About 6 months ago I started making sourdough bread on a regular basis. I bought proofing baskets, made sure I had all the right tools and the right flour and then got to work. When I set about to make my first loaf I quickly realized that if I started Monday, I would have my first loaf by Sunday night. You are reading that correctly. To have a one loaf of sourdough bread, it would take a full week. So, I set about making my sourdough starter. Every day I would take under a minute of my time to add some flour and water to my flour and water from the day before, mix it together and then continue on to the magic step…lots and lots of time. I could only do so much with force. I could get the process started, but I couldn’t bring the yeast because that was the air’s job; I couldn’t bring about the multiplying of organisms because that was time’s job. When it came time to start the actual dough, I once again realized how unessential I was for 98 percent of the time. There was magic happening and all I had to do was give a gentle nudge to bring it about.
My favorite part of the process is the folding. It’s like kneading, but with a great deal less strength, and a great deal more time. Every 30 minutes, for 2 and a half hours, you take the edge of dough in the bowl, lift it up and fold it to the other side. You then rotate the bowl a quarter and repeat three times each cycle. After that, you leave all alone, letting it sit untouched. This was a different technique for me. I am not new to bread making and as such, am not new to the aching arms that come from kneading bread for 20 minutes and the satisfaction that by sheer force of will you have produced gluten in your dough. YOU are making your bread happen. With folding you are acting, but you are working with the natural process a little more fluidly. Stretching the developing gluten, then allowing it to naturally develop some more. The crazy thing about these two processes is that folding gives you better results. You get big bubbles you want in artisanal bread and the bread stays tender and so lovely. After some more time resting and finally time baking, my first loaf was finally finished. It was amazing. It was delicious, fragrant and really good with a big glob of fresh butter. Do you know what else it was? Worth it. Totally worth it. The whole long process of working and waiting did not disappoint.
I’ve made bread many times since then and have, of course, streamlined my process a bit. Rather than starting from scratch, I’m able to pull my starter from the fridge and have bread in 48 hours, rather than whatever 7x24 hours is. Still, there are processes that cannot be streamlined. The best bread is always the bread that I have allowed to fully develop; taking the longest time, rather than the shortest, between steps and waiting on it, rather than forcing it to be ready by dinner. If I give it the right nudges, mix the right ingredients and throw in a fold here and there, my time, air, yeast and the oven will do the rest.
This example of bread has made me think a lot about my artistic process. It has made me think a lot about where I place stress and where I should. Maybe you will find some value in this story as you try and relate it to the creative process or maybe it will just be some words about bread. I leave it up to you to ponder and “parallel draw” or not. As for me, for now I will go have a piece of freshly baked bread with a huge glob of butter. Some bread I didn’t rush at all. Some bread, in fact, that I think is my best yet.
A quick and shameless plug: My workshop at "The Bloom Forum" is now open for registration. I hope that you'll consider it. We have a wonderful time and in the end, those who have taken the workshop have found more clarity in their artistic voice and have come out with new ways to share their story. Click HERE for info
Amanda Voelker is a fine art and lifestyle photographer. With her children and light as her inspiration, Amanda finds beauty in the everyday. She strives to capture the subtleties of human emotion and connection in a beautiful way that showcases both the moment and a piece of her self. Amanda is also the Co Creator and Editor in Chief of “The Long Way Home” Magazine and instructor at "The Bloom Forum"