An Old Wooden Spoon stirs things up
To the relief of many I imagine, I've decided to start maintaining my blog here at TFL rather than post a new thread in a forum every time I bake somethig I want to post about, be it for success or failure. I will not go back and add old pictures here that are already posted elsewhere, so this will not be a complete history of my baking. That's okay, because some of the earliest should be history, and should be left that way.
Since this is the beginning of my blog, albeit not the beginning of my presence here on The Fresh Loaf, I thought I would start with a very brief introduction. By upbringing I'm a farm boy from way back, having grown up on the small truck farm of my father and his brother. The concept of "made fresh at home" is not new to me, as my mother baked, canned, cooked and preserved enthusiastically throughout my earliest years, out of both love and necessity. Some of my best childhood memories are of wandering out into the peach and cherry orchards around our house to enjoy fresh fruit picked straight from the tree, and of home-baked pies, cakes and cookies from mom's kitchen, made with those same fresh ingredients.
By my teenage years I was baking (mostly cookies) on my own, and after marrying, when the children came along, we bought a Magic Mill and a Bosch mixer and began to bake our own bread for our kids. We still have and use those same appliances today. Back "in the day" we split that duty unequally, and my wife did much of the day-to-day bread baking for several years. Whomever did the baking though always used the machine. We would mill the flower, add the salt, water, yeast, honey and oil, and beat the daisies out of it. Then we shaped, proofed and baked it. It was good, but we really did not know what we were missing.
Although my wife did a lot of the day-to-day baking during those years, I always did a lot of holiday baking. Annually around Thanksgiving I started baking gift breads and treats for friends and family, and I still do that to this day. I have neighbors today who's daughters have almost literally kept annual watch out the front window for my arrival with the Christmas gift loaves! They are now grown and graduated from college, as are our own children today, but they are home for the holidays. This year their mom thanked me for getting her daughters to argue on Christmas day! Seems someone ate the last of the gift bread, and someone else was unhappy about it. Actually, mom said she ate it herself, but did not tell the girls. Instead she just sat in the background like the cat that got the canary and got away with it. She was having too much fun listening to them, since it was all in good natured fun anyway.
Things went on this way for years, with occasional baking for therapy or just to be in the kitchen for a while, which is something I have always loved. Then, one otherwise usual day, something special happened. I was selling off some gardening equipment, and a buyer came to the house to pick it up. We got to talking, and I came to learn that he and his brother were building a wood-fired oven in their shared back yard up in the nearby hills. We talked for some time about ovens and baking, and then he left. The baking bug stayed here though, and I was caught up in the idea that I could also have my own wood fired oven for bread, pizza and whatever. The hunt was on and off I went like a hound after a coon. I made almost as much noise, I think, as I researched, read and talked about baking, WFO's and bread.
Eventually I discovered Alan Scot and Dan Wing, and bought "The Bread Builders". From there I found and bought a La Cloche clay baker and started my own wild yeast sourdough starter. The trials of getting a starter to develop properly led me here to The Fresh Loaf. Here I found the help I needed, offered freely and in good spirit. Here I found others, both experienced and less so. Here I found a community, rich in cultures, varied yet similar in interests, and I have remained, to learn and share what I learn. To participate in a community that has welcomed me, and allowed me to welcome others. I still harbor plans for a wood-fired oven "one of these days", but for now I have settled for my La Cloche, and an oven full of unglazed quarry tiles, and a frequent cruise through the WFO forum threads to keep up with those that have already attained that dream of mine. That will hold me for a while, as I truly learn what it is to become a "baker". It's a great journey, and I hope you check in here from time to time to see how I'm doing.
May your yeast always thrive, and your dough always rise.