Bread is life, embodying the vitalities and energies of sun, soil, and grain. Flour, water, salt, and yeast – breat is the most elemental of foods. “Give us this day our daily bread,” we are taught to pray. It doesn’t last long, three days at most.
Bread is sacrifice. The wheat dies to provide its grain. The grain dies to produce flour. The flour dies to make dough. The dough dies to yield bread. Making bread is priestly work. Hard work. It involves sweat – the farmer sweats, the miller sweats, the baker sweats. There is death too. The yeast dies as do the farmer, the miller, and the baker. “By the sweat of your brow you will eat your bread until you die” (Genesis 3). Little wonder that Jesus identifies Himself with bread as the Bread of Life, Living Bread come down from heaven (John 6). His priestly sweat and sacrificial death are Life. He is both Baker and Bread who comes to us in eucharistic Bread. “Take, eat. This is my Body.”
Bread is craft, the transformation of material into something more. Like the potter with his clay, the baker shapes dough and puts it into the fire, not knowing what will emerge. Usually, it is edible; occasionally, beautiful.
Breadcraft is not a hobby but a way of life. It is taking daily bread into one’s own hands to feel the transformation of flour and water to dough and bread. Mixing, stretching, folding, shaping. The beauty of baking for oneself is that you don’t need to use machines. You wouldn’t want to. Your two hands are sufficient to the task.