At the end of the year, most people like to look back and analyze the past year while planning what to do differently the next. Some of the decisions stick, many don’t. But either way, New Year’s resolutions are a checkpoint to see if your desires and actions match and if there’s something you might want to do differently in the coming year.

As this is a magazine about bread, let’s talk about bread: Are there bread and baking related New Year’s resolutions that we could all try to achieve this year?

I originally published this article a year ago in the Winter 2014 issue of Bread Magazine. But the list still applies this year, so I’m sharing this list of resolutions again.

Pick the ones you like and that match where you are in your bread making — and come up with a few of your own (I’d love to hear them in the comments).

Then, with the help of these resolutions, let’s make 2015 2016 the year of the big bread renaissance!

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15 Bread Making Resolutions for 2016

  1. “In 2016, I will make and use a sourdough starter.” If you have been baking bread for a little while, this should be your first New Year’s resolution. Baking bread with sourdough isn’t hard, and the result is not only a healthier but also more delicious loaf of bread. You’ll never look back.
  2. “In 2016, I will try at least five (or four, or ten — you pick the number) different flours.” This can mean wheat flour from different mills or new grains that you haven’t used before. Experimentation is fun, and might lead to great new finds!
  3. “In 2016, I will learn to shape a decent baguette.” I originally picked the baguette because it was one I was struggling with (In 2015, I did practice quite a bit with the classic French bread and wrote about it in the year’s second issue), but go ahead and pick any bread shape you have trouble working with and get to work. Read instructions, watch some videos, maybe ask a friend who knows how to do it, and then practice until you make it.
  4. “In 2016, I will be patient and let my doughs rest longer.” As Jukka Kotkanen told me when I interviewed him in the Spring 2014 issue, “waiting is the hardest part” in bread making. That’s so true. Almost always, my best results have been the breads that I forgot to bake when I planned to. So, at least for someone as impatient as I am, waiting a little longer is a good idea. Do analyze your baking, though: If your bread is always well proofed, don’t add any more time… Unless you do it by retarding the doughs in a cool temperature — which is always a good idea!
  5. “In 2016, I will stop buying bread from the supermarket.” Make your own bread, occasionally buying a great loaf from a local craft bakery and you’ll never want to go back.
  6. “In 2016, I will find time to bake with my children.” Even if baking bread with children is slower and sometimes frustrating, it is always rewarding. The joy and bonding that comes from mixing the dough and imagining recipes together is many times worth all the trouble.
  7. “In 2016, I will give yeast water a try.” As great as sourdough is, it’s fun to try new things. So, next summer, grab some raisins or fruit and start a yeast water experiment to create a different kind of naturally fermented bread.
  8. “In 2016, I will get myself some brown paper bags and a stamp to use for bread packaging.” At least here in Finland, this isn’t as easy as it sounds and finding good packaging material for bread requires some work. Good and simple packaging material makes giving (and even selling) bread much easier.
  9. “In 2016, I will bake through one of my bread books.” I did this with my first bread book, Richard Bertinet’s Dough, and I feel the experience taught me a lot. That, and the fact that I like to work through goals with clear numbers (like coming up with these 15 resolutions) made it an enjoyable journey. This year could well be the time to pick another book and start baking through it.
  10. “In 2016, I will organize a popup bakery for one day, baking bread and selling it to people.” This could be a special market like the Christmas Fair Raluca Micu visited last year or some other event, such as Restaurant Day. If you’ve already done this, maybe the next one is for you…
  11. “In 2016, I will take the next step and start my community supported micro bakery.” Whether you deliver your bread by running (like Anna Häggblom, The Running Baker presented in the Winter 2014 issue) or by bike (following the lead of Christopher MacLeod whom we met in the latest issue), come up with an idea, let your friends know and get started. Bake bread for one recurring customer, then two, and grow from there.
  12. “In 2016, I will encourage at least one friend to start baking bread.” I’m not a big fan of evangelization of any kind, but if the topic is brought up and the other person seems genuinely interested, why not give a few pointers and maybe share some sourdough starter with him or her? Inviting the friend to bake with you could be a fun thing to do together as well.
  13. “In 2016, I will participate in a bread making event.” If you live at reasonable distance from some big yearly bread making event such as the Kneading Conference, take the trip to learn new bread making tricks and to meet like-minded people. On a smaller scale, finding a local amateur baker group — or starting one (see our Issue Fifteen for a story about bread clubs) if there aren’t any in your area — would be a great start. And who knows, maybe you could even end up organizing your own bread making conference?
  14. “In 2016, I will get to know my miller and farmer.” Last year, I wrote that this is a New Year’s resolution mostly for professional bakers, but now I’m thinking why not the rest of us as well… It’s a good way to further advance the bread revolution. Try to inspire your miller to create flour using local varieties of wheat and other grain. Invite him to experiment with stone grinding and other “new” techniques such as making sprouted flour. Ask the miller and farmer for input on your bread making: maybe the farmer has ideas on how you could be more sustainable and create products that better match with the year’s harvest?
  15. “In 2016, I will give bread to those in need.” Whether it is through a charity or an organization such as Farmer Foodshare, I’m sure you have something great to give. Why should only the “haves” have the right to good bread?
**

I hope you found one or two resolutions that you’d like to try from the list and make yours in the coming year. But in the end, what matters most is that you keep baking and learning.

That’s why, here’s one New Year’s resolution more:

BONUS: “In 2016, I will have fun with bread making.” Try new things. Enjoy the old things. Take your time. Be present. Smile.

Happy baking! And happy New Year!

5 comments on “15 New Year’s Resolutions for Bread Bakers”

  1. Maree says:

    That’s a great list! I am going to practice, practice, practice better scoring/slashing techniques. Just can’t get a confident handle on it. I particularly like number 9, now which book will I choose? Thanks, will print this off and track it, add a few, take a few off. 🙂

    1. Jarkko says:

      Hey Maree! Thank you for the comment. I’m happy to hear you liked the list.

      I’m also considering doing #9 again this year. I was planning to go with Ken Forkish’s Flour Water Salt Yeast myself. It might be a fun shared project for the entire community, even… 🙂

      Happy baking!

  2. Joseph Sotham says:

    Dear Jarkko,
    What a great list. I finished my bread/pizza oven in September and in Spring I plan to start a community co-operative and do weekend baking with people interested on creating community. I am also working my way through Forkish, which since I got his book, found he is the only direction I need.

    To my surprise my best results are when I have let the dough proof longer than I though was good for it. So now I embrace this and have extended the proofing time by many hours. What great advice! Take head fellow bakers on this point.

    Joe

    ps. The topic I’d like to see you write about is how to adapt an oven recipe to a wood fired oven. I am especially scratching my head about getting moisture into the space during the initial baking.

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