Saturday, March 9, 2013

Baking Bread and Stumbling Through Lent

Today I am making challah. I found a great recipe online for something called Cinnamon-Apple Raisin Challah. On the King Arthur website, it looks like this before it goes in the oven: 
Let me tell you, my challah looks nothing like that.

This Lent, I have been good, really good, about keeping my Lenten penance, which is to eat no processed food. I have cheated twice, which is pretty good considering we are heading into the Fourth Sunday of Lent. Because I consider bread processed food, I have been making bread from time to time. My bread is often misshapen, undercooked, inelegant. Kind of like me. It is hard not to feel like I am failing at the most basic of homemaking tasks. I used to be so good at baking bread when I was a teenager. Today the dough crumbled in my hands. I added vegetable oil, but that seemed to make it worse. Was the yeast too cold? The water not warm enough? What happened to my bread-making talent? I started to feel like a failure as I left the dough to rise, and then read I should have covered it with plastic wrap instead of a dishcloth. Can't I do anything right?

But what's this all about? Me and my pride? Has my Lenten sacrifice become a vanity project? Growing in holiness isn't all about us and our efforts. I recently heard someone say that we don't need to summon the Presence of God; we need to become award of His presence at every moment. This bread I bake - no matter the quality - isn't about me. The Lenten penances I am making, no matter how humble and limited, do not earn me eternity; rather they offfer me a chance to reflect on the One who made us, the One who loved us first.

In all truth I tell you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, 
it is my Father who gives you the bread from heaven, the true bread;
for the bread of God is the bread which comes down from heaven and 
gives life to the world.


  1. I love this post!

    I made bread three times this week - I made two loaves of whole wheat and bran bread, which we ate so fast we didn't have any for dinner the next night so I made baguettes for the first time, which worked well. Then I made two more loaves of the whole wheat bread, this time decreasing the water, because I always have to add so much extra flour, and yeast, because it usually gets so high it doesn't slice well. The second batch turned out well. I use the Fiddlehead Cookbook bread recipe.

    1. Wow Paula. I am just getting back into the bread baking. King Arthur has a great website for baking tools, such as baguette holders for the dough in the oven. In the past I have used Mark Bittman's French bread recipe for Lenten suppers and will try that again. One suggestion is King Arthur's white Whole Wheat Flour if you find, as I do, that all whole wheat makes the bread too heavy. Here is the recipe I use for french bread.