Thursday, September 10, 2015

Giving Myself Flours

I made my first test batch of bread yesterday.  Agonizing over the state of the levin, pretty much all summer, has contributed significantly to the state of my overall mental health. Like me, the levin fairs better when it is constantly working. This long period of inaction with intermittent spurts of activity left us both thin and listless.  It is almost time to bake bread, and so the levin and I have to get back into shape.

I read tons of stuff on the internet during the hiatus, and a couple of actual paper books, about baking bread.  52 Loaves had an impact on me. I liked the way he brought bread and religion together. I looked at the origin of American bread craft, through the lens of history.  I read a lot of bloggers and wondered at our different approaches toward the bread making process. I don't always do it like they do, and I wondered if maybe after all this time I'm not even a real baker.

Turns out it doesn't matter what I call myself, I am first and foremost a girl who loves to make bread. When I made that test batch of dough, when I pulled it with my hands and shaped it into loaves, I was visited by a peculiar feeling of joy that I had been missing.  When Danny so enthusiastically joined in, that was the icing on the cake.  In the act of making the bread, we radiated a joy that filled the room.

I laughed out loud, so delighted by the springy material under my palms.  It was the kiss of a beloved, reunited after a long separation.  Oh, THAT'S what all this has been about. I thought.  This tactile pleasure, this intimate relationship with microscopic organisms, this love of process.  I didn't feel like a real baker all summer because I wasn't baking.  But that shit is definitely changing, cause we're opening up in a week, and I'm the one who makes the bread.  This is my area of knowledge and skill, NOT deciding on accounting strategies or programming point of sale systems.  Which are the kind of things I did this summer with the boys. I helped build a business, in lieu of mixing the dough.  They were terrifying acts of courage on my part, (for christ's sake I have to talk on the phone to strangers!!!) and I'm proud of myself for how it is all turning out.

Terrified, and also excited, I am going to bake the test loaves today.  Did my changes to the levain change the composition of the starter so much that our sourdough won't taste like our sourdough anymore? Is there any possibility it might be even better than before?

Here is a scene featuring one of my favorite fictional bakers.  My life sometimes feels Stranger Than Fiction.

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