Hello, from a dabbler who starting to get more serious
I am a guy in my later 20's, I am engaged, and while I've never been either afraid of cooking, nor fanatical about it, I've only in the last 6 months or so started to get really into baking, particularly, (being here, of course) getting into bread.
I started having looked up a simple, basic bread recipe online, and decided to give it a shot. it didn't come out quite *perfect* but it was a pretty darn good first try. after reading a bit, I tweaked this recipe some, exchanging some whole wheat flour for regular, using honey instead of sugar, so on and so forth. as I'm sure many people here agree, theres just something neat about how different variations of the 4 base ingredients and such, can give different results.
at one point I had some yeast seem to croak on me (at least at the time, the yeast I had been using seemed to just not go... had a loaf just not really rise, and putting some yeast in some slightly warm, sugared water got nothing but cloudiness) I decided to venture into getting a sourdough starter going.
I managed to get a few not-terrible loaves, then sorta neglected it entirely and gave up on it. just not sure its my "thing" at the moment.
at some point, read about and tried an overnight preferment method of doing things, and liked how it came out.
My Fiancee and I hosted thanksgiving, my parents coming down from where I grew up, and all that. fun! I went slightly crazy and made a total of something like 40-50 dinner rolls, of I think it was 4 kinds... or something like that. one of which being a 100% whole wheat one, that had been derived through experimenting with that first recipe I found and they came out *wonderfully* light and fluffy and everything. it was great.
(the fiancee is big on health stuff, so I try to do WW whenever possible, or at least, variations of things with that in mind for health-sake)
I got The Bread Baker's Apprentice from the library recently. really wonderful book! almost right away gave me some insight into some things.
the other day I tried doing "Pain à l'Ancienne" Baguettes, and it came out pretty well, following the instructions in the book. the loaves were certainly not the most attractive, but they were definitely edible, and had a very nice flavor and chewiness to them.
I STILL have a big problem somewhere in my technique, in that I seem to have a relatively hard time getting a good skin/surface tension. I'm not sure what I am doing wrong, and I seem to be getting this problem less than I was, but it still happens.
basically sometimes I've had the dough seem like it was just about right, and with one or two more "pushes" of kneading, it explodes. it goes from smooth and silky one momentto sticking like glue, tearing apart, and generally being phenomenally uncooperative the next. I suspected at one point that this was a problem with the whole wheat flour(read somewhere that whole wheat flour can cut the gluten strands or something) but while it seems to happen MORE with WW, it happens sometimes with pure-AP/bread flour too.
I am planning to finally get around to getting some of those stones from lowes or whatever for my craptacular oven, as I've been experimenting with home made pizza too, and after my latest try that didn't go so wonderfully(in addition to the oven going to 500, I think I may have turned the dial *slightly* too far, and it been in "broil" mode... wonderfully browned cheese, ... almost uncooked crust, >_< ) I really want a few of those things, and even with a tight budget, can squeeze the few bucks that they apparently are, now having actually gotten around to looking into them.
so theres that.