Reba's Rambles

Kneading out stress, one loaf at a time

Story and Photos by Reba Marana
Marquette University-College of Communication COMM6850-Craft of Digital Story Telling

Story Headlines:

*Baking bread is a therapeutic release of stress.

*Recipes change overtime, improving with age.

*All processes of bread making are important but kneading could be the most enjoyable.

*After years of experience, bread can be determined fully cooked by smell and color.

*Try this link for your own endeavor!
Sarah Swenson has always loved to bake bread.  A family tradition passed down from her grandmother’s generation, the act of baking break has turned more therapeutic than traditional. 

Sarah, 23, a University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee graduate student has her hands full with a full-time student status and a Teaching Assistant position.  With all of this responsibility comes stress.  Although there many outlets available for Sarah to release her stress, she chooses to make bread. Watching Sarah make bread, there is no doubt of the passion she puts in the baking.

“It’s a productive and steady process.  It never changes; there is a pattern and structure that must be followed.” It is this sense of structure that allows Sarah to relax and release.  A recipe that has been changed and tweaked overtime now produces a fragrance of warmth and comfort.  

Prepping is the first step in the process.  Sarah must carefully scald the milk, melt the butter and activate the yeast. Taking her time to measure each ingredient, Sarah carefully adds each ingredient into the mixture.  A laugh escapes Sarah as she stirs the mixture and flour flies over the table. 

With a grin on her face Sarah admits, “No part of the process is really more important than the other, but kneading is my favorite.”  Kneading bread is a delicate process, but one that requires strength and determination.  For Sarah this part allows her to release her stress and work the dough.

As the bread rises, it gives Sarah the chance to clean up and move on to the next stage of kneading.  When the bread is done rising she punches the dough down to release the gasses that have accumulated during the rising process.  Kneading the bread one last time, she shapes the loaves and places them in the pans.

Sarah does not time the bread.  She relies on her senses to know when the bread is done, determining by smell and color. After cooling, Sarah pulls each loaf out of the pan and places them on a cooling rack. She cuts a slice and nods in satisfaction. Baking bread, although routine, continues to be a therapeutic process for the chaotic life of this busy graduate student.