Forums and Bake-Alongs

The Mellow Bakers project of baking through Jeffrey Hamelman’s great collection of recipes in Bread, A Baker’s Book of Recipes and Techniques,  has come to an end.

This is a sort of thinking aloud post, so I’d be interested to hear any thoughts particularly with regard to using wordpress for group baking. You may of course think there are plenty of places already to do that, but I think it is always worth experimenting with different formats, as different things suit different people.

 I was just having a quick read on the Mellow Bakers forum to see what they are up to and it looks as if there will be a brand new group of bakers starting working their way through Bread by Jeffrey Hamelman this year,  so if you wanted to join in last time but felt it was too late to do so, have a look on that forum and see what’s going on.

jeffrey hamelman five grain bread

The principles are very simple.  It’s a free to join, no strings, come and go as you please internet space, run and moderated by Paul.  You can write about your baking there, you can post photos, links to your blog, ask for help, chat. Bake some, all, or none of the recipes.

I began Zeb Bakes because I wanted a home for my bread posts while I was baking along with Paul, Abby, Andrea, Jacqueline, Ulrike, Melanie, Geraint, Doc Fugawe, Natashya, Steve to name but a few of the many fantastic people who dropped in and baked and chatted there. Some people only popped in once or twice, some people baked everything they possibly could. It has been a fairly relaxed affair and I have learnt so much while I was doing it. Thank you all of you!

I really enjoyed baking along with some great people who dropped in and out over the course of the Hamelman project. I take my hat off to the amazing bakers who baked every single one of the recipes.  I managed forty five (I think!) different bread recipes out of all the ones we could have made. You can see the ones I made by clicking on these two pages in my menu bar, here and here.

There are of course other forums to join up to if you want to talk bread, there’s the Real Bread Campaign in the UK, which you have to pay to join. I was a member for one year but it seems more aimed at would be professionals than at people like me so I have let my membership lapse.

There’s also the Fresh Loaf in the US, which has members from all over the world and is a very fast moving and big forum. If you speak German or Spanish these are links to two forums in those languages.

Terry, who I met at Joe’s and Martin’s baking weekend in Yorkshire, runs a wood & pizza oven forum where they talk bread and pizza in particular and is well worth visiting too if you have questions about oven building.

And then there are the one off Twitter bake alongs where people teach you how to make a starter, or how to make rolls like Luc Martin did recently. I made brioche one happy Sunday following the @halfdrunkduck’s great instructions.

Zeb checks the mise en place for Dan Lepard's Dundee Cake

It reminded me of Dan Lepard’s Dundee Cake bake off which was one of the funniest things I have ever done on my own, Sally BR and Gill the Painter were in on that one and we have been great friends ever since –  I wish we could do another one day, though I know they take a lot of organizing.

Thinking along those lines, maybe we could do one using the P2 group theme on WordPress which allows for realtime updates?  If anyone is interested in giving it a go, maybe one Sunday later this year,  do let me know.

For those of you unfamiliar with how (not which is the self hosted side of the business)  works, you sign up as a user (free) and then you have a wordpress name and password and you can be added to a group blog where you can upload text and photos without having to have a blog if you don’t want one.

Of course if you do want a blog, you just opt for that. WordPress don’t charge you for the basic blogs, but they do have fees if you want to keep your blog advert free, like this one, or to register your own name, and various other things, all explained on their site.

I could set one up and see if we could make it work for one-off bake-alongs if there is interest.

If you want me to add a link to any non commercial bread forums or upcoming low cost bread events that I have missed out, please put something in a comment below and I will edit this post.

Happy Baking Everyone!

NB I’ve edited this post a bit since I first wrote it to make the bit about wordpress clearer.

22nd Feb 2012

I have taken out all references to group baking of Dan Lepard’s books as this seems to be causing problems lately. For more on this see Paul’s recent post on Mellow Bakers and if you wish join in the discussion there.

I have left people’s comments on this post as they are.


31 thoughts on “Forums and Bake-Alongs

  1. ninopane

    The Handmade Loaf project sounds really interesting.

    Is there some sort of enrollment with the Mellow Bakers that I need yto go through in order to get involved?

    1. Joanna Post author

      Yes you just have to sign up with a name and an email address.There is a link to the registration page at the top where it says welcome guest, but you can browse and see most of it without registering if you want to have a look around first. As on WordPress you can have a user name and that is what people will see. You decide if you want to share links to your blog or to an email address, it’s entirely up to you.

      You can register and not join in immediately, but I think Paul is trying to gauge interest and the numbers so he knows how to set up the new section of the forum accordingly. I know he would be delighted if you joined in Tony :)

  2. Misk Cooks

    I endlessly lurked at Mellow Bakers last year but never came out of the shadows because I felt ever so slightly intimidated by the level of knowledge there. As a result, I just sat back, read and absorbed as much information as possible. Stepping into a new group of people, a large group at that, takes some brass, if you know what I mean. I’m sure that I’m equipped with the metal required. Our little Short and Tweet group seems so cosy and welcoming, all with good humour, and I think the latter is terribly important. Using the P2 theme for a ‘live bake’ is a brilliant idea; I’d support that.

    1. Joanna Post author

      Hi Misk!

      I understand what you are saying about lurking, I know lots of people do that and a bit like being at a party, sometimes it’s hard to say the first thing and introduce yourself; once you get over that it’s not so bad. Different social network styles suit different people :)

      What you have to remember about Mellow Bakers is that not everyone is posting in English as a first language, so styles of speech do vary a little, but I have always found everyone there to be kind and respectful of each others’ skill levels.

      Glad to hear you like the idea of a live bake. There would be a bit more space than on Twitter, when the space can get so full of @’s that there is no room to write or add the link to your photo.

      1. Misk Cooks

        I just went into Mellow Bakers to see if my username and password still work. They do. Then I scoured the help files to see if there was a way of changing my name there to Misk Cooks rather than the one associated with my poetry. Can’t see a way to do it, other than starting over. Is that correct? There’s no nickname facility as such?

        1. Joanna Post author

          Login and send Paul a message on the forum or leave a comment in the how do I ? Section and he will advise you :)

    1. Joanna Post author

      It’s only a thought at the moment and I haven’t checked out whether it would work. It won’t happen for a while yet.Will let you know if t does Sally. Xx

  3. gillthepainter

    Zeb’s photo at the Dundee bake-off has brought the memories flooding back. That was the greatest afternoon (or early morning for Sally).

    I’d love to do that again – count me in. I don’t have wordpress but we can work something out.

    And I’ll probably participate in the Handmade Loaf bakes. Like you Joanna, the ones I that are new to me, or need revisiting.

    Thank you for the list of sites. I used to look in on the Spanish el Foro – but have lapsed. I should go back.

    1. Joanna Post author

      Hi Gill, It was a fab afternoon wasn’t it? I don’t know if I could make it work as well as Dan and David did though…

      For the group blog idea: you don’t need to ‘have wordpress’ as such. You can of course comment as you do now. Only if you want to upload photos as you would for a post on your own blog, you will need to be a ‘user’. You can register with wp for a username but decline the blog option. Here is the link to that page. I will add it in the post above for reference.

  4. Nicola

    Thank you for such a lovely introduction to the world of breads. I think I first saw your blog (through shortandtweet!) as I was starting to discover more bread making. As you know, inspired to follow along the path you’ve trodden with working through hamelman, so will definitely join in another round (and lepard too – hungry for breads!). Great if misk’s & molly are there too :-)

    My struggle with breads is that I tend to just throw in different proportions of everything (with half glance at a recipe) and never write it down; and therefore can’t properly tell the difference between one recipe and another – though they are mostly delicious, so I plough on… Looking forward to the learning, the sharing, and the discipline!

    Also keen to join in a live bake!

    1. Joanna Post author

      You’re welcome Nicola – I think of it like visiting different adventure playgrounds, never quite know what and who you will find there, and one can always leave the party if it’s too raucous or simply boring .

      Keep going with the breads, I am being lent a pasta machine today, guess what I’m going to try and make ? ;)

      @ Molly Woof !

  5. Paul,

    Hey Joanna,

    Thanks so much for the mention of our new Handmade Loaf adventure. I hope to have the new forum space up over this weekend so vistors can become Mellow Baker members for the Handmade Loaf Group Bake.

    David has gotten in touch and we now have a wee connection with Dan; this will be hugely helpful as we bake through his book, I’m sure.

    Isn’t it amazing how connected breadheads can work together?

    1. Joanna Post author

      My pleasure Paul! You work so hard at putting that forum together and I know just how much effort goes into running those projects. You created a really good space for me and everyone else to share in and I hope the new Group Bake will be a success too. With good will people can do anything :)

  6. Will @ Leavenedheaven

    Great post, thanks for all the info! I’m very excited by the Handmade Loaf bake-along. Having read some of your posts on the previous one, I felt a little sad to have missed such a thing… and then they decide to do it all over again with the book that has proved the catalyst in my early development as a baker. Timing is everything…

    I’ve signed up to Mellow Bakers, will endeavour to get involved as often as possible.


    1. Joanna

      You’re welcome ! Glad it’s of use. Will, I’ve taken the blog name out of your comment as by clicking on your name it takes anyone straight to your blog anyway, hope that’s OK. There are people stopping and starting baking groups all the time, there are some on Facebook too if you are over there there is a nice one called Artisan Bakers. We used to do bake-offs on Dan Lepard’s forum, it’s a moveable feast of bread :)

  7. heidiannie

    I’d love to do a live bake- not sure if I could handle the technology- I don’t twitter and wonder if the time factor would interfere,
    Plus, I’m terrible at following recipes- I keep substituting without even thinking about it.
    But I’d still like to try if you are going to set on up- count me in!

    1. Joanna Post author

      I’m not sure if I can either Heidi, to be honest, it was just a thought going through my head while I wrote the post. I will have a play and see if it is feasible for an amateur like me. I thought if we did something not too fancy that was easy to sub in ingredients that we had at home it might just be a bit of fun. I was thinking of people who don’t twitter. The other way of course is to use Facebook, just occurred to me, that might be easier, but then there are people who don’t use that. There are so many baking groups these days, have you come across the artisan bakers on Facebook?

      1. heidiannie

        Yes, I did look them up.
        I am not a very good joiner. I tend to go for one on one relationships or just lurk about the edges of large groups, picking up ideas and techniques without much comment. :)

  8. Jeannette

    I have hesitated to comment so far because I feel very much like Heidi, not sure if I am ready to keep up with more experienced bread bakers but very interested all the same. I will keep my eye on this item, I have the book, and also the new book , Short and Sweet, so I have no excuse really, not to join in. Also, like some others, I am not familiar with Twitter but perhaps that can be ‘got over’ or I could learn!!!!

    1. Joanna Post author

      I’m not recruiting :D Or at least I hope it doesn’t sound that way Jeannette? i am very fond of you all just as you are, with your comments and honoured when you let me share your photos. This post was meant to be a signing off of the Mellow Bakers for me, but changed while I was writing it as there were potentially new things happening on that site which I have flagged up out of friendship for Paul.

      I’ve been doing this for a while so it feels quite ‘everyday’ but I haven’t forgotten how complicated it is when you start. I practised online interaction on Dan Lepard”s forum for a long time before I did anything else and I was a complete beginner not that long ago.

      Edit: Just re-read my post and it does sound like I’m encouraging people to sign up, doesn’t it? there’s a fine line between enthusing and promoting, I was really just trying to enthuse and say these spaces are fairly safe if you do fancy trying a group.

  9. Jean

    Very interesting. Glad you’re enjoying the baking and blogging.

    I’m only a food taster/observer/memory curator on my blog. :)

    1. Joanna Post author

      Hi Jean – this is really an info share post, mostly for people who are new to baking, as more and more people are getting into making their own bread these days :)

Comments are closed.