I just joined the forum and I'd like to say thanks to everyone for the entertaining, educational and informative discussions I've read on this site.They have been very inspiring and helpful over the past month.
I recently started making bread again after about 20 years of absence. Handmade, artisanal breads, no bread machine (yet). I've had reasonably good results to date, but I'm still looking to perfect the loaves and branch out to other styles.
And I am becoming quite keen on the historical process of breadmaking.
I've posted a couple of blog pieces and photos on my own site, and Facebook notes about my progress to date. I bake something new every 3-5 days, tinkering with the process or recipe each time to see what I can create.
My keen desire is to make good, crusty, chewy rustic bread. I'm close, but the loaf still needs work. I bought the book Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day and have been working from it and from blog posts about it, to master the basic bread. I keep getting distracted by my innate desire to experiment.
I face a few limitations for further development: in a small town, resources are limited to what the grocery store chains offer (good, Canadian commercial flours like Robin Hood and Five Roses: pretty much limited to all-purpose white, unbleached and whole wheat), although I have a ready supply of some alternative flours at the local Bulk Barn (but not all, like pumpernickel rye). I can make a trip to Toronto (about 2-2.5 hours away) if anyone can suggest a source of materials there.
I also learned from my reading that all-purpose Canadian flour is higher protein than US flour, so I'm not sure if I need to alter recipes to account for our flour.
Yeasts here are also limited to the commercial Fleishman's types (seems to be the only choice). So far they've worked fine, but I'd like to try other varieties. Sourdough is high on my list as a project (but in a house full of cats and dogs, I'm a bit unsure about the wild yeast...). So I'm in search of a starter from an outside source I can use to get my own going.
I'm also awaiting a baking stone to work with, due this coming week from Amazon. So far I've been using a cookie sheet or a ceramic pot. They work fine, by the way.
And in the future I may get a bread maker, but need to research the models and brands a lot more before I commit to the investment.
My other interest is the historical aspect of baking and bread: what bread did Chaucer eat? Shakespeare? How did yeast get domesticated? What grains were used by the Egyptians? By the Normans? And so on. Any links to books on the history of breadmaking would be appreciated.
Anyway, thanks to everyone for providing a great resource for neophyte bread makers like me.