The Fresh Loaf

A Community of Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts.

What About You?

browndog's picture

What About You?

I want to spring-clean and have some fun--will you guys join me? Sometimes in intros people will share what started them down our common floury path, but I'd love to hear it from everyone--how did you first get in to bread baking? My own story is unremarkable, it was the 70's, I was a young hippie-wanna-be and had just gone vegetarian, which meant raiding my very lean discretionary fund piggy-bank for a copy of --wait for it--Diet For A Small Planet. Back then it was common 'knowledge' that good bread was plant or dairy protein and fiber glued together with a little spit...amazingly my interest transcended the experience, and 30 years out I'm learning new and reassessing or even deleting much of my old bread 'dogma'...thanks to you all.

bluezebra's picture

And can't wait to read about everyone's story. Do you think you are making better bread today than you did then? Also are you still vegetarian?

My story is that I've been a cook as long as I can remember...from at least 4 in the kitchen with my grandmother who lived with us and raised me since my mom worked with my dad. My family is full of awesome cooks and along the way I went through my stage of I wanna be in cooking and worked as a line cook in a restaurant, at a cooking school and as a part time caterer for years until I finally faced up to the fact that I will never have a professional cooking business.

One thing I never did was master my fear of yeast. I sucked so bad at yeasted breads but could just manage angel biscuits and blinis and quick breads involving no yeast. I also make awesome pastry and biscuits but bread? Huh!

We've been low-carbing for years and I recently found out I have a liver injury and it may be permanent that limits how much protein I can consume (it's about 2oz or less daily from non-red meat sources). Soooo carbs are back and I was spending $6/week on less than awesome bread. Being the hard-headed Irish woman that I am, I determined that I would face my fear and like every other area of cooking, be able to do something better at home than I can buy elsewhere in the restaurant or bakery industry.

Thanks to you guys and to my hubby for his tolerance I can now say that I'm making very consistently "ok" and edible bread. Thanks to Floyd also, for creating this great incubator of gorgeous bread bakers!

browndog's picture

another entry on my endless 'to try' list. *sigh* Yep, I remain a meat-free zone, and

<Do you think you are making better bread today than you did then? > --gosh I hope so--one of the very few percs of advancing years is hopefully you get better at stuff, right? But there's a stark division between my bread-baking histories btfl and atfl--only a few short months ago, bluezebra, I had never even heard of Ciabatta.

Oldcampcook's picture

I agree with BZ.  A great idea for a thread.  I have been interested in everyone's background.

I am 71 years old, live just south of Tulsa in Oklahoma.  I used to eat my momma's homemade bread and always begged for the heels.  (Am a heel today!  lol).

She did cinnamon rolls and I learned to make them and then she made me make them all the time. 

Went into the Air Force and baked cinammon rolls off and on. Retired from AF in 78, retired on Social Security about 6 years ago, but work full time as a Security Supervisor for a large oil comapny in Tulsa.

Got started in bread making about 4 months ago and avidly read everything on this site, plus about 3 more.  I seem to learn something every time I log on.

Doing sourdough, baguettes, ww breads and just recently (last week) baked my first loaf of no knead whole wheat.

Just wanted to say that I truly appreciate all of the advice I read on here.

Old Camp Cook


Trishinomaha's picture

I was raised in Kansas (in Wichita) but moved to Omaha over 30 years ago. I too have cooked since I was young - my mother was born and raised in Tennessee and she was a great southern cook and didn't mind pulling a stool up to the counter so her kids could participate in making messes with her. Cooking has been one of my greatest hobbies and a great way to relax after a stressful day. I am a corporate relocation director for a large real estate company here in town  - I love my job but dealing with the public and our agents can be very stessful sometimes! I started baking yeast and sourdough breads seriously back in January of this year. I'd tried to make and keep sourdough starter many years ago but didn't stick to it. This time the love of baking is still going strong. I have as many "bricks" as I do successes but the great thing about this hobby is it's somewhat inexpensive and as you practice you do get better...

Everyone have a great long week-end! (I have two sourdough loaves rising now...)

 Trish in Omaha, NE

maggie664's picture

This is such a good idea. I was really sad to read about those negative issues which good folk on this site had to endure, especially Floyd, and this is a good way to contribute to the usual smooth running of this site.
Like Browndog I also experienced an alternative lifestyle; firstly on a commune and then on our own land which we are still are living on. Our children have returned to cities but now bring their children home often to enjoy the adventures thet they previously experienced.
So my first essential experience with breadmaking was on the commune. We were 50km from the nearest town and had no electricity. So good quality wheat was hand ground to make a no-knead bread which was baked in a coal range. This was fuelled by driftwood and by coal which we mined ourselves from an abandonned coal mine (very risky but the passage was well propped).
We also dropped a lot of meat out of the diet (We too had a copy of a "Diet For a Small Planet"!
The bread was so filling and tasty that the kids never complained of hunger too after bread snacks!
After 4 years we returned to the city for a couple of years to reintroduce the kids to a city lifestyle which we thought they should have to balance their country one. My husband returned to his medical career and me to my dietetic one.
I have since opened up a cafe after working for 15 years at the local hospital and can indulge in yeast cookery as much as time will let me. I find this site invaluable and am truly in awe of all the participants here who take yeast cookery as enthusiastically and meticulously as they do. My thanks also to Floyd for all the effort he has to contribute to make sure that this site maintains the high standards he set out to achieve.

mse1152's picture

The very first time I made bread was for 9th grade biology class. It had to do with learning about chemical reactions or some such, I really don't remember. I made white bread, natch.

Fast forward xxx years, and I think it was 8 or 10 years ago that I started getting interested in bread baking because I was sick to death of working and needed something right-brained to take my mind off it. I got a couple of nice bread books for Xmas, and off I went (Laurel's Bread Book, and Baking Bread: Old and New Traditions, by Beth Hensperger).  Hensperger's book has a variation on the Poilane miche; it takes 3 days to make, and does use some commercial yeast, but it's really good.

It was much later that I tried sourdough, maybe 4 years ago. I googled like mad and tried a couple of home-grown starters, the best of which lasted about a year. I now think I underfed them. I got some dried starter from a nice man named Richard Packham, and it's going great guns more than a year later. His site is here. I wandered around the Yahoo sourdough group for a while, but I've learned a lot more, and enjoyed the people more, on this site.

Now you can hardly stop me -- I've got 5 kinds of bread in the freezer!


redivyfarm's picture

with enough vices for the both of us! I eat meat and drive a Hummer!

I bounced around in counter-culture land for a year or so, was a vegetarian for a short period of time and turned out some truly nasty foodstuffs during that phase. I left college and worked in the Aleutian Islands for a season. As a young-married I baked sourdough bread from a starter that was being shared with no more instructions than that it needed to be kept warm and used for at least one baking per week. The bread wasn't really that good and I gave up when I found my husband's Wonder Bread stash in a high cupboard. My daughters were raised in my vision of the good life, an old Victorian farm house with no indoor plumbing or modernization of any sort. We heated and cooked with wood and used just a few electric appliances. We raised rabbits and goats for milk and meat. I've always been nostalgic, wanting to make and grow most everything. This must be in reaction to my childhood in the giant housing developments of Southern California. My grandparents canned and gardened and raised livestock. Loved that in a big way! 

I am an electrical contractor with lots of demands on my time and energies. Baking is a creative outlet for me now. I've been busy with puppy husbandry for the past week. The timing of your thread is amazing! I've been thinking for the past couple of days that every task seems easier and more successful with the set of skills we pick up in the course of fifty years.

browndog's picture

Hey redivy, I've been wondering where you were. Puppies? Hearty cheers!

redivyfarm's picture

Blast me a note to and I'll share some pics.

JMonkey's picture

I really enjoyed reading all these. We had a thread similar to this back in the winter. Thanks for starting it up again, BrownDog. Lots of new folks with new stories to share.

If you'd like to read some more, "How I got started baking," stories, click here.

browndog's picture

Thanks, JMonkey,  I got here too late for the original, if I'd known I would have named you in the credits.

JMonkey's picture

... I just thought folks might enjoy reading some of the other stories as well. :-)

browndog's picture

in case there's the slightest wiggle room for the faintest hint of the minutest amount of any misunderstanding, I'm delighted you tied the threads together, thanks a ton! My only quibble with you is --How could anyone EVER leave New England!!?!! (Of course I'd say that to somebody packed and leaving for their own private island in the Bahamas. I'm nothing if not rooted.)

JMonkey's picture

Yes, I'll miss it a ton. We love New England. But my beloved has a tenure track job offer at Oregon State and by living in Corvallis we'll finally be within driving distance of some family.

We certainly packed in some New England fun this weekend though -- visited four states. I'll recount more in my blog.

Oh, and no offense taken at all! Thanks for starting the thread up!

susanfnp's picture

I'm a long-time lurker but have never posted, and I figured this thread is a great opportunity to introduce myself and begin joining in.  My first foray into breadmaking was in college when I lived in a student co-op house and we rotated weekly jobs.  Now baking bread was not my favorite activity in the world, but it did beat scrubbing the bathrooms.  Sadly, with the exception of one member who turned out a very nice anadama, most of us were ineptly producing dense, dry, crumbly stuff that was about as edible as the yogurt-barley stew and bulgur-lentil burgers that comprised the bulk of our daily cuisine.  Once I moved out of that house, I didn't bake bread again for quite a few years.   Too bad, because I spent a number of those years living in and around Norwich, Vermont, home of King Arthur Flour, which I now recognize is one of the best baking education resources around (doh!).

Now I'm in northern Calfornia, and about a year and a half ago, rather on a whim, I took a half-day bread-baking class at a local culinary school.  The class was only mediocre, but I went home with a bit of sourdough starter that I was determined to master.  My first few attempts at home can only be described as out-and-out flops, but I started baking about three times a week, as well as reading everything I can get my hands on, including all of the great information shared on this site, and my results have (I think) improved considerably.  I've also taken a few courses at the San Francisco Baking Institute, which I very highly recommend.  Thanks to all of you, and especially to Floyd, for creating this wonderful space for us to learn from each other and share our enthusiasm!


kjknits's picture

I have loved reading these stories! Bread baking is universal, and this thread proves it. (Hummer owners and commune dwellers unite! Heh.) I always yearned to try yeast bread, even when I was young and still in school. But I always thought "there's no way I could do that". (And I have learned since that one should never say that, because many of the things I thought I could "never" do have long been conquered.) So I didn't try it, until I got married. My MIL baked wonderful sandwich bread and would bring us a couple loaves now and then, and we started to really miss it when we ran out. So I decided I would have to try baking it myself. I asked her for her recipe, and promptly turned out two of the worst loaves ever baked--gummy and undercooked in the inside, and hard and way too brown on the outside. Not exactly what you want to make a PB&J with. Somewhere around the same time, I also tried my first pizza dough, and it was more successful, and certainly better than the local delivery place. But I hung up my bread baking apron for a few years.

When my son was about 6 months old, about 3 years ago, I got back into bread baking in earnest. My parents gave me a copy of the KAF Anniversary cookbook for Christmas and I was intrigued by all of the yeast recipes (esp. the sourdough primer, which as it turns out, is rather lacking in info). Started baking my MIL's sandwich bread again, made some tweaks to the recipe, learned how to check for proper gluten development and doneness. Made my own starter and baked some rustic sourdough loaves (but I'm thinking I may have "cheated" and put some commercial yeast in that original starter, bc KAF's book recommended it). Started frequenting the KAF Baking Circle, but felt very out of place. I did get one good thing out of it, though--I heard about the BBA. Checked it out from the library, fell in love and bought it for myself. Baked Pain a l'ancienne and really fell in love with homebaked artisan bread. Since then I have baked French baguettes, and all manner of direct doughs for panned loaves. I baked ciabatta for the first time a few weeks ago after discovering this site, and have been working on perfecting my pizza dough so it suits our tastes. I also have a new sourdough starter going (on day 9 today and it's finally doubling), which has been so much fun. I have plans to bake for as long as God will let me.

And it has to be said, thanks to Floyd for such a great site.

Katie in SC

weavershouse's picture

I started making (or trying to make, really) bread in the 70's...ages ago to most of the young people on this site. We were part of the back to the land (Nearings, Mother Earth News etc.) movement when we moved to the Ohio countryside. My husband never quit his job and we lived comfortably but always with an interest in the old ways of doing things and a with a certain amount of independence. Big gardens, a flock of hens, a couple of goats, etc. Always learning about the old ways I love, bread making was at the top of my list of making good organic food for the family. Good bread, not so good bread, lots of kneading, using a mixer, not using a mixer, always learning, having fun, hoping the kids would learn some good things no matter what they chose to do with their lives. All four are grown and living in the big cities of Dallas, Minneapolis and St. Augustine, the youngest in the nearby city but they all know good bread and good food even if they don't always make it themselves. They visit as often as they can and hope for homemade bread and good stuff from the garden. I have to say as much as I learned about breadmaking over the years my biggest advance has been in the last 5 years or so and I really feel my best breads have been since I found The Fresh Loaf. I'm grateful for this site and all the folks who contribute to it.

Doesn't it make you wonder why we're drawn to certain things, especially things that so many others think is such of waste of time and energy. The things I enjoy like weaving fabric, gardening, making things by hand, breadbaking are no longer necessary in this modern world and some friends joke and say.."that's why we have stores". But, I don't want to give them up, it feels right. I'm not living in the past...good grief, I love my's helped me make great bread.

I was afraid I'd go on too long if I joined this thread. Happy Bread Making.                                                                                                                                          weavershouse

mountaindog's picture

Hey Weaver, it's great you have cultivated all of those self-sufficient skills and I don't think those skills you mention are obsolete at all in our "modern" world...not to be an alarmist, but think of how easily all of our technology could all be taken away by some disaster, how would we feed, clothe, and shelter ourselves? Most people would have no clue. All very important skills that should not be forgotten. I find it very comforting to know that I could survive if our society was suddenly limited to 19th century technology, in fact I'd probably be a lot less stressed out ;-).

I missed the 60'S and 70's back-to-the-land movement by about 20 years but my Dad was into it and taught me a lot of the same skills many of you mention and cherish: gardening, animal husbandry, carpentry, wilderness survival, and of course bread making. There is something really beautiful in its simplicity to me in handmade, functional things like a well-tended vegetable garden, a dry-stack stone wall, a timberframe barn, shaker furniture, and a beautufil crusty loaf of bread with some home-made goat cheese. I look eagerly forward to the day when I can cut back on my work hours and mill my own grain, raise some chickens, ducks, dairy goats, and maybe even a unicorn like Browndog has (I am very envious of her - I have lilacs but no unicorn) ;-)

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

and military bases.  Both my grandparents had farms and many uncles and Aunts as well.  My father was in the Air Force 20 years so we traveled and moved around a lot. The summer my grandmother was severely ill, my nurse mother took care of her but my siblings and I were underfoot, so we got distributed to the relatives for the summer.  My Brother chose to sit at one farm but my sister and I changed farms every two weeks.  It was quite the oportunity to help out and learn.  I soaked it up like a sponge.  All the farms were large and self-sufficient and helped each other out.  Between 4-H projects and plucking chickens, sewing clothes and freezing & packing jars of produce from the gardens I saw how these skills were valuable.  I learned to make ropes, fix things in the tool shed and tame wild kittens in the barn.  In the military, the ultimate mobile society at the time, I lived in many places.  Each different to the other, each having it's plus and minus points.

My mother baked bread and naturally we had "wonder bread" parked in the kitchen where my brother would take 4-5 slices at a time and bite into the corner devouring them with the ease of a twinkie.  Mom would thaw and bake the new frozen loaves sold in multi packs, but would also make whole wheat and dinner buns.  She showed me how to make "clover buns" using three small dough balls stuck together in muffin tray depressions.  Mom was always baking but more for special Sunday dinners or holidays.  Naturally, I can't quite remember when I started baking for myself and in the univ., I was more involved in kneading ceramic clay, but I remember there were times I just had to have some home baked bread and would bake in a neighbor's oven with the promiss they could keep half of whatever I baked.  Never was a problem... I think it's the intoxicating seductive aroma of bread baking with all it's memories that attracts me most.  And it should not be too hard to understand why my Austrian home, situated in a small farm villiage suits me just fine. 

When I met my husband, that is when I learned to bake artisan bread.  Sandwich bread, fine but he wanted a denser, more naturally formed farmer's rye and kaiser rolls.  I took on kaiser rolls first and no sweat, the rye bread however, was a different ball game.  I had to stop proofing for so long. The Austrian ladies wanted to know how I made bread that could go into the toaster.  Loaf pan?  Kneading was second nature and so the experiments and exchange began.  I had no cookbook but a hungry husband.  Between what he knew about what it looked and tasted like and my skills, we came out well.  I also found out my loaves kept longer and didn't dry out so fast when compared to the others.  I think it was my mix and forget (poolish?) method combined with kneading that was key.  That was in Barbados.   --Mini Oven

browndog's picture

you are so EXOTIC! Here amongst us latent and not-so-latent earth mother (and earth father?) types. And it also has to be said, excepting dear oldcampcook and JMonkey, this thread begins to resemble an 8th grade dance--all the girls giggling together on the floor and the guys just watching! Come on, lads, don't be shy, it's the 21st century, get sensitive and SHARE!

tattooedtonka's picture

My story in bread has been said on here before.  Not really anything special.  My history is a bit different.  I have a big family.  My mother being one of eight children, each having multiple kids, and now even we the kids, have our own kids.  You get the idea.  BIG family reunions. 

Anyhow, my grandfather was a big man, a real meat and potatoes kind of guy.  Salad wasnt a meal, it was what you had before the meal.  All meals had some sort of meat, some sort of potato, and some sort of bread with butter.  He was a business owner, antique collector, farmer, hard working laborer, and great man.  He taught me if you are going to do something, do it right, not half way. 

With 5 aunts, a mother, and a Gramma around I had a bunch of women who all could make an awesome pie, cake, brownie, pastry, etc.  But nobody ever made a bread.  I assumed if it was beyond them, there is no way I could do it.  So I never even gave it much thought.  I just got into baking the same, cookies, cakes, pies, etc. 

Now nearly 20 years after getting out of school and traveling with the US armed forces, among many other types of jobs from Scuba Instructor in Florida, to Commercial fisherman in Alaska. I have stopped moving around to raise a family, and start dialing back my adrenaline levels.  I enjoy raising and tending a vegetable garden each year so I can save money, have fresh foods, and share and help friends save some money as well (the prices of tomatoes are obscene). I enjoy breads for some of those very same reasons.  Its cheap, its fun, and it tastes great.  And friends love free baked goods.

 This site has been great in education and creating friends involved with baking bread.  My hats off to everyone here.


Paddyscake's picture

I adore my husband and my step children and love to cook for them. This bread infatuation started because my husband loved the sourdough and jalapeno/cheddar bread made by our local grocery store bakery. My internet search brought me to The Fresh Loaf and the rest is history. I truly believe all our baking inspiration comes from our love of family, don't you?

maggie664's picture

Yes Paddycake,

Initially , perhaps for one's immediate family; but when they grow up and leave and one's husband has a passion for a boutique bread (which can't be faulted) one turns one's need to nurture to one's customers!! There is nothing more gratifying than to see a rush of people come in to the cafe to buy the sticky walnut cinnamon yeast rolls and savour them with a cup of beautifully made expresso coffee. M