The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

So much to learn

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Schola's picture
Schola

So much to learn

Hello - I am new to this site. I hope to learn a lot. About me - I am long retired and have taken up baking bread regularly as a home based interest. There is so much I need to learn! I look forward to taking part regularly in discussions. 

richkaimd's picture
richkaimd

I don't know how long you've been lurking about.  If you've read what I've written to newbies before, then move on now.  But, on the off chance you haven't, here are some suggestions. 

Practice, practice, practice.  Then report on your successes and failures to the rest of us.  We love to learn from others.

Read TFL regularly.  Follow up with reviews of questions especially relevant to your own interests.

Before you post questions, use the search function to its fullest extent.  Few questions asked haven't been asked in the past.  You'll get your answers and more through the search.

Lots of questions are answered in the video section.  Use your favorite search engine for videos as well.

Learn the distinction between cookbook and textbook.  I recommend using a textbook over a cookbook, especially when you're at the beginning.  Texts teach from the ground up in a way that cookbooks don't.  I have lots cookbooks and texts.  All have something to teach.  But I recommend a short textbook to start.  Try Dimuzion's Breadbaking.  It's quite elegant as a place to start. 

 

Schola's picture
Schola

thank you for the welcome and the tips.  and yes, practice, that's what's important.

GermanFoodie's picture
GermanFoodie

I just joined myself after having been a "lurker" for a few years. This is perhaps THE best resource for anything (bread) baking on the web. Period. :) Willkommen!

Schola's picture
Schola

Thanks German Foodie. German bread is renowned world over and I would like to learn from that.

thomaschacon's picture
thomaschacon (not verified)

I taught myself how to ski. The process was something like this: get on ski lift, ride ski lift up to top of mountain, pray that I could dismount the lift without falling (or taking out everyone with me), fly downhill at top speed (or until too fast for me), then fall to stop; check that I'm still alive; repeat until bruised; come back next day; repeat.

I finally got tired of flying downhill and falling and starting asking why? Why move my body this way? Why turn the ski that way? That was when I finally learned something. I can ski anything now, but the process of getting there was like a reel of bloopers: How to Learn to Ski if You're a Stubborn Mule (And not Die in the Process)

I tackled bread the same way, except bread had books! Those books were good books, like Reinhart and Hamelman. I just followed the recipes and out popped bread. Did I learn anything? Nope, not for years and years. And you can do exactly that, bake without ever learning a thing–and get good, even great, bread out of it.  

(Aside. That's my way of saying you can have fun without being intimidated by the volumes of things to learn. You can make great bread without ever learning much at all.)

If you want to learn though, don't do like I did: follow recipes, make bread, and learn nothing.

Ask whywhy knead this long, why this dough temperature, why this flour, why is it taking so long–and you'll get very far very fast. Once you get the fundamentals down–they are few–you'll be on your way; and, you'll be surprised how easily the fundamentals carry from one bread to another. The number of variables is infinite–that's true enough–but the fundamentals are not; and, like skiing, they're easy to pick up. (And you won't break yourself (or your pocketbook) in the trying).

flournwater's picture
flournwater

Welcome to the vortex of the bread making obsession.  I'd like to recommend, as you're building a collection of bread formulas, text books, bread baking books, techniques, etc., that you include a notebook, dedicated to your bread making, in the mix.  It is, IMO, the second most critical piece of equipment you can have as you build experience.  So start using one early in the learning process.  While it is true that you will NEVER want to make more than one change at a time when fine tuning your skills, each of those changes need to be noted (even the slightest adjustment in time, temperature, etc.) so that you advance without duplicating experiments or frustrating yourself unnecessarily.

 

Schola's picture
Schola

Excellent idea. So many thanks. I have started a notebook ...... but it is only now after a few weeks that I am learning what to put in the notebook. And you are right - this business is obsessional.

subfuscpersona's picture
subfuscpersona

that, in your opinion, a beginning baker should have?

You say

Quote:
I'd like to recommend...that you include a notebook, dedicated to your bread making, in the mix.  It is, IMO, the second most critical piece of equipment you can have as you build experience.

I ask in all seriousness and am interested in your opinion. Looking forward to your response. Thanks.

flournwater's picture
flournwater

That's a fair question  -  my answer is a good quality scale, capable of providing weights in both ounces and grams. has a tare weight feature, is batter powered (using standard 9 volt batteries rather than those button batteries) and is easy to clean.

Salilah's picture
Salilah

Totally agree - good scales are really really valuable, and by "good" I don't mean expensive!  Digital scales that measure in 1g units (one of mine is 2g units which can be a bit of a pain) really make the various recipes work, and take out so much of the variation / need for experience

After that - I found my baking stone really helped for the hearth loaves; my dough scraper(s) are extremely useful when dealing with slighly higher hydration doughs; a big stainless steel bowl to help steaming was also a bit of a breakthrough for me; and I love the bannetons (though a tea-towel and bowl will work fine)...

Though, above all these, I'd probably add "one bread textbook" - e.g. Hamelman's Bread - so I could start to learn about why things happened, and what might make a difference...

And of course, TFL!!

Schola's picture
Schola

I too would like to know what Flournwater and others value most as equipment for beginners. I would not be without my hand held danish dough hook and my plastic dough scraper (and notebook, from now on!). I am at very early stages (my first attempt at a sourdough loaf was in May) so I don't want to spend money on lots of equipment yet, not till I know more what I am doing.

richkaimd's picture
richkaimd

I suggest that you type "equipment" into the search box (upper left) and see what you get.  Like most questions, it's been asked and answered many times over.