Just Like Bread Making by Lynne Garner

A month or so ago I treated myself to a bread making machine. The plan was and still is to make gluten free bread for him-in-doors and speciality breads for me.

When my bread maker arrived I excitedly unwrapped it, washed it out and plugged it in. I then realised I didn’t have at least half of the ingredients needed, so of I went to the local store.

Half an hour or so later armed with my ingredients I read the instructions and a line at a time I diligently followed the recipe. For the next couple of hours, the house was filled with the glorious smell of baking bread. However, when the timer beeped sadly what came out didn’t live up to that delicious smell. The word ‘brick’ is the best word to describe my first attempt.

I decided to try again. So I double checked the recipe and my ingredients. I then realised the yeast I’d purchased wasn’t suitable for a bread maker. So off I went and sourced the correct yeast. My second attempt was less brick like but, to be honest, you’d have to have been desperate to have eaten it. Having run out of 'play' time I pushed the bread maker to the back of a cupboard.

A week later I visited a local farm shop and noticed they had some flours from small Indie flour mills. So I treated myself to a bag of flour plus a packet of mixed seed suitable for bread making. As soon as I arrived home out came the bread maker and another loaf was soon baking. This loaf sunk in the middle but was fairly edible, once toasted. I decided to read the ‘help’ notes in the back of the instruction leaflet and found I needed to adjust the ratio of flour to water. This I did and the next loaf was almost there.

It was whilst I was making my last loaf that it struck me that making bread is like writing a story. You see in my search for the perfect loaf I’ve had to adjust the ingredients (the characters and the plot). I’ve had to change some of the ingredients (add/remove some of the action, add/remove a character). I’ve improved the ingredients (the way I phrase a sentence, corrected grammar etc.). So the process I’ve gone through for improving my bread is the process I go through when I’m editing. With each adjustment my finished loaf has improved and with each tweak a story can be improved.

So next time you’ve completed your first draft remember it’s not until you start to tweak your ingredients that you’ll see those all-important improvements in your story.


Now for a blatant plug - don't say I didn't warn you:

My latest short story collection Coyote Tales Retold is available on Amazon in ebook format. Also available Meet The Tricksters a collection of 18 short stories featuring Anansi the Trickster Spider, Brer Rabbit and Coyote is available as a paper back and an ebook.    

I run the following online courses for Women On Writing:


JO said…
Bread and stories - what fun (my breadmaking stalled at the brick stage!)
Jan Needle said…
Maybe it's something to do with the instructions. My bread machine's given perfect results (except for the fact that it's not as nice as some boughten bread) from the first attempt. Shall I start a good old row about the difference between men and women? Nah. I've got to get from Manchester to Portsmouth and there ain't no trains. Bloody women drivers!
Penny Dolan said…
A useful antidote against the urge to buy a bread-making machine, Lynne. Unfortunately the writing - which I keep putting in the cupboard too - seems as if it may well be of the indigestable brick variety.
Ann Turnbull said…
Well, I've never had a bread-making machine, but I've been making bread by hand for decades and never had any trouble! It's much easier than most cooking, and about a thousand times easier than solving plot problems in a story. It makes the kitchen smell so nice too, and is generally more appreciated by others than a manuscript.
Umberto Tosi said…
So true - about the writing. My eldest daughter is a master baker whose breads were out of this world. I tried her machine once with disastrous results. But then, my motto is: If all else fails, read instructions. I'll forward this post on to her, now that she too has taken up writing, God help her. No doubt she had the same experience as did you when she first got her breadmaking machine. All I knew was that she said is sure beat making bread by hand!
This is all very true. I had a bread-maker for a little while until it stopped working, but I carried on making bread in the old fashioned way, (my nana taught me how to do it when I was a little girl in Leeds) and it's really easy. You can pummel away at it, imagining your enemies and then just leave it to rise and forget about it while you get on with baking the next story. I did try sourdough culture earlier this year, but it was too much trouble for me - like looking after a particularly demanding pet - so I gave it away. (Not sure what form of writing it equates to - historical non-fiction maybe, which is hellish demanding.) I do sometimes buy fresh yeast on eBay though, and freeze it in neat little blocks.

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