Kneading in the Crumbs

Over the summer, I had a temporary lapse of sanity and attempted (once again) to learn the art of making sourdough bread, chiefly because I really like eating it. I engaged with hell itself and requested a whole collection of bread baking books from the library and buckled down to learn all the things.

Have I ranted about bread bakers before? Maybe not. The amount of fussy, nitpicking detail that real bread bakers put into their descriptions of a mass of dough that seriously depends upon something rotting in your cupboard is ridiculous. 45 pages later, when I finally get to the first recipe, there is a large portion of my brain that wants to grab the author by the throat and shake him while screaming, YOU DO REALIZE MA INGALLS DID THIS ON THE BACK OF A WAGON, RIGHT?!?

They name their starters, they use thermometers for absolutely everything (“maybe I am personally running a fever and it is affecting the amylase… best check.”), they drape and poke and prod and 15 days later they get a crusty loaf of bread. Personally, by the end of all that, I was feeling less than ok with anyone eating it and started to behave more like the first jackal to find that dead rabbit in the desert and start swatting at hands that would dare to seek nibbles off of my masterpiece.

This is not healthy.

So, that’s my story and I’m sticking to it: not that I couldn’t keep the dang starter alive, but that for the good of others, I benevolently allowed it to pass from this life to the next in a blue haze of glory and sour stinkiness.

But in the midst of all those senor fussypants books, I could not help but notice an omission in all the instructions that I personally think would have been helpful:

Clean your counter before you knead your bread.

Too obvious, say you? You and your 20/20 vision.

(Side note: I have green eyes. My mother, Marme, has lighter green eyes with gold flecks in the center. So far, I have no children that have my color green, though I have spotted 2 with Marme’s green. Last night, I caught a glimpse of Quail the Youngest in just the right light and told her I thought just maybe she was going to have my eyes. She responded, without glancing up or missing a beat, “Blurry?” Ahem. Yes. Well. We do appear to have a few things in common beyond eye color, don’t we…)

While sourdough has been a total bust, I do still enjoy making braid and during a happy season of unemployed residence at my sister the Superchick’s home, I took up the making of challah bread and it is a skill that stuck (and yes. I pronounce it like a Gentile. It is supposed to be “Hollah”, with a gravelly, rasping sound in the back of the throat and I sound so dang pretentious every time I try to pronounce the bread that way, that I have decided it is less mortifying to incur the eye rolls of every Jewish person in the world rather than say it right), so it has become my go-to. I like to make loaves of mixed white/wheat challah, woven into a 6-strand braid, on Monday mornings because it makes the tastiest PBnJ you have ever eaten and Mondays could generally use a bit of that.

So this last Monday, I was in my happy place: there was bright, if somewhat freezing, autumn sunshine lighting up the dramatically colored leaves out my kitchen window, a candle was burning on the sill, and I was scooping the dough out of Annika the Ankarsrum (feel you haven’t been introduced? Back to the archives with you!), preparing the final knead before the first rising and as it thudded to the counter, I realized that I had not called before digging, as it were, and managed to land my fresh, silken dough into a pile of what I am choosing to believe were toast crumbs. There were some other Quail happenings in the kitchen involving modeling clay… but the less I contemplate that the better.

Even though I caught what I had done quickly, and lifted my dough back up, there were already little crumbs so embedded that no amount of pinching and plucking could entirely free the challah from its parasitic guests. Sigh. Here’s hoping the toast was whole grain and that I can chalk this one up to extra fiber in their peanut butter sandwiches.

Small foxes can destroy a vineyard, small crumbs can wreck bread, small sins can bake their way into your family and change the whole flavor of your home. It has one, you know — a flavor, an aroma, a marked and unique impression that is tangible both for the inmates and any guests who step across your threshold. That means that your mild irritation with your husband over something foolish, like where he squeezes the toothpaste or that bizarrely loud dinosaur yawn he does in your direction every morning when he wakes up, when undealt with, works its way out into the rest of your marriage, and into your family life. There are no safe sins. There is no crumb so small that you can afford to let it run amuck in your heart. You know what a loaf of bread is made up of? Crumbs.

The good news is, we simply don’t have the spiritual dexterity to single our and extract every last crumb — but if you are in Christ, then you have His indwelling Spirit. Seek His face this morning, invite the conviction that can lead to godly sorrow that leads to repentance that leads to restoration — a fresh loaf. Repent to and in front of those who need to see it; model godly breadmaking. The small things become gigantic when heat is applied — kill the sins while they are small, before they have opportunity to become permanent habits. And if you see this morning that it is too late for you to uproot these crumbs of sin in their infancy, that they are already worked into every corner of your heart and home, then turn where all sinners must. Fall on Christ.

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