Bread in all its forms is such a staple in diets across the globe and has been for thousands of years. I’ve always said I don’t think I would have a problem living off of bread and cheese (and if I’m being honest, wine) for the rest of my life. I’m not about that low-carb life, and I can talk a convincing nutrition science/biochemistry-based argument why it’s actually far from ideal for overall healthy (and let’s face it – enjoyable) living.
I’ve never actually made a crusty-yet-soft artisan loaf from scratch, aside from my tried and true homemade thin crust wheat pizza dough or a quick bread like pumpkin or banana, so I asked my master baker brother-in-law for his go-to recipe (yeah, he’s a Renaissance man). Who doesn’t need to know how to whip up delicious homemade bread? I tweaked it slightly by adding dried Italian herbs and fresh ground black pepper.
Granted, I normally would be all for a whole wheat and grainy loaf, but for the specific circumstances (in-class religion project, see below), I wanted to keep it as pure and simple as possible. Sure, I could have gone the traditional Biblical route of unleavened bread with something along the lines of pita or naan, but I also like to make things relevant, appealing, and connect to my classmates with possible memories of taking the Lord’s Supper in church (that is unless they’re more accustomed to the tiny square crackers). When I pulled out the hot, golden-brown beautiful piece of art out of the oven, the trial loaf was quickly inhaled by my more than willing taste-tester roommates and me Saturday night. I then enjoyed the small amount of leftovers for a couple of fantastic sandwiches the next day.
3/4 cup water
1 T honey
1 package (1/4 oz) dry active yeast
2 cups bread flour
1 t salt
1 t dried herb blend (optional)
fresh cracked black pepper (optional)
1 T extra virgin olive oil
1. Warm the water with the honey (I microwaved for about 40 seconds)
2. Add the yeast to the honey/water mixture and let proof for about 5 minutes.
3. Combine flour, salt, herbs, pepper, and oil in a large bowl.
4. Add yeast mixture and combine to form a soft, sticky dough texture.
5. Knead for 5-10 minutes on a floured surface until it comes together and is smooth and elastic.
6. Place in an oil-lined bowl, cover with a clean kitchen towel or plastic wrap, and let rise until more than doubled in size and slightly wet and bubbly (ideally overnight, but I did for only about 6 hours one time and 10 another).
7. Preheat oven to 425, and place a pizza stone or baking sheet on a rack about 2/3 to the bottom. (It’s best if it’s preheated for about 20-30 minutes before putting the bread in)
8. Turn out the dough on a floured (plus a small amount of cornmeal) pizza peel and shape into a free-form loaf/round. Score it with a sharp knife, spray or brush with olive oil, and let rise a second time for about 30 minutes while the oven gets hot.
9. Transfer from the peel to the stone and cook until it’s golden brown, feels hollow, and cooked through (I checked mine at 25 minutes and let cook another 3-4 minutes, it just depends on your oven). Once it cools, the texture can change slightly, so don’t worry if it seems a tiny bit doughy in the very middle right at first.
This bread isn’t just your ordinary sliced Wonder Bread, though. It represents something much more. I’m making this as a component of my creative project that is a large part of my grade for the “Jesus and the Gospels” religion course I’m in for my minor this semester. The project could literally be anything that could potentially tie in with any topic we’ve covered in lecture. JESUS or the written works about his life – that’s about as incredibly overwhelming and open-ended as an assignment can get. Just when I conquered the research paper I slaved over, I had to quickly decide what exactly I could do for my project that would meet Kelly’s (my professor insists we don’t call him Dr.) high expectations. My roommate is also in the class, and we’ve talked about the reason we over-stress about this class sometimes is because we respect and like him so much that we want to do our absolute best to please him and somehow prove ourselves despite being non-Religion majors.
I had originally thought about doing the alternative journal project as a blog series, but I casually joked to my professor that I could just bake some symbolic bread and there’s a creative project. He laughed but still seemed really intrigued by the idea and encouraged me to not completely dismiss the idea of using some aspect of cooking or food for my project, since I would be his first student that had done that. Well, if you tell me that I could be the first to do something, then by all means I’m doing it. I hate just following the crowd and being unoriginal. I love pushing the envelope and showcasing my individuality in college, when it’s easy to blend into the sea of thousands of other students. I thought using my blog as an outlet for this project fit perfectly given the title of my site. This is something that hits on all three aspects of the focus of Eat Pray Learn: food/recipes, spiritual growth, and my academic/professional journey. Sure, I may not be the next Picasso or up and coming singer-songwriter, but I know I’ve got kitchen skills, and cooking is one of my biggest passions. Believe it or not, this nerdy science major/future doctor can bake bread and write poetry.
“Give us this day our daily bread…”
This well-known phrase from the Lord’s Prayer can be seen on everything from kitchen wall art to handmade aprons in a typical Christian home, but do we fully comprehend its meaning? What is the significance of this “daily bread” that we’re to ask for based on the model prayer? Jesus and the true message of the gospel is the central, life-giving, spiritual “food” we can feast on each and every day.
Being an obvious foodie who loves eating, I’ve always placed a lot of emphasis on the role of food in my daily life: What should I eat for breakfast? When’s lunch? What can I make for dinner? Where should we eat out? It’s not just me, though, it’s our culture. I also went through a season in my life towards the end of high school and beginning of college when I was very concerned with what, when, and how much I ate, because I just wanted to be the healthiest version of myself. It was never about depriving myself (like I said, I love food), and I was never diagnosed with an eating disorder or anything, but I know that it could have easily become more serious if I wasn’t careful. Instead of relying on God to satisfy my spiritual hunger every morning with the joy and peace of the Holy Spirit, I was constantly thinking about the exact science of nutrients that I needed to fuel my physical body for my daily activities.
The emphasis that I placed on food and health sometimes consumed my thoughts throughout the day more so than God’s voice or truths I read in His Word. Since then, He has lovingly and faithfully removed this bondage of nutrition obsession from me, and I walk in the freedom that only He can give. It’s always refreshing to look back at how God has perfectly moved in our lives, and one specific instance is when He revealed to me that I shouldn’t keep pursuing my minor in nutrition. That is how I ended up where I am now on track for a religion minor instead. I still would consider myself health “conscious,” and an advocate of eating the fresh and natural foods God has provided for us, but I really no longer let it have such a grip on me. My prayer is that I continually focus more on my hunger for righteousness, so that I’m filled with more of Him each day (Matt 5:6).
For my presentation, I’m also accompanying this edible visual aid with a poem that connects this symbol with Jesus and His character in the Bible. Bread is arguably the most mentioned motif in the gospels with references in the bread miracles of Markan narrative “sandwiches” (couldn’t resist the pun), Kingdom of Heaven parables, the Last Supper, the Sermon on the Mount, I AM statements, the Lord’s Prayer, and probably more that I’m forgetting. Time and time again, Jesus uses food, and especially bread, as a way to provide physical satisfaction to those who are desperate. He ultimately connects with people through their bodily hunger and thirst to reach the depths of their spiritual emptiness that only He can fill. In John 6:35, Jesus says, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me will not hunger.” Another major declaration is with his disciples in the upper room, He explains, “This is my body, which is given for you” (Luke 22:19).
The following is a poem of reflection I’ve written on the significance of this metaphor of Christ as our “daily bread,” and it draws on these as well as other verses in the gospels that connect this symbol of basic nourishment to the ultimate sustenance that He provides.
I am the bread that satisfies,
All those who taste will never die.
I am the grain that forever thrives,
Full of righteousness and life.
I am the manna falling down,
Lift your eyes up, see I’m all around.
Leave behind what you’ve heard before,
Come to me and hunger no more.
This is my body, broken for you,
The reason I came, what I had to do.
Believe when you eat this piece of bread,
I can make alive what has once been dead.
I am bread so that the world may live,
Sustenance is what I’ll always give.
Man cannot live on other bread alone,
Fill up on me, or be empty on your own.