The bread of life, John 6:35-51
18th Mar 2019
Bread features heavily in the Bible and is something everyone understands. It is after all a staple food across the world, each country has specialty breads and techniques for baking.
I remember well the challenge of the weekly shop in our supermarket with three small children, there is 3 ½ years between them. The eldest holding onto the side of the trolley, one sat in the seat at the front and the baby strapped to me in a papoose. One of the best ways to keep the elder one’s calm, fend off hunger pangs and stay happy was to let them chomp on a baguette as we filled the trolley with the food for the week. For James, our middle child, the range of food he liked was quite limited and he would have liked to live on bread alone – perhaps with the odd addition of some peanut butter!
At that time over 25 years ago the selection of bread available was quite limited, a baguette seemed exotic. Now the choice of bread in supermarkets has expanded hugely (sliced, sourdough, wholemeal, ciabatta, pitta, flavoured) and the popularity of Great British Bake Off has seen a resurgence of people baking their own.
Making bread is not an exact science. The same ingredients can be mixed together on two days with slightly different results. Other things can alter the finished loaf – temperature, quality of ingredients, the quality of the proving, which shelf you choose in the oven.
So, what about Jesus saying “I am the bread of life…I am the bread that came down from heaven.” Surely this must be the best bread of all? Sometimes our fears, anxiety, guilt, regrets, pain and losses stop us from accepting the Bread that came down from Heaven. For all the fancy offerings of food from across the world we can enjoy, it is the simplest, plainest but tastiest bread, Jesus the bread of life, consumed daily which will nurture us forever.
Jesus as the bread of life is consistent day in day out, high quality, unchanging, always available, satisfying our hunger. It’s up to us if we have it as part of our daily diet.
Bread recipe – wholemeal loaf
400g stone-ground strong wholemeal bread flour, plus extra for dusting
100g strong white bread flour
10g instant yeast
40g unsalted butter, softened
320ml tepid water
Olive oil for kneading
- Tip the flours into a large mixing bowl and add the salt to one side of the bowl and the yeast to the other. Add the butter and three quarters of the water, and turn the mixture around with your fingers. Add water a little at a time until you’ve picked up all the flour from the sides of the bowl. You may not need to add all the water, or you may need to add more — the dough should be soft, but not soggy.
- Coat the work surface with a little olive oil, then tip out the dough and knead for 5–10 minutes until the dough starts to form a soft, smooth skin.
- Put it into a lightly oiled large bowl. Cover with a tea towel, leave to rise until at least doubled in size — minimum 1 hour, but it’s fine to leave it 2 - 3 hours.
- Line a baking tray with baking parchment/silicone paper.
- Dust the work surface with flour and tip your dough onto it. Knock the air out of the dough by folding it inwards repeatedly until smooth. Flatten the dough, roll into a sausage, then roll this out with your hands until about 30cm long. Tie the dough in a knot and place on the prepared baking tray.
- Put the tray into a clean plastic bag. Leave to prove for about an hour, until at least doubled in size and springs back quickly if you prod it lightly with your finger. Heat your oven to 430F/220C/Gas 7, put a roasting tray in the bottom to heat up.
- Gently rub flour all over the proved dough. Put the loaf into the oven, fill the tray with hot water to create steam in the oven, helping to give the bread a lighter crust. Bake for 30 minutes, then check it is cooked by tapping the base — it should sound hollow. Cool on a wire rack.