Baking Is Dreaming

Freestyle Sourdough & other possibilities

Dear bread friends,

I love mornings, and especially weekend mornings, because the days seem open and hopeful, released from routines.

Saturday and Sunday mornings reminded me of when we were on vacation. The warm morning air and light fog felt like the week we were at the Cape, and even though the house is pretty empty, I was excited, as if my friends and family were sleeping nearby. The sense of possibility is with me, like a guest whose arrival I’m awaiting.  

I guess that’s why I like baking so much, because you put possibilities in a bowl and see where they will go. This weekend I made a batch of Ellie’s freestyle loaf, summoning the process from memory to get our daily bread, and as practice in advance of our Freestyle Sourdough class on Wednesday. (If the $15 price of the Zoom lesson is a barrier, please tell me. I’m happy to bring along all who are interested in exploring!)

“Understand the process, and you don’t have to follow a recipe,” Stanley Ginsberg said in a class at The Kneading Conference in 2017 – I just found the brochure, and my notes scrawled across it. (If you don’t know his book, The Rye Baker, please check it out. The introductory narrative on the history of rye is excellent, and covers the overall history of bread grains nicely, too.)

I also made apple chutney and sweet pickles. A friend – a literal guest, not just the ones I hope for as I wake up – sat at my table and filled bowls with promises, slicing cucumbers and apples. These foods became more as she handled them; the slices accumulated in beautiful bounty, slice after slice creeping to the top of the bowls, tickets to winter eats.

Mornings, baking, canning – these are invitations to the potential of something wonderful happening. A promise that the ordinary can be satisfying.

That’s what I love about bakeries, too, how they fill their bowls with ingredients and hope, applying knowledge and practice to foods that will rise, and that will leaven us with their beauty. I’m enchanted by this power, and have been for some time.

An index card reading Romance vs Commerce, home vs industry, community vs individual — these were all elements I tried to weave through my first book.

In addition to that KC brochure, I found papers from when I was trying to figure out how to write my book. (Receiving my dad’s papers this year, I began sorting my own to try to make room for both of ours.) I kept a few mementos, like these index cards, and recycled the rest. One sheet I saved has three threads I planned to cover in the book, which had a working title of Bread Rising. The second and third threads are the same as what I consider now:

·       history of food, agriculture, transportation & food processing

·       grain people & their projects: show their care as they reanimate the process of flour & baking

Another guiding index card states: Look @ something people did not think was worth a glance. I was talking about flour, and this is still my interest & compass.

Seeing these patterns as constants, I am thinking about how to visit these themes more intentionally, and in this newsletter format. What if I focused this newsletter on bread & baking histories, and bread and baking possibilities?  Would you like to read about these things, or perhaps listen to interviews with people who are using bread and grains for social enterprises? Also, would you pay for this?

I’m inspired by Mo Cheeks, whose home baking project, Bread and Justice, raises funds for different projects each month. Following his lead, I’d like to raise money for and awareness of projects like Mavia Bakery in Beirut, and Hot Bread Kitchen in New York City. Words don’t sell like loaves of bread -- partially because writing is a crime that often does not pay -- so I’m not sure I can create a parallel structure. Feedback from you will help me figure out what could work. Please drop a comment below or send me an email to let me know what you think.

Your flour friend,