Since my childhood, I have been interested in cooking and baking. My grandmother used to tell me that I liked to cook because I liked to eat. Perhaps she was correct, but there is something about being in the kitchen and using your creativity that is uplifting, even mildly addictive.
It wasn’t until later in life that I developed a desire to start venturing beyond the comforts of the family recipes and baking new things. Through baking, you can really develop an appreciation for the creativity, labor and satisfaction that goes into baking. Giving your baked treats to grateful recipients is equally rewarding.
My foray into bread baking started when I got Beth Hensperger’s “Bread Made Easy” cookbook. Her Challah was an instant hit with friends and family, and I ended up making many of the recipes in her book over a period of about 2 years. After that, I wanted to get more serious about baking bread, so I got Rosy Levy Beranbaum’s book entitled “The Bread Bible” as well as her “Cake Bible.” This turned out to be a bad move on my part. Her recipes were fussy – they often required specialty equipment and the breads I made from her book rarely worked for me. I had a similar experience with her Cake Bible. It was as if someone sucked all the fun and creativity out of baking and replaced it with a rigid style of baking where everything had to be precise and perfect. After getting these two books, I stopped baking for a while.
After a period of months, I went back to the Hensperger book and made some breads for friends and family. They were such a huge success that I started to get eager to learn more about baking. After acquiring a few more bread baking books, I started to understand more about the bread making process.
Earlier this year, I had the opportunity to get two books for one low price – those books were “The Fundamental Techniques of Classic Bread Baking” by the French Culinary Institute (FCI) and “Sarabeth’s Bakery”. It is at this point that I decided to really pursue bread baking as a home hobby.
With almost perfect timing, I happened to get a King Arthur Bake Shop catalog in the mail about the same time my FCI book arrived. I immediately placed an order – spending money I probably didn’t have and rejoicing that I had a working 20% off coupon code from RetailMeNot. I also got on Amazon and ordered some other essentials.
At this point, I already had a 325 watt KitchenAid Artisan stand mixer (325 watt), a pastry board, a dough rising bucket with lid, a plethora of measuring cups and spoons, a good supply of fresh all purpose and bread flour, baking powder, baking soda, etc. I had 2 9×5 bread pans, 4 half sheet pans, a Whirlpool electric oven, a pizza baking stone and all sorts of other essential stuff. But that wasn’t enough. From the King Arthur catalog, I got a baker’s peel, a yeast canister loaded with 1 lb. of SAF instant yeast, a baker’s couche, several other types of flour (durum, semolina, rye, French, artisan, etc) and a digital scale with 1 gram accuracy and a tare feature. From Crate and Barrel, I got some prep items – small bowls, etc.