The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Hello to all! new college student baker over here

jiannabakes's picture

Hello to all! new college student baker over here

Hello fellow bakers!

This is my first time posting on this page, and I am really excited to try some of the recipes I have found! I am a senior in college and was wondering if anyone had any tips on first time bread baking. I am living in a house with a shared communal kitchen space and a hope that baking some fresh breads/pastries will help me score some brownies points with my roommates! 

Also, I am quite an inexperienced bread baker but am looking for any tips for first time bread baking! :) 



Lechem's picture
Lechem (not verified)

Great to have you on board and looking forward to sharing bakes and ideas.

I think the best way is to start off simple and only progress onto the next step when you've perfected the current recipe. Just another way of saying "don't run before you can walk". Find a simple recipe and practice. When that becomes second nature go onto something else.

Is there anything you're aiming for in particular?

jiannabakes's picture

Hi Lechem, 

Thanks for the advice! I am looking for a simple wheat bread recipe and some good chocolate chip cookie recipes! I am really into healthy dessert alternatives and have tried to find low sugar- gluten free recipes.

My main aim is to definitely learn how to bake a good fresh bread loaf that I can bake for my family during the Thanksgiving Holiday. :) 

the hadster's picture
the hadster

What a wonderful journey, and you will certainly be a favorite in your shared accommodation once it becomes known that you are regularly baking bread.  Get your house mates involved by asking them to be taste testers, they will love it.

As for a chocolate chip cookie recipe - get yourself a bag of Nestles Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips and follow the recipe on the back of the bag.  Do this once or twice until you've really got it.

And then the sky is the limit.  I like my chocolate chip cookies to be thin, so you can see through them.  They are crispy like a potato chip at first bite, but then they get chewy.  My adjustment to the the recipe?  Use half the amount of flour and baking POWDER instead of baking soda.  If you try this, they will spread out, so don't crowd your baking sheet.

I made my first batch of chocolate chip cookies when I was 7 or 8 (I'm now 60, but don't tell anyone). They were requested for every school bake sale and party.  I've tried recipes from all over, and I keep going back to the original.  Personally, I don't like nuts in my cookies, but the great thing about cooking is that you get to please yourself!

For gluten free and low sugar, it's been my experience that traditional cakes, cookies and bread don't really translate that well.  There are some wonderful recipes out there, but in my opinion, the don't measure up to the real thing.  My solution is to find recipes that are gluten free and low sugar naturally.  Cooked fruit is wonderful. Tart crusts can be made with nuts.

And for bread, I'm not nearly the expert that others on this site are.  To take advantage of all the knowledge here, all you need to do is bake your bread, take pictures of of whole and sliced, post the pictures and your basic recipe & method as part of your own blog on this site.  You will get wonderful feedback, and you'll be able to keep a record of your journey.

Your "perfect" loaf will be uniquely yours.  You will learn what method works best for you, what taste and texture you like best, which baking method works best for you (I don't use a dutch oven).  And your idea of the "perfect" loaf will evolve as your skills and knowledge increase.  It is such a lovely journey to be on.

Books are expensive an you have enough expenses already, but perhaps you could spend some of your free time in Barnes & Noble looking at bread baking books and then ask for them as a birthday or Christmas/Hannukha gift.  For met the book that opened my eyes was "Crust  & Crumb" by Peter Reinhart.  I've just recently purchase "Tartine Bread" and I wish I had discovered this book earlier. 

You can obsess about so many things where bread is concerned, but you don't really need to.  Most of us started out with a bowl, wooden spoon and a pizza stone.  It was years before I bought a scale and pizza ston (I used the cast iron grill that a was part of my stove), but a scale will change the way you cook.  Mine was 20 bucks on Amazon, no need for an expensive one.  An inexpensive digital thermometer is also nice, they are also about 20 bucks.  A bag of flour and you're all set!

jiannabakes's picture

Hi Hadster, 

Wow thank you so much for all the advice and encouraging words I really appreciated it!! I will be posting photos of my first bread loaf baking results.. and I am really hoping to get some helpful feedback! (although very nervous about how its going to turn out!) Also I have seen Tartine Bread book on Amazon and have been meaning to purchase it! :) 

I have the bowl, wooden spoon, and pizza stone, and a scale is being delivered soon. Your thin chocolate chip cookie recipe sounds great I will definitely have to try that soon!

the hadster's picture
the hadster

I saw a great quote somewhere, "All experts were beginners once."

The folks on this site started out as beginners, every single one of them.  Along the way, they have learned a lot.  What's so wonderful about this community is the willingness to share knowledge.

My only advice is to follow the recipe as it is written at least once.  If once is all it takes for you to feel you've mastered the recipe, THEN you can tweak it here and there.  I've been cooking for decades, and I still follow recipes exactly the first time I make the dish.

The thin chocolate chip cookies are amazing.  If you have it, use parchment.  Let the cookies cool for a few minutes, no more than 5, and keep your spatula clean.  I use a butter knife to scrape off the melted chocolate after every cookie.  You will need a cooling rack for the cookies.  Personally, I think I get better results when I start with room temperature butter and I do NOT refrigerate the dough before baking - but the results are still amazing if my butter is a bit cold and I have to stop and put everything in the fridge for a bit.

I find my brownies, regardless of the recipe I use, are better when I use a fork or a wooden spoon to mix the batter.  My own personal taste for brownies is on that is not cake like, and I think that using a whisk and/or an electric mixer makes my brownies tougher and more cakey - but that's just me and how I like my brownies.

All of the above aside, you get to cook your food they way you want to!  However you like your bread, cookies, brownies, hamburgers, whatever, it's up to you!

I look forward to seeing your posts!

IceDemeter's picture

Kudos for jumping in to something new, even while you must be so busy with school!  I hope you find that it actually is a relaxing hobby, that works as stress-relief even while supplying totally delicious nutrition!

Personally, I find sourdough to be more forgiving than commercial yeast breads, but love having both options (and sometimes using both at once).  Just for fun, I'd suggest that you get a sourdough starter going, so that you'll be able to use whichever suits your need and mood.  A couple of ideas to get you going with that can be found here: and here:

Now, there are a ton of places showing all kinds of fancy gear that is "absolutely needed" to bake good bread, and I can tell you that most of it isn't needed at all.  Realistically, the tools that I use the most are a good kitchen scale (that has 1g increments and is at least 5kg max, and better 8kg or 10kg), a good sized mixing bowl, some plastic dough / bench scrapers, a sharp knife or lame, and either a covered roasting pan or a dutch oven or a pizza stone / steel and an old pan filled with lava rocks (to make steam).  Maybe check out this video to see how to make some amazing baguettes:

There are some really good suggestions for recipes here on the front page (and most often someone around if you have specific questions on one of them), as well as lots of good stuff in places like Breadwerx, or King Arthur Flours, or the Weekend Bakery.  Please let us know what you think you want to start out with, and you'll get lots of support.

Looking forward to hearing from you - and remember that the best bakes are ones that are fun and make you happy!

jiannabakes's picture

Hi IceDemeter!

Thank you so much for your all the helpful advice. I will definitely look in to getting some lava rocks, plus I am in need of good food scale (affordable food scale recommendations also greatly appreciated). Also, I have been doing more research into different bread baking techniques and think that starting off with a simple commercial yeast based recipe might be easier. My goal will be to work up to trying your sourdough starter recipe! :)

Last question, do you have any favorite easy/beginner bread recipes in which a commercial yeast is used? If not, the bouabsa double hydration baguette video looks great. Thanks and again, and happy baking! 

IceDemeter's picture

ones that best suit your own preferences.  If you really like lean breads (flour - water - salt - yeast), then a rich brioche (enriched with lots of butter and sweetener and other goodies) isn't going to do it for you.  If you like a soft and tender sandwich bread, then a hard crusty hearth loaf baked dark will not make you happy...  That's actually one of the best things about doing  your own baking, is that you get to choose what best suits your own tastes and mood (and can tweak any recipe that you find, too).

With that in mind, the "handbook" and "lessons" tabs here on the Fresh Loaf are a good "primer" to start with, and another basic guide is here:

For a really tasty lean bread, one to start with might be:

For a nice challah / brioche / enriched bread, maybe try:

For some great tasting rolls for Thanksgiving, try either (and make sure you read through the comments for Mini Oven's modification to make them as cinnamon or blueberry rolls) or

For something fun to nibble at, try the fougasse from here:

Oh - and check out the ciabatta recipes here on the front page or on the Weekend Bakery site --- it's a great bread, and makes a great pizza base, too.

The most important thing is to bake happy and make each bake *yours*!

jiannabakes's picture

Thank you so much for all the help IceDemeter! You have really helped with giving me an array of new recipes to try. I really appreciate it! It's wonderful that baking gives you the control to choose recipes that suite your tastebuds and preferences! I am going to try to make the lean rustic bread recipe and I will let you know how it turns out. 


MonkeyDaddy's picture

to watch some of the hundreds of videos out there.  There is tons of stuff you can find on YouTube with just simple search terms like "bread shaping,"  "laminated dough,"  "bread kneading," etc...

Also, after you read posts here on a regular basis, you'll notice many people will put links in their posts to videos that they have found to be particularly helpful.  

It's (kind of) like going to a bread class at a culinary school, and it's free!


jiannabakes's picture

Thank you so much MonkeyDaddy! Definitely learning a lot so far just from reading other people's posts :) 

phaz's picture

Hmmm, what better way to score brownie points than with the best brownies you'll ever have. Very easy, can be done in half an hour, and soooooooo good. College students - I'll bet these will be a big hit - especially when folks are in the right frame of mind , if ya know what I mean.

1 stick butter

1/2 cup cocoa powder (Hersheys works just fine)

Melt butter with the powder in a small sauce pan) then let cool (you're going to beat in 2 eggs and don't want them to cook)

Best in 2 eggs (beat the living heck out of it - a forks works for me)

Mix together 1 cup sugar, 1/4 cup flour, dash of salt, and about 1/4 tsp baking powder.

Mix that into the butter/cocoa/egg mixture (mix very well)

Spoon into a muffin tin (about half full) bake for about 25 minutes at 325 or just till a toothpick comes out clean. You don't want to over bake them.

You can also add about a half tsp vanilla extract, but I don't bother. 

Oh, butter the tin before filling, but not really needed, they seem to stick a little one way or the other. You'll probably have to use a butter knife around the edges and gently pop them out, but worth the trouble. Take it to the next level with home made dark caramel sauce (tricky the first few times but you get the hang of it quick) and some vanilla ice cream and score even bigger points. Hockey pucks from heaven I call them.

If ya go the caramel route, try dipping a banana in it and munch away. Kind of a poor mans bananas foster (a little in a cup of coffee is also wow).

Quick, easy, and if that doesn't make friends, you don't want those "friends".

Bread - best to start with a basic yeast bread (quick easy, and can do so much with it - bread, rolls, buns, fococia, pizza - to name a few. Kinda like pasta - it's all the same - just different shapes. Enjoy - I'm sure all will!

jiannabakes's picture

Hi Phaz,

I just tried your brownie recipe and it was a huuuge hit with all my roommates!! I used mini muffin tins and put dark chocolate discs on top and they really were little hockey pucks from heaven. I only got to eat one before they were all gone! (Looks like I will have to make two batches next time...)

Thank you for that delicious and easy recipe! My next big step is to tackle baking a loaf of bread and will look into easy yeast bread recipes.

Again thanks for all the help! Happy baking :) 


(Look like I might've had a bit of a heavy hand at pouring the batter in the tins... but I like how the outcome of the brownies reminded me of a brownie muffin top and my roommates think they turned out great!)


phaz's picture

Yummy yummy says the happy tummy! Ya can't go wrong with a good brownie. I found that recipe a while ago - supposedly it was how Katherine Hepburn made brownies. I'd say she was onto something there. Glad you and everyone else enjoyed them. 

Deed's picture

I've been lurking on this site for a while, and after a year of baking and tweaking recipes feel brave enough to join the forum!

But thank you all... I have learned a lot just reading some of the posts.

I took a 3 hour class last year where we got to take home a sour dough starter.  It's still alive and happy (and I've shared it with friends far and wide).  I bake bread weekly, and although it's never perfect, it is always pretty delicious (with the exception of some failed attempts at pizza dough.... though I now seem to have a recipe, after tweaking proportions, that is acceptable to my husband, who likes to make a pizza every Friday).

I look forward to continuing to learn and happy to share my experiences (and failures) during the long dark winter.

Deed's picture

Hi again Jianna,

A couple of ideas for you...

(1)  buy a kitchen scale so you can use proportions versus measuring cups--it's a life changer!
(2)  buy a dutch oven (doesn't have to be an expensive one--you may even find a cast iron dutch oven at a second hand or restaurant supply place... just needs to be able to take a 500 degree oven)
(3)  stop by a bakery that has good sourdough bread and see if they would let you buy (or they may even give you) a little bit of starter.  I took a class from a local baker and he said if any of our starter's died just stop by and they would give us some.... you don't need a lot.  Just feed it equal weights of water and AP flour 1-2 times a week (or less!) and keep it in the fridge.

With those basic things you can make miracles out of starter, flour, water and a little bit of kosher salt!