Bake Bread, BuildConfidence

Ihave wanted to learn how to make bread FOR YEARS.  No joke.  While this has been one of my life’s more quiet ambitions, it has been with me for in and around 10 years.

When I was still teaching up in Grassy, I bought myself a bread machine, and despite delegating the task of bread making to a machine that I figured would do a better job than I, it managed to mess itself up.  I believe I produced one, not properly cooked loaf before the mixing blades of the bread machine got lodged into a loaf and I pitched the entire thing.

I have some really fond memories of my Mom baking.  If you were to ask my Mom, she would instantly discredit her baking talent and skills and tell you that she isn’t really any good at it.  This is a trait that I have absorbed entirely from my mother.  While my confidence in most, if not all of my abilities could be described as poor at best, when it comes to baking and cooking I have zero faith in myself.

I’m aware now that this ties in a bit with Impostor Syndrome, but I know it goes deeper and further back than that alone.

I can’t credit this lack of faith in my culinary skills to any one disastrous event or recipe.  Like most, I think, I’ve had a handful of things turn out really well, with a few duds along the way.

It is, then perhaps the idea that because my cooking and baking is usually consumed by others, I lack a lot of confidence.  The fact that I make recipes that I bring to others, or invite friends and family over to try,  means that others will inherently judge me, for more than my skills in the kitchen-this is my admittedly warped logic.

Thus, a bad or failed recipe, or even one that is just so-so becomes an instant marker for who I am as a person.

I am learning how I have managed to tie my identity and worth as a person into everything and everyone other than myself.  This particular blog post will be a multi-part one, so I will extrapolate on this idea further in future posts, but suffice it to say that this realization-how dependent I am on others and things to set and determine my worth-is daunting and a little eye opening, to put it lightly.

Despite my 8 + year desire to learn how to make my own bread, besides the bread machine venture, I’ve never made an attempt at this objective.  Somewhere in my mind I have the belief that bread can be a bit temperamental and tricky to make, and it is this uncertainty that has likely held me back from trying, in addition to my more general lack of confidence.

Uncertainty and fear, I am learning are very significant influencers in my life, and have been for a while although they seem to have reached a fever pitch in these last three years.

Last week, while reading one of the running blogs I frequent, I came across a white bread recipe that sounded basic enough and claimed to be really easy.  As I didn’t trust my abilities to make a fool-proof loaf of bread, I called my Mom up to ask her for any advice for bread making.  What she suggested was essentially what the recipe called for, so over the weekend on my weekly grocery shop, I picked up what I needed and the being the rabid planner I am, tried to figure out when the best day to make it would be.

I didn’t want to attempt the bake on a day where I had something else going.  I figured I needed an entire day to mess the recipe and attempt up.  Plenty of time for clean up and botched rises of the dough.  As the recipe I was following was a 2 loaf recipe, I asked Ian to help me with the math to halve the recipe as I was only comfortable and willing to screw up one loaf of bread and not two.

I got up this morning, did Monday session for my new training program for running, had breakfast and then when I could delay no longer, opted for trying the bake out.  I had an appointment with Nathalie-the session of which I will detail in a future post-just after lunch, so I knew I had the morning.  Again, my thinking here was that I would have plenty of time to attempt to bake my first loaf of bread-the amount of time was great, as I figured that in the likely event that I messed things up, I would still have ample time to get other things done before my appointment.

I managed to assemble the dough and put it in the oven which I had lightly heated for its first rise.  At this early stage I was already seriously doubting my efforts, so I was pretty taken aback when I took a peak at the dough and noticed that it had risen substantially.

At the end of the first rise time, I took the bowl of dough out of the oven and kneaded it for a while, before forming it and placing it into a bread pan for its second rise.

I figured this would be the stage where it would fail.  I placed the dough in the oven again, and again was amazed when I went to check on it to see that it had risen even further.

I took it out, brushed it with some melted butter and put it back in the oven.

My oven is old and cranky and unreliable and heats up incredibly fast.  When I do use it, I normally have to adjust the temperature a lot, and I have to watch as the back of the oven tends to easily incinerate things that are closer to that end.  As such, I usually play it by ear a bit both with the suggested temperature and bake time.

As the dough hadn’t flopped on the first two occasions where I thought it would, I concluded that it would be in the final stage of the bake where the loaf or sections of it would come out of the oven charred, despite my best efforts to adjust things for a more even cook.

I was pretty pumped when the loaf came out looking perfect.  Still though, at this stage I didn’t celebrate.  By the time the loaf had finished baking, I had to leave for my appointment with Nathalie, so I didn’t get to try any.  I planned on having some of it for dinner with soup.

Even there in my dinner plans, I figured that I would likely cut into the loaf to find half of it still raw.  Or it would be solid and dense and not fluffy as the recipe promised.

In short, I doubted this loaf of bread from the moment I activated the yeast, to the moment when I finally cut into it.

That’s a pretty sad thing to do.  But I think it also gives me a really interesting perspective on just how doubt and fear-filled my life is right now.  The fact that I don’t even trust myself to bake a loaf of bread successfully speaks volumes about all of the other things I struggle to trust myself with doing, and accomplishing.

So, how did the bread turn out?  Perfect.  Completely cooked through.  Golden crust.  Warm and soft.  Everything that I could have hoped for, but was afraid to for my first bread attempt.

I’m as proud of myself for this as I have been in a long time.  It may seem small, and it is just bread, but I did it.  I made it.  I was successful.

During our session today, Nathalie encouraged me to try to find things to do where I could really connect with myself.  The bread attempt of today wasn’t really that, as the whole process was filled with doubt and premature negative self-talk.  I’m hoping though that through my first successful attempt, and with my new found sense of confidence, I’ll make this a more regular occurrence.   It’s something I now know I can do well.

I just have to remember that.

With Love,

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Olivia Shaw

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