Lessons from daily bread

Call it procrastination, but I’ve developed an interest in making sourdough.

I’m no chef. I rarely read recipes, never use proper measuring cups and have a habit of replacing key ingredients with substitutes, with “interesting” results.

Image by Leiliane Fegundes

Maybe that’s why sourdough appeals. It has only two basic ingredients, flour and water.

Humans have been baking bread since the dawn of time. 

As an Aussie, I’m proud to say that Indigenous Australians have been grinding grain and making bread for at least 36,000 years, according to Dark Emu and Salt author Bruce Pascoe. 

Image by Wesual Click

One of my great grandmothers made daily bread for her entire household of eight boys and one girl.

Surely I could do this! 

I scoured YouTube for tips, found some flour, pulled out a large bowl and began making the easier kind of bread, with dry yeast.

Roughly following a combination of instructions, I produced a mix that rose. Magical.

Image by Nadya Spetnitskaya

Ten minutes flew by as I kneaded my dough. The rhythm was soothing. The dough rose, twice, and when I baked it, the aroma was sensational and the results delicious. Success!

On to the challenge of sourdough – bread made with live yeast.

Shamelessly, I’ll namedrop that I was inspired by none other than polymath @SeamusBlackley who has famously made bread using ancient yeast from the pyramids, among other achievements and who, when I was in California recently, gave me a quarter of a cup of one of his many different sourdough starters – flour and water already enriched with airborne yeast and a tip – to give the starter the consistency of cottage cheese and let it bubble happily from top to bottom before feeding it again.

That’s right! Sourdough starter requires “feeding” with additional flour and water! Fascinating.

Image by Jorgan Haland

Sourdough is my kind of bread. Quantities can be inexact; the temperature and humidity can vary wildly at every stage; and you can add in extra salt or olive oil and still get a great result. (Back in Australia, I’m using a home-grown starter.)

What does any of this have to do with creating feel-good fiction?

The ingredients for both are simple, and you can adjust them to taste. 

Feel-good fiction just needs ideas and words to form the dough of characters, settings and predicaments.

Both processes entail several key stages. Kneading and allowing the dough to rise twice are analogous to plotting, ruminating, revising and editing. To bake is to publish!

I suspect that with more experience, both products keep improving.

Image by Alexandra Kikot

Must go now, check how much the dough has risen, heat the oven, and then return to some editing.

Visit www.amberjakeman.com

Follow me on Instagram @jakemanamber and Twitter @AmberJakeman

Email AmberJakemanSydney@gmail.com

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