I finally got a bread machine after years of wanting to get one. As much as I'd like to do everything by hand, time is a big barrier for me, so I'm starting with a machine for now.
I've gotten my feet wet with a few recipes that came with the machine, and now I'm ready to start branching out. I'm kind of at the point like a kit brewer who is ready to start making a few tweaks to some proven recipes as a step to eventually designing my own recipes.
I know there are several bread makers here. Any good references, forums, recipe sites you use for reliable information and recipes?
Well, it's been over 2 months since you started this thread so I assume you've probably progressed in your bread-making adventures a fair amount. How are things shaping up for you?
I do mostly naturally leavened bread with a starter I generated a bit over a year ago. I have to maintain (i.e. feed) it about six times a year, but other than that it's pretty easy to maintain in the fridge and build-up as needed. After delving through various sites many years ago, the three sites that probably helped me the most were two blogs and a forum. The two blogs were Wild Yeast Blog by Susan Tenney and the other was Breadcetera by Steve B. (both are basically defunct, but still hosted). The forum was at A Fresh Loaf, and is still fairly active (the rest of AFL is also helpful to some extent).
Time (and timing) is a consideration that has to be taken into account for bread making by hand, for sure; BUT, it's also extremely flexible to how you wish to work (just like homebrewing is). I find that most tasks I do in bread making take only 5-10 minutes to accomplish, and they are spread out over a couple hours to days depending on my end goal. The baking part is the most time consuming since I use an oven and need to be present at all times during the bake, but that usually only accounts for about 1-2 hours (and not a lot of actual work on my part takes place).
It's a fun hobby that is very in-line with beer making, and both helps to fill in the dead spots as well as give another form of creative outlet that I quite enjoy. I'll gladly provide any more info on my take on bread making if interested.
I actually have a fruit/nut/chocolate batch that I'll be baking later today. I'll try to take some photos of the process to share.