The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Hello from Cambridge MA!

Flourish's picture
Flourish

Hello from Cambridge MA!

Hello from Harvard Square!

I'm a relatively new baker. For many years I've made very successful sandwich loaves using the recipe from the back of the King Arthur Flour package—even in super adverse conditions (I used to bake on a sailboat on the regular), but that's about it. I've never really explored taking baking to the next level, or learning about the whys behind the how tos. 

So now I am!

(And yes, my name really is Flourish...)

richkaimd's picture
richkaimd

Dear Flourish,  What I'm about to write is unsolicited, I know, but it's what I wish someone had told me when I started home bread baking over 40 years ago.  It's this:  remember that while professional bakers are not rocket scientists, for the most part they've gone to school to learn their stuff.  At those schools they all studied from text books, which, like most text, had chapters each of which included questions and practical exercises.  All such texts were written, unlike bread cook books, with the goal of taking a serious student from the ground up building gradually and steadily a knowledge base intended to last for a long time.  Cook books generally have no obligation to do this.  I am of the opinion that your buying and using a text book at home can take this place better than trying to learn our craft hit or miss using this website as your source of information.  (Remember that a text is written by an expert you can vet; the people who answer your questions are really nice people but you cannot know the value of their answers without having the fund of knowledge a text has to offer.)

Look at these two texts:  DiMuzio's Bread Baking and Hamelman's Bread.  While there are others, these two represent opposite ends of the spectrum of level of detail.  I wish I'd had the DiMuzio text when I started.  I would have been put off by the level of detail in Hamelman at the beginning.  Both are available used at Alibris and probably other web used book sources.  Your local library may have one, the other, or both.

Good luck!  And practice, practice, and practice some more!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Flourish's picture
Flourish

Thank you so much for this advice! It sounds like very good advice to me. I had no idea that books like that existed, having only encountered cookbooks before, and my grandmother's generalized advice (which went about as far as: kneading good for elastic tough breads, mixing bad for flaky light pastry, bread and cake flour are different things; now go forth and bake, young padawan).

I suppose I had thought that people 'learned by doing,' or trained with other bakers, rather than thinking that there might be textbooks. (In retrospect, their existence seems obvous. How did I not realize?) Certainly getting a textbook sounds like a better idea than depending on the wisdom of the internet, even the wisdom of such a lovely community as this one. I'm sure I'll still have questions, clarifications, failures, and victories to talk about here, though...

richkaimd's picture
richkaimd

Dear Flourish,  Lots of baking depends on things one cannot know without being there.  While the difference between sticky and tacky can be put into words, actually feeling it is the way truly to emblazon the difference in your mind.  To see and practice the choreography of dough is so important, you might consider using your facility with this website to post a notice looking for a truly experienced home baker you could call when/if you have problems.  Or maybe look around for a reputable place to learn preliminary baking skills.   There are many such courses in good cooking schools in NYC so I imagine there might be a least some in cooking schools in/around Cambridge.

Also, take the time to look at all the videos linked to at the top of this page.  Having seen them at least once will give you a place to go when you finally need skills you'd not thought of before.  For example, how and why do the window pane test?

The TFL website is nearly endlessly congratulatory when you post your questions, successes and failures.  Practice, practice, and practice some more.  Then tell us about it.

 

Flourish's picture
Flourish

Fortunately, my best friend used to be a professional baker... so when I really need help, I can always ask her! She's not interested in teaching me a full and structured course, though, and she's used to professional grade equipment, so that's why I'm particularly grateful to the textbook suggestions. 

Thanks for the videos tip. That's also super helpful—I'd seen a few of them but I hadn't thought of just going through and watching to try and absorb, as a starter.

varda's picture
varda

Welcome to Fresh Loaf.   Did you see that there will be a Boston area Fresh Loaf get-together on March 30?    We will all show up with bread.   It will be fun.   If you would like to come please let me know.  -Varda

Flourish's picture
Flourish

I did! It seems like it's a little far out for me to get to, though - I'm in Cambridge and I don't have a car. :(