The Best Way to Learn to Bake
Hi TFL. I'm a long time lurker on here. I've been baking bread for about 3 years now. First as a home baker and now professionally. I owe much of what I know to the fresh loaf(I've been using it as a resource almost the entire time I've baked!). I figure it's about time I contribute to the site.
I'm planning on posting about my home baked experiments in the future but in the meantime I'll share what I think is the best way to learn about baking bread.
For my first proffessional baking job I was lucky enough to be given the opportunity to start a bread program at a local restaurant. I made essentially the same kind of bread everyday but I also made sure to experiment nearly every single time I made it. A little longer bulk one day, a slightly higher oven temperature the next, maybe try a new steaming method for a week. I tried everything I could think of to improve my bread. I learned more about bread doing this than any other experience I've had. Experimenting with one kind of bread over and over to see what effect small changes make on the end result is invaluable to a baker. I cannot think of a better way to learn.
To illustrate this point, here are my first loaves I baked at the restuarant:
And after one year of baking the same bread and experimenting everyday:
I'm not saying you have to go out and bake the same loaf for a year but do try baking the same formula a few times in a row. If you haven't already done this I'm positive you will learn something valuable from the experience.