture
Drifty Baker

I was in our local library one day nineteen years ago and saw a bread book set out on one of the tables highlighting the librarian’s favorites.  It was called "The Wooden Spoon Bread Book" by Marilyn Moore.  I checked it out and made a couple of loaves and was hooked.  I then went to a bookstore and bought my own copy.  I have since then collected over 15 different bread books and have tried and modified many different recipes.Now I am trying to make Borodinsky bread from a recipe written in Russian.  It is getting very close and I always hope the next one will be better.  They are getting less and less like bricks.  I am a chemical engineer and am fascinated (my wife calls it obsessed) with the process of making bread.  I have to make bread every weekend and would love to do it every day but time and job wouldn’t allow it.I love this site.  It is by far the best one for all us bread heads out there.

 

 

Noche's picture
Noche

We always had fresh baked bread at home and I just couldn't stand Wonder Bread. Have you read the article in Bread Builders about biting into store bread and your baked bread and then trying to swallow it. I was in histerics - totally agree - a tasteles blob that can't even muster up enough siliva to make it slide down your throat. LOL

BettyR's picture
BettyR

I grew up eating homemade bread at home and the ladies that ran our school cafeteria made fresh bread everyday along with fresh meats and vegetables.

The first and last time I took a bite of "Wonder Bread" I actually gagged. I was at my boy friend's mother's house and I was mortified!!! It turned out OK, later that year he asked me to marry him, so now he gets homemade bread too.

Srishti's picture
Srishti

I am from India, and had Mom-made fresh whole wheat chapatis everyday of my life. Then I got married and moved to So. California about 7 years ago. If I were married to an Indian (as my "white-boy" husband says...) I'd be rolling chapatis everyday as well. But as we didn't eat Indian food 3 times a day, everyday of the week, we bought organic whole wheat tortillas from the health-food stores or Trader Joe's. But we still made paranthas at home... which are Indian stuffed flat breads filled with spiced potato or other vegetables. We bought a stone grinder and started grinding our own wheat.

My husband always had fresh home-made bread growing up as his Mom is from Austria, and she always made fresh bread about everyday. After we got married my husband tried making some bread for the family a couple of times (even though they were good combat weapons) were really delicious. I had never thought I could really ever "bake".

Then, a friend of ours started living with us who was an old-baker from Boston, and he strated making these wonderful whole wheat, sourdoughs for us, and we were in heaven :P

 Then we moved to the WA state 8 months ago and bought a house, and our friend moved somewhere else..... and we missed his breads.... so I made a few breads.... got a bread book at Barnes & Nobels. It was very inspirational as it had great pictures but the breads were always too oily.... or way too salty...

Then I remebered this other friend who is a cook, who had once brought over a wonderful loaf for us. I asked her about the recipe and she referred me the "No Knead to Knead" book by Suzanne Dunnaway. That gave me a second boost. They were great breads, but still something was missing.

One day while searching for a "potato bread" recipe, I stumbled upon the fresh loaf. I got the recipe which turned out wonderful and added the site to my favourites, but only came to it one in a while... (I hadn't yet discovered how amazing this site was)

Then once I saw the hot discussion of the New-york times No-Knead bread.... And I thought that was the coolest thing.

I think ever since then I "kinda" live on this site... ha ha... I started reading all the content... and borrowed a bunch of books from the library including BBA, Bread Alone, and Crust & Crumb. I have learned so much here.

I made SourDo Lady's sourdough recipe.... and named him OJ. I don't really like baking anything that's not sourdough anymore, as sourdough just feels so much more alive... and natural, and I am so attached to it :)

This site has given me so much.... that I don't even know how to start thanking Floyd.... and SourDoLady and JMonkey and all the rest of you...

Even then... Thank You So much everyone. I love this site :D

cmcadams's picture
cmcadams

I just recently started baking, I thought, because I like to cook things from scratch.  I do a lot  of barbecue, and I thought learning to do good bread would be a bonus for catering gigs, kind of a premium option if a client wanted it.  I also like making things from base ingredients, so it was fun to do.

However, reading your post, I realized that the first homemade bread I ever made was roti.  I worked with a lot of people from India, and a couple of them showed me how to make dal and roti.  I rolled out the bread and cooked it right on my gas stove burners.  I just didn't think of it as the same, but I think I made need to make some more, as I could use that for pitas insead of buying them.

Curt McAdams

Srishti's picture
Srishti

BTW, I don't buy Tortillas or such at stores any more!!!

apers's picture
apers

i started baking bread when I got my first bread machine about 8 years ago.

After a while I stopped using the bake feature and just used it for kneading. At this point I was almost entirely self taught. I would use recipes but was never taught why you do what you do and how it should look etc.

Then Floyd started this site and I joined right away. I have learned so much here. I go here for all my recipes and to learn. I love it :)

 

EDIT:  I completely forgot that when I was 19 I worked in a grocery store bakery 2 days a week.  The dough was frozen and thawed overnight.  So I never mixed dough.  But I became very familiar with proofing and baking and knowing when each was complete.  I was always grateful when someone miscounted the rolls the night before.  if there was an odd kiaser that didnt fit into a package, i would eat it right out of the oven. yuuuuuuuum.  That is where my love for baking actually began  

 

April

Floydm's picture
Floydm

I baked a little with my mother growing up, but I got into baking in high school.

I grew up in Forestville, California, a small town with only a half dozen or so places for high school kids to get jobs: bagging groceries at the local the beer stop (which I did), washing dishes at the Mexican joint, flipping burgers at the drive-in, those kinds of gigs. Not a lot to choose from.

After a summer working at the beer stop, I was fortunate enough to land a job slicing bread at a local cafe/bakery that had recently opened and which people were talking about. That bakery was Brother Juniper's, run by Peter and Susan Reinhart. The job was fun and the people who ran it were kind, pious, caring and patient. I worked there for two years, right until I left town to go to college in Oregon.

I consider myself extremely fortunate to have worked there. It is rare that anyone, let alone a rebelious teenage, has the opportinuty to work for such a compassionate employer who recognizes the good in people and helps them grow both personally and professionally. It had been exciting, though not particularly surprising, to watch Peter become an inspiration to so many home bakers. He and the other bakers I worked with (Father Stephen, Brother Robert) inspired me in later years to get back into baking and to try to share what I knew with other amateur bakers. I tend to think that much of the good I do on this site I learned from them. And, yes, the interest in bread is rooted there too, which I came back to once I'd settled into adult life.

ehanner's picture
ehanner

I spent 30 some years in the aviation business flying all over the world eating in great restaurants on an expense account. I was taking notes about where to find a good local meal in every major city we landed in. Along the way I developed a taste for French food and in particular bread. I learned to cook the foods I enjoyed around the world but never tackled baking much of anything. My mother had bought a bread machine and told me how she enjoyed the smell of fresh bread baking in that little gizmo, so I bought one. I came across a King Arthur catalog and ordered a sample box of 20 or so various kind of breads of specialty breads. My wife and I enjoyed the variety but the sourdough and multi-grains were our favorites. One day I decided to try to re-create the great french bread I had enjoyed in France and could still remember. I bought a few gadgets from King Arthur and proceeded to learn I didn't have a clue about the process. Gradually I began to understand about the dough and kneading and met with moderate success. Then I tried my hand at sourdough. I met Mike Avery on line and took a huge step forward in my understanding of bread. Learning about sourdough caused me to focus on how things feel in a different way than before. I was just getting to think I knew about bread when I read that Mike was baking what I considered a lot of bread without a mixer. That got me curious and now I'm proud to say I haven't soiled my Kitchen Aid in almost a month and I bake every other day. I might go back to the mixer someday if I break both wrists but I doubt it. It's easier and more meaningful by hand.

 So now I am amazed at how much I was missing by not baking. It's a very gratifying thing to do when you understand enough to be able to create really great French bread and a loaf of killer sourdough. I found this site a couple weeks ago and am humbled by the generosity of the members. I do more reading than writing at the moment mainly because I don't feel like I have the experience to be giving advice in the presence of accomplished bakers. I'm hooked I'll admit it. My kids want me to open a bakery and the neighbors form a double line Saturday mornings which only encourages me more. I enjoy the hobby but I don't think I'll ruin It by trying to go commercial.

Sylviambt's picture
Sylviambt

Like many of you, my obsession with great bread began a long time ago in a place far away. When I was a little kid, my grandmother's green thumb introduced me to fresh, foods and to the idea that you could grow, or make, food that is healthful and flavorful. She was a great cook, but baking just wasn't part of our tradition. (My grandparents moved from Puerto Rico to New York when they were teenagers.)

In the early 70's I joined a newly formed food co-op in Duluth, MN and this taught me that I was not alone in the commitment to good food. (lots of it didn't taste very good back then, but that's changed for the better this last decade).

In the late 70s, I set out on a quest to replicate the taste and fullness of the granery bread (sprouted grains) that was so easy to find in England and so impossible to get in the States. And then in the late 80s and 90s, I was a consultant to grower groups in the exploding organic foods industry. That experience told me the raw ingredients were becoming increasingly available. I also met bakers, Lynn Gordon of French Meadow Bakery among them, who were meeting a growing market demand for crusty breads with complex flavors and great beautiful holes.  Still, this was more the exception than the rule.

Today, the Twin Cities enjoys the products from several small bakeries devoted to great bread.  Unfortunately, I live an hour away from any of them. Because I refuse to eat what's on the grocer's shelf, last year I began a personal search for the perfect crust and crumb. For over a year, I've been baking 2 to 4 loaves a week. I fall short lots of the time, but then I'm still new. And with the great tips of so many on this website, I'm having a wonderful time learning. The successes are more frequent, and I'm so glad to be part of this friendly and helpful community.

Sylvia

In search of the perfect crust and crumb

sadears's picture
sadears

My sister loves to entertain; in fact, this is the first year that I can remember that she didn't have a Holiday Open House. But, that's a story for another day.

I was my practice to bring bread and brie. At Thanksgiving, I bought some Sourdough bread (just for myself) and wondered how hard it would be to make it. I knew it required starter and I knew I couldn't buy it at my local Safeway.

I have always loved to cook. Well, in my adult years, after I joined the Navy. I especially enjoy cooking from scratch. I make homemade salad dressings, ALWAYS spaghetti sauce, and have even tried to make mayo. Something about commercial stuff seems lacking. Anyway...

I think I tried to bake bread once, but don't remember how it turned out. Then my husband (at the time) bought me a bread machine. That was cool. I enjoyed it. Until I got to Rhode Island and for some reason the bread always came out flat. Interestingly enough, when I got here, at roughly 6,000-6,500 feet, the bread turned out fine.

Anyway, at Thanksgiving I looked up sourdough starter. After looking at a couple of websites, I found a site with a link to a recipe from S. John. How easy could that be? Then I found this website. Well, you know my trials and tribulations. I've had one edible attempt, but without the holes I desire. The majority of successful attempts were with commercial yeasts.

And that's the story.

Steph

T4tigger's picture
T4tigger

My mother was a home economics major and she did a lot of baking when I was young.  In my opinion, there is absolutely nothing in this world that can compare to the smell of fresh baked bread!      When I was in junior high, my dad was getting his PhD and we were living on the GI bill, which didn't go too far for a family of 4.  To help supplement things, we had a booth at a local farmer's market where we sold home made cinnamon rolls and home made ice cream.  I remember spending Friday evenings rolling dough, cutting rolls, and watching them proof and rise.  Saturday mornings were filled with the incredible cinnamon smell.

I got away from baking for a long time, and then was reading a book in which the main character baked exclusively with sourdough.    The thought of creating a living organism (other than my kids!) intrigued me, so I bought myself some flour and, after several worthless attempts, got a starter going.

I still haven't truly mastered baking sourdough or  regular yeast breads, but I am truly enjoying the experience!   

I also want to thank Floyd for hosting this site and everyone who is kind enough to answer questions, offer advice and share the successes and failures so those of us new to this hobby don't feel completely out of our element.

Colleen 

yelda's picture
yelda

I was so used to having bread right from the baker's oven when I was in Turkey. Now in the US, I don't find it at every corner. Wonder bread is just not a bread, and the good ones are expensive, and even with the pricy ones, you still don't know what they added in. So I started thinking, why not baking at home! And here I am with my Turkish/English blog http://yelda.remgo.com/index.php

Kate's picture
Kate

I never cooked a thing until I had my first son 2.5 years ago. My mom is an excellent cook and I never learned - I'd rather eat her stuff than make my own. My husband does all the cooking in our family (my mom recently told me I was lucky my husband cooked or I'd starve...) in fact, today I set the stove on fire trying to stir fry some veggies since my husband is out with a friend tonight. 

 

But I made all my son's baby food which turned out to not be all that hard. When I was pregnant with my second boy (he's 8 months old now) I started really getting into baking from scratch. It was my "nesting" thing, I guess. I bought a kitchenaid mixer and baked breads and cookies and pies - I didn't want to EAT them, I just wanted to MAKE them. Shortly before he was born I started my first sourdough starter and I'm hooked!

 

Beside pizza (I make an awesome sourdough pizza dough) I still don't cook meals, but I bake a lot. Spending more than five minutes making dinner makes me nuts, but I'll gladly spend two days nurturing a bread dough.  

 

So, I guess it was the desire to make good, healthy food for my kids that got me thinking about making good, healthy food for me, and then it turned out I really liked at least the baking part of it...

judy's picture
judy

I grew up on my mother's home baked bread-Cornell protein bread, Bock beer bread, whole wheat- so I knew good bread but had never attempted much. Then in my 20's I landed a job at an outdoor education center for kids (looking to teach but they needed a cook......)and found myself with an overabundance of hot cereal every morning. I found that by adjusting the water it was amazing what could be created with oatmeal, cream of wheat and wheatena.Cooking for 50 hungry bodies I had to learn VERY quickly but I had a great time experimenting. Twenty years later I'm only baking for my family and friends but still playing with those yeastie beasties-pizza, bagels, sandwich bread, scones......and I look forward to my yearly pilgrimage to the King Arthur store in Vermont for inspiration. (And the inspiration found on this website-My family loves the Blueberry Creamcheese Braid- Thank you all-)

qahtan's picture
qahtan

 One Easter many many years ago, my to be husband gave me half pound fresh  and asked me to make some hot cross buns. Have been doing it every year since for the past 51 years.

    From the hot cross buns I ventured further afield to other yeast baking, when we were married and moved house our next door neighbour was a sales rep for the miller Pride Of Sussex, so every time Fred had a split bag of flour etc he gave it to me.

 When we came to Canada some 42 years ago I continued, right up till now and am still doing it. :-))) qahtan  

 

socurly's picture
socurly

Like many others, I too got a bread machine.  Well my husband did and vowed to make fresh bread everyday.  He never did, but I started making bread in the bread machine.  I soon used it only to mix. Baking in my oven made for tastier crusts.  I experimented with so many doughs and proofing techniques.  Every one was a success. I found this site and realized I was not alone in the mania for a great piece of bread. I bake daily for my family.  I try many kinds of flours and seeds for optimum nutrition. What's the point in eating if your bread is not wholesome and tasty. My children are learning to eat well at a young age. People think its complicated but we all know how easy it is.  This site is wonderful to read. 

Even though I live in Toronto where there I have access to great breads, I still bake my own. On a day like today, -17 C and snowing.......who needs to venture out to the store for bread! There's always something baking in my house.

mrpeabody's picture
mrpeabody

I got started because...well...my kids have food allergies, specifically to sesame and nuts.  My wife and I do like to have a nice bakery quality loaf of bread now and then.  However, bakeries might make one batch of bread with sesame or nuts and then following batch without.  Therefore, we cannot be certain that there isn't any cross-contamination for any of the loaves of bread at a nice bakery.  So, I made an effort and, for the most part, was eventually able to make respectable loaves of bread.

Sadly, I have been very busy over the past year and have not had much time to bake bread.  Recently, the NY Times method has been great for me because the amount of actual hands-on time is small.  So, now I do get to produce some loaves a bit more frequently.  I adapted a nice black bread recipe for the no-knead approach and it has worked out great for me.

Mr. Peabody

Teresa_in_nc's picture
Teresa_in_nc

The excellent cooks in my family, being Southern, made more biscuits and cornbread than yeast breads. As a Home Economics major in college, I really liked making all our meals from scratch and canning/freezing to "put up." I stayed home with my two young sons and started baking all our bread at that time. A neighbor asked if I would teach her how to make bread, then she suggested that I offer classes to teach other people. I put a small ad in the local paper and right away filled one daytime class and one night class, teaching in my own kitchen. Word spread, and one class followed another.

The source of my information for those early classes was Bake Your Own Bread (and be healthier) by Floss and Stan Dworkin. They advocated healthy ingredients, simple methods, and starting the bake in a cold oven. I was able to turn out really good breads with only a bowl, whisk, wood spoon and basic measuring cups and spoons -no bread machine and no heavy-duty stand mixer. I made challah, brioche, English muffins, French bread, loaf bread, kolaches, tea rings, hot cross buns, Cornell triple formula, cinnamon buns, hamburger buns.....you name it, I made it.

Fast forward two decades and now I make sourdough, whole wheat, and multi-grain breads for hearty flavor and more nutrition, often using my Kitchen Aid mixer for part of the recipe mixing. I bake homemade pizza on oven tiles and just ordered a bunch of grains on Amazon to continue my quest for really good multi-grain loaves and buns. (I wish I could find a Granary bread like that I had in England, but I understand it is a proprietary secret formula.)

Baking bread is such a rewarding and delicious hobby that I like to teach anyone who is interested. We are hoping to have a bread "camp" for forum members on another internet cooking forum this summer - and I get to be the teacher. I really enjoy The Fresh Loaf for the knowledgeable folks here and great recipes. Thank you all - especially Floyd.

Sylviambt's picture
Sylviambt

Teresa

It was so interesting to read your mention about granary bread. Back in the mid-70s, after a stay in England, I tried for months to duplicate its flavor and texture , but missed the mark by a mile.  Have you had more luck?  Does anyone out there have a good recipe for this wonderful bread?

Sylvia

subfuscpersona's picture
subfuscpersona

I started making bread when I was a graduate student. I've always enjoyed cooking, especially learning how basic foodstuffs (such as bread) are made and wanted relief from intensive brain work. Very little *good* information about bread baking was available at that time.


Fast forward several decades later... Yes, I've been baking bread all this time. I baked for my family and now, with reduced family size, I bake for friends and neighbors. Along the way I discarded most of the bread books I'd purchased, segued to home milling of flour and turned to the web (rather than books) for up-to-date info on bread baking.


My Mom was an excellent pastry and cake baker, but never made bread. While she enjoyed the loaves I gave her, she was much more impressed with the homemade pasta I learned to make.


TFL educated me on sourdough starters and many techniques - the most valued (for me) were baking under a cover and cold oven / cold start baking. (I now routinely bake with a sourdough starter rather than commerical yeast). A big THANKS to all you TFL members.

dave1971us's picture
dave1971us

I got my first bread recipe from a French professor when I was 13.  Made the first loaf back then. (That's 25 years of bread baking and experimenting) :)


Next great milestone was another French professor who gave me a recipe that she got from Poilane.  She told me that she walked in and asked him for his recipe and he gave it to her.  She adapted it  for  the cuisinart food processor. It's wonderfully vague.  For example, add one louchee (ladelful)..big ladel? small ladel?  who knows.  This recipe is different from any other "Poilane" recipes I've seen e.g. Bernard Clayton.  I was about 20 years old.  The crust is wonderful.  Makes a great pizza crust.  Doesn't taste too awfully different from the bread at 8, rue du cherche midi. (Which I have been to once and have avoided ever since.)  There's better bread to be found in Paris at much cheaper prices. :)


I lived in France for a while and acquired the taste for bread.  It helps my baking tremendously, because I know what it's supposed to taste and feel like.


I can say hands down that Carl's sourdough starter (which is now about two years old) makes bread so good my European friends are astounded. It's as light as a feather and the crust is infinitely superior to anything a yeast dough could ever dream of producing.  The crumb is nice too..but it's that chewy crust that impresses me most.


That's my story.


 


 

jocelyn's picture
jocelyn

Hello,


I am new to this fantastic forum and I am in awe of having found other people sharing my obsession with baking bread.  I have never found locally (I live in Montreal) somebody who shared this mania, so thought that it was simply an illness that could be cured given sufficient therapy.


I have always been in interested in doing stuff from scratch.   So, as a teenager, I learned to bake and was doing it on an off until about 7 years ago when I received a KA as a gift.  Removing the need to knead by hand + reading C&C sparked the fire.  The idea that I could bake "bakery" bread at home was so intriguing and compelling that I never looked back and have since been baking most weekend, still in search of the perfect baguette (I had a breakthrough last week!!!) and working on perfecting my SD Foccacia, a super simple recipe I invented to use the extra SD when feeding (another breakthrough last weekend, thanks to this site!!!).  I started a SD about 6-7 years ago and it took me 3 times before it worked, because I was not patient enough (thinking, for some reason, that everything should work just like it said in the book...  It took twice as much time)


So, I am now thinking about getting a grain mill, switching back to manual handling of the dough and generally try to bake our entire family's (we are 7) bread needs (sofar, I think this is impossible...  Maybe the No Kneads techniques?).  Lately, I have also developed an obsession with fermented food and have many crocks,  bottles and pot of stuff bubbling around the house.


 

Pokeypuppy's picture
Pokeypuppy

Growing up, my parents had this unspoken rule that only wheat bread was allowed in our house. Which was fine. I had never really been exposed to  anything  else, so plain old wheat bread had never had any kind of competition for school lunches or breakfast toast. White bread was "unhealthy," and "not very good anyway."  

However, one day, as I was playing at a neighbor kid's house, her mom offered us white bread cheese sandwiches as a snack. I tried it. And i fell in love. And ever since, i have been harboring this secret passion for cheap, store bought white slices of love, covered in what we used to refer to as "plastic cheese." It was around this time that my dad got a Breadman bread machine. Box after box would come into our house, and my dad would use this loud little machine to turn each one into a delicious loaf of some new kind of bread. 

Years later, I have my own family and my dad has mostly abandoned the Breadman for "The Bread Baker's Apprentice"  book and a fridge full of sour dough starter. He brings over loaf after smooth, flavorful loaf of sour dough, wreck-your-diet cheese bread, and onion bread that would make you wonder why you ever ate anything else. His passion for bread making and his talent for pulling flavors from four simple ingredients (flour, water, salt and yeast), is inspiring. Inspiring enough to make me try my hand at it. I have only been making my own bread now for about two months, but after making over night sour dough, maple bread and onion bread, I can say I'm hooked. I even made a loaf of mostly wheat sandwich bread. We almost never buy bread from the store anymore, and just yesterday, I made Armenian flat bread crackers which came out so tasty looking, I took a picture and sent it to everyone I know :-) I have to admit, however, that every once in a while, I sneak a loaf of cheap old white bread from the grocery store for a plastic cheese sandwich. But we hide that when he comes over. 


MangoChutney's picture
MangoChutney

Beats me why I started baking bread.  When I was growing up we used refrigerator rolls for dumplings - didn't even make those from scratch.  My mother kept a box of Bisquick around for making pancakes and bought Jiffy mixes for corn bread and cakes.  I vaguely remember that we bought some pizza kits from the store, and dough turned out not to be frightening at all.  After that I got interested in making bread, but we had neither the counter space for kneading the bread (seriously!) nor the storage space for keeping flour.  About the only thing we ever bought yeast for was to make fermented beverages.   When I finally moved out on my own, I started making cakes, pancakes, donuts, dumplings, and so forth, from scratch using baking powder and flour instead of Bisquick or Jiffy mixes.  Eventually I graduated to yeasted doughs.  That happened about 32 years ago, when I got my first job that paid more than subsistance.  Now we are retired and our income is headed back towards subsistance level, but I'm not giving up baking my whole grain sourdough bread.  I've come to like it too well.  *smile*

Oddly enough, my mother took up baking yeasted breads about the same time as I did.  Maybe she would answer "My daughter taught me".  *laugh*

nhtom's picture
nhtom

My father taught me how when I was in college - some 35 years ago.

It doesn't hurt that our name is "Baker."  That kind of drew me to it.

Stuart Borken's picture
Stuart Borken

I had two years of medical training in Los Angeles 1968-1970.  While there I developed a fondness for the real thing, San Francisco Sourdough.  When the Army/Airforce put me in Louisville, Ky.  I could no longer get real sourdough.  So, I grew my own starter and made my own bread.  I have been baking every since.  I'm still trying to make the perfect loaf.

davidg618's picture
davidg618

Twelve years old; pursuing the Boy Scouts Cooking Merit Badge I baked my first loaf: Bannock. Flour, water, baking powder, oil and little sugar. Slow-fried in a cast-iron skillet, over an open, too-hot fire. I scorched the bottom. It was delicious.

In time I became the "go-to" cook in the Scout Troop. Baking became incidental to the bigger all-around food picture.  None the less, I mastered Dutch Oven breads, biscuits and cobblers. Stayed a Scout and a camp cook until I was sixteen when I discovered photography (which earned me money), rare steak (My mother, at my father's dictum, cooked meats only one way: well-l-l-l...l done.), and girls. And Italian red sauces. 

During the ensuing fifty years, through two careers--the US Navy, and later, an acoustic engineer--home from the sea, or the office, cooking and baking, and sharing the results with family and friends, remained a favorite therapy. Now an adult, I also contributed thirty-one years of volunteer sevice to the Boy Scout program. At first a Scoutmaster, later a leadership trainer, which included, of course, campfire cooking. If your interested, I'll tell you the trick for making Baked Alaska with a Dutch Oven and a campfire.

All my sons cook. One was awarded three stars by Phyllis Richmond, a food editor for the Washington Post. I made the kitchen a safe and fun and creative place for the men in our family.

Long retired (1995) about three years ago I decided to improve my home-baking skills. Within days I found The Fresh Loaf.

David G

 

 

Juergen's picture
Juergen

My story is short. I first got introduced to the concept of baking my own bread back in january 2011. On a lazy evening while zapping around the TV channels, I just happened to stumble upon a BBC programme where they were making foccacia. Somehow I hung on and watched the episode to the end and really liked the idea of baking my own bread, it seemed so easy and really fun to do. A few days later I got on the internet and got introduced to the infamous NY Times No-knead bread video. I did bake a few no-knead loaves but after a week or two, I called it quits. This no-knead bread concept just didn't seem like a challenge, I somehow found it too easy.

It was not until february this year that I picked up bread baking again. This time though, I wanted to learn it the way it ought to be done. Since then I invested in some gear like bannetons and a lame and ofcourse Reinhart's BBA. It just amazing that I've learned so much over these past few months and I can really say that the bread bug has bitten me.

MNBäcker's picture
MNBäcker

I guess being born and raised in Germany made me not think too much about how spoiled some countries are with their abundance of baked goods... When I was a teenager in the German equivalent of High School, I was looking for a part-time job. In Germany, they deliver fresh hard rolls in the morning, much like a paper route. Rolls are baked, bagged according to route and then delivered, usually on a bike with a huge wicker basket in the front, or (if the route goes into neighboring towns) with a car and said basket inside the car. A small family-owned bakery was looking for a person to deliver said rolls, so I got the job.

When my rebellious phase kicked into high gear and I decided to quit school and do something "meaningful" with my life (oh, those teenage years...), my parents insisted I get a full-time job. Since the baker who I was already working for was looking for an apprentice, I got the position without much effort on my part.

An apprenticeship in germany usually consists of three years "on the job" with varying schedules of classroom times in between. For me, it meant five days in the bakery and one day in school. I always tell people "I know that the dough rises, but thanks to my time in the classroom, I also know WHY it rises"...:)

After meeting my wife in Germany (she's from Iowa) and figuring out a few details, I relocated to the US in 1995. Worked for a year as the manager in a local bakery in Rochester, MN. It was a great way to really get used to the imperial weight system (having learned everything in metric), but unfortunately, between my wife's schedule as a nurse and mine as a baker, we didn't see too much of each other. I decided to look for something else a year later (I guess being a baker is best if you're single...).

After quite a few years, I decided to get a breadmaker and make our own bread. The idea of a breadmaker had always been somewhat insulting to me, with me having professional training and all that, but I gave in for convenience's sake. I started making a whole wheat bread with some flax seed and chia seed in it, along with a small amount of date fines. After we moved into our new home in 2007 and were surprised by a little addition to our family, I baked more of this bread, since our son absolutely LOVED it. It kept him more than regular, if you catch my drift. My wife works with a bunch of women, and of course they talk about all kinds of things (like their kids not pooping, or only once a week), so when she mentioned my "miracle bread", I was suddenly faced with bigger demand. I started mixing larger batches and baking them in our kitchen oven.

At some point, space became an issue, and I started to think about a WFO in the backyard. Last May, I took a class at the North House Folk School and then built my own WFO in the fall. I have been baking since then and am ready to start selling at the local Farmer's Market next Monday.

I have truly enjoyed having stumbled upon this site - what a plethora of information from people all over the world! It never ceases to amaze me how a simple thing such as baking can bring people together.

Stephan Jennebach

www.firebrickbread.com

 

Yippee's picture
Yippee

Stephan:

I enjoy your story. Being a mom with young kids, I feel that I can relate to the part of the moms' talk. At first I didn't catch your drift, then I figured it out and it made me smile.  I like German breads and I'm looking forward to your future posts.  Good day.

Best,

Yippee

aytab's picture
aytab

I started when I found a few packages of yeast in the cupboard. I looked and we had flour so I went and found a recipe for easy Italian Bread. It was okay but nothing to write home about. Being a former professional musician I am very sound oriented. I love sound, I learn through sound. During College I never had to take a single note, once I heard the professor speak the information I could commit it to memory. If I read a book I have to re-read it several times to retain information but if I listen to it I retain the information instantly. All that being said the first time I steamed a loaf of bread and then heard it "Crackling and Popping" on the counter as it cooled, that is when I was hooked. Other than a Gibson Les Paul screaming through a Marshall Amplifier there is no cooler sound in the world than that "Crackling and Popping".