With my time being unemployed, I have had time to explore things that interest me, even things I never knew I was interested in. Before my employment ended, I spoke with my girlfriend’s sister who began making bread every Sunday as a cost-cutting measure. The logic of it all jumped out and slapped me in the face. Bread is simply flour, water, microbes and time, give or take a few extra ingredients (all my Jewish readers, if you like egg in your bread, challaaaaaah).
At any rate, I figured I’d start making my own bread. What first began as naan I made to go with the Indian Lentil and Chickpea soup slowly began to evolve, as I became enraptured in the mysteries of making bread. From three simple ingredients, one can go in so many different directions. Flour, water and yeast, and you have Wonderbread. Adjust the recipe/proportions just a little bit, and you have a ciabatta bread. Add some flour to your yeast as it proofs, and be amazed at the new complexity of microbes that will take your bread in yet a different direction.
One of the author’s early attempts
Amazingly enough, if you simply mix flour and water together and let it sit, microbes in the air will combine with microbes already on the surface of the granules of flour… and you will have a foamy concoction that will make your bread delightfully sour. Indeed, from what seems like useless white powder, and water, one can make the very thing Jesus claimed he had turned his body into (if you’re Catholic). Transubstantiation in multiple forms… he who bakes is able to perform an alchemical act of sorts.
I am now addicted to the biological manipulations that are making bread… sufficiently making sure the proteins are aligned in the bread such that the dough will have proper structure… manipulating which microbes are in action… even manipulating the temperature and pace with which they act. Though modern technology lets me know what exactly I am doing, which chemical processes are happening, I am still part of something that has been happening since thousands of years ago someone accidentally let their grain get wet. Simultaneously, by making bread, I am exploring my own future and past at the same time.