I should bake bread.
That idea came to me while reading a New York Times Article about “Distractibaking.” It had been years since I created a loaf of bread. And now, during this time of social distancing, the notion appealed to me. If I wanted fresh bread, I could bake it myself and avoid a dreaded trip to the grocery store.
I figured the popular No-Knead Bread featured in the Times would be right up my alley. I even watched a video where Jim Lahey, the baker, asserted that any six-year-old could make it. That may be an overstatement, but I was sold.
Once I got started, I realized the process compares to writing a blog.
According to Daphne Gray-Grant, author of Your Happy First Draft, you should spend 40 percent of your time preparing to write, 20 percent writing and 40 percent editing and rewriting. I experienced similar levels of effort when baking my bread. I spent more time preparing and baking then actually working the dough.
Here’s how I approached making my delicious no-knead bread for the first time.
Step One: Preparing to Bake
Planning a new recipe takes time. You want to make sure you’ve got the ingredients and understand the timing. After carefully reading the bread recipe, I added the essential items to my shopping list.
During this time of COVID-19, even a trip to the grocery store requires strategy. I wanted to replenish my perishables without spending a lot of time in the store.
The best answer, I decided, was to head to the grocery store at 7 a.m. on a Sunday morning. About 20 senior citizens with the same idea awaited the store’s opening outside the door. They were looking for a sparkling clean store without many shoppers.
Then I discovered the popularity of my culinary experiment. The bread flour shelf was wiped out. Luckily, I found some flour produced by a local mill – all the better.
The yeast stocks, however, were bare. Nothing, Zilch. That’s when I knew I would have to turn to my friend Nan, a renowned baker. She seldom buys store-bought bread for her family.
Even when Nan underwent hand surgery, she still baked ahead, so her freezer was stocked with delicious loaves.
Nan, I knew, would have yeast. All I needed was ¼ teaspoon. As it turns out, Nan had plenty of yeast. In fact, she had extra and gave me an entire jar. Now I’m set for years.
When I returned home with my precious jar of yeast, I reviewed the recipe. It called for instant yeast. I called Nan, and she informed me I had regular, not instant yeast. She gave me a quick over-the-phone lesson in proofing yeast, and I was all set.
When preparing to bake, I confirmed the type of yeast to avoid problems with the baked loaf. During a writing project, you also may run into some unexpected hurdles. You may need to conduct additional research or confirm the facts with a more reliable source.
Step Two: Assembling the Dough
Working with the dough compares to creating your first draft for a writing project. Gray-Grant promotes writing without editing. You’re supposed to spend about 20 percent of your time on this stage.
In the same way, mixing the dough was the quickest part of making my recipe. As the name indicates, I didn’t even have to knead it. I just assembled the ingredients, stirred it up, and let it rest for 18 hours. Then in the morning, I shaped it into a ball a few times and let it rise for two hours.
When writing, it’s also best to let your draft sit overnight. When you review it with new eyes, rewriting will be easier. Those awkward and unclear phrases will be much more apparent.
Step Three: Baking
Finally, my loaf was ready to put into the preheated oven. I even preheated the cast-iron pot.
I flipped the risen loaf into the pot and then carefully placed it in the oven. Before long, delicious smells filled the house. What a bonus!
I checked on my precious loaf and took it out after 45 minutes. The loaf looked beautiful. Now it just had to cool so I could see if my efforts were worth it.
As a writer completes a final version of a blog or article, there comes a time when you know it’s done or you face a pressing deadline. Run your narrative through Grammarly or another editing software and read it out loud. I’m lucky that my husband often reads final proofs to provide an outside view.
The Magic of Time
That extra time spent in rewriting will improve the finished product. Like baking bread, there’s a sweet spot for “baking” your narrative. You want to revise your piece to improve the flow, but not so often that you negatively impact the outcome.
Step Four: Celebrating
Both bakers and writers enjoy the fruits of their labor.
For me, it was a real treat to share the freshly baked bread with my husband on a Monday morning. It’s tough to beat a warm piece of bread.
And now, I know I can replicate the recipe whenever we need fresh bread. I’ll have to plan, but like most folks, I’m spending most of my time at home, so that’s not an issue.
Freelance writers get the satisfaction of seeing their work posted online or in print. It’s rewarding to know that you’re informing your readers while meeting the needs of your clients.
Take Time to Explore
Social distancing allows us to experiment. We have more time to take a breath and ask: What’s next?
In this era of Covid-19, are you trying something new?