Contemplative bread making, 21 September 2011

Mike Rayner, Holland House, Cropthorne, Worcestshire


Time table

O minutes: Start

O minutes – 45 minutes: Introduction, igredients, mixing, kneading [minimum]

45 - minutes to 1 hour 30 minutes: Rising [longer if necessary]

1 hour 30 minutes – 2 hours.  Shaping and proving [again longer if possible]

2 hours – 2 hours 30 minutes.  Baking



For each person: large bowl + flour, small bowl + yeast, small bowl + salt, small bowl + extra flour (colour coded bowls [this is important]), glass of water, recipe, large plastic bag, knife, paper bag (for taking bread away at end).

For leaders: scales (including, if possible, scales that measure 0.1g), bowls (large and small), teaspoon and larger spoon, jug, measuring cylinder, large plastic bags, paper bags, baking trays (oil for baking trays), oven, tea towels, washing bowl(s), ordinary towel(s), flour, yeast, salt,( butter, honey [optional]).



Part 1   Introduction


This is Part 1 of a contemplative bread making session.  Part 2 will take place after lunch.   I should say this is a bit of an experiment – I have only led one such session before – and I have changed quite a lot of things since last time.   I should also say I am not an expert bread maker.  So please bear with me if you are.   I want to stress that this is not a cookery lesson.  

What I would like you to do is be quiet while we are making the bread –and not talk to one-another except if absolutely necessary.   In front of you should have everything you need to make a loaf of bread.   Of course ask me if you feel you need anything extra.   But this is bread making at its most basic.

What I’ll be doing today besides making a loaf of my own is giving you instructions on what to do next.   Please don’t do anything until I tell you to!   I’ll also be reading some bible verses, giving you some things to think about and saying one or two prayers along the way.  There will I hope also be quite a few silences.

1. So In a minute we’ll start making the bread by thinking about the ingredients, mixing them together and then kneading the dough.  

2. Then there will be a break while the dough rises.

3. Then after that lunch we’ll reassemble for the second part of the bread making.   This will involve, briefly kneading the dough again – a process called knocking back - then shaping the bread and putting it onto the baking trays to prove.  We’ll wait in silence for the bread to prove.

5. When the bread is ready we will put it in the oven to bake.

The aim is to produce some bread for communion later but there will also be plenty left over to take home.

Before we start I’d like you all to wash your hands.  


First some words from the 1 Corinthians [10:17] ‘Though we are many we are one body because we all share in one bread.’

A prayer.  Father God be with us while we making bread together today.   Help us to remember that though we are many we are one body because we all share in one bread.


So there are six stages to breadmaking:                    

                    Firstly. Mixing

                    Secondly. Kneading

                    Thirdly. Waiting while the dough rises

                    Fourthly. Shaping

                    Fifthly. Waiting again while the bread proves

                    Sixthly. Baking


So let’s start with the mixing of the ingredients.  But even before that I want us to think about those ingredients and how they have got here.  The basic four ingredients of bread are flour, water, yeast and salt.


1. Ingredients




So first the flour.  You cannot make bread without flour.

A verse from John’s gospel [12:24] ‘I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.’

Please feel the flour.  

Flour comes from wheat grown in fields. This is flour from wheat grown in fields nearby on the on the nearby Overbury Estate 12 miles away. Imagine those fields.

Think about how the wheat that was milled to produce the flour.  This  flour is from grain that was milled in Stanway Watermill – about 13 miles from here.

Think how flour got from mill to here.

Think about the labour of the people involved the farmer, the miller, Robin who brought the flour from the mill to here.  

Think about what’s needed for the flour to be here, the sun, the land, the rain, the air, the fertilisers, the pesticides, the tractors to plough the fields, the petrol for those tractors, the combine harvesters to harvest the wheat, the mill machinery, the paper and ink for the packaging.   How much these cost the earth to produce this flour.

Think about Jesus’ parable of the kernel of wheat ‘I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. ’What do you think the kernel of wheat represents.




Next the salt.  This is to flavour the bread.

A verse from Matthew’s gospel [5:13] “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.”

Feel the salt.   The salt is in the blue foil container.   Feel how different it is from the flour.   Note how little there is of it.  Taste a few grains of salt.

Salt comes from the sea either directly as sea salt or indirectly from salt mines where the salt is from

ancient seas.

This is Maldon sea salt from the sea off the coast of Essex.  

Think about how the salt was has been produced from the sea.  At Maldon, the water which is particularly salty there, is filtered and then transferred to large stainless steel salt pans.  It’s then boiled.  And as the water evaporates pure white salt crystals form on the surface and then sink.  These crystals are then dried ready to be packed and distributed.  This is basically the way salt has been made since Adam’s time.

Think about Jesus’ saying “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.” What does the salt represent?




Next the yeast.  Now you don’t really need yeast for bread making but it is difficult to do so without it.

A verse from Matthew’s gospel [13:33]. He told them still another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into about sixty pounds of flour until it worked all through the dough.”

Smell the yeast.  The yeast is in the red foil container. What does it small like?

Yeast is a living organism and can be found everywhere.  It’s found naturally in flour.

This yeast has been grown in large vats in London – I cannot find out precisely where those vats are.  

But in those vats it has been fed on sugar, and other minerals and vitamins.  This yeast comes from the last independent baker in Oxford - Gibbons' Bakery in East Oxford – who got it from Bako – a co-operative bakery product distributor in London.

Think about Jesus’ parable of the yeast: “The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into about sixty pounds of flour until it worked all through the dough.”   What does the yeast represent?




Finally the water.  You cannot make bread without water. Look at the water in the glass.

Two verses from John’s gospel [4: 13-14]   ‘Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”’

This water comes from the tap

Think about where the water has come from to be here today.  First there was rain.   This fell on the hills, this water became streams, then rivers which returned the water to the sea where the water evaporated to produce rain clouds.   Along the way we humans siphoned off some of this water – mostly from the rivers – filtered the water and stored it in reservoirs from which the water was pumped to our taps.

Think how important water is to life.

Think about Jesus’ saying about him being living water: “the water I give you will become in you a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”  What does he mean by living water?


2. Mixing the ingredients


Now we come to the mixing of the ingredients.   You can do this with a spoon but today we will be mixing them together with our hands.

Before we do that.  Those words from 1 Corinthians [10:17] again ‘Though we are many we are one body because we all share in one bread’

And a verse from Romans [12: 4].  ‘For as in one body we have many members and all the members do not have the same function so we, though we are many are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.’

Feel the flour again.  Feel how soft it is.

Add the salt to the bowl of flour.   Mix it together gently with your hands.  Feel how the salt makes the flour fee grainy.

Think about how much salt you need to flavour all this flour.  Think again about Jesus’ saying about salt.

Take the yeast.   Crumble it up over the bowl as much as possible and add to the flour/salt mixture.   Feel how it feels like a living organism.   There is only a little yeast at this point but over the next hour or so each living yeast cell will double many times.

Mix together the yeast with the flour and the salt breaking up the yeast as much as possible between your fingers.

Think again about Jesus’ parable of the yeast

Finally add the water.   Feel the water as it you pour it into the bowl.  It should be the temperature of blood. Mix it together with the flour, the salt and the yeast with your hands.   Don’t worry about your hands getting sticky.   Mix it together thoroughly


If it is too sticky you may need to add a little more flour but don’t do so until you are sure you needs to.  There is a little spare flour in the silver foil container.

As you mix the ingredients together think about the mixture: how the sum is greater than the parts.   As a church, as a community, we are like this mixture, all different, with different gifts, with different parts to play.

PAUSE [when ingredients all mixed]

That verse from Romans again slightly altered: ‘For as in one bread we have many ingredients and all the ingredients do not have the same function so we, though we are many, are one bread in Christ, and individually ingredients one of another. ‘


3. Kneading


Now we come to the kneading of the dough.   Lift the mixture out of the bowl and begin to knead the dough.  This should take about 10 minutes.   There are many ways of kneading bread.  The main aim is to stretch the dough as much as possible and in the process to change its nature.   It’s So if you haven’t done kneading before watch what your neighbour is doing and copy them.  It’s good to knead the dough as vigorously as you can.

Here is something to think about while kneading the dough.

A verse from Genesis [18: 6} ‘So Abraham hurried into the tent to Sarah. “Quick,” he said, “get three measures of the finest flour and knead it and bake some bread’

This is the stage of the bread making process in which you use your own energy to change the mixture of ingredients into something other than what they were before.   This is the creative part of bread making where we give of ourselves to making a loaf.

In what ways are we giving our energy to the loaf that is our community, our church?

As we knead our dough let us be silent.


Once the kneading has been completed put the dough back in the bowl and wrap the bowl in a plastic bag.  Leave it on the table.

A verse from the Psalms [37: 7] ‘Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him’.

We have done our bit.   Now we must wait for the yeast to do its work and for the bread to rise.  

Think about what is happening to the dough.   The yeast is dividing and spreading through the dough.  As it does so it gives off a gas – carbon dioxide – the bubbles of which will make the dough light and fluffy.  We cannot affect this process.  It is down to the yeast.

There is much in the Bible about waiting.   Abraham and Sarah had to wait many years for God to fulfil his promise that they would have a son.  Simeon and Anna had to wait until they were old people before God sent his Messiah in the shape of the baby Jesus to save Israel.   Jesus had to wait in the Garden of Gethsemane for the Roman soldiers to arrive and arrest him.

That verse from the Psalms again [37: 7] ‘Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him’.  

A prayer: Father, help us to wait patiently for you to do your work in this world.

You may wish to wash your hands again at this point.

4. Waiting for the dough to rise


[There are many verses in the Bible that refer to bread.   I have listed some of the most important on the sheet in front of you.  Note that these are all about the eating of bread rather than the making of it.

You might like to read these verses, by yourself or in a group, while we wait for the dough to rise]



Part 2   Introduction

5.  Shaping the bread


Please take your bowl out of its plastic bag.  The dough should have doubled in size.

A verse from Jeremiah - not related to bread making this time but to pottery [18: 6} ‘Behold like the clay in the potter’s hand, so are you in my hand.  O house of Israel ‘.

A prayer:  Father as we gather together before you to shape our lives helps us to remember that we

are your hands.  

Now we need to knock back the dough a little to get some of the larger bubbles of gas out of the bread.   Just gently knead the dough for a few seconds then shape it into a ball with your hands.  You may wish to mark the top in some way – by cutting it with the knife – but you may not.  Now gently transfer the loaf to one of the baking trays.  We’ll then cover them with damp cloths.


6. Waiting again while the bread proves


Now we must wait again for the bread to rise again.  This is going to take about an hour or so.   I suggest we remain silent while we wait: at least for a while.

While we wait we might like to think some more about waiting.  Here to ponder is an extract from a book called the Stature of Waiting by WH Vanstone.

‘To man as he waits the world discloses its power of meaning – discloses itself in its heights and depths, as wonder and terror, as blessing and threat.  Man becomes so to speak, the sharer with God of a secret – the secret of the world’s power of meaning,



7. Baking the bread


[Note that the bread doesn’t actually have to be put in the oven at this point]

Now we must put the bread in the oven and wait again.   Baking the bread, is, you might notice, another period of waiting.  Not for the yeast to do its work but the fire, the heat of the oven, to transform what was inedible into what is edible.  

Fire is not a gentle thing.

A verse from 1 Corinthians [3: 13] ‘And each man’s work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed with fire and the fire will test what sort of work each has done’

[Take bread to oven]


7. Giving thanks for the bread


A verse from Lukes’ gospel {22: 19] ‘And he took bread, and when he had give thanks he broke it and gave it to them, saying ‘This is my body which is give for you.  Do this in remembrance of me’

Father God, as your son commanded us, we give thanks for the bread.  This bread and the bread of life.   We thank you for being with us today.


Bread in the Bible: a reading list


This is not an exclusive list by any means.   I have selected readings which seem to me to have important things to say about bread and its importance for Christian faith and worship but you may well be able to think of more.  

God supplies manna to the Israelites, etc.  Deuteronomy 8: 1-10

Elisha fore-shadows Jesus.  2 Kings 4: 42-44

Jesus is tempted to turn stones into bread.  Matthew 4: 1-4

The miracle of the feeding of 5,000.  John 6: 1-14

Jesus’ sermon on the bread of life.  John 6: 22 -71 particularly 53-58

Jesus’ institution of the Eucharist.  I Corinthians 11: 23-26

The Lord’s Prayer.  Matthew 6: 11

Bread: the Recipe



300g strong white bread flour

2.5g sea salt

200ml tap water (about blood heat)

4g fresh yeast



Add salt to flour.  Mix.

Crumble yeast.  Add to flour.  Mix.

Add water.  Mix.  When possible move mix from bowl to work surface.

Knead dough for 10 minutes.  Put dough back in bowl.

Put bowl in bag and leave for 1 hour.

Take bread from bowl.  Knead for 30 seconds.

Shape bread.  Place on baking sheets.  Cover with damp cloth.  Prove for 30 minutes.

Bake for 25 minutes at Gas Mark 7/220o C