The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

lessons learned

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v's sis's picture
v's sis

lessons learned

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.


Mebake's picture

Well done, Varda's sis. That is one attractive looking Tartine country! The ear is fabulous, and so is the crust and crumb. You have been baking a lot lately, and it shows. Well done. We expect to see more of you now.


CAphyl's picture

Love your narrative as well.  It is fun to experiment, and all of us have plenty of baking adventures.  Love the crumb and everything about this loaf.  Best,  Phyllis

David Esq.'s picture
David Esq.

I haven't had to feed any coyotes myself, but I have a high threshold for eating my failures. :)

varda's picture

Hey,   So happy you decided to post.   Your bread looks terrific.  Hope I get to taste a slice before too long.   (Please note, no more references to the coyotes here,   Obi Wan literally ran them out of the area and keeps watch to make sure they don't come back.)   -Varda

Syd's picture

Varda's sis, welcome to TFL :)   You quite clearly have had excellent instruction from your sibling.  Soon you will be going all professional on us, too!  That is a fine looking Tartine.  Look forward to more of you posts.



lepainSamidien's picture

101st time is a charm, I guess.

That's a fantastic oven spring you've got there, and one hell of a narrative, to boot ! Best of luck to you over your next 100 loaves ; keep us current about your triumphs and disasters . . . based on this loaf you've just posted, I imagine that the latter will be fewer and further between, and I would bet that the coyotes will have to learn to hunt again.


v's sis's picture
v's sis

Thanks, everyone, for your very kind comments.  I have learned so much from all of your posts and feel as if I know you!  (well, I do know Varda).  Now I need  another lesson. What did I do wrong to get that duplicate post and can I get rid of it?


isand66's picture

Welcome to the TFL Leah.  It looks like bread runs through your family genes!  Nicely done and we look forward to seeing more of your bakes soon.  Even after many more than 100 bakes I still end up with some squirrel food (no coyotes around here thankfully).  It only makes me more determined to figure it out until I get it right.

Can't help you on the duplicate post unfortunately.