The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Starting a bread club

Pablo's picture

Starting a bread club

I posted a notice in my local social group suggesting that we start an artisan bread club.  So far 5 of us are meeting on Sunday.  I'm not sure of just what we'll be doing and I thought I'd ask if anyone has ideas about good things to discuss in a club like this.  I think we're all pretty much novices.  I was thinking for an initial meeting we might introduce ourselves and just talk about what bread means to us, and how we feel about bread baking.  Also I thought I'd bake baguettes ala the Julia Child video and do the same recipe only with a poolish, to demonstrate that technique can have a huge impact on ingredients.  The baguettes would have exactly the same ratios of flour and water, yeast and salt, the only difference will be in how the ingredients are handled.  If anyone has any suggestions I'd love to hear them.



Urchina's picture

I've never been in a bread club, but participate sporadically in a local photography club and have been part of a homebrewing club in the past. Here's what they do: 


1. Set meeting time and place, and a good way to post it online or otherwise keep track of it. 


2. Have a topic / speaker / tasting for each of the meetings planned a few months in advance. For example, our local homebrew club chooses a beer style or recipe for each month's meeting. Someone prepares a short informational on it and they discuss the style. Then, members brew the beer and bring samples to a future meeting. For a bread group, I could see all sorts of variations on this theme -- basically, make a bread a month and have a tasting. Or, visit a local bakery and have a tasting. Or have a baking book challenge, complete with tastings (get the tasting theme here?)


3. Arrange for seasonal field trips as appropriate. For example, the Portland Farmer's Market in used to (and may still) have a summer artisan bread festival associated with it; San Francisco has Acme Bread at the Ferry Building and Boudin Bakery at Fisherman's Wharf; your local cooperative extension service may have an agent who specializes in home bread baking (or can tell you of someone in the community who does). The university I went to had a food technology program complete with state-of-the-art development kitchens and they often held tours.  Our local photography club makes a field trip four times a year, to diverse places. 


4. See if there's a volunteer commitment the group can meet. A couple of local dinner clubs volunteer one night a year at our local community kitchen. They help prepare, make, serve and clean up a meal to homeless folks and those in transitional housing. Or maybe you could each document a family or traditional recipe from folks in your community, something that might otherwise be lost to the sands of time. 


5. Be prepared to scale the group! How will you accept new members, and how will the group structure evolve as membership grows? Not that you have to be really rigid, but at least think about it so that when the time comes it's not a shock and the group can transition to a larger membership gracefully (I've been in a couple of groups that pancaked because this issue wasn't considered until it was too late). 


This sounds like a ton of fun -- hmmm... I wonder if there's a bread group in my future as well? Good luck!

mimifix's picture

Last year I began thinking about organizing a regional baking club. I teach hands-on baking, plus business classes for folks interested in baking for profit, so I knew there was great interest in baking. But would people join a group?

I envisioned several of the points made by Urchina, but I also wanted a way for us to bake together, since part of my idea was to have an annual bake sale to raise money for our local food pantries. Last summer I approached the local educational facility where I teach (BOCES, in New York state).

The adult ed coordinator was excited and agreed we could be an entity under their program. Our first membership meeting is February 26! I have lots of ideas but I want the members to steer this group. Wish us luck!



bob13's picture

I am very new to this concept of bread making at home, I have tried a couple of different loaves with some success, and today tried pretzels for the first time, again with some success.  I will be visiting the hudson valley next week and if you have a club meeting would love to sit in as an out of town "guest".  I'll be in the Newburgh area so please let me know, I'd love to meet y'all and learn some yankee techniques.



mimifix's picture

Sorry Bob, our first meeting is in February. But this is a great site for learning. Folks here are always willing to help, so visit often and ask questions.