A Bakers & Best Year In Review: 2015
I love combing through all the end of the year lists and reviews that come out in December and for the third straight year I’m polluting the internet with my own (see here for the 2013 and 2014 editions)! 2015 was a banner year for Bakers & Best with 109 published posts, a redesign of the site, a 33% increase in traffic, and visitors from 126 different countries. Thanks to all the returning readers and the new ones who joined from Azerbaijan, Ethiopia, Liechtenstein, Nepal, Tajikistan, and more!
Fresh on the heels of the hiring of Jim Harbaugh I got right down to business in the new year by making a cinnamon raisin swirl bread. I’m currently on holiday season sugar overload but at the time this was a great loaf to have around. Later in the month I baked up some amazing garlic knots after spending most of the day watching old episodes of Lost. Photoshop Phriday profile Bennie Oosterbaan, the start of a greater focus this year on Michigan football in the first half of the 20th century.
Life descended into chaos in February with my wife away in D.C. for an internship. A brave friend and I went overboard on the Harbaugh Breakfast Challenge by sampling 36 (mostly wretched) combinations of cereal and Gatorade. My body has still not fully recovered. Desperate to remove the experience from my mind I made banh mi sandwiches. From the bread to the spicy mayo, grilled chicken, and pickled veggies, these were one of my absolute favorite things I made this year. Just writing this makes me wish I had one in front of me. To cap off the month I made French onion soup and got not just a delicious meal out of the experience but also one of my favorite photos of the year.
March saw the beginning of experiments with spent grain when I made two different sourdough loaves with both wet and dry grains. I’ve since added rolls to my spent grain portfolio which were a big hit both times I’ve made them. With my wife back from D.C we had a belated Valentine’s Day celebration thanks to these dulce de leche, chocolate, and strawberry eclairs. Winter was on its last legs and I kept warm with a gigantic pot of homemade beef pho.
In April I worked behind the scenes to develop the new site. Those updates, which went live in May, included a total redesign of the post format, sidebars for top posts and pages, and a new logo. I celebrated by making two of my absolute favorites loaves of the year, gruyere stuffed loaves for #BreadBakers and cinnamon sugar pull-apart bread.
My bread production slowed in June and July when travel for weddings and getting ready to move consumed most of my weekends. I did manage to churn out an amazing loaf of semolina, cornmeal, and quinoa sourdough which was quickly gobbled up. Max Scherzer came devastatingly close to a perfect game (curse you Jose Tabata) and my profile of former U-M captain Fred Norcross brought Photoshop Phriday all the way back to the point-a-minute teams led by Fielding Yost.
I took great care in August to move my signed Zoltan Mesko jersey, and the rest of our possessions, to our new apartment. Once settled in I was craving a hearty meal, something like chili and cornbread. I tried a new chili cornbread skillet recipe (why make two dirty dishes when you can use just one?!) which ended up being the top viewed post of 2015 (take that minion cake!).
As the Michigan defense bulldozed competition in October I finally got around to making waffle iron hash browns and overnight I developed a craving to have every meal prepared in a waffle iron. The brioche muffins I made one Sunday morning turned out to provide one of the best pictures of the year. After successfully canning applesauce and slices I also made a tasty applesauce bran bread.
Things started to slow down in our kitchen in November which gave me an opportunity to revisit some of my favorite and most basic loaves. I was able to return to my lazy Sunday sandwich loaf with the benefit of 3 more years of experience since I first made it. A maple oatmeal loaf turned out to be the perfect bread for fall. Winding down the year I published my holiday bread guide and now this mammoth of a post (gold star if you’ve made it this far!).
In 2016 I want to do a better job of using some of the many bread books that sit on our cookbook shelf. There are a few (like Peter Reinhart’s Bread Baker’s Apprentice) that I have used very often but others that sit neglected and waiting to be dusted off. I’m also beginning to better utilize more tools in Photoshop and would like to learn After Effects so that I can better edit gifs and videos. For the site itself, the recipes index and breads/meals sections need a major overhaul. I didn’t have time to get to that last summer when doing the site redesign but would like to implement a better system for browsing on the site. Thanks again for following along, see you next year!