So...how did you get started in all of this?
It's clear that there are many here are very passionate about baking bread. So, how did y'all get into it? I started dabbling in baking breads because my wife and I like a nice loaf sometimes and use to just buy it at a good bakery. But when we discovered that our boys had food allergies to nuts/sesame seeds/poppy seeds, our trips to a bakery were no longer an option. There was/is too much of a risk of cross-contamination, i.e. the bakery makes a batch with seeds/nuts and then another batch without, so there is no way to be absolutely sure a stray nut or seed doesn't crosses over into loaves that are listed as nonseeded/non-nuts.
But, my wife and I still occasionally craved a nice loaf (especially rustic Italian breads, like ciabatta). We had a bread machine, but we liked rustic breads. So, I tried to just bake the dough in the oven. This was OK, but not great. Well, one day I look at a Cooks Illustrated article on rustic Italian bread and I think, I can do this. And although my methods and recipes are much different now, I find that I like baking bread. So, even if my boys outgrow their food allergies (which isn't a given, sometimes this happens, sometimes not), I'm pretty sure that I'm hooked and would continue to make my own bread.
By the way, my boys love the fresh breads.
It became clear to me that there's something wrong with bread today. The recent Atkins diet craze is a symptom of a serious problem. The bread available in the supermarkets is either made with bleached flour (which is very unhealthful) or the more healthful bread is not fresh and doesn't taste very good. So I got into it primarily for fresher, more healthful and tasty bread. Big business has pursuaded the American public to settle for second-rate bread but I'm unpursuaded. I don't have much spare time but I'm determined to have delicious, very healthful bread with a minimal investment in time -using my Stand Mixer- and I am succeeding very nicely.
My mom baked all her own breads when we were kids. I remember bread baking day (once a week) with such fondness because the house would smell so good. I think my mom got out all her agressions for the week the way she would knead that dough! And there was just a satisfaction from seeing all those loafs of bread and buns covering the kitchen table when she was done. Yum!
I do a lot of things the same way my mom did them. I grow a huge garden to feed my family, I make my own yogurt, I buy healthy ingredients in bulk and make things at home not because I can't buy them in the store but because I don't want to buy them in the store. Making my own bread is just part of that. Plus I love the variety of things that I can make for very little money and just a little time. Sure, you can get bread cheap. But when you get into specialty breads then you start paying more. And I know exactly what went into mine and how good it is for my family.
Plus, I just love to bake :)
I actually made bread when we lived on the farm 38 years ago because of convenience. It was harder to just run to the store when we ran out. After moving to the city, I kind of abandoned the breadmaking for convenience.
A couple of years ago, I decided I just couldn't take the smell of those chemicals when I opened a bag of store-bought bread and started baking, again. After doing that for a while, I began researching and found that when wheat is ground it has 27 nutrients in it, which fairly quickly degrade to almost nothing, if it's not refrigerated or frozen. That's why flour and bread in the stores is enriched - because there is little nutritional value left in it. Unfortunately, they are only required to add 4 nutrients back in. Not only that, but whole wheat flour isn't really whole wheat flour, but white flour with some of the bran added back in.
At that point, I decided that it wasn't enough to just bake my own bread. I now mill my own flours to bake the bread with! I know - it's kind of obsessive, but I rest assured that we are getting maximum nutrition as well as a much better flavored loaf of bread.