I am willing to bet very few of you have ever considered baking bread as a relationship. But if you really think about it, when you learn to bake you are doing just that – building a lifelong relationship with something you love.
Baking can easily be compared to the dating process. At first, it is just a simple matter of a friend inviting you to go to a party. While there, you are introduced to many new people. Faces blur, names are forgotten. But then…
There is one face and one name that catches your interest. And by all indications, you have caught theirs, too. For the rest of the evening, you smile, nod, and laugh a little with each other. You establish a bit of ground with simple questions. And just as you are about to leave, the excitement moves up a notch and phone numbers are exchanged
From there, you move through the dating process – you have your first date, your first kiss, the getting to know you period and then decision time. Are you ready to commit? Or is it time to part ways? With each step and each date, you come closer and closer to being able to answer these answers.
Baking bread as a relationship can be viewed in the same light. Here is how that works:
The Party Invitation = an Introduction to Bread Baking
When you get your invitation to the party, you begin to make preparations. You determine what kind of function it is and choose appropriate attire. You shower, wash and style your hair. With a quick check of your purse to make sure you have everything you need – money, id, etc., you grab your keys and go.
With baking bread, the invitation comes as a friend talking about baking a fresh loaf to go with dinner. You may have seen a photo of fresh bread on the internet, or a bread baking cookbook in the store. Or, you may have stopped by the bakery for a loaf, and they were sold out of your favorite. You begin to wonder – can I bake my own?
Meet & Greet = Deciding if you want to start a relationship with Bread Baking
When you first meet a potential someone at the party, you learn a little bit about them to see if the interest is worth pursuing. A few general questions are asked – who do they know at the party, how do they know the person who introduced you, where they work, etc.
When you ‘meet and greet’ baking bread for the first time, you check out a recipe or two, look at a cookbook, or ask questions of your bread baking friends. Once you have your general questions answered, you then decide it may be worth trying. This is the point where you learn the terms and make a list of the equipment you will need to get started.
The First Date = Ingredients
On the first date, you usually go somewhere neutral – meet for coffee or go to another party at a friend’s place. This is the time where you get to know each other a little better. More questions are asked. Stories are shared, and opinions are offered. By the end of the evening, a decision is made – a second date? Or shake hands and part ways?
When baking bread, the equivalent to the first date is when you take a closer look at the ingredient list. The best part of ingredients – as opposed to a person’s personality traits – is you can use the ones you love, experiment with those you have never tried or heard of, and completely avoid the ones you dislike.
Second Date = Muffins & Quick Breads
The second date is a repeat of the first date, but with a little more depth. At this point, you are trying to decide if you really like who this person is. Is there any depth to them? Do your priorities, beliefs, dreams and ideas mesh? Are there some personality quirks you love, or do they leave a bad taste in your mouth.
Most people think of ‘baking bread’ as grabbing yeast, flour and some kind of liquid, kneading it into submission, and popping it in the oven. But there is more to bread baking than that. To truly learn the art of baking bread, you need to start small, and wade in at the shallow end for a bit. In this case, that means learning the art of making delicious muffins and quick breads. The most well-known variety of a quick bread is Banana Nut (but our ‘Second Date’ offers a different delicious quick bread recipe!).
The First Six Months = Biscuits & Scones
When dating, the first six months are usually when you begin doing more and more together. Your schedule is adapted to include more dates. There may be day long festivities or weekend excursions. You move from dipping your toe in the water to the shallows, and eventually to a deeper level. By this time, you know you want to learn more about this person on a progressively deeper level.
When you are at the ‘first six months’ point in baking breads, the natural direction to go is making biscuits and scones. These take a bit more…’finesse’, shall we say, to get them to come out right. Baking a light and fluffy biscuit takes practice.
In my case, I would not have been surprised if a structural engineer had come to me and asked if they could use my first biscuits as the foundation blocks for a new skyscraper. Yes, they were just that hard and inedible. But over time, I learned the tricks, and now baking biscuits and scones are almost second nature.
Is this Serious? = Yeast Breads
At some point in the dating process, you reach a point where you start thinking about whether or not this can be a long-term commitment. You have learned the basics, asked the questions, and have learned, watched and studied. You decide you like them, and think being in a serious relationship works well for you. It is also the point where more serious things are discussed, priorities considered, and you learn if this is someone you can live with for the rest of your life.
Learning how to make breads using yeast is definitely the equivalent of deciding if you are serious or not about bread baking. First, you truly need to know the basics, how dough acts and reacts according to the ingredients, and why a soft hand and finesse is needed.
Yeast breads can be tricky, so knowing how to use four of your five senses – touch, smell, sight, taste – go a long way to creating the perfect loaf. It also helps to have patience. Just as in dating, there will be disagreements (the temperature is too hot or too cold), hurt feelings (the dough didn’t proof), and the silent treatment (the loaf comes out of the oven burned on top and raw in the middle, or becomes the structural engineer’s dream building material).
But with time, patience, and being willing to try again, you will eventually be able to create the perfect loaf that surrounds you with that knee-weakening aroma and the mouth-watering flavor you have been dreaming about.
Saying ‘I Do’ = Starters
You have successfully made through the first date, and kept going. Yes, it is serious enough to accept the proposal and the ring. Now you are choosing the dress you will wear as you walk down the aisle.
With baking bread, the ‘wedding’ equivalent is learning how to make sour dough breads. These all begin with a starter. There are several different types of starters, and in ‘Saying I Do’, we will discuss which ones work best of each type of bread, and how to make them.
Happily Ever After
The wedding is over, the honeymoon was great, and now you are ready to settle in for a lifetime of marital bliss. All you have left to do is combine households and move forward with your lives together.
If you have made it this far in the bread baking process, you probably have quite a few loaves of bread in your freezer. Just like a good crop of zucchini, your friends may be avoiding you, as they now have a freezer full of your ‘dating’ experiences.
But you don’t have to figure out how to cram another loaf of bread in your freezer or alienate your friends. There are other things you can do with all that bread!
Are you Ready?
If you are looking for a new ‘relationship’ in your life, consider learning the art of baking bread. This series is designed to make it easy to learn and do. And if you have sworn off ‘dating’ because of a bad experience, maybe it’s time to accept the invitation to join the party and try again.
Come on and join us. The party will be fun, and you may just meet ‘the right one’ in the crowd!