I was thirteen years old, a freshman in high school, when the idea of baking bread from scratch was presented to me and my classmates in our Girls’ Practical Arts class. Bunny, one of our classmates in Section Sixteen, was quite an old hand at the act, having learned how to bake several summers before. We were all fascinated as she confidently went through the motions of demonstrating to us how to mix the dough and knead it, how to let it rise, just how to bake it and for how long.
To my classmates, it was just a simple loaf of bread. For me, at the time, I found it a challenge.
It has been twenty years since the day of that little class demonstration. In the years that passed, my friends and I grew up. Many of my classmates, boys and girls alike, have gone and gotten married; indeed, a number already have kids of their own. Some, like me, are still single – though, like me, not always by choice. We have our own lives, our own dreams [fulfilled or still waiting to be fulfilled]; numerous tasks to do.
I have admitted time and again that I’m a late bloomer when it comes to baking and cooking. However, I have also noticed that my progress has gone into a much faster clip than those friends of mine who were kitchen habitues when we were kids. The bread I baked this weekend is proof of this.
A brioche à tête has to be one of the more ambitious breads for a home baker to try. The dough I normally use for cinnamon rolls and vanilla treacle coffeecake, a gloriously butter-rich affair, comes into its own here. Baked into a loaf of monumental proportions, it comes out beautifully golden with a fine soft crumb both fluffy and dense at the same time.
I like to think of this bread as a sort of testimony to everything I’ve gone through, everything I’ve had to deal with in my life.
Twenty years ago, my Practical Arts teacher told me that I would never be able to cook or bake properly. Seventeen years ago, our high school principal told me I would never amount to much. Nine years ago, my boyfriend at the time planned to cut me out of the deal our creative team was set to make with one of the biggest Japanese animation outfits. One of my closest friends has been trying to talk me out of both writing and loving the man who has inspired me for over a year now. And just these past few weeks, my colleagues have made me feel like the most useless miscreant on the face of the planet.
Yet, I’m still here.
I’ve realized that, like the act of baking bread, all good things need time. Sometimes, good people are subjected to the worst beatings – either physical or emotional – to be able to rise above situations. It makes them richer, sweeter, better – in pretty much the same way artisanal breads made at home seem better than those machine-processed loaves you can get anywhere.
As long as I keep the faith, as long as I keep rising over situations, as long as I let the Divine Baker mold me the way He wants me to be, I know I’ll be okay.