During my last two years of college, Thursday evenings were dedicated to bread-baking. Since I would fast on bread and water during Fridays with my household (a group of women somewhat like a sorority)—and my husband would fast in solidarity with me—this routine of baking bread would provide our nourishment for Fridays. Not only was it an important ritual in the practical sense, but it became a soothing activity. A step back from classes and homework to knead dough and braid it into loaves. Yes, there were days when we would be pressed for time and crammed in time to make bread dough, but even when our kitchen was a flurry of flour and yeast as we scrambled to finish homework, make bread, and get sleep, there was still a certain peace that came with the baking process.
Recently, I realized how much I miss baking bread.
Between pizza crust and pita bread, I wind up baking a bread-related recipe at least a handful of times each month. But when it comes rising and proofing dough, and large, crusty loaves of hot bread slathered in butter—well, I just don’t get around to this type of bread-baking process very often. Since Lent seems like an appropriate time to get back into this, I decided that once again, Thursdays would be dedicated to baking bread.
I can no longer fast, due to breastfeeding a baby, but I still like to eat more simply on Lenten Fridays—and what better “simple food” to go along with my meals and snacks than bread? Fresh bread also is an excellent addition to our pieced-together meals on the weekends (which are usually leftovers from the fridge and freezer). Baking bread is a relaxing activity where I can rhythmically mix the dough as I take a breath after a full week and stop to think about life.
Setting aside time to bake bread each week also gives me a routine in which I can try new recipes. This week, I made whole-wheat oatbread, and I haven’t been able to stop eating it at meals or for my afternoon snack—it’s just so good! I’m convinced that I don’t want to buy whole-wheat sandwich bread again, but use this instead.
When I mix the yeast and warm water, and watch it react, I think about the public ministry of Jesus.
He spoke to them another parable. “The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed with three measures of wheat flour until the whole batch was leavened.” (Matt 13:33)
He also performed pivotal miracles regarding bread, multiplying loaves to nourish thousands of people who were near. As I bake bread, I also recall the Institution of the Eucharist on Holy Thursday—how in this Sacrament, Christ gives us His Flesh to eat under the appearance of bread. Lent may have just begun, but it already has born beautiful fruit in my life through the simple ritual of baking bread and the meditation that can come along with it. I am so excited to continue this journey of Lent, and the process of crafting various types of bread (and possibly pretzels, since those are very Lenten).