The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Blogs and beginners

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Nomadcruiser53's picture
Nomadcruiser53

Blogs and beginners

I've noticed that all the bloggers here have great looking breads. I think it's going to be awhile before I get good enough (If ever) to start a blog of my own. When I make what I think is a pretty decent loaf I look through the blog pages and think " Oh Man, do I have a long way to go". You guys are a great inspiration and very helpful, but looking at your baking (looks like art to me) can also be a little disheartening. No disrespect intended. Dave

audra36274's picture
audra36274

    I have been baking for years, blogging on here over a year and I was telling Pamela yesterday about a weekend FLOP I did. Where I let time get away from me and let my dough rise over the bowl and collapse down the freezer in an awful mess. No baker is perfect. I guarantee that if you post a picture of your loaf, with the recipe and what you did, you will get more help on here than you know what to do with! Follow the instructions and you will have bread to show off in no time. I promise. Most of us here did not come as a master baker. We came out of a need to improve and was seeking someone to help us do just that. Everyone has baked their share of bricks. I could have lived in an adobe home made of bread in the beginning! Come on , give us what you got. Your family will be glad you did ;-) !


   P.S. If you ever get disheartened again, look up a thread that had our biggest disasters on it from last year. Laugh about it, get advise, use it and be proud of your new accomplishment.


                                                                    Audra

PMcCool's picture
PMcCool

Dave,


It just ain't so!  Go ahead, paw back through my blog; you'll find some ugly loaves.  (My first attempt at ciabatta was particulary homely.)  Lots of posters have shared everything from their first attempts (sometimes lovely, sometimes less so) to their latest challenges.  Some blogs are outright pleas or help!  There have been a thread or two about baking disasters show up here on TFL, too.


Whatever you're baking, feel free to blog about it.  You'll get lots of encouragement and help. 


Paul

Yippee's picture
Yippee


Lots of posters have shared everything from their first attempts (sometimes lovely, sometimes less so) to their latest challenges.



I'm here to learn, therefore I'm not afraid to show my mistakes (just look at the first few batches of baguettes I made).  If you keep trying and asking questions, you'll make progress. 


Yippee

hullaf's picture
hullaf

I just started a new bread blogspot and it is more difficult to do than making breads! Almost just as fun. Mistakes are just hors d'oeuvres. 


I've been visiting TFL now for more than a year and am so thankful for it. I'd a never get such knowledge from just books. The internet just astounds me. The human species is really going to get smarter faster don't you think?    Anet

Yumarama's picture
Yumarama

One does NOT need to be an expert to blog about their bread adventures. My own blog is chock full of really questionable loaves. That's why I'm blogging! It is merely the recodring of the process as I'm learning the art & science of bread making. If I only posted the perfect loaves, well, I wouldn't have anything to blog about. And it would be utterly pretentious and boring.


Boring is not fun.


Sure there are probably a fair number of folks out there who are top notch at the craft and they can consistently pump out great loaf after great loaf but most of us still produce the more-than-occasional bread bomb.


And we DO blog about it. That's part of the adventure and the fun, making the bread, seeing how it comes out and writing about it, wether it's great, mediocre or a laff-riot. And we learn from it. The blog is just sharing that experience, it's not showing off loaf after loaf of prize winning quality product. It's sharing what we did no matter the outcome.


Want to see some bombs? Go to the earlier posts on most people's bread blogs before they'd honed their skills. Or even after a while, they (hopefully) will still show off a total dud when it happens. If they hide those, that's a shame. It's from the mistakes you learn what works and what doesn't.


Don't hesitate to start your own blog because you're under the incorrect idea only vastly experienced bread makers blog their process. Blog because you want to share your own travels as you learn and get better. You want to document your building expertise and, on the way, enlighten others who may also be intimidated and let them see it's OK to make mistakes.


I've also found keeping a blog has forced me to pay more attention to the steps I was doing because I would have to explain this or that step or process I followed (even if it's following a recipe) later on. Why did I do it this way over that? What am I doing at this stage and why? Or I do something and later write up that "I did this but it didn't work like I wanted so next time I'll try that".


Blogging is not just showing off, it's a learning tool, a recording of your process. And that is still applicable if the process you follow missed the mark. Post it anyway.


Besides, it's fun and when you do make a loaf that turns out great, it's a neat place to show it off.


Don't throw in the towel before you even start the game! Fire up a blog (here, on Wordpress.com, Blogspot.com, your own website, etc., etc.) and see how you like it. Post your successes AND your bombs, your learning process, your a-HA! moments. Worst case scenario: you stop. So, what’s the downside again? 

SylviaH's picture
SylviaH

You must have missed the brick in my blog...!   I like looking back to see my improvments on many of the breads I have blogged.


Sylvia

avatrx1's picture
avatrx1

You have to remember that beauty is sometimes only "crust" deep.  I've made some nice looking breads that when you cut into them, they're soggy, dense and more like pulled taffy than bread.


The good thing is - flour is relatively inexpensive in the general scheme of things,  and if you have animals - they are VERY grateful for your flops.  add a little butter and if they're like mine - they're in heaven!  Some of my bread flops are more like dog bones anyway.


 


If every loaf came out perfect, you'd never learn how to avoid mistakes and you wouldn't appreciate the goods ones as much as you should.

sphealey's picture
sphealey

A Tale of Two Weeks


Four years of regular breadbaking, three years contributing to TFL.  Here are my results from Fathers Day weekend:



On the left is my weekly sandwich rye, now typically a sourdough.  On the right are two loaves of Vermont Country Sourdough (recipe originally from King Arthur, modified somewhat by me).  Pies in the background by my wife Julie the Piemaster.   Cherries from the 30 lb bucket my younger son brought back from Door County WI! 


Looks great.  I must be one of those Experienced Breadbakers(tm) you read about on TFL.  Well, let's go back in time a full week:



That pancake-shaped object on the left is supposed to be my sandwich loaf.  At 3/4"-1" high and mostly crust it wasn't usable for much of anything!  The loaves on the right were supposed to be mixed-grain sourdough white; when I realized the dough was too weak to shape as batards I put it in the loaf pans.  The result was barely edible but quite brick-like.


So there you have it: from the valley one week to the peak the next.  That's how it goes in the world of bread.  Try something simple for a few weeks in a row, get the hang of it, then branch out.  Have fun!


sPh


 


 

dghdctr's picture
dghdctr

You obviously did a great job over Father's Day, sph.  What's also important is that you didn't let a temporary failure get you down for long.  You figured out what went wrong and just went back at it.  That's how we learn -- even when we're experienced.  That might sound too obvious to mention, but a lot of bakers won't cut themselves slack and allow for any mistakes.  I think that leads to less learning, or, at least, a steeper learning curve.


Too many bakers think that a "failure" in one attempt means that they are failures, when, as your example shows, this is clearly not true.  It's natural to be disappointed with the previous results after all your hard work, but you'll never really gain expertise in bread baking unless you're exposed to these mishaps.  Before you can instinctively avoid a problem, you first have to see that it exists.


After I showed a student how to mix a dough or shape a loaf, I'd still be there early on to correct errors they might make, but after a week or two I'd let them alone to see what could go wrong.  How else would they know what to avoid?  You can put warnings about these things in a book, but they usually won't retain the message unless they encounter the issue first hand.  It's temporarily upsetting, but they've learned -- probably forever -- what to avoid.


I think some home bakers set themselves up for disappointment by not allowing for "practice" (and failure) before the results become critical.   They usually bake bread for a special dinner or when company is expected.  That's OK if you're making something you've made successfully several times, but trying out a new recipe that way can often lead to disappointment.


Beginners, especially, should bake on days when they have time to fool around and experiment, and they shouldn't get too down when the results aren't up to par.  And really, even experienced bakers should approach new formulas with the knowledge that they may have to use the recipe once or twice and adjust it a bit before the results are optimal.  If you approach baking as a casual learning exercise instead of a critical examination of your competence, you won't ratchet up your expectations and you'll be more open to learning from occasional failures.


--Dan DiMuzio

dmsnyder's picture
dmsnyder

Hi, Dan.


I very much appreciate your insight as a baking teacher. Too many teachers feel their job is simply to shovel their superior fund of knowledge into their students' (presumably) empty heads. Paulo Friere, a great Brazilian expert on adult education called this "The Banking Model of Education."


I would just add one suggestion for the beginner who is problem solving, and that is to take notes on what you do - especially what you do differently - with each bake. Keeping track of seemingly minor modifications in dough hydration, the flours used, mixing time, room temperature, etc. may account for unanticipated failures ... or successes ... and accelerate learning.


Another common piece of advice we often give new bakers is to first work on a very small number of breads until you have mastered them. I think it is easier to grok the dough if you get intimate with the effects of "minor" modifications. If you are varying a dozen things at once, you really can't appreciate the effect of any of them. 


As a home baker who has never taken a class or even watched a professional at work, I don't know whether this applies in the culinary school environment, but it sure seems to for the home baker learning on his or her own.


David

dghdctr's picture
dghdctr

Of course you're right, David, about the note taking and just changing things one at a time to note their isolated effects.  It's tempting to change three things at once as if this would solve the dilemma more quickly, but, of course, even if things then succeed, you wouldn't know for certain what made the difference.


That same truth would apply to culinary students (it's all just learning, really, whether at home or at school), but I'm afraid that only the minority of students took effective notes about what happened in the bakery itself.  Most would wait for a lecture to write anything down.  Kinda sad, huh?


And your caveat about trying to master just a few simple breads at first is spot-on.  It can be less exciting in some respects, but effective learning will happen much faster that way, and this acts as a better foundation for trying more complicated recipes.


--Dan

Yippee's picture
Yippee

Dan and David:


I've applied the above approaches as I experiment baking (either Artisan or Asian style) and found them very effective.  I often start with a basic recipe, repeat and repeat until I've mastered the techniques and accomplished the right texture and appearance.  I keep track of the details of each project and question myself what could have done to make it better.  For questions I cannot answer, I come here and ask master bakers like you and experiences you share with us have been extremely helpful.  Thank you.


Yippee  

dghdctr's picture
dghdctr

I'd say that type of detailed approach will save you lots of time and aggravation in the long run, even if mixing the same recipe 3 or 4 times seems less entertaining.

ques2008's picture
ques2008

i agree with everyone.  blogging is a very democratic platform, an art of self-expression, whether or not the expression is eloquent or a total failure.  i joined TFL in early winter and am also new at bread making but i have learned so much here and i've turned out some disasters, some decent ones.  i must admit though that i have NOT graduated into crusty breads yet because i kind of like rolls, sweet breads and pastries.  i bought an oven stone in the new year but have not used it yet!


so blog away. and show off your "no-shows."

davidg618's picture
davidg618

...and daily I quietly express my gratitude for TFL, and my having found it, sometimes to my wife, occasionally to a friend, a neighbor, or family; mostly just in my thoughts whille I browse through the latest posting.


What we've got here is Community!


The "New Oxford American Dictionary" has, as its third definition of "community": "a feeling of fellowship with others, as a result of sharing common attitudes, interests, and goals"


Now, to me, that describes to a tee what exists here in cyberspace among us. It's a lot more than simply http:// thefresh....


So, for this moment, I'll not be quiet. Thanks TFL for all you are for me, a place to meet like-minded folks; folks who critque my goofs kindly, praise my successes laviously , and share their knowledge gladly.


I'm a huge fan of Community!


David G


 

xaipete's picture
xaipete

It is difficult for many of us to find actual people to communicate with who share such a passion for making bread and other foods from scratch (at least it is for me). I so much enjoy participating in this forum because so much is going on on any giving day, and because participants with different backgrounds and experience come from all over the world. At any given moment you can usually find someone here who it interested in talking about something you are interested in. And, you get so many new ideas by reading what others post.


--Pamela

Nomadcruiser53's picture
Nomadcruiser53

Thanks guys, and gals. I'll start a blog soon. It looks to be a good way to log my progress and get advice. Also it will keep it all in one place so I can go through it all easily. I agree this is a great site and a friendly baking community. Dave

alina's picture
alina

Hi Dave,


I teach kids, and one of the things I tell them is to not give up or get discouraged so easily.  Were you born walking?  Of course not.  None of us were.  But we learned how to do it.


It's the same with any skill--it takes time, practice, hard work.  Sure, some get it more easily than others.  But persistence will pay off.


So please keep on trying, and start a blog anyway.  One thing is for sure--before I started mine, I didn't REALLY appreciate how hard it was to take a good food picture.  I'm getting better at it.


The other thing I wanted to say was that I love reading even posts about failures, because we can still learn from them.  They just are not as amusing, nor as exciting, as when things turn out great.


I haven't made bread in a while, but being back here is making me hungry for more!


I want to try my hand at some ciabatta so I can make bahn mi with my own bread.  Check out my blog for more details...


Aloha,


Alina


Find award-winning vegetarian and vegan recipes at my blog:


http://almostveganinparadise.wordpress.com

photojess's picture
photojess

your blog was quite interesting.  I've never been to malaysia, but have been to Oahu in 1985.


Some of those foods looked pretty good, and it looks like a fun trip.  Will have to check out your recipes sometime.