Bakealong stories: Meet the bakers who made our first year a success

bakealong-logo

As a working parent with a toddler, Elyse Smith rarely finds a moment for herself. But each month, she carves out a little time to relax and bake. During these free evenings or quiet weekends, Elyse pulls up the latest Bakealong challenge and bakes just for the fun of it.

“I really look forward to the Bakealong every month,” says Elyse, who lives in Akron, Ohio. “It is the one thing a month I do that is just for me and the sense of community means a lot!”

Since we introduced Bakealong with our Pane Bianco recipe one year ago, thousands of bakers have joined us each month as we preheat our ovens and prepare a dish worthy of sharing – both online and with loved ones.

If you’re new to Bakealong, here’s how it works: Every month, King Arthur shines a spotlight on one of our favorite recipes and invites everyone to try it out. We walk through the recipe step by step to ensure that even beginners bake something to be proud of. Once your masterpiece emerges from the oven, we want to hear how it went. Share your triumph online with #bakealong, and browse the hashtag to see how your fellow bakers fared as well.

Bakealong Babka via @kingarthurflour

Photo by Shari Cullen Nilsson

As we spoke with bakers across the country, it became clear that Bakealong means different things to each member of the King Arthur community.

For Danita Day in Seattle, Bakealong is a promise to herself. She made a New Year’s resolution to take on each month’s Bakealong recipe. Danita says she’s usually not one to make resolutions, but “I wanted to challenge myself to be more consistent so I thought a resolution might be a good motivation.”

For Shari Cullen Nilsson in Oregon, Bakealong means developing the confidence to take on yeast recipes. She loves baking cakes and madeleines, but she approached April’s Bakealong with some skepticism. “I had never tried babka and I’ve had mixed success with breads in the past (usually not much success),” she says. “I thought the recipe was easy to follow and it turned out great!”

We heard so many touching stories over the past year that we wanted to share several with the rest of the community.

Pizza Party Buns via @kingarthurflour

Photo by Kirsten Larsen

The 6-year-old baker

King Arthur designs every Bakealong project to be beginner-friendly, but we’ll admit that we create them for adults, not for kindergartners. Good thing no one told Kirsten Larsen that. She says the monthly recipes have been the perfect lesson plan for her 6-year-old son.

The budding baker has already tackled Bakealong recipes such as Butterflake Herb Loaf and Pizza Party Buns (his personal favorite).

“I like baking with him because it’s a great opportunity to sneak in so many skills that help with school,” she says. As they work through new Bakealong challenges, he reads the recipes to her, gets early exposure to fractions, and learns about the importance of accurate measurements. “He’s applied those lessons in other areas,” she says. “I have noticed he’s very careful with measurements in math and in helping his Dad in his workshop.”

While making the Pizza Party Buns, he noticed that the recipe calls for King Arthur Unbleached Bread Flour. Wait, unbleached? “He knows that we use bleach to clean clothing and sanitize our work surfaces,” says Kirsten, “and was struggling to understand how bleaching could happen to flour too.” (We’re with you, kid.)

“I really feel that baking is such a unique and easy way to encompass so many skills,” she adds. “My kitchen may be a mess when we are done, but it’s always worth it!”

Photo by David Posey

Sharing the Bakealong love

Right around the time that King Arthur kicked off Bakealong, David Posey decided to get into baking. He’d spent two years working toward his desired body weight – from 342 pounds down to 165. If he was going to keep that weight off, he needed more control over what he ate.

“Baking became a natural extension of that,” says David. What better way to know exactly what’s in your food? Unfortunately, few King Arthur recipes are meant to be eaten by just one person – especially not Bakealong candidates. So David needed outlets to share his baking successes.

David, a hospital chaplain in Tennessee, remembers bringing his Chocolate Babka into work.

“I work overnight so even though I work in an office with about 20 other people, I only see about five of them on a regular basis,” he says. “I took the babka in for a meeting we had and then left it with a note for my other co-workers. I had a couple of people I don’t normally see hunt me down and thank me days later.”

Getting kudos from co-workers has been nice, but baking has created more important connections, too. It’s brought David closer to his family.

“One of the first things I remember calling my mom about when I left home and had a place to cook on my own was her biscuit recipe,” he says. “When I started baking in earnest about a year ago, I baked a soda bread loaf, and then decided to jump right into sourdough. My grandfather kept a starter going for most of my childhood. I didn’t get to see him that often, but his bread is one thing I remember fondly about him.”

Berry Blitz Torte photo courtesy of Elyse Smith

Your friend in the kitchen

Giselle Gonzalez has tried plenty of baguette recipes before. “The results were doorstops,” she jokes.

But June’s Bakealong challenge finally delivered “an ideal baguette.” King Arthur’s well-tested recipe helped, but Giselle says the clear, step-by-step guides really seal the deal. That June Bakealong marked King Arthur’s first Facebook Live broadcast, in which an instructor from King Arthur’s Baking School in Vermont demonstrated the exact techniques needed to shape and slash baguettes. “It was great,” she says. “I think it takes the intimidation away from baking.”

Elyse, our working parent from Ohio, says King Arthur’s team of on-call baking experts helped her fit Classic Baguettes into her busy schedule.

“You’re supposed to let [the baguette starter] rest overnight and then bake in the morning, which is tough with how my schedule, my husband’s schedule, and my son’s schedule work out,” she says. “So, I was just going to have to skip that month, which was disappointing. I decided to just send a message to KAF to see if maybe they could help work through the problem so I didn’t miss out, and didn’t necessarily expect to get a response for such a specific problem. But, within no time a KAF expert had gotten back to me, suggested what to do instead, and worked through it with me so I could still participate. That kind of support for a hobby makes all of the difference because it does make you feel more connected to the process.”

Celebrate the first anniversary of Bakealong with our latest recipe: Golden Focaccia. Or try out any of our previous challenges. Plus, share your own Bakealong stories in the comments below.

Bakers nationwide have confidently taken the #bakealong challenge. How about you? Click To Tweet
Chris McLeod
About

Chris McLeod is a recovering journalist who caught the baking bug after moving from Boston to Vermont. He loves kayaking, woodworking, and soldering electronics. His favorite King Arthur Flour recipe is Lemon Bliss Cake – but don’t tell the hardcore bread bakers that!

comments

  1. Diane

    Loved the little 6 year old, just saw the last British Baking show with the season winner, one of the last three left standing was a young man, who same thing as our six year old started baking with his gran, he now is an engineer and so so very,very,precise. So keep at it young man you never know where it may lead along with it being just plain fun.

    Reply
  2. Linda

    I would like to thank whoever is responsible for the great gluten free recipes! It is way too time consuming and sometimes complicated to take a recipe and change it to gluten free. I really appreciate all of you who do it for me! Hooray! I can eat really good bread again!

    Reply
    1. Chris McLeod , post author

      Great point, Linda. Finding gluten-free alternatives is a real team effort. We rely on the expertise of our R&D team, the hard work of our test bakers, and the candid feedback of other King Arthur employee-owners. If you want a peek behind the curtain, we wrote an article about our GF process as part of the new Our Story section. Check it out.

  3. Lucy

    Great story. I’ve only done one bakealong so far (berry blitz torte!), but this makes me want to do them more often. Looking forward to reading more of your posts, Chris. 🙂

    Reply
    1. Chris McLeod , post author

      Thanks, Lucy. It’s great to be a part of the King Arthur team. If you try another Bakealong recipe, let us know how it goes!

  4. Margy

    My co-workers have become spoiled. I do my baking on Monday, since the first day of my work week is Tuesday. When I walk into the office, first thing everyone asks is “What did you make today?”. A lot of very disappointed faces if I show up empty-handed (i.e., when the temperature is in the 90’s, and just too hot to turn on the oven!). I’ll have to come up with some icebox recipes!

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      If you’re looking for some inspiration, Margy, we’ve got you covered. You can find a collection of icebox recipes here and a few other no-bake recipes to check out here. Mollie@KAF

Post a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *