How have you learned to make Artisan Bread?
Hi, I'm curious how everyone has learned this craft. Through books and practice? Baking Schools? You Tube? Divine intervention?
I'll share my experience, and then I want to hear yours...
I was given Jeffrey Hamelman's 'Bread' book a few years back. Had no formal training and very little practical experience...just a love of eating good bread. I mean I REALLY love good bread. After reading the theory sections and thinking I understood much of it, I gave his Pain Rustique (Rustic French) a go. Not sure how to describe the result. Let's just say that after staring at the lump with my head in my hands for awhile, I decided to buck up and try again. Next day the new lump was a little bigger. The next was bigger still. After a dozen or so attemps, I was actually able to, with a straight face, let my family taste my bread. Not bad.
After months of practicing his Pain Rustique and attempting a few other recipes I felt that I could actually make pretty good bread. I lurked on this forum for awhile and tried some of the more creative steam injection tricks...even bought a 6" half size hotel pan and a steam cleaner/injector. Bread was getting better. I'd say it was getting closer to local bakery quality. Then, the wife did one of the things that makes me realize she's the one for me. She enrolled me in a bread baking course.
The instructor was a guy named Carl Shavitz who runs an artisan baking school in Italy and started doing a couple of courses in the U.S. He was coming to Washington State (where I live) for an intensive week-long course at a great B&B. It was all hands-on (no mixers) and the bread was baked in a wood fired oven. Holy carp did we make some good bread. White w/ Overnight Sponge, Grissini w/ Hazelnuts, fantastic sourdough, bagels, ciabatta, unbelievable foccacia, etc. We had all our meals together (courtesy of the owner of the B&B) and ate huge quantities of great bread...and drank a fair amount of wine. I can't even tell you how amazing that course was. The attendees are even planning a reunion!
Anyway, I came away from the course making better bread than any local bakery and fully inspired to make this my future. The bread has amazingly gotten better and better. In fact, I'm starting a micro Artisan Bakery selling just 3 types of bread (for now): Sourdough, Rustic French, and Challah. I already have a few regular customers and (to be confirmed over the next 2 weeks) 2 weekly wholesale accounts!
OK, enough of tooting my own horn. What has your experience been? Who did you learn from? Who really inspired you? I want to know.