Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Daring Bakers

Ok, finally a slightly long-winded explanation.

A while back Robb and I saw that someone we didn't know had posted a comment on the blog. (BTW, to all our "known" readers- post comments!!! Let us know you are reading, liking?, not liking, etc.) Julius at Occasional Baker left us a message and we were so surprised and curious. At first, it felt like a stranger had peeked into our underwear drawers or something. But, then we realized how cool it was that some guy in Vancouver, BC was checking us out. I don't think either of us had considered that someone outside the several dozen friends and family we told about this project would ever be reading our blog. For those of you (Alexis!) who know how private I can be, you can imagine the consideration that now goes into every sentence I type! I'm not saying it makes it better, just that I think about how public it is.

We checked out Julius' blog and found much nicer pictures and design than ours and have been inspired to improve what we're doing. He continues to comment occasionally and we remember to check out his site periodically to see what he has going on, and this is where I discovered the Daring Baker's logo a few months ago and began to investigate. Not being totally connected with this whole food bloggers world, I found it confusing to figure out what the group is. It seems a bit like a secret society even though the organizer I contacted was adamant that it's not, despite the members only blog, and recipe secrecy that is required...

The group was started by a couple of people who decided to make the same recipe individually and then write about it on their blogs. They started with pretzels and moved to biscotti. As their readers learned about these "challenges" they joined in too, and the group grew. You can see how fun this would be, right? Everyone is using the same recipe. Then, due to interpretation, technique, skill, equipment, ingredients, you name it, there are different results. These differences aren't systematic or necessarily that large, but the experimenter in me is definitely drawn to this type of project.

Eventually the group was named and a blog was was created for members where questions and advice gets posted about the month's recipe and other baking things. For those of you (Mom) new to the world of the "interweb", that's what they call an on-line community. There is a lot of encouragement and advice offered. As with many on-line groups, many people just read what everyone else is writing and never post anything themselves, these folks are known as lurkers. Some of you are lurking right now on this blog.

What you, as nonmembers (that is until you join) get to see is the Daring Bakers blogroll, (also under our favorite links) which is a list of each member's first name and a link to his or her website, and there is a little bit of info on the history of the group and how to join. That's really all there is for an outsider to see, hence my puzzlement during my search for info on the group and what they make, and how it works, etc. I thought all I was finding was some kind of index and that surely there must be more. There is more, but that's the secretive part of this non-secret group.

Each month, all the members- there are hundreds now- make the same recipe and then post pictures and write about it on the same day/days of the month. Last month, the recipe was the yule log, and we all posted about it on either Dec 22 or Dec 23. In order to see all the different yule logs that the hundreds of members made, you would use the Daring Bakers blogroll and click on each person's link and look for the post about the yule log. Some of the members have their blogs organized so that it is easy to find the DB posts, others don't. I also discovered that not everyone actually participates every month. Some members are very seasoned bakers- see Helene at Tartlette for example. She has obviously been at it for a while, and we love her work. Others like Julius are very talented and creative and are beautifully sharing their experience of learning how to do new things - see his expert discussion of meringue this month. Members definitely have a very wide range of ability and styles. There were several panicked posts regarding curdled or otherwise failing butter cream for last month's yule log, and there were tons of replies and helpful advice. The mix of experience, questions and support is really cool. It is the DARING bakers after all, and we expect to be pushed beyond our experience and ability and have some failures and need advice, and hopefully learn how to do lots of new things.

I haven't been to all the members sites, I wonder if I ever will get to them all? There were 93 new members in the month that I joined alone, and it just keeps going. This month's post will hit the news stands on January 28th. It's a secret until then...

How's that for suspense?

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