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Baking Bread: Transforming the Ordinary into Extraordinary

Baking Bread: Transforming the Ordinary into Extraordinary

I remember, as a new bride, sitting in a sunny, yellow kitchen on a cozy fall day, chatting with my husband’s grandmother as she measured, mixed, and kneaded. The room smelled of yeast, flour, and Cashmere Bouquet, her fragrance of choice! She was the professor; I the eager student, as I observed for the first time the art of baking homemade bread.

Not long after that first lesson, I bought a copy of the Farm Journal Bread Cookbook and began to try one recipe after another. In time, multi-grained, oatmeal, and even French breads were often featured on our family dinner table. I soon learned that the secret to keeping a house full of boys well-fueled involved homemade bread slathered in peanut butter!

One day, we heard that one of the elderly women in our church had just started chemotherapy which caused her to lose her appetite. We decided to take her a loaf of cracked wheat bread fresh from the oven, and thus began a several-times-a-week trip to her house with piping hot bread and a cheery greeting from one of our children! Several months later when she passed away, we received a note from her family, telling us how much this dear woman had looked forward to those days when we arrived with bread in tow, as it was the only thing she could eat after she had her treatments. Who knew a simple loaf of bread could have such a profound impact?

Through the years, visitors in our home have been routinely treated to a variety of breads, and I found that simple meals of soup and salad along with bread could serve a crowd, so we often invited other families to join us. On a number of occasions, our guests included a lovely older couple, Jim and Betty, who shared with us some of the amazing stories of God’s grace to them, including the wife’s passion for ministry to young women who were trapped in immoral lifestyles. We were intrigued with Betty’s stories of reaching out to college girls who danced at a local strip club in their town and how she and her friends had even gotten permission from the club owner to bring lasagna dinners in for the girls each week, often sitting and sharing Jesus with them over the meal! She told of traveling to South America to present the Gospel message to young girls caught up in prostitution, using what little high school Spanish she remembered to minister to them.

During one of her visits, I had just discovered the method of no-knead artisan bread baking and Betty was quite taken with the whole concept. She asked for the recipe and, back in her own kitchen, began baking it for her family and friends, including the nursing home residents where she worked part time. She found that serving these older people homemade bread often opened the door to hearing their stories and gave them an opportunity to enjoy fellowship with one another. This simple act of baking bread had become Betty’s new ministry tool! But I was not prepared for the story she had to share the next time they came to our house!

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Betty had just returned from a trip to the Philippines where she had been introduced to young women who had been victims of sex trafficking. She learned that many of them would gladly leave their jobs if they could only have a different means of supporting themselves. She decided that teaching them to bake bread was the solution! One by one, Betty patiently taught each of them the simple steps for preparing bread using only four ingredients: water, yeast, salt, and flour. She showed them how to shape it into small loaves and bake it in simple clay ovens outdoors, adding cinnamon and sugar to some of the loaves to sell along the city streets during the early morning rush hour! One simple loaf of bread became the lifeline for each girl who desperately wanted to escape a world of abuse and had opened their hearts to the Gospel message of Jesus, who is the true Bread of Life!

In the introduction of her autobiography,The Tapestry, Edith Schaeffer describes each person’s life as a thread in God’s master plan, in his tapestry. “You are a thread, I am a thread,” she says. “As we affect each other’s ideas, physical beings, spiritual understanding, or material possessions or as we influence each other’s attitudes—creativity, courage, determination to keep on, moods, priorities, understanding, spiritually, intellectually, emotionally,—we are at the same time affecting history. History is different because you have lived and because I have lived.”

How great is this truth—though often hard to reconcile with the mountains of laundry, endless diapers, and continual school clutter! We understand the admonition to “be faithful in the day of small things” but cannot help wondering if those seemingly insignificant, ordinary things matter in the grand scheme of life, if there is anything eternal in the midst of our daily routines.

I believe there are moments when God allows us just a tiny glimpse of the beauty of his whole tapestry and the divine intersection of each life with someone else’s, our own “threads” of life weaving back and forth with other “threads” to create something of immense beauty that really matters for eternity. Those moments are different for each of us; mine came through the baking of a simple loaf of bread.

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Karen Campbell’s Artisan Bread

  • 3 cups lukewarm water
  • 1 ½ tablespoons yeast
  • 1 ½ tablespoons coarse salt
  • 6 cups flour—carefully measured by scooping and leveling each cup with a table knife (can be mixture of white and whole wheat)

Mix well in large bowl and cover, allowing to rest for 3 hours. No need to knead!

Sprinkle a bit of flour over top of raised dough, as the secret to this bread is the wetness of the dough. Divide into 3 softball-sized pieces of dough and shape into round loaves. Place on a cookie sheet that has been lined with parchment paper. Allow to rise for 30 minutes while preheating oven to 450 degrees. Spritz with a fine water spray a couple times during baking for a crunchy crust and bake for about 20 minutes or until golden. Share and enjoy! 

© 2013 by Home Educating Family Association. All rights reserved. Used with permission. Originally published in 2012 Issue 4 of Home Educating Family Magazine, the publication with the most meaningful discussions taking place in the homeschooling community today. Visit hedua.com to read back issues and for more articles, product reviews, and media.

Karen Allen Campbell is a 28-year veteran of homeschooling, the mom of six children, grandmother of 14, and has been married to her husband, Clay, for 38 years. Karen loves baking and cooking for the whole gang when they are home and is actively involved in her local Toastmasters Club. They live on the Illinois prairie where Karen blogs and podcasts about relationship homeschooling at www.thatmom.com.

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