What is creativity?

Like most of you all, I have subscribed to a number of newsletters or blogs that regularly pop into my e-mail begging to be read (many thanks to all who have chosen to read mine).  Often there is an article that I’m just not in the mood for reading at the moment, so I bookmark it.  A few times a week, I return to my growing list of saved on-line items and read them, or not …

One piece I saved recently addressed the question, can you teach yourself to be creative (http://nautil.us/issue/73/play/to-be-more-creative-cheer-up-rp?mc_cid=fa671a3e87&mc_eid=9f6c6dd73c). It’s early morning now, I finished entering notes for a piece I have to write and turned to the bookmarks and that particular item.  It’s interesting. The author points out several elements which might contribute to creativity. Next time sleep is evading you, give it a read, see what you think.

To Be More Creative, Cheer Up The way to tap your inner Hemingway is not how you think. By Kirsten Weir Illustration by Christina Gransow

I’ve always been artsy, crafty with my hands. In high school, somehow I started making jewelry with copper wire.  I seem to remember library books gave me instructions and ideas. The same with coiled ribbon jewelry.  On the otherhand, I also just made up jewelry using scraps of leather I’d used to sew skirts.  There was that great store – Tandy Leather – for all sorts of materials.

In college, I took up weaving and crafts. Again, I followed instructions. 

You can see from previous posts that I enjoy cooking. My husband enjoys my cooking.  I’ve become more creative with it as time has gone on.  However, for some things I still follow instructions.

A former neighbor’s husband was a great bread maker.  His secret (along with ever present patience) was the KitchenAid mixer.  So, my husband bought me one, which faithfully stands in a corner of the kitchen to this day.  My breads used to be adequate, good enough.  But after moving to Florida – the heart of humidity – they’ve not been too good. They just don’t rise correctly

And that takes us to instructions.  In the Jewish community worldwide, an annual Challah Bake emerged a few years ago – a day when Jewish women all around the globe can come together and be immersed into the world of their grandmothers. I had participated in one a year of so ago with my neighbor. Last week, I joined another at the local senior center.  My point, for a novice, baking is not an act of creativity, but following the instructions – and it worked – and it made me feel so good – and my husband is enjoying the freshly baked bread! 

Here’s the very simple instructions if you want to try –

Pour 3-5 teaspoons of yeast (with a pinch or 2 of sugar in the mix) into 2 cups of lukewarm water. Stir til dissolved. We used a plastic carry out container and you could see the action of the yeast. In the future, I’ll do this at home.

My neighbor’s yeast, look at the bubble action!
My yeast mixture

Mix together 1 cup of sugar, 1/2 cup of oil, 1 egg, and 1 tablespoon of salt.  Add the risen yeast mixture and stir together.

Next, slowly by the cupful, add eight cups of all purpose flour and mix, and mix, and mix. Because we were in a senior center with tables that got lots of use, the mixing was contained in an aluminum baking pan.  I like this step – no need to flour the counter and make a mess.

This step takes a while and that element of patience to mix in all the flour, frequently turning the dough, kneading it til it reaches a smooth consistency. Then you add a little bit of oil, all around the dough so it won’t stick to the pan. Cover with a cloth – I use a clean kitchen towel, put it into a place where it’s not drafty and wait 1-2 hours for the dough to rise.  Maybe the secret to mine was the 20 minute drive home in our summer heat!

In the aluminum pan used for mixing

Once it’s risen, uncover, punch down the dough, moving out the air, choose how you want to braid it.  You will have enough dough for 2 loafs. I made one the regular 3 braid and the second I tried a 4 braid. Instructions for all varieties are all over the internet and YouTube.  I let mine raise for a second hour.

3 (very fat) braids
4 braid

When ready to bake, beat one egg with a few drops of water. Brush the egg wash on the loafs and sprinkle with sesame or poppy seeds. Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 25-35 minutes.

Enjoy.

Is it creative to follow instructions? I don’t know, but it worked and I plan to continue to use these instructions for my next bread.  And I look forward to the next Challah bake.     

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