I reach to the top shelf of the fridge and grasp the jar, carry it to the bench and twist open the lid. There it is. Barely half a cup of viscous, off-white matter. I heave the flour bag to the benchtop and open its mouth, loosely fastened with a wooden clothes peg, to measure an equal amount into the jar. White particles fly around in the bands of morning light that spill between the slats of sleepy blinds. They settle into the folds of my fluffy white dressing gown, on eyelashes and in the wispy blonde hair of a certain three-year-old who is chasing cuddles.
Water next. The same amount again measured carefully into the jar, splashing up the sides and swallowed into the parched flour. Then I stir, round and round, round and round, until it clings together.
Making sourdough has become a part of my week’s rhythm. Usually we have two loaves freshly baked for the weekend, and I love nothing more than cutting off a generous slice, still just a little bit warm, coating it in equally generous amounts of butter and devouring it slowly with a cup of tea. As our home’s Master Baker, I think it’s only fitting that I test each loaf first, make sure it ticks boxes for the rest of Team van Ryn. You know, in case someone tipped a vial of poison into the dough. Or something.
I am absolutely hooked on this sourdough thing. It’s not just the taste (which is pretty special), but the process too.
After the starter has been fed and has doubled in size, taking around six hours, I open the lid and lean in. The yeasty twang evokes thoughts of home and warmth and comfort and simplicity. All that from flour and water.
And then I measure again; starter, flour, water and salt. Stir. Rest. Knead, knead, knead. Rest for longer. And longer still. Until the next day, or even the next, I bake.
The process has pendulum cadence. Predictable. Comforting. It reminds me of who I am, of the simplicity of life.
I am dust. As bread is flour, water, salt; I am dust. Dust breathed to life. Shaped by the Master. My body will return to dust, to the ground. Nothing more than the base matter that first came together to make me.
The loaf has been in the oven nearly 40 minutes now. I have watched it rise, watched it tear to let steam escape, turning blonde to caramel to acorn. The heat wafts my hair in a burning updraught as I lift the tin from the oven.
Life has been busy and I’ve neglected the lead-up to Easter this year. Even while hubby’s reading the Passover scriptures to the little ones, I’m cleaning the dishes away, closing curtains, laying pyjamas out.
But the bread, it speaks to me of redemption. My God who created earth out of nothing, created man out of earth; he created a way for us to be near to him always. To be beloved of him. To be worthy and worth more than the base elements we return to.
My wonderful sourdough nourishes only for a little while. I work diligently at the process, making sure each step is accomplished. Even still, like anything of this world: its benefits are temporary.
“I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty,” Jesus said (John 6:35).
Oh beautiful bread of God who we celebrate at this time of year. May we yearn for you as we have appetite for good sourdough! Sweet, gentle Jesus who took our sin upon himself, succumbing to the heat of the cross to rise once more, victorious, inviting us to come bear witness to his wounds, his price, his love.
“I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats this bread will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.” (John 6:51)
My loaf has risen beautifully, the crumb is lightly textured, the crust chewy. I’m thanking God for this bread that reminds me of his love for me – that he would meet my physical needs on this day, yes, but more importantly that he would give the bread of life so that hunger will be barely a distant memory when I am united with him in eternity one day.