My Sourdough Journey: Chapter Twelve – Taking Charge of the Soda Breads

Meanwhile, I didn’t make any new recipes at the bakery but I did get a chance to take some responsibility for the shaping of the soda breads. People had been asking for it, so we were making a batch each week. It was a more forgiving dough than some of the others so there wasn’t much damage I could do to it.

I quite liked the feel of the heavy, wholemeal dough and was happy to take on the cutting, shaping and scoring of the loaves.

Liam mixed the dough, then scraped it out of the mixer

Liam mixed the dough, then scraped it out of the mixer

It was sometimes a very sticky dough

It was sometimes a very sticky dough

But he finally got it all out and onto the floured table

But he finally got it all out and onto the floured table.

Gentle reader, what does it look like to you . . . why, unshaped soda bread dough, of course!

Gentle reader, what does it look like to you . . . why, unshaped soda bread dough, of course!

I set about cutting up the dough into 500g pieces.

I set about cutting up the dough into 500g pieces.

Then shaped and floured them, and transferred them onto a baking tray.

Then I shaped and floured them, and transferred them onto a baking tray.

I used the handle of a spatula to score the characteristic cross into the top of the loaves, and then slid the trays-there were two in all-onto the rack to rest.

Liam put them into the oven when it was time for them to go in; and some while later, out came:

Two batches of nicely baked Irish soda breads!

Two batches of nicely baked Irish soda breads!

A far cry from what it looked like coming out of the mixer earlier . . .

A far cry from what it looked like coming out of the mixer earlier . . .

In his article, ‘Cavemen, computers, and great bread’, Jarkko Laine, creator of ‘Bread Magazine‘, wrote: “When I really put my mind to it and think about the reasons why I enjoy designing and building software or baking bread, I realize that at their core, the two activities are very similar.

“I see both bread making and computer programming as crafts that can be mastered by a combination of study and practice — with more emphasis on the practice.

“Both (and actually, now that I think of it, writing too) are all about taking basic ingredients and creating something beautiful with them.

“In writing, the ingredients are words.

“In computer programming, the ingredients are the programming language and the capabilities of the computer itself.

“In bread making, the ingredients are flour, water, and salt.

“By creatively applying best practices and design patterns that have been carved into your brain cells through hours of practice, you take what you have done many times before and apply it in a new way, creating something that didn’t exist before you got to work.

“This, I believe is one of the greatest joys in being alive. Creating.

“Turning simple ingredients to something beautiful and alive.”

That, gentle reader, is a wonderful analogy and it helped me to find a grounding for my own motivations too. And so I continue steadfastly on my journey of learning how to make . . . create . . . great bread, even as I continue to enjoy crafting and creating with words.

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