Bread. Sacred, broken, nurturing for body and soul. Bread is universal. It transcends, elevates, unites, and kneads us together as people. Bread is part of our sacred ceremony and ritual, it is also a part of daily life. It supports us, we show love by sharing bread, breaking and partaking together. Bread heals us. Bread sustains us. It is for this reason that one should not go out into the world without knowing what they can about good bread.
Warmth radiates gently from the oven as we gather in the kitchen together, this oldest one and I. He prepared with pen and journal, ready to take note on what he finds remarkable in the process, and I with a heart ready to share. We measure, mix, chat, and chart together, kneading our morning together with so much more than flour, yeast, water, salt. The alchemical magic that is bread.
Healing happens in the intimacy, and safety of the small, warm kitchen. Nurturing happens in the process that is bread. It is simple ingredients, blessed with love, prayer, and sharing that elevates the deceptively humble loaf into a deeply nourishing soul food.
We laugh, encourage, and support each other’s process as we slowly move in the direction of bringing ingredients to fruition of a beautiful loaf. This boy loves bagels, so we decide to dedicate a part of our dough to the bagel making process. In this way, this guy can nourish himself and others with loving loaves, and share his favorite breakfast food with friends he will find along his way. Bread is simple food made for sharing.
The wisdom of bread tells us to continue to grow and expand, to share of ourselves, to nurture, and to count the daily rhythms sacred. This is what bread teaches. This is what I hope to pass on to my boys as they grow into men and we share the process that is bread.
Do not be afraid of change. It can, and almost always is, full of opportunities for miracles. Always grow and learn. Stretch beyond your limits, your comfort zone, for we don’t always know what great things we are capable of until we are stretched. Be malleable, shapeable, allow for movement, expansion and growth in your life.
Share what you have. Share who you are, the you at your core, your divine self, your bright light, share it always, it is why we are here. Nurture yourself. Love yourself deeply so that you can love and nurture others. Let love flow through you so that you have the courage to give it away.
Every day is sacred. A gift of beauty in the everyday ordinary, even in the hard, the dark, the quiet, there is a miracle waiting, all you need do is open your heart and receive.
So in the radiating warmth of the oven with dough’s sharp tang tingling within our nostrils, and winter’s sun shining through brightly illuminating the kitchen’s countertop, we, my oldest and I, share our process, our love, and the humble prayer that we will each continually be sustained, nurtured, and blessed by this mixing, shaping, and sharing the process we call bread.
Artisan Bread Master Recipe
adapted from Artisan Bread In Five, by Jeff Hertzberg, MD, and Zoe Francois
3 cups lukewarm water
2-3 Tablespoons kefir, buttermilk, or apple cider vinegar with the mother
1 1/2 Tablespoons Yeast
1 1/2 Tablespoons Salt
6 cups whole wheat pastry flour, or golden white flour
In a 6qt or larger lidded bucket or bowl, mix ingredients together in the order in which they are listed. Mix well with a sturdy wooden spoon until a shaggy dough comes together, not too wet, but without any dry spots of flour.
Place lid on bucket or bowl, allow to sit in a warm spot, at room temp for 12-24 hours, dependent upon how well developed, or how much sourdough flavor, you like in your fermented dough. I usually do 12 hours or overnight.
After this rise/ferment time, place your bucket or bowl of dough into the refrigerator to chill. Note that the dough will continue to ferment in the fridge, but at a much slower rate. I usually chill my dough for 12-24 hours.
Preheat oven, baking stone, placed on rack in the center of the oven, and a small steam pan to 450 degrees. Allow stone to preheat for 20-30 minutes for best results.
Remove chilled dough from fridge, and proceed to shape into loaves. Dust the top of dough in the bucket with a layer of flour to help keep it from sticking to your hands. Next, scoop a large grapefruit sized piece of dough out of bucket, cut or pinch off.
Place floured side of the piece of dough into the palm of your hand so it won’t stick, and begin to shape loaf by pulling up the edges into the middle, rotating a quarter turn each time. Pinch together to seal.
Place loaf seam side down on a flour dusted towel, piece of parchment, cookie sheet, or directly on the counter. Let rest and rise 40-60 min. depending upon the temperature of your kitchen and your dough. When ready your loaf should be slightly poofed, not doubled in size.
Gently brush loaves with tepid water to help achieve a chewy, delicious crust texture. Sprinkle with seeds if desired. Slash loaves with razor blade or very sharp knife to allow steam to escape while baking, cutting in about a quarter of an inch deep.
With a large floured peel or spatula, carefully scoop loaves from their resting place, putting them confidently on the preheated baking stone, leaving room around the loaves to rise as they bake.
Bake 25-30 min. until deeply golden, and sound hollow when tapped lightly with fingers or spatula. Do not under bake.
Remove from oven, place on cooling rack, allow to cool as long as you can before indulging. Slice, serve, and enjoy fully.
*A few notes:
This is my adaptation on the Artisan Bread in Five master recipe and technique. I have been baking this type of bread for nearly 10 years, since the first book was published. You will notice that I have added culture to the dough and a longer fermentation time to help the dough ferment more fully to achieve a more digestible loaf, and neutralize phytic acid content, according to traditional baking methods. I love this method and this bread, and I highly recommend The Artisan Bread in Five if you would like to explore, and learn more about baking artisan bread.