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.
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.
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.
"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!"
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."
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."
"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."
Interested in more? See our complete collection of Bakealong recipes.