I was eager to try out my new bratform that I received for Christmas. I fed the sourdough for a few days, then, when it seemed bubbly enough, I stirred it into a pre-ferment and let it sit overnight. In the morning, I mixed in the remaining ingredients and kneaded it until it seemed as the directions indicated, soft but still sticky. I let it rise, giving it a fold halfway through the rising time of 2 hours. I placed it in the lined bratform, a traditional coiled cane bowl used to shape artisan loaves. Then I set it in the refrigerator overnight for maximum sourdough flavor. In the morning, the dough came out beautifully onto the parchment paper and I slashed steam vents in the top as artistically as I could. Into the oven it went and I happily set the timer for 30 minutes.
When the timer went off and I opened the oven, my face fell. Rather than escaping through the top, the steam came out the bottom! Instead of a lovely domed-shaped loaf, it had a huge bread bubble on the bottom, making it sit lopsided. I knew what happened, but not why. I took a picture and emailed it to the folks I met at a baking class over the summer. To my surprise, it was the instructor who answered back, and on a Sunday as well! She provided some theories as to the cause and suggestions for future baking.
She closed her email by saying, “Keep at it!” Until then, I never thought of baking as a journey, more of an activity. In a way, it’s very similar to my faith journey. Sometimes I’ll get it right and sometimes I won’t, but I need to keep trying. I also need to seek out assistance from those who are on the journey with me; those who have had more experience as well as those whose gift is to offer a different perspective. Even with the dozens of loaves I’ve made over the years, each loaf, like each opportunity, is different. Just following the directions does not guarantee the same results, as the air temperature, dough temperature and many other factors play a part in how much time will be required for rising or baking. Our lives constantly offer us new challenges and ways to grow in our faith. It can be easy to say that we’re “following the directions” or that we have enough experiences to know how to handle anything that comes up. Perhaps even more so, our faith journey needs to be encouraged and nurtured.
While some New Year resolutions may have come and gone, it’s never too late to start to look for opportunities that will help us on our faith journey. Take a class, help out at the parish, or spend time weekly on spiritual reading; when we cultivate relationships and resources, it creates a network we can refer to when our journey hits a bump in the road.