When bread sings

I meditate by baking bread.

I learned to bake because my husband and I love a good loaf of rye.  The local European  bakeries were doing a fantastic job until about 12 years ago, when they started to retire or change ownership.  It just wasn’t the same anymore.

My first bread was a sourdough loaf, using a Canadian Living recipe.  Sourdoughs are supposed to be an advanced bread because of all the steps involved in creating the initial sourdough culture.  But Canadian Living recipes had never failed me before.  They are “Test Till Perfect”, as they say.  And besides, the one in the magazine came with step-by-step pictures.  How wonderful.

Those first loaves were flat and dense.  I must have underbaked them or added too much flour as I kneaded.  It didn’t matter.  The kneading was relaxing.  Waiting for the bread to rise was an exercise in patience.  I learned that yeast would make the bread rise in its own sweet time.  No sense trying to hurry those little yeasties along!  I did manage to keep my sourdough culture alive (you have to feed it every week or so) for six years.  Eventually, the culture got neglected in the back of the fridge and I decided that it was just best to “let it go” rather than risk food poisoning.

Artisanal bread baking at home has risen in popularity lately.  These days, the big box bookstores even have a whole shelf in the cooking section that is devoted to bread-making.  I love it!  My eyes twinkle when I see a new book has come out.  Some of my current favourite books include Dough, My Bread and Artisan Bread in Five Minutes.

I have experimented with bread machines, hand-shaping loaves (boules, sandwich loaf, baguette),  flours (bread, organic, wheat, rye, cornmeal, barley) and flavourings (honey, lavender, walnuts, olive oil).  The loaves coming out of my oven are looking pretty good theses days.  Being creative is wonderful, especially if you can eat the results!

When the bread is done, it needs to be set on a rack.  The crust crackles as it cools.  The professional bread bakers say that their finished loaves are “singing”.  Imagine a room full of crusty boules, waiting in rows, cooling and crackling.  The sound of bread singing is deeply satisfying.

I forget myself in the making of bread and I realize now that it is meditation for me.  I am in the moment such that nothing else exists.