Time for You: Mama's Bread Project

Don't let your kids have all the fun! Shelli puts her project-based learning skills to work learning something she's always wanted to know how to do, and it's just as amazing as she hoped it would be.

I had always wanted to learn how to bake bread, but I never got around to it until my family and I watched a documentary series titled Cooked, and one of the episodes was on bread. In that show, I learned that it was possible to grow your own wild yeast, and this sounded so cool that I had to try it.

I spend a lot of time supporting my boys’ projects, and I thought it was time for me to have a project of my own. I ordered a book on how to bake artisan breads. I watched countless videos on YouTube about growing wild yeast and baking bread. And then, I did grow wild yeast. It was so cool. And then, I did bake bread with it. I was proud of myself. My family supported my endeavor, and they eagerly tried the bread.

I spent several months on this project, and I enjoyed learning about this ancient practice of baking bread. When my son and I read the part in the Little House series about how Ma Ingalls made sourdough biscuits, we were so excited to know exactly what this meant. I had a sourdough culture downstairs on my kitchen counter bubbling right then.

During this project, I encountered many people online who also grew their wild yeast and loved baking bread. I learned a lot of tips from Twitter friends, and I even inspired a local couple to try making bread this way when I wrote about it in my newspaper column.

My husband almost always liked the breads I made, even if they weren’t perfect, but over time, my bread got better and better. I was never able to bake that perfect rustic loaf with those big holes in it that I had imagined in the beginning, but I was happy with what I was doing. Despite this, I finally threw the sourdough culture away, and I switched to store bought yeast.

Why? Well, a few reasons. First, my boys never loved the bread, and it was a lot of work. You have to constantly feed your sourdough culture and pamper it like a well-loved pet. I know I could have stored it in the refrigerator, but then I’d have to get it out two to three days before I was going to bake bread and feed it until it was ready. How did I know that in three days I’d feel like baking bread? 

Our homeschooling lifestyle offers a lot of flexibility, but I finally decided that I was just too busy to keep up with the wild yeast. Besides that, I felt satisfied. I did what I set out to do: learn how to bake bread. And after going to the trouble to use a sourdough culture, using store bought yeast seemed easy peasy.

This whole experience made me understand how and why my boys’ projects sometimes peter out. Once you feel like you’ve mastered a process, or at least learned a sufficient amount to understand it well, it feels extremely satisfying, and sometimes, that’s all you need to do. However, you’ll always carry the knowledge of what you learned, and you’ll continue to do the things that you love the most.