Saturday, 25 July 2020

Sourdough Bread

It seems amazing that it was only a few weeks ago, well actually it was just before June the 6th, that I dropped a mustard seed of an idea in Frances’ direction. It was the smallest of seeds but as Jesus told us it grew into the greatest of shrubs and ever   since I planted it I have been a sourdough bread widower. All I suggested was that it may be fun and interesting to try to make some and ever since …..

Which brings me to the second of Jesus’ metaphors.  “The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed in with three measures of flour until all of it was leavened.” If only it were so simple: actually it seems the science of sourdough is simple but the mythology extensive. Of course we all know we need a starter with or without grapes, to American or European recipes, and that only a small amount retained from a previous dough is needed to make another starter which by the way, you treat like a small pet creature but there are questions of temperature, fridge or windowsill, of catching it at the peak of her rising, of blending with the bread flour. Never apparently to knead, oh no,  but stretching and folding every thirty minutes on the dot for uncountable hours and then allowing the whole to rise in a preferred corner of the room for a very long time and then kneeling in front of the glass door of the oven like someone from bake off watching a curious thing and waiting impatiently for it which is called the oven bounce whilst protecting the crust from blackening.  The first few loaves had holes deemed too small so researches were made into the viscosities of various mixtures. Two or three times a week Frances rose so early as to disturb even the dogs to begin this day long endeavour straining at the worktop to continue her experiments.

So I ask how is this the kingdom of heaven?

It might be that the King James’ version is easier in this instance because it says:L “The kingdom of heaven is like unto leaven which a woman took and hid in three measures of meal until the whole was leavened. “ So we have not yeats and doughnut leaven and leaven. The word that is translated as measure in our version comes from the Greek and three sata  is about 50 lbs of flour, a huge quantity even more than Frances used up. Also we need to take the right viewpoint - what did Jesus mean when he spoke of the kingdom of heaven?

Jesus came to us and so in himself brought the kingdom of God which is not a place but an activity, not a territory but a whole new society described and inaugurated by His coming and of course it is a society that is radically quite different from ours.  My favourite commentator Matthew Henry talking about leaven considers this yeast as the word of the Gospel working in our hearts . Only a small amount is needed, and I like to think of it as no more than a whisper which once there,  in our hearts, rises silently yet purposefully to change us, just as Frances’ sourdough starter after many hours will produce a dough that will become a beautiful bread. But, notice the story of Frances’ experience is useful, for she has been working at the process, not simply hearing the word and leaving it unattended but putting in hours of practice, adapting and refining her ways until  …..

Well I have to say I think the loaf is perfect now.


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