For the past year this site and my sister Varda, whom many of you know here as an experienced baker, have been teaching me to bake bread. Varda lives 3000 miles away so the teaching has, obviously, not been hands-on. But learning to bake bread, as I have learned, can only be hands-on. The photo associated with my profile is my first and very sorry attempt at baking. Varda said " baguettes are not for beginners". Did I listen? No. I said (to myself) "Come on, it is only flour, water, salt and yeast, how hard could it be?" I had lived in France and I wanted baguettes. I could imagine them coming from my oven. I could taste them. I could feel that crusty crust and that soft, airy interior. I know my way around a kitchen. I know my way around a lab bench and have made yeast do what I say. Baking baguettes was something else all together. So I regrouped. Made a starter. Started at what Varda said was the beginning. Pain au levain. Made it a million times. Made a million mistakes but learned from each one. Kept asking Varda and reading Fresh Loaf to find out what I was doing wrong when I made hockey pucks, when the holes were too big or too small, when the loaves spread instead of sprang, when the tops burnt or the bottoms did or the insides were gummy, or when the score did not open. Through it all, there were some good loaves between the "food for the coyotes" as Varda says. Then, I lost my starter when I went out of town and a good soul thought she was doing me a favor when she cleaned my fridge and got rid of that "weird cheese". Made a new starter which was somehow much harder to get going the second time. Made more loaves. Started baking from Hamelman, FWSY, and Tartine. Even made some decent baguettes. Learned to use the poke test. Now, the good loaves outnumber the poor ones but every time I get cocky, the coyotes seem to get fed. The loaf here is my first bake of the Tartine Country Loaf. Made me feel cocky. But really. It took me 100 loaves to get to this point. One can only learn by doing. And being fearless. And by feeding the coyotes.