Getting my hands dirty

Yeast bread and I have a love-hate relationship in that I love to eat it and hate to make it, although I’ve gotten decently good at pizza dough over the last couple of years.

On Thanksgiving, I wrestled once again with the family recipe for sugar-coated donut-type treats and rolls. A month or so ago, I tried (and sort of failed) at homemade cinnamon rolls. I want to try an actual loaf or two of bread but I’m terrified I will spend time, ingredients and effort for something that turns out inedible.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI finally took a page out of my husband’s cooking manual (ha ha — that sounds like I ripped a page out of a cookbook or something. I wouldn’t dare!) and read the introduction to yeast breads in The Fannie Farmer Baking Book, a wedding gift from my husband that I thought was sweet at the time but should have rejected as sexist. (Just kidding, honey! I really do love it.)

I didn’t learn a lot of homemade baking or cooking in my growing up years, so Fannie Farmer by Marion Cunningham has become my mentor and tutor. As usual, she didn’t fail me, and I almost, almost believe that I can make a good yeast bread.

With the pizza dough, I’ve taken the easier road by mixing it in the stand mixer, and I’m convinced this is the “secret” to my pizza dough success. Because if yeast bread fails me in any other recipe, I blame myself because I don’t have the experience or guidance or intuition to know when the dough is ready.

Then I read this from the baking book:

Electric equipment can be helpful in kneading doughs, although I still prefer the experience of working doughs by hand. Beginning cooks particularly will miss learning by feeling, literally getting in touch with the dough.

In other words, I’m gonna have to get my hands dirty. I’m going to have to try and fail and try again next time. And if I’m not in there, working the dough with my hands, I won’t get a feel for when it’s just right.

As with life. Ministry. Work. Parenting.

In all of these things, I have to get in there and do the work myself. I can’t read about it. Or let someone else do it. Or buy it pre-packaged. I have to get my hands dirty. To try and fail and try again until I get a feel for how it works and where I can tweak and add and change to fit the environment I’m in. Only someone who is in the mix can notice the subtle changes and readiness of the bread.

This is what I will think about the next time I’m up to my elbows in yeasty dough, kneading the life out of it, willing it to rise.

Because there will be a next time.

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