Bread is easy.
Don’t believe the millions of articles, videos, books and recipes. If bread was hard to make, only a handful of people would do it, and it would have come in recent history. No, bread was already a thing in Ancient Egypt and there’s good evidence to suggest it’s at least 10,000 years old.
I’m not saying it’s trivial to make, but if neolithic peoples could make bread, it sure can be done today with modern technology with far less worries than humans living in Mesopotamia.
Bread is easy. Making the perfect loaf of bread might need years of experience, getting intimate with your ingredients, your temperatures and your equipment. Keeping your sourdough starter alive requires careful considerations of ambient temperature, feeding schedules and constant usage. There’s subtle but important variations to consider regarding flour, amounts of salt, sugar, shortening, butter, eggs, milk, seeds, sodium bicarbonate, baking powder, cornstarch, beer, wine, nuts, dried fruit and who knows what other ingredients. Perfecting the taste to your buds might as well be the quest of a lifetime.
But bread, just bread, is easy. At its most basic, it’s flour and water. Add yeast if you want it to puff, add salt if you want it to be savory, but that’s about it. Flour, water, salt, yeast.
Bread is resistant to mistakes. A bit more flour or a bit less water don’t make the end product inedible. A slightly hotter or slightly colder oven don’t make it unsafe to eat. Underbaked or overbaked bread might be unappetizing, but can still be eaten. Charred bread is just carbon. Underproofed yeast makes a less spongy, denser dough. Overproofed yeast… I’m told it’s not good either, but I’m not sure why.
Bread is forgiving. You can improve on it next time. Bread is forgiveness, it’s good food, a peace offering.
You can make complex bread. You can make complicated bread if you so desire. You can mix the ingredients with a rotating hook attached to a food processor, but you can also mix them with your bare hands. You can knead the bread, and help it make its glutenous chains that way. You can also add a bit more water and let the chains form themselves.
You can make bread in silence, with slow, considerate movements. There’s no rush, the dough will be ready when you are. You can take time to sing and whistle, or you can stare at the bowl in silence.
You can make bread if you’re strong, but also if you’re weak. My poor body has never been good at exercise, and whipping cream requires some strength, stamina and tenacity. Flambeed desserts are amazing, but require a keen eye, firm hands and quick reflexes.
Bread requires patience and observation. Bread requires mandatory resting. Bread might be industrialized and parallelized, but it can never be truly rushed. Thus, bread is deliberate and impervious to unreasonable demands for quickness. The dough is ready when it’s ready.
Bread has no need to be the star of the show. Your three course meal is built to be appealing to the eyes as well as the mouth. The main course requires pomp, a formal announcement and distinction: which ingredients, prepared in what way and presented how. Bread is reliable. Bread needs no grandiose place at the meal, even though it’s needed to properly clean up the plate.
Bread is personal. This little yeast colony is well adapted to this kitchen and if it needs to travel, it will adapt to its new home. My bread will never be the same as yours, even though both can be amazing.
Bread is flexible. This little yeast colony has learned to survive the early spring, the humid summers, the extremely sunny fall and the gentle winters; but take it with you and it will need to learn new tricks. Bread is a tale of adapting, and thriving under change. Bread is making a home regardless of the house.
Bread is a good gift: everyone requires sustenance, and modern technology allows for bread without gluten, or high in protein, enriched with dairy, or reduced in fat. Bread is welcome. Bread is also fleeting, it should be eaten today, for it will be bad later. No worries, bread is easy, and tomorrow we can make more. A new day and a new bread.
I can make bread even if I’m not hungry myself. I’m sure someone can benefit from my cooking. We all hunger, but not everyone has an oven. I know I can never solve world hunger, yet I can make this foolish attempt. Bread is not rational. Bread is pressing on despite the mountains of evidence telling you it’s pointless. Bread rises the same.
Sometimes I deal with depression by baking bread. It doesn’t make it go away.
But bread rises the same. And so should I.