Sleep on This: The Bread Chronicles—leaven (May 6)

Sleep on This: The Bread Chronicles—leaven (May 6)

Good evening, friend!

Every parent thinks their newborn is beautiful. But truth be told, some newborns are a little bit “beautiful-er” than the others!

As enthusiastic and proud as I was of my inaugural sourdough bake, when I look at it a little more dispassionately, I realize that my loaf was in the less “beautiful-er” category, honestly. It was a little overdone, a little chewy, a little hole-ly and pretty squatty.

It didn’t help my baking ego that a well-meaning Chapel Hiller, upon reading of my love for sourdough, brought over one of HER sourdough creations as a gift. Its golden-domed loveliness made my “baby” look like a pudgy, squatty mushroom cap. (It was still yummy, though. Butter, like love, covers a multitude of sins. 1 Peter 4:8—MJT version.)

Nevertheless, I am now doing an after-action report. (My wife, with her cache of “Cooks” magazines, is eagerly contributing to the critique—a little too eagerly, it seems to me!) One likely candidate is that the dough was too wet. Another possibility—I didn’t get enough rise; my leaven wasn’t vigorous enough.

Truthfully, I forgot the “float” test, the one where you drop a lump of starter into water. If it floats, you’re golden. If not, you should let it ferment some more before you combine your ingredients. I only did the float test AFTER I’d already mixed up my dough—kind of a retroactive wishful thinking. It fell to the bottom like a fat rock. But at that point, there was no going back!

Leaven is an interesting topic in scripture. When the Jews prepared to leave Egypt, they didn’t have time to allow their bread to rise, which is why all leavened bread is forbidden during the celebration of Passover. 

Leaven is also a mixed metaphor in the Bible. On the one hand, it is a symbol for sin; the pervasive and expansive power of sin in our lives. In Luke 12:1, Jesus said, “Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy.” Leaven…not good.

Interestingly, though, in the very next chapter, Jesus uses leaven as a positive example of how the Kingdom of God can expand from even a very small start. “To what shall I compare the kingdom of God? It is like leaven that a woman took and hid in three measures of flour, until it was all leavened.” Luke 13:20-21.

Lord, as I lay me down to sleep, would you use these restful hours to do a work in my soul? Make it a place receptive and responsive to the smallest germ of your Kingdom-work—and make me ever more resistant to the tiny but mighty germs of sin that so easily sneak up and take over. Swell my soul with the overshadowing influence of your Spirit. Amen!