75% whole wheat boule with Camembert.

75% whole wheat boule with Camembert.

Few things make me happier than being covered in flour, hand mixing dough. Sometimes it’s for pasta or dumplings or pizza, but lately  my head and heart have been devoted to making bread. So it’s decided. I’m going to be an artisan baker. Someday I may even make it official.

The web has no shortage of talented artisan-bread bloggers and fermentation nerds. And I’m a relative newbie, so I hesitate to go into details for fear of exposing myself as a fraud. But since the beginning of the year I’ve been baking once a week, sometimes twice, and I am gaining confidence. I’ll even go out a on a limb and say that I’m honing some bakerly instincts when it comes to timing and temperature, feel and smell. My wild-yeast starter is healthy and strong. She’s named Shirley.

I’m especially lucky to have willing guinea pigs in my bread experiment so Jeff and I can share the products of my practice. Neighbors take loaves off my hands and give me kind and encouraging feedback. My favorite so far was a note from the niece of my next-door neighbor. She tried my bread at her aunt’s house — a basic loaf of pain de campagne —  and wrote me a note saying how much she enjoyed it. She even detailed why: the dark, hard crust, the beautiful open crumb. (I’m paraphrasing.) The note lives above my desk, a bit of encouragement while I tap away at my day job.

There’s still so much to learn and improve on. My baguettes are misshapen and my scoring technique needs work. But I am determined to be a fermentation nerd myself, and can’t wait for my next bake.

The nicest bit of encouragement.

The nicest bit of encouragement.

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