I've always wanted to make my own bread. I remember being a child and for some reason, thinking you could only make your own bread if you had a bread machine. Eventually, my Mom found one for sale at the thrift store, but it was missing the manual, so we never actually used it. How naive.
I don't know why it never occurred to me that generations of people over the history of domesticated society have been baking their own bread without the use of a bread machine. Duh.
Over the past few months, I've been digging in a little deeper. My first attempt was mediocre at best. I suddenly got the itch to try, so I gathered what I had available in my kitchen at the time - only a bag of all-purpose flour and a conversion chart of gram to cup ratios. I baked a couple of loaves that tasted pretty good, but were too dense and grainy in texture. More attempts were in my future.
In fact, more attempts are still in my future. Despite the fact that I dramatically improved my approach this past time around with the use of a kitchen scale to work in weight measurements instead of volume, a fresh bag of bread flour instead of all-purpose, the addition of some sugar to the yeast mixture, and ample time kneading and kneading until the dough felt soft and pliable, the loaves still aren't quite perfect. They are very good, but not perfect.
I'm taking the low and slow approach to bread baking. True baking is an incredibly precise art - one that I don't always have the patience for. But something about bread feels so essential. It is so stripped down and pure, you can't get by with just okay. It has to be perfect. And I am determined to get it there. I want to keep trying until I have found the magic formula. The right ratios and kneading times and prove times and baking times. I owe it to the generations of non-bread-machine bread bakers throughout history to get this right. I owe it to myself to slow down and allow myself to learn something new, even if it takes many attempts to get there.
This approach is something I have been embracing more as I get older. But beyond just embracing it, owning it and sharing it. I've been pushing myself to do that it many areas of my life beyond my experiments in the kitchen. It is frustrating and messy and at times embarrassing, but the process of letting go and allowing yourself to learn from the experience of trying is a beautiful thing. It's hard to push yourself out of the comfort of doing the things that you are good at, and instead allowing yourself to be vulnerable and naive sometimes. In fact, it's really hard. But sometimes you get a delicious piece of toast for breakfast that you otherwise wouldn't have had if you didn't keep pushing yourself.
I want this to be a reminder for myself to just try. Just start. Give it a go. If it isn't perfect, try again. And again. And again, for as many agains as you need to.
To more bread adventures.