On Baking Bread, Part Two

Jun 9th, 2011 by Birdie in Faith, Inspirations, Life, Musings

Read Part One

Yesterday I delved into what has been my idol for seven years, (food) and how God used my health in a profound way to give me a kick in the butt to be a better Christian and to free myself from the chains that food had so tightly wrapped around me. Today, I want to share a revelation that I had about God while baking bread.

I’m sure that sounds silly, that something as simple as baking bread can spark a revelation, but God has really opened my eyes lately to the way that everyday tasks can reflect His spirit and His desires for us as His children.

Baking gluten free is a whole different animal than baking with all-purpose wheat flour. There are many different ingredients that have to work together to do the same job as just that one flour. There are an abundance of GF flours and starches that, mixed in different ratios, produce different flavors, textures, and densities. When you’re just starting out, it takes a lot of extra thought. But as you become more familiar with the different components, it gets easier and it becomes second nature.

Therein lies lesson number two.

On Baking Gluten Free Bread and Finding God

Baking GF bread is a lot like being a Christian.

Okay, okay, that sounds ridiculous, but hear me out. I promise, I have a point, and it makes sense.

The Apron (or, Physical and Emotional Armor)

When we enter the kitchen with the intent of baking, we put on an apron. (Okay, I know, not everybody wears an apron, but you know what I’m getting at.) We use it to protect ourselves from splatters and the like, and personally, I don’t like to cook without one.

Likewise, as humans, we wake up in the morning and put on our armor to protect our delicate self-worth: clothes to hide our perceived imperfections, makeup to make us feel pretty, and a carefully constructed facade to keep everyone else from finding out that we aren’t perfect. We cannot leave the house unprotected, because we fear that we risk grave emotional injury.

As Christians, God is our armor. However, as an apron cannot hide a terrible cook, God does not hide our flaws. He uses them instead to help us make connections with others, and to glorify Him through reaching out to those who share our pain. He delights in our flaws and weaknesses, because they give us the freedom to seek Him and share our hearts with others. (For a better explanation of this, head on over to Rebecca Thornberry: Artist and read her blog entry, Hem and Haw. She makes more sense of this than I do. Go on. I’ll wait here. You can read the rest of this when you get back.)

The Dough (or, Our Skewed Self Perception)

Regular bread dough and GF dough look completely different. Regular bread dough has a silky texture that makes it easy to knead. Instead of having a strong structure, GF bread dough is more like a cake batter. It looks like this:

Pre-risen gf bread dough

Finished GF bread dough

If not for the sage advice of Shauna Ahern of Gluten Free Girl and the Chef, I would have added more GF flour to this dough in order to make it look more like wheat bread dough. The problem with that would be that it would have ruined the entire batch. This batch was perfect the way it was.

In the same way, we as humans try so hard to fit into the world, to look like everybody else, and to be just like those people we admire. But God, in His infinite patience, slowly pours into us until we can finally acknowledge that we are perfect as we are. He made us different for a reason. There is someone we must reach who we couldn’t reach if we were just like everybody else.

The Rising and Baking (or, Spiritual Support and Trial by Fire)

Gluten is what binds baked goods together. It keeps them from being overly crumbly and falling apart. This is exactly why cornbread is so crumbly: corn meal does not usually contain gluten, and most recipes do not have a high enough wheat flour content to make it more like wheat bread.

Risen gf bread dough

GF bread dough after rising.

So, GF recipes need other binders, like xanthan gum, ground chia seeds, or flax meal, to give them a consistency reminiscent of “real” bread. They allow for that springy, high-rising structure so that people with celiac or gluten sensitivities can enjoy baked goods without ending up in pain or with permanent health problems. Without those binders, GF bread won’t bake right. It will end up dry and crumbly, and not like bread at all.

Like GF bread dough, we as humans can’t fully support ourselves. We might find something that seems to give us structure and support, but in the end, if we don’t have God, we fall flat. We don’t develop right in the fires of the trials in our lives. We try so hard to find that one thing that will bind us and hold us up, but we put forth all that effort looking in all the wrong places. All we have to do is look up.

The Finished Product (or, Where We Are Going and How We Get There)

Throughout the entire process of baking a loaf of GF bread, you have to gather up everything you ever learned about baking with gluten flours and throw it out the window. This is a whole other animal, and you have to take the time to learn the ins and outs of it without any preconceived ideas, or you’ll end up with a bunch of wasted ingredients and a failed loaf of what barely passes for bread. (Trust me. This is what happened the first time I tried to bake my own GF bread.)

Punched down gf bread dough

GF bread dough after being punched down.

Of all the steps in GF bread making, the only one that resembles its gluten counterpart is the finished product. All the others look so completely different that it’s hard to imagine it’ll all pull together and form something bread-like instead of something cake-like. Even seeing this whole thing through from beginning to end, it’s hard to imagine how it all turned out right.

GF bread dough ready to bake

GF bread dough ready to bake.

As it is with GF bread, so it is with our lives. No one, in the midst of trials and tribulations, can imagine how their life is going to end up right. When you look around yourself and all you see is chaos and ruin, it’s almost impossible to imagine that it’ll end up right at all. It’s entirely too easy to fall into the trap of thinking that maybe where you are isn’t where you’re supposed to be, and that the pain and suffering you’re feeling have no purpose but to break you down a little further.

Finished loaf of GF bread.

Finished loaf of GF bread.

But God knows just how you’re going to end up, and He can see the entire process from beginning to end. He knows how we’re going to get from a sloppy ruin to a beautiful, finished life. All we need is to go where He sends us and have faith that He will steer us right, and that he won’t leave us in the fire too long.

My bread turned out just right. I know that with God by my side, my life will turn out just right, too.

Sliced gf bread

Sliced GF bread.

Right now, it takes a lot of extra thought to trust Him to get me where I need to go, but every day that goes by, it gets a little easier. I’m looking forward to the day when it really does become second nature.

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