You combine flour, water, salt and yeast and this inedible dough-like-paste transforms into crackling crust, a moist fluffy crumb (the inside of the loaf) and the most delicious scent fills the air (thanks Maillard reaction!). If that’s not magic, I don’t know what is.
The first waft of fresh bread is enough to stop anyone in their tracks, tasks forgotten, transported into a completely different world. That yeasty scent makes me feel at peace. There is something special for me about working that soft tacky dough until it’s supple and smooth, shaping it into springy boules and then waiting, waiting, waiting for them to proof and make their final transformation in a humble oven.
Making bread simultaneously excites me and relaxes me. It has this strange calming effect, working the dough, watching the yeast work it’s magic. One might describe it as meditative, a flow so-to-speak. There is a slowness that comes with making bread, for good bread cannot be rushed. Slow bread equals bread with complex, well-developed flavor.
Just for a brief moment when a slice of steaming hot bread is in your hand, slathered in the best butter you can find, everything is alright. Everything is better than alright. So I make bread. I make bread for me and I make bread for others because that is what I want to share with people and even with myself: Everything is going to be ok, maybe not forever, but at least in this moment. And when everything is not ok, come find me and I will hand you a slice of warm bread and we can bask in the okay-ness of that one moment.
It’s been a year since I’ve delved into the world of sourdough and I’m not tired of it yet! Far from it actually. I suppose you could say I just can’t get enough.
When I drove to LA on a Wednesday a few weeks ago, I didn’t know how to ask what I was looking for and I almost gave up before I figured it out. It took me until the fourth bakery to realize it: a chance. What I was looking for was someone to give me a chance, a shot to try this idea I’ve had percolating inside of me for over a year. So I was completely honest when I spoke with Anton, the head of the bread team at Superba Food + Bread, and my authenticity, clear drive and passion pushed me past the barrier of my inexperience.
On Monday morning, bright and early, or should I say dark and early, I went in to Superba at 4 am for a two-day trial. I was two parts excited and one part terrified, but I wasn’t about to let that stop me. I’ve had this idea for a long time now and I realized I need to try my hardest to follow through on it. Maybe it will be right and maybe it won’t, but I’ll never know unless I give it a shot.
The 4 am start time was not ideal, but I felt ready to do whatever it took to see if my passion for bread making would ever become something more. The work was physical and repetitive, yet the atmosphere of efficiency was mitigated by laughter sprinkled in every few minutes. The first day was spent learning more about the process of shaping and the second day, I even began to learn about loading the oven with baguettes. They offered me the job after my two-day trial.
Once I agreed to sign on, the reality sunk in. Bread baking is not lucrative and the cost of living in LA felt insurmountable. My housing constraints appeared outlandish: cheap, close to the bakery, in a very safe neighborhood (due to the middle the night start time), with my own room (see previous reason), and a month to month lease in case I had a change of heart. It felt like trying to find the trifecta of shoes: cute, cheap, and comfortable, aka., almost impossible.
I made one last call to Jim and Mary, a couple who had been coming to picnic during the Loyola Marymount sunsets for decades. They gave me the name of a woman living in Manhattan Beach and her lovely home ticked every single one of my impossible boxes.
Twice I almost gave up. First, when I almost walked out of Superba Food + Bread without asking for a job and second, when finding the housing I needed seemed impossible. And twice I decided to give the impossible one last shot.
For anyone else trying to “do their impossible” as Scott Dinsmore, of Live your Legend, would have said, surround yourself with people who will not let you succumb to doubt, go after your impossible 110 percent, and don’t stop until you’ve given it your all.