Baking Bread

When I sink into a black or blue funk, which covers all the moody territory between I’m-a-little-out-of-sorts and speak-to-me-at-your-own-risk, I find working with bread dough a reliable corrective.

It’s also great to do when you’re perfectly happy, making it about the most useful activity around. Besides, you end up with delicious food when all is said and done. Can’t beat that, right?

Bread dough is a living thing; it reacts to environmental disruptions (just put your rising dough in a draft and you’ll discover how moody it can be), and changes its ingredient proportions based on the weather.

Don’t bother trying to repeat a particularly successful bread attempt, because there is no way you will ever duplicate all the variables. Time of day, outdoor temperature, air pressure, humidity, oven temperature, ingredients, age of yeast … get it?

Every loaf is an individual.

But its most useful character trait is that it’s a little masochistic.

I’ve never been able to over-knead bread dough, and (trust me on this) I’ve tried. In fact, slinging it onto a hard surface can bring out the best in a dough.

Bread can be your best friend when you’re crabby. A few good whacks on the kitchen table and a half hour of enthusiastic kneading will bring a sense of calm to the most troubled of souls.

I’ll tell you just how good bread-making can be. A few hours and four loaves can make me willing to call the phone company again, and that is saying a lot.

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