Baking bread is a soothing and calming process for all the senses. At the end you have something delicious to share and eat. It’s a great way to care for yourself and others.
During the Coronavirus lockdown it was impossible to buy yeast for baking. Flour was hard to come by too. This was partly due to perceived food shortages, but mostly because people were resorting to traditional home baking as a grounding and calming activity. It was an expression of the creative human drive to make a safe haven in an uncertain world.
A Feast for the Senses
Making your own bread is a feast for the senses. From starting the yeast culture through to munching a tasty slice still warm from the oven, it is intensely satisfying. We feel connected to old ways and profoundly satisfied on every plane. I love the smell of the yeast and the ceremony of mixing it with warm water and sugar to wake into bubbly life. Mixing this culture into warm flour, I know I am creating something new right here in my kitchen.
Then comes the kneading. Squeezing and pounding the dough, my inner child gets a chance to play. It is like being three years old again and exploring new sensations. I like the patterns my knuckles make in the springy dough. If I am feeling cross I can bang and slap it around most satisfyingly. It is a brilliant meditation for the hands. The mixture slowly becomes stretchy and shiny, changing in texture at my touch. When it is well-kneaded and smooth, I nestle my dough in a bowl, cover it, and leave it in a warm place to prove.
Baking Bread Takes Time
Baking bread with yeast is a natural process. It takes time. This allows us to slow down our frantic pace of life. While the yeast quietly multiplies in your dough you might like to go out for a walk or take a relaxing bath. There is no hurry, and you can return to it when you are ready. Baking helps us learn patience and the gradual inevitability of growth.
Most recipes now tell you to knock the excess air out of your dough and knead it again. Now you can decide what shape you would like your bread to be. You might choose a traditional loaf tin or a clay flower pots. You can make your bread into rolls or a round shape. If you are feeling especially creative you can experiment with plaits, animal shapes or other artistry. It’s up to you. Get creative and have fun.
Once your bread has had more time to prove and double in size you can put it in the oven. Now those delicious aromas really start to fill the house. I find that fresh-baked-bread smell totally irresistible. Before long you will be ready to taste and share your creation.
Bringing People Together
Baking and sharing bread brings people together. For millennia, families and communities have gathered to “break bread” around simple and wholesome meals. Sometimes this takes on a spiritual significance. In Jewish family and community life the blessing, breaking and sharing of the challah loaves at the Shabbat meal is a key expression of faith[i]. For others, cooking and eating with family or friends can be a treasured time for connection.
International Bake Bread for Peace Day
October 24th is International Bake Bread for Peace Day[ii]. An Irish lady called Breezy Kelly in County Donegal was feeling saddened by all the conflict and sorrow in the world. She started encouraging individuals and communities to come together and share their desire for world peace through the ancient and peaceful activity of baking and sharing bread together. You can learn more about Breezy and follow her inspiring Facebook page here:
Different Types of Bread
There are so many different ways to bake bread. As well as traditional white or wholemeal yeast breads you can try sourdough (where you nurture your own wild yeast culture), quick soda breads, or gluten free recipes. You can add cheese or olives, eggs or sugar to make delicious special breads. Brioche and ciabatta, rye bread and focaccia are all glorious ways to play with dough. A whole world of creativity awaits.
Baking Bread and Calm
Simple and practical activities are calming to the nervous system. We can absorb ourselves and forget our worries in playful and sensory experiences where not too much is at stake. If your bread burns or fails to rise, that is no great disaster. You have enjoyed the journey and hopefully learned something for next time. It is a gentle lesson in coping with imperfection. But with a fair wind you will have something tasty to eat and share with your loved ones.
Today’s Calming Activity – Baking Bread
Why not have a try at baking some bread today? This is a great activity to share with children, or you may prefer the peace of doing it on your own.
There is a simple recipe here for a traditional white loaf. If you prefer you can find plenty of alternative options online, including gluten free and vegan breads. The BBC Good Food website is a great place to start. Or maybe you have a favourite family recipe. The main thing is to have a go, relax and enjoy the experience. Delicious!
Thanks for reading this blog post. I am writing a series of 31 blogs every day this August. I plan to publish them later in the year as a book entitled, ‘Finding Your Calm Space – 31 Ways to Find Calm in a Crazy World’.
I’m Karen. I am a Yoga teacher, Reflexologist and busy mum of seven. I live with my family in Billericay, Essex, UK. In the past I have worked as a Midwife, Health Visitor, Baby Signing teacher and Tax Inspector. I love getting outdoors, swimming in the sea, walking and writing. Helping people relax is one of the things I do best.
You can learn more about my Yoga classes and Reflexology at my website www.thecalmspace.co.uk