“I bought a loaf of bread because I didn’t think your bread would be done in time,” Mike said last Tuesday night. It was the first time we’d had this conversation.
It’s not that we never talked about bread. We probably talk about bread more than the average bear couple. This convo has never happened because I’ve never attempted to make bread on a weeknight.
Bread, it turns out, can be made on a Tuesday night, or any weeknight for that matter, but it wasn’t until I starter baking with my sourdough starter did this click.
Sourdough bread is not necessarily more work. Once you get your starter up and bubbling it’s similar to conventional bread except it has a much longer rise time. For my sourdough loaves I start mixing the dough the night before I want to bake. It can involve careful planning and rejiggering of the social life on weekends. For a month straight I made sourdough every weekend. I got into a rhythm and expected to wait a whole day to eat the bread I was mixing up. So when the hankering for sandwiches presented itself on a Tuesday I realized how possible it was to make a loaf of bread in time for a late dinner: Home by five, mix by 5:15, rise by 6:15, second rise by 7:00, cooked by 7:40, ready to eat by 8. This realization would have, hopefully, come to me even if I hadn’t made a month of sourdough loaves (I mean the name of this loaf is Everyday Oatmeal Bread). But it was the ease in which I realized it was possible. It was if I had been blowing up twelve balloons each weekend and now I only had to blow up one.
It’s so easy to say just change your expectations – I’ll spare you in preaching that. But I can’t help but think that changing expectations happens in the doing. In the hours where you wait just a bit longer, or you work just a bit harder, or you share just a little bit more.
Five years ago the word bread conjured up a wish to someday make my own bread – combined with ambient feelings of incompetency – and hunger. Three months ago it conjured up feelings of competency and hunger. Now it conjures up a normal weeknight activity and hunger. Each loaf of bread has stretched and imbued the word bread with meaning and nuance – altering my relationship with it and the expectations I assign to it. I oftentimes wonder what other words or phrases can I stretch and examine?
It’s really crazy to think about, isn’t it? That we are all walking around with different clouds of meaning around words and that those meanings morph and change with new experiences. It’s also really beautiful. We are all just one experience away from understanding ourselves and each other just a little bit more.
Everyday Oatmeal Bread, from Simply in Season (an absolute favorite cookbook)
1 1/2 cup boiling water
1 cup rolled oats
3/4 cup molasses
3 Tbs butter
2 tsp salt
2 cups water, lukewarm
1 Tbs active dry yeast
6 cups bread flour
2 cups whole wheat bread flour
- Combine the boiling water and oats, and let stand for 30 minutes.
- Stir the molasses, butter, and salt into oatmeal.
- Mix the water and yeast in a large bowl until the yeast is dissolved, then add the oatmeal mixture.
- Work the flours in to make a medium-soft dough. Add more flour as needed. Turn onto floured surface and knead 8-10 minutes until smooth. Place in greased bowl and turn to grease both sides. Cover with damp cloth and let rise until doubled, about 1 hour. Punch down. Divide into 2 loaves. Place in greased 9×5 loaf pans. Cover and let rise in warm place until double, about 45 minutes. Bake in preheated oven at 400F for 5 minutes, then lower heat to 350F and bake until loaves sound hollow when tapped, 35-40 minutes.
Yield: 2 loaves
*Speaking of expectations, have you guys listened to Invisibilia’s episode on expectations? It’s so worth the time.