When covid hit I decided it would be a great time to learn a few things since we would be home for a while. My kids had schoolwork to do so they were busy at least some of the day, and I didn’t want to spend that whole time cleaning, I wanted to do something educational as well. I first decided to learn how to digitize my own art. That wasn’t a super hard process, I still have a ton to learn, but this knowledge has saved me hundreds, probably into the thousands or so dollars with my artwork as it cost me on average $50-$75 to have each piece of art digitized. With that savings I was able to purchase my printer, which in turn has not only saved me money but also time and made my artwork more accessible because I don’t have to wait for a print shop to have time to print when someone wants something specific, I can just take care of it.
The other thing I wanted to learn how to do was to make sourdough bread. This is where the patience comes in and ends. Making the starter was pretty simple, and at this point I have successfully made 3 or 4 different starters, or at least I thought they were successful, until I made a really good one. Making the bread however is where the patience level declined. I love making bread, but I am used to yeasted breads that take 2-4 hours and then you have this beautiful, light and fluffy, delicious bread. But I do love the taste of sourdough, and the thought of not having to use yeast in an emergency situation was appealing to me. I got my starter going, it was growing pretty well, now that I know more, I’m not sure that it was pretty well, but at the time I thought it was good enough.
I followed an online recipe and made the dough. Having made so much yeasted dough over the years, I looked at the dough and decided it was probably too sticky, so I added more flour. That was a mistake. I then set it aside. This is where the recipe on the internet said it would take 4-6 hours to rest and raise. That seemed somewhat excessive, and I thought maybe I could speed the process along. I put the dough in a warm oven for a while. When I pulled it out, it still hadn’t really done much. I decided it would be fine, yeasted doughs rise in the oven pretty well sometimes … I made my loaf and let it rest and rise one more time, but again, it hadn’t really gotten much bigger by the time I wanted to put it in the oven. But I decided to let the oven do the rest, if there was any natural yeast, it should be fine, right? Not so. I pulled my very flat loaf of bread out of the oven. I was disappointed. Why does sourdough have to be so hard? I was frustrated with the directions, I was frustrated with my time making a starter, I was frustrated with the recipe and website I had used. The bread did have a sourdough flavor, but it was a brick.
I gave up for the time being. A little while later I decided to try again, but life got busy, and I forgot about my starter for a couple of weeks, and then scraped the project again. About 4 or 5 months ago I decided I would like to try again. This time I researched things a little bit more and bought a book with directions, pictures, troubleshooting guides, etc. I started again, but it was in the summer, and I ended up not having the time to bake any kind of bread, let alone sourdough bread. About 2 weeks ago I finally got started again! My first starter started out well, but then seemed to be struggling. Frustration immediately began creeping in and I was ready to just give up for good. One morning I was pondering on why I was having so much struggle with this. I was praying for help to understand when the thought of flour came back to my mind. Unbleached flour. I thought that was an interesting thought, I always used unbleached flour. But the thought persisted so I went and read the label on the sack of flour. Nope, I was using bleached flour. I hadn’t checked the last few times I had gotten flour, I was in a hurry, and had just thrown a bag of flour in the cart and continued on. My yeast didn’t have anything to eat, and consequently was dying after my initial start with the whole wheat flour.
The next time I went to the store I bought unbleached flour to use specifically for my starter. I showed the kids and told them not to use it for cookies or anything, this was my flour! I started again. This time the started worked like I’d never seen it work before. I realized I had been killing all my other starters with the wrong flour. The other thing I realized is that I had been rushing the starter, sticking strictly with a 24-hour feeding rather than watching the starter, allowing more or less time depending on what it looked like. Today I am making my first loaf. I’m not done yet, but I have huge hopes for this loaf. I have also allotted myself the whole day, and if need be, tomorrow to wait and allow the process to happen.
This whole process has taught me a lot about patience and perseverance. I’ve never thought that I was an impatient person necessarily, not that I didn’t know I had to work at it sometimes, and it somewhat depends on the situation. But sometimes I think I know better, or different than what is actually the case, and it takes me some time to readjust my perspective to see things differently. I am hopeful that sometime in the next 24 hours or so I will have a beautiful loaf of sourdough bread to share with my family, but if it’s less than ideal, at least the starter worked this time, and I have more starter to keep trying with in the future. I will get it one way or the other because I am not going to let this challenge beat me. I am grateful to learn that some challenges you have to jump in and plow through, but some challenges you have to sit back and give time and space in order for growth to occur. I am also grateful for a Heavenly Father who is concerned with the details of my life and willing to help me understand even trivial things, like flour.