I’m taking part in The Bread Baker’s Apprentice Challenge hosted by Nicole Hamaker from the Pinch My Salt blog. She inspired me, and hundreds of others, to undertake the task of baking every loaf in the book. Last week, I posted about my first yummy loaf from the challenge and I’ll have another post tomorrow. I asked Nicole a few questions about the challenge because I was curious about some things, especially about why she thinks so many people are rising to this huge challenge.
What is your cooking/baking background?
I was bitten by the baking bug at a fairly young age. My mom and aunt would get together weekly and bake sandwich loaves when my sister and I were young, so I’m sure that had an influence on me. There’s just nothing more comforting than a house filled with the aroma of baked goods in the oven, whether it’s biscuits made from scratch, an apple pie or a loaf of homemade bread. I’ve also enjoyed cooking for as long as I can remember, but I have never thought of myself as anything more than an average home cook or baker. I just really enjoy creating meals at home and as I learn new things in my kitchen, I love to share that knowledge with others!
Where did you get the idea to do The Bread Baker’s Apprentice challenge and open it up to those who read your blog? How many people have signed up for the challenge?
The BBA Challenge started as personal goal. I was sitting on my couch thumbing through baking books when I came up with the idea. I’ve always loved to bake bread, but I often get stuck in a rut of baking one of three things: basic sourdough, whole wheat sandwich loaves, or cinnamon swirl bread. I thought that a good way to broaden my bread-baking horizon would be a serious commitment to trying new recipes. I trust Peter Reinhart and his wonderful book, so I decided that would be a great place to start. It wasn’t something I thought long and hard about — it was definitely a whim!
It wasn’t until after I mentioned it on twitter that the idea really started to take shape. I never had any intention of putting together a group; the group just started forming around me. But once the group started coming together on twitter, I really had no choice but to invite Pinch My Salt readers to join us!
We have 212 people in the original group that started the challenge together, but since I’ve left an open invitation for anyone to join us, who knows how many are participating now!
Most people have finished at least their first loaf of bread, how do you think it's going so far?
I think it is going unbelievably well! Of course there have been a few problems here and there, but the great thing about being part of a baking group is that we are all able to learn from each other. If one person has a problem, we tend to troubleshoot it as a group and we all end up learning something new.
I have to tell you that I am completely blown away on a daily basis by some of the amazing loaves of bread I’m seeing out there. But the best part is hearing all the enthusiasm! I just had no idea so many people were this passionate about baking bread! I hope more and more people buy the book and start their own journey into the world of bread baking, as there is almost nothing more satisfying!
Why do you think that so many people, who could easily buy bread at the grocery store or a bakery, are excited about doing something that takes so much time and effort?
For one thing, I think people are just getting fed up with horrible tasting sandwich bread from the grocery store. Thanks to artisan bakeries popping up all over, we all know what real bread should taste like, and the stuff from the grocery store bread aisle just isn’t cutting it anymore! I also think that we are getting smarter about food choices. If a basic loaf of bread can be made at home using only a handful of ingredients (flour, yeast, water and salt), does it make any sense that a loaf of bread from the grocery store is filled with a long list of ingredients that I can’t even pronounce?
And while we are lucky in that many people now have access (once again) to real bread from bakeries, who can afford to buy it on a daily basis? As people start to realize that they can buy a five pound bag of good quality flour for less than the cost of one loaf of artisan bread, learning to bake great bread at home starts to make more and more sense!
I am most looking forward to making the sticky buns and learning how to make a baguette (my 9 year old loves dipping baguettes in olive oil - this will save me a lot of money!). What are you looking forward to making the most from the book?
I think I am also most looking forward to the baguettes. We are lucky in San Diego to have a wonderful bakery that supplies my local market with fresh bread daily. I’m addicted to their baguettes, and I’ve been spending way too much money on them! My goal is to create bread at home that tastes as good as what I can buy at the market, but at a fraction of the cost. If this challenge gets me to that point, I will be a very happy home baker!
Your blog is called Pinch my Salt. It's obviously a cooking blog, but what do you focus on in your blog? What are you trying to say to people with your posts?
My goal with writing a food blog has always been to encourage people to start cooking and eating at home more often. As you might know, I started Pinch My Salt while my husband and I were living in Sicily. I’ve always enjoyed cooking, but I started doing it a lot more when we moved overseas. The open air markets filled with beautiful fresh produce were so inspiring, I couldn’t help but want to experiment more in my own kitchen.
Although we did a fair share of eating out while living in Italy, we ate the majority of our meals at home. Somewhere along the way, I had a revelation that food almost always tastes better when it’s prepared simply. Of course the Italians have always known this, but as an American I had grown up believing that expensive ingredients and fancy preparations are what made food great.
All of a sudden I realized I didn’t need to rely on lengthy recipes to create great food! Once I realized that cooking doesn’t need to be complicated, I wanted to pass that knowledge on to other people. If you focus on good quality ingredients, you don’t have to spend hours in the kitchen to create a wonderful meal. We all deserve to nourish our bodies with good food, I hope that through my blog I can teach people that it can be done despite our busy lives and hectic schedules.
Where should people go to find out more about the challenge? Is it too late to join?
It is definitely not too late to join The Bread Baker’s Apprentice Challenge! Although a large group of us started together, there is no reason that others can’t start baking whenever they want. There are so many ways to participate in this global baking community, that you’re bound to find others baking at your pace. All the details can be found on The BBA Challenge Page.