The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

What did you learn/change in 2009?

phxdog's picture

What did you learn/change in 2009?

In Floyd's recent inquiry asking for the best post of 2009, I could not begin to choose only one. At best, I could narrow it down to 5 or 6 'posters' whose comments I ALWAYS look for. So I thought about what tip, technique or piece of equipment made the greatest impact on my baking?

For me, it was all of your pictures and information about slow ferments in brotforms coated with rice flour (I know that actually 4!). I read relevant posts carefully, finally purchased a few natural cane brotforms, and applied what I learned. Major improvement.

Thank you all for generously sharing your knowlege, experiance, quesrtions, and success. A BIG thanks to Floyd!

So, how did you benefit this year from The Fresh Loaf?

Phxdog (Scott)


wayne on FLUKE's picture
wayne on FLUKE

I always used to keep adding flour when kneading until the dough was only slightly sticky. But after much reading here and watching videos (like Bertinet!) of people handling wet dough, I have managed to stop doing that. Things like stretch and fold in the bowl have also helped.

Now I'm not afraid off having a lot of dough sticking to my fingers!

Result is better bread (and English Muffins) IMHO.

Also have just started messing with sourdough (starter from Carl's 1847 Oregon Trail) and this site has been great in helping understand it.


Janknitz's picture

 OMG, what a year!  What an exciting learning curve!  Thank you to  Floyd and all the wonderful contributors here. 

No knead breads (specifically ABin5 techniques)

Stretch and Fold techniques

Various steaming methods

Using a cloche

Shaping and forming various types of loaves

            Free-form boule

            Using a banneton

            Making a batard

            Round, 4-strand challah

            6 strand challah braid

Scoring and using a lame  (I'm getting pretty good at it!)

Using a dough scraper

Making Sourdough from Scratch

Maintaining a sourdough starter in liquid and stiff forms

Using sourdough as a preferment

Using sourdough as a levain

Using a sponge and a poolish (still learning the nuances of these)

Working with rye (not mastered yet, but now I can make a killer rye bread!)

Making Sourdough English Muffins

Learning to make pita, tortillas, and decent pizza crusts

And  much, much more!

Postal Grunt's picture
Postal Grunt

Although it wasn't terribly difficult, I managed to dispose of a lot bad habits and misconceptions in baking bread. In place of those, I found a fair amount of book learning that motivated me to do the hands on learning,

I learned that I can bake bread without fancy equipment. When my 86 yr old uncle from Quebec tells me that my bread is good and then I spy him taking another slice, I feel like I did well. My starter is thriving away and I can build it up to work in any type of bread. I look at recipes and find myself adapting them in my mind for my equipment and the ingredients I have on hand.

I didn't find a hobby in baking bread. I found a craft that requires curiosity, discipline, and a spirit of generosity. I learned that with a little self-confidence and a bold bake, I can put a smile on the face of friends both old and new. 2009 has been a good year for learning.

KansasGirlStuckInMaryland's picture

of starting a sourdough starter, keeping it alive and using it to make wonderful bread.

That I love sweet potatoes even more in bread than I do in a casserole.

That Cinnabon has nothing on me when it comes to wonderful cinnamon rolls.

That my local Safeway carries a surprisingly decent selection of specialty flours if you just take the time to stop and look.

That I am incredibly lucky to have found TFL!


podwika's picture

Because my home-made bread has gotten to the point that we no longer buy bread...

jannrn's picture

I have learned that there is SO much I DON'T know after baking bread for more than 30 years, that I need to try harder to get comfortable with sticky doughs and I need to work harder at Making and keeping a starter alive....not happening at this moment....and that I am SO grateful for online bakers/friends, who are SO willing to share information about triumphs as well as failures!! THANK YOU FLOYD for all your hard work on this site!! I am so much better for your hard work!!! Bless you all and a HAPPY NEW YEAR of Great Baking!!

dwcoleman's picture

Teaching others to bake bread from scratch, and learning along with them.

Danishes via Joespastry.

Production techniques, and cost savings via bulk purchases.

Hand forming single rolls, and two at a time.

Slashing techniques for baguettes.

Alton Browns awesome pretzels.

Maggie Glezers awesome challah.

Building and maintaining sourdough culture.



Zalbar's picture

I have learnt this year:



1- folding technique and letting the dough develop the gluten for me.

2- wetter is better

3- use a poolish

4- don't forget to turn the oven temperature down after the first 10 minutes

5- I love fresh sliced tomato on pizza

6- Scoring improves with every bread I bake

7- I love bread, and you don't need to measure and weigh everything, you can eyeball and feel a lot of it for everyday purposes, but if you want consistant results always go by weight.

salma's picture

Breadbaking is not my hobby, it is my addiction.  I read every email I get from TFL and I feel I learn something new from regular seasoned contributors (if I start naming, I am sure I will miss some important ones) and the newbies too with their questions and of course the answers from so many people jumping in.  My breads are almost professional looking and I am not bragging on myself, its the people who are coming up with all these wonderful formulae and techniques.  I did make my pineapple juice starter about 6 months ago and that has a lot to do with my good results too.

I have been trying to post pictures unsuccessfully.  Shiao Ping just gave me some more instructions, which I am going to print out and follow step by step and hope to learn by the end of this year.  Shiao Ping, following your step-by-step instructions on bread-baking seem so much easier than the computer skills for me!

Thank you so much and a Very Happy New Year to my TFL family.


Renee72's picture

I learned how to get a sourdough starter going, I learned how to bake with it instead of commercial yeast, I learned about  letting the dough rest to develope the gluten, stretch & folds,  loaf shaping techniques (still learning), how to bake artisan loaves in my turkey pan with the lid on for the first 15 minutes to get a wonderful crust, and I'm now learning how to mix large batches of dough, and keep it in the fridge so I can take a hunk out and bake whenever I want to. 

This is all stuff I've learned over the past year from all of you!  I love this site, and how you guys always encourage eachother, and challange eachother to try new things!


jspector's picture

I've been baking ciabatta for 3 or 4 weeks now. I bought a book and my first try was okay. Then I found this blog, skimmed through it and tried different techniques. I watched videos and learned a bit about handling wet dough.

One thing I did was cut the recipes in half. Now that I'm weighing ingredients halving my recipe has worked out well.This means I'm baking ciabatta every 3 to 4 days--and still giving loaves away. The advantage is more trials-and-errors. And with each iteration, I test another technique. I get more practice and more confidence working with the poolish, stretching and folding, baking and using water and steam to make the crust crispy.

And now after only a few weeks, I can bake ciabatta that rivals the best bakeries in St. Louis (not equals or exceeds yet, but getting closer with each loaf--(is rival stretching it?)).

But here's the main thing I learned. I learned that I can read, watch, learn from others, experiment and test...and given three strikes, I'll get a hit. Now I'm confident enought to try a sourdough starter next.

One more can I make these great breads without gaining weight?

vince hav's picture
vince hav

well everything that i learnd about bread which isnt much at this point but i learned it all right here with the bread bakeing community...thanks for all you r help..

Barbara Krauss's picture
Barbara Krauss

Plus, I learned Baker's Math...YAY!!!