Meli: Proud of being a “self-taught” and mastering bread…

This week, we’re fascinated by someone who has a lot to say and teach about Baking. She definitively got a “Baking-attitude“. As she shares her thoughts and stories: how she got into baking, which recipe made her passionate about Bread-Baking, and how she approached the drama of being belittled by being “self-taught”…you’ll want to know more. Meet Meli from Ingrained Kitchen

A&B: when did you start to bake? What or who inspired you? 

I started baking alongside my mom when I was little. My Dad at times would travel far for work, so we’d spend a lot of time together. Baking quickly turned into our favorite shared pastime. My mom and I often craved cookies, so we’d make them regularly. We used the recipes from oatmeal boxes and chocolate chip bags. 

Through the long days we’d spend together in the kitchen she taught me the important basics of flavor, cooking, and of course baking. I thought of her as the one with, “the magic touch”. Everything she made was always delicious. I aspired to be like her, so my curiosity for baking mastery expanded. 

I’d look through baking magazines and bookmark recipes I wanted to try in the future. I’d watch food tv shows with a notebook and pen in hand. I was enthralled. Instead of baking alongside my mother, I began to bake solo for my family. The goal was always to impress them and outdo my previous bake. I felt like a magician in the kitchen, tinkering ingredients to conjure a delicious dessert. 

A&B: what or who inspired/pushed you to start a baking blog?

Baking at first was mainly a hobby, but it quickly became a passion as I taught myself more. I acquired experience from recipe books, online tutorials, and working for local bakeries. I wanted to document my learning progress so I could have a timeline to look back at. My friends and family became interested in my online presence as I shared recipes and stylized photos. They started to share my account with their friends and my following began to grow. As that happened, I began to shift my blog from a simple diary to a place for baking inspiration and recipes. 

A&B: Are you Vegan? Where your interest for Vegan Recipes started…?

I’m not Vegan. Many of my friends and family members have food allergies so I didn’t want them to feel left out! I think it’s important to have something available for everybody. One of the worst feelings is being left out, especially on a slice of cake! 

A&B: How did you get into Bread-Baking? Anything absolutely important to know before start baking Bread…

I remember the exact day that I started to branch into bread baking. It was the day before Dia de Muertos. My Dad told me about a type of pan dulce called, “Pan de Muerto”. It’s a soft brioche bread flavored with orange zest and coated in cane sugar. It is a quintessential part of Dia de Muertos’ celebration.

I had no previous experience with bread so I reviewed online tutorials on how to make Pan de Muerto. I didn’t have the proper equipment but I continued anyway. I wiped my dinner table clean and used my hands to mix and knead the dough. I underestimated how difficult it would be. It took me a total of 30 minutes to knead the dough by hand. I allowed the dough to rest and gave myself ample time to rest. I thought about my heritage and the generations before me that made this bread to celebrate Dia de Muertos. I knew that I had to keep practicing bread-making because I loved the way it made me feel. For me, bread started to build the bridge between food and spirit.

When my Pan de Muerto came out of the oven, I served it with pride to my family. It was savored till the last crumb. After that I couldn’t stop, I needed to learn more, so I taught myself what I could find online.

The most important thing to know about bread-making before starting is to expect it to be a time-consuming process— because it is. Patience is an important element in making bread. In my experience, the main thing that can ruin your bread is your ability to wait. By “waiting”, I mean allowing the bread to rest for the appropriate amount of time stated in the recipe. The handful of times I’ve tried to rush bread-making did not end well. For example, once I didn’t let my sourdough rest for the full time it needed, which caused it to lack tang and air. 

Bread also requires a very attentive baker. As you learn to bake bread take note of the way it looks or feels through the stages of preparation. These signals will be your best friend. The way bread behaves can change a lot through different weather, so your intuition and senses will be your guide throughout bread baking.

A&B: What’s been your biggest challenge as a baker? How do you approach it in daily life?

Sometimes people will discredit you for being self-taught. This was something that often bothered me. When I worked at bakeries I was often belittled when I shared that I was self-taught. I completed my pastry schedule for the day and did well, but it didn’t matter to some because I was new to the industry and I didn’t have professional schooling.

With time I learned that those opinions don’t matter. What’s spoken inside the walls of a commercial kitchen did not transcend into the walls of my kitchen, where I continued to learn and bake often.

I’ve learned to take pride in being self-taught and to see it as something positive. Through teaching yourself you have the control to learn exactly what you want to. You have creative reign! You can invest your time into improving yourself and your recipes. It’s been a challenge to shake off the stigma but I’m happy to say that I’ve now reclaimed the title, of being self-taught and I’m proud of it.

A&B: Sweet or Savory Recipes? And Why?

I have a sweet tooth! I prefer sweet recipes, not only because of flavor—I also enjoy the context surrounding sweets! Cakes are the vehicles for sweet birthday wishes.

Chocolates are a way of saying: I love you! Sweets are well-known chariots of celebration. You may have a satisfying meal— but if not serving dessert, your experience feels incomplete.

For us, Meli is another hell of a tremendous Baker! By her talent, dedication, and the quality of her recipes, one can tell how much she cares about accuracy… Find her in the links below, you won’t regret visiting the blog again and again for great Recipes!

Find Meli and her creations here and her Instagram here

*This Friday she’ll share a recipe with us…a Bread one. Come back and find it under Recipes

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