There is a science behind bread-making. This post is not going to explain that science, because I am very much still learning it, but just know that there is a science.
There is an art to bread-making too. Just look at the beautiful artisan bread-maker’s Instagram accounts and you will see absolutely beautiful works of art that you can smear with butter and eat your fill of.
Perhaps it is this wonderfully complex combination of science and art that has enticed me into baking bread. That, and the extra time I have on my hands due to the stay-at-home order in Illinois, and the global pandemic. Also, my mother was a baker of bread. Simple, delicious, braided loaves that I used to tear off pieces of and toast with cold butter so it would melt into the nooks and crannies. There is something healing about bread. And there is something healing about baking it.
But I also have an affinity to bread-making because of this science and art balance that I mentioned above. Because, while so many of my friends and family seem to fall into a definite camp of either left-brain logical or right-brain creative, I am smack dab in the middle with equal parts artistry and order. To my knowledge, I’ve always been this way: borderline neurotically organized, yet wildly creative and artistic in multiple categories.
Bread-making requires both of these skill sets and aptitudes, but it also requires both a love of both the product and the process.
The Bread-making process reminds me of the necessity to be totally present in life, intentional about showing up, and completely committed to doing something outside of my comfort zone. Because, in order to make bread, I have to commit: I have to plan several days in advance. I use what I have to make something and the goal is usually something pretty specific. I mix and get messy, and I time it out as best I can. I take notes, mess with temperatures and flours and hydration percentages; I learn as I go and eat the product of my labor, even when it isn’t perfect.
Like so many things in life, if it’s only a love of the product, or of what the product is suppose to be, or of what the product says about me, then it’s not enough to keep me going. Because I can totally buy bread at the store. No, it’s the process of baking bread that I have ended up falling in love with, and the little things that make that process mine.
This morning, I rose early to catch my sourdough starter at it’s peak. I smile as I see that it’s tripled in size, and smells sweet and tangy with lots of little bubbles grasping at the sides of the glass mason jar. I had pre-measured the leftover whole wheat and All-Purpose flour combination the night before, which was just what I had during this pandemic-induced-flour-shortage. In the quiet, dark morning, while the coffee brews, I decide to use significantly less water this time, as last time my dough was too wet and I over-worked it. I adapt.
It’s only 7:15 am, and already the process is going strong. Springy bubbles ripple at the top of the softly domed dough, and I can tell the gluten is being strengthened with each stretch and fold, which I repeat every hour for at least four more times. It won’t be until tomorrow that I can pop my loaf into the hot oven, and even then, it still may not turn out exactly as planned.
Showing up and working hard and long at something like bread, knowing that the end product might be exactly what I’m hoping it’s not, well that’s humbling. It’s also life. And it’s also beautiful.
I’m finding that sometimes God leads me into other areas of life that way. He draws me into a process that entices me, but where I’m not exactly certain of what I’m doing. There are moments I feel totally in over my head. I’m learning on the job, and I’m excited but also nervous about the end result. It’s messy, and while it can be a forgiving and flexible process, I have to pay close attention; I have to take each step at the right time. Too early and it won’t work, too late and it’s a wash. I have to show up, plan accordingly, but also be ready at a moment’s notice to move and change and adapt to what’s next.
This is what life is like with God.
This is what I’m learning through bread-making.
I suppose I could be learning these lessons through so many other things, because truly, The Lord places metaphors for Life with Him in everything, if I’m looking.
But right now, I’m learning it through baking bread.
I’m learning to show up, to properly prepare, to take the next right step, to be slow, and to move at the right time, and to let go of expectations and trust the process with Him by my side.
This. This is my bread and butter.
And He is the Bread of Life.