The Spiritual Practice of Sourdough Bread Making

Over the past year I’ve come to see everything as spiritual even if I do not perhaps see it in the very moment. But everything is spiritual. We may not allow God to teach us through it, but it is still spiritual. Even in the seemingly ordinary tasks there is holiness to be found. What we may see as ordinary is really quite extraordinary if we open our eyes to see it. Life is ordinarily extraordinary.


In 2020 it seemed like many people were wanting to learn to make sourdough bread. I enjoy baking and had tried making bread many years ago when my son was little, but being the mom of a boy takes a lot of energy so I put the bread making aside. I typically don’t follow trends or hop on a bandwagon. If I try something, or become interested in something that seems like the trend at the time, you can rest assured I took a lot of time and thought before diving into it and if it’s something I stick with or continue doing then you know I truly do find joy in it or have found something transformative in it.


But alas 2020 was not the year for me to try my hand at sourdough bread making again. I couldn’t find the right flours to use so I set that desire aside. In the fall of 2021, I decided to try again. I found the flours I wanted to use and so I started. I made a starter. It took some trial and error, taking a break, and coming back to it, but I can now safely say I’m addicted to it. Much like I am growing flowers now.


And there is something holy about making sourdough bread just like there is growing flowers. Sourdough bread making is a spiritual practice.


There is something holy in waiting for the levain, in adding the salt on to of the dough, then spreading the levain over the dough, then gently pressing the levain into the dough and then using more pressure to mix it in and throughout the dough. There is something holy about the folding and waiting for the dough to rise, then shaping the loaves and letting them proof overnight, waiting to bake them the next morning.


The process makes me more aware of my day. It slows me down causing me to be intentional with each step. There is no “throwing it all together” in sourdough bread making.


I learn from making the starter that it takes feeding and care and that what is all around becomes the growth. We have to throw some of the growth away in the beginning keeping just what is needed and feed it again. There is a rhythm to it. The starter grows each day, and each day some of the growth needs to be removed and used to make other things and the original fed again.  A perfect metaphor for life.


Then when it’s time we make the bread. It teaches me there are times the dough must be worked and then are times it needs to rest. Isn’t that how life is? Times when we need to work out our salvation and times where we need to rest in God’s timing even though we want to rush it?


Does it always work out perfectly? No. Is there a spiritual practice in trying again, taking stock of what you should do differently the next time? Absolutely. This is the power of learning to make sourdough bread. From making your own starter from scratch and learning what works, to starting your levain and dough to the finished boule or batard, it is a practice showing us the spiritual practice of life if we will only become aware and see it through different eyes.