Mellow Bakers: What is it?
Mellow Bakers is a group of bread baking enthusiasts who look to bake a particular bread or breads together each month. Specific breads will be announced on the site every month and members can choose to make these breads as a group then post and share their results.What is this "Mellow" thing about?
The name Mellow Bakers reflects an attitude we want to emphasize in our baking schedule and overall process. To explain, a little background.
This group was created after the completion of another group bake, The Bread Baker's Apprentice Challenge
which I joined as it was getting set up. Set up by Nicole of PinchMySalt, the challenge was to bake every bread recipe in the Peter Reinhart best-seller book The Bread Baker's Apprentice
. There are 44 recipes in that book and the idea there was to bake each bread in the book, one per week and in the order presented in the book, which happened to be alphabetical. We started with Anadama Bread and went forward. The challenge began in mid-May 2009 and finished in early March 2010.
Once I had got to the final recipe, I took stock of the results. I had learned a lot along the way in terms of improved baking skills, had done many breads from the book that I would likely never have bothered to even try (and several really great ones at that) and, probably most interesting and valuable, met numerous other bakers who were baking the same thing I was, bogging about it and hopping across our sites adding encouragement and gabbing about our successes and, let's just say, less successful efforts.
In other words, it was pretty much as close to being in each others's kitchens as most of us will ever have the opportunity to get.
And that is the part I wanted to keep going with so I decided to pick up where one challenge left and start a fresh one. But with a number of changes.
Baking one specified bread per week proved, at least in my house where there are only two of us, a challenge of it's own. I'm a bread enthusiast, Punkin... not so much, still preferring, to this day I'll add, plain white sliced bread. So even making a single batch of bread which was usually two loaves proved to be pretty hard to get through in one week. And then next weekend, a specific bread was already on the menu. This didn't leave much space for choice or even repeating a bread that went over really well. It felt a bit like churning out loaves, not baking the bread I wanted.
Starting a new challenge required, I thought, a different tact: it had to have a much more relaxed pace and had to be more flexible in what breads were being made. This new challenge had to be, in other words, mellow.
And so, Mellow Bakers came to be.What Bread Will You Be Baking?
For the next many months, we'll be working our way through Jeffrey Hamelman's book Bread: A Baker's Book of Techniques and Recipes
(which throughout the site will generally be referred to as "BREAD" to differentiate it from, well, bread).
See the MellowBakers Review and links to buy here
BREAD contains 84 recipes split into five categories:
- Breads made with Yeasted Pre-Ferments (20 recipes)
- Levain Breads (19 recipes)
- Sourdough Rye Breads (18 recipes)
- Straight Doughs (12 recipes)
- Miscellaneous Breads (15 recipes)
The reason I selected this book was pretty simple. In the home bread baking enthusiast world, this is one of "the" top books 'bread heads' refer to. There are others, of course, by masters like Reinhart, Dan Leader, Dan DiMuzio and so on. But the amount of technical information that is offered in Mr Hamelman's book is amazing. With over 400 pages, there are only 12 pages of photographs so it's not trying to be what's sometimes referred to as "bread porn".
The recipes as noted above, don't show up until page 101, the first section of the book involved teaching the reader about the Process, Ingredients and their function, Hand techniques. And this is probably where the book shines. It's not a recipe book but rather a technique book, with 84 awesome recipes attached.
Because Mellow Bakers came out of a group already familiar with baking, this then seemed like a great "second" book to move up to. Having dipped our hands into the bread pool, we should be ready to learn a more thorough and specific aspect.
This isn't meant to exclude novice bakers, although there may be times they would find the water a little deep. To that end, we'll implement a secondary area of the challenge, which we'll address more in a bit.How do you plan to get to all 84 breads? Won't that take forever?
If we were to do just one bread per month, yes, it would take a very long time, 84 months in fact, which is 7 years. Since this would be an unworkable length of time we've elected to use the following process.
We will be selecting three recipes to do each month which will trim back the total time to about 28 months. Also, we will merge a number of "variation" recipes under one main recipe. This further trims the list to a more manageable 69 recipes which gives us enough recipes 23 months, so just shy of 2 years.
With the offering of three recipe choices per month, the participants can choose to do as many as their lifestyle permits, some months all three can be done, other months they may need to cut back to one or two because of time or if the recipes don't all appeal.
Again, we want to keep the process "mellow" - you'll see members referring to this lightheartedly throughout the forum posts. So we've made it part of the group objectives that you do what you can. You cannot, for example be "late" doing a bread. Although we presume the bulk of the active members will tackle the breads as they show up on the monthly list, it's perfectly acceptable for those who skip some to go back later to do those breads. They will have the advantage of having the main group's posting results to refer to, pick up tips, avoid pitfalls and get general guidance from the group that's already gone before.
As for the newcomers to the bread world or simply bakers who do not yet have the BREAD book, we'll be including a fourth recipe every couple of months that they can find online. The "Online Recipe" may be a variation of the Hamelman recipes or be completely separate. We'll endeavour to choose recipes that don't require specialty items like sourdough starters in order to make baking that bread as easy as possible.
It's very likely that, as the Book Recipes are discussed early in the month, members will also link to similar recipes elsewhere.Do I need a blog?
No, people do not need a blog in order to join in the baking or the discussion.
If you do have a blog where you post about your bread baking - and it doesn't need to be a "bread" blog - you can simply recap in a paragraph or two your more detailed blog post, attach a photo and then link to the blog post. This not only brings visitors to your blog but also helps search engine ranking. We'd ask that, in exchange, you include a mention and link back to MellowBakers and have graphics you can use here
For those without blogs, you can post your reviews and baking process for each bread right here on the site. As we announce the monthly breads, we'll create a subsection for that month where members can start threads for their own bread. You can be as detailed as you like, add photos as attachments (see the HELP area in the top bar for instructions) and get comments from other bakers.I don't think I have time to make all those recipes...
Hey, did I mention we're MELLOW here? Do as many or as few as you can, some months it will be all of them but others you won't even get to and that's OK. Hop in, hop out as your life allows. There's no penalty for having stuff to do! We ALL have stuff to do, we understand. And we're mellow...
Want to do a bread that was originally done a couple of months back? Sure, why not? Go for it! Post about it when you're done in that bread's section, that's really all the requirements we have: share your results. As detailed or not as you like is fine.
Because the main aim, beyond anything else, is just to bake in a group, share as a community, learning from each other as we go. So if your life says you only have time to do a few breads, that's great, join us and do a few breads. If you can do all of them, beyond awesome. But we won't put pressure on anyone to "keep up". That wouldn't be very mellow,
after all.OK, sound like I might enjoy this. How do I join?
All you need to do to be a mellow Baker is register to this forum (see the link at top of the page) and bake. That's it. Of course you'll get more out of this if you have the book to bake from but even if not, we'll be adding occasional recipes so you can still participate and "get your baking feet wet". Maybe we'll temp you enough to get the book and do the recipes with us! Your friends and family will probably be pretty happy to get home made fresh bread!
Come on, be Mellow with us!Wait, I have another question...
Then you can still join us and as a member get to post that question in this section.
Aw, come on, you know you really want to. Join up. Make bread. What is not to like about that?