The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

My PTSD Bread

Cedarmountain's picture

My PTSD Bread

There are many reasons why people bake bread...for many it is a basic necessity of daily life to feed themselves and their families; for some it is a business while for others it is simply an enjoyable pastime, a hobby.  That's why I started baking bread a few years ago, just a hobby.  But after many loaves baked over the past few years I have come to appreciate there is much more to this hobby than I first thought; the reason I bake bread is because of the meditative and calming nature of the process, the honest and universally understood gesture of sharing fresh bread and of course, the simple pleasure of eating good bread. All this to say, bread baking is good for me, a process that takes me off the edge, calms and momentarily allows me time to breathe and think. 

I have struggled for many years with PTSD and all of the depression, anxiety, social stigma, anger, despair, isolation that goes with it. I have lost friends and comrades I served with to substance abuse and suicide because there has been little support, help or care available; more than 20 deaths by suicide in 2017 alone. But last month, after too many years of denial and inaction, hope....the government finally passed an amendment to the current workers' compensation legislation, a presumptive clause that presumes PTSD as an expected outcome for first responders rather than challenging and denying such claims. What's all this got to do with bread you ask?  Well, the last time I posted there wasn't much hope, now, with the new legislation there is.  So, for that reason, it seemed to me to be a good day to bake some Pretty Tasty Sourdough Bread.

  • 200 g high extraction fresh milled rye and Marquis wheat
  • 800 g organic all purpose flour
  • 300 g porridge made with hulless oat berries, steel cut oats and cracked flax seeds
  • 250 g young levain
  • 20 g sea salt
  • 750 g water

2 hour autolyse then an initial series of 50 stretch/folds to mix in the levain and salt.  Bulk fermentation for four hours with four series of stretch/folds every thirty minutes for the first two hours; porridge was mixed in after the second series of stretch/folds. I made two boules and set them in linen lined baskets to cold proof overnight.  The loaves were baked in pre-heated pots directly out of the fridge after 12 hours; covered at 500 F for 25 minutes then 450 F for 10 minutes; uncovered at 450 F for 18 minutes to finish.  I was happy to see the spring and scoring pattern when I removed the lids. The bread has a nice oat flavour and a chewy, soft crumb with bits of flax and hulless oats throughout.  




Danni3ll3's picture

recognizing that PTSD is a probability rather than an occasional finding in such occupations. Will this legislation also apply to people in the armed forces? I don’t know a lot about this but I am interested as I have a friend that also struggles with PTSD. 

Your breads, as always, are outstanding and this one is no exception. The crust and crumb are just amazing! Quick questions for you: During bulk, how much of a rise do you aim for? And I am guessing that your 300g of porridge is the cooked weight? What is the breakdown of your porridge in percentage of ingredients? By the way, I am bookmarking this one too!

Cedarmountain's picture

Thanks for your kind comments Danni,  I hope your friend finds resources and support in his struggle with PTSD.  As to your questions...I am usually happy to get 20 -25% rise during the bulk fermentation and then adjust the final proof accordingly; most of my bread seems to be best with about 20% bulk rise and a 10 hour cold proof (so with a 1 hour autolyse, 4 hour bulk, 1/2 hour bench rest and 10 hour cold proof it's about a 15 1/2 hour process); the porridge weight is the cooked weight with the breakdown being very inexact as I tend these days to mad-scientist the concoction!  For this bake I used 150 g hulless oats, 75 g steel cut oats, 50 g cracked flax seeds cooked into a loose porridge; I ended up adding about 50 g oat flakes to tighten up the porridge before adding it to the bread dough.  After mixing in the porridge I estimate the FDH was about 82% by feel, not exact measurement.  Oh, and the hulless oats were whole, not cracked...I like the chewy texture of the cooked grain in the bread. 

PalwithnoovenP's picture

You're a strong person. Thank God that your government is taking actions help people with PTSD. Bread baking fills not only us but also the people around us with positivity.

These loaves are perfect inside out. They are a real thing of beauty!

I'm really interested to try a porridge bread but I'm intimidated by the hydration. Since I cannot measure accurately and always add water by feel, I plan to include the porridge in the autolyse. Have you tried anything like that before?

Cedarmountain's picture

Thanks for your kind comments.  I have not tried adding the porridge during the autolyse but wonder what if any effect it might have?  Don't be intimidated by the hydration, you're a pretty intuitive and skilled baker so it shouldn't be a problem for you to go by feel; I suggest mixing a lower hydration dough for the autolyse and then adding the porridge and adjusting the FDH as you do the stretch/folds. I like to keep the porridge bread FDH about 82% starting with an autolyse dough hydration at 75% and then adding a loose porridge after the second series of stretch/folds.  This is just the way I do it but not something etched in stone as the only way...check out the many other TFL porridge breads too.  Looking forward to your porridge bread bake!

dabrownman's picture

PiP's used to make the best high extraction flour breads, from down under, long ago but this was before porridge breads were even talked about.

The brain does strange things and I'm glad that you posted the piece on PTSD.  It has been a long time coming and we have come a long way.  Vets of foreign wars, to this day, have 4 times the suicide rate as other men at any age.  When I got back from Nam 45 years ago, people in SF would spit on you and if you talked about what we call PTSD today, other people, supposedly on your side, would laugh at you and call you a Woosie - there was no where to turn for help - except each other.  Turns out they were the real whack job, crazy people.

Your PTSD bread is amazing so the therapy works in more ways than 1.  Well done and thanks for your service.

Happy Baking CM

Cedarmountain's picture

Dab, I have much respect for those that serve and I hope you have found some peace over the past 45 years. What you describe, the way you were treated and disrespected has changed somewhat over the years but sadly, veterans are still suffering and traumatized long after coming out of the war zones. Whether or not the war was just or right, being spit on for serving honourably with regard to the duty required of you, for seeking to serve and protect the very freedoms enjoyed by those so disrespecting you...that's just wrong. People often tell me I knew what I was signing up for so I should stop complaining about the PTSD,  that I shouldn't expect special treatment for doing my job.  And being laughed at and ostracized by your own, that is particularly hurtful.  The only ones that  really understand, that can relate to what's going on inside you are your comrades, those that served with you. It's a lonely business when friends, family, government ignore, deny, cannot understand that PTSD is an operational injury that will destroy and kill you as surely as any physical trauma; despair, guilt, loss of hope, moral injury, suicide are how one bleeds out from PTSD wounds.  So take care of yourself, bake some PTSD therapy bread, have some of that good food you enjoy and spend time in the company of your friends and family Dab...thank you too for your service.  

Filomatic's picture

Thanks for sharing your story.  You are an inspiration both for your strength in being willing to talk about the difficulties you and others have faced, and as an incredible baker.  Few on here have reached anything close to your level of success.  This bake is as good as any I've seen from you.  Excellent work!

Cedarmountain's picture

I appreciate your comments and encouragement, thank you so much!  

Ru007's picture

but hope comes in the morning" - Psalm 30:5 

Looks like morning is here. I'm so glad things are looking up. Honestly, what remarkable bake ...I hear you... totally. And I think the name is so lovely, to take something like PTSD and give it a joyful meaning is wonderful. 

I love the look of your loaves, just stunning really. The crumb looks amazing, I can see that it has a wonderful texture, and the flavor combination sounds divine! 

Thank you for sharing. 

Happy baking 


Cedarmountain's picture

Thanks Ru.  The morning light has signified the arrival of new hope for many people, the passing of another dark night. But for those that suffer, have been injured by PSTD, the challenge is getting through the darkness. In his book,"Waiting For First Light, My Ongoing Battle With PTSD", Romeo Dalliaire shares his personal struggle with the ongoing effects of his experience in Rwanda as the UN Force Commander during the genocide and civil war in that country.  Waiting for first light, for the hope of a new morning, he says, " ...I have kept mostly private the effects of the moral injuries/PTSD on my mind, my body, my soul. Until now.  Telling my story in its entirety for the first time, I began a cycle that will continue throughout my life; reliving the pain by telling the story, an action that attenuates the pain, which then returns upon the telling and must be relived to be relieved. Telling others, teaching others by sharing our stories relieves us, temporarily, from our suffering; full recovery is impossible and lasting serenity will forever evade me."  So with that, I thank you for listening to me and allowing me to share a little bit and in the process, as Dallaire says, gain a measure of relief, respite.  Happy baking to you too Ru!

pul's picture

Thanks for sharing your story and for the great bakes that you have posted here over the years. This one looks great outside and inside. 



Cedarmountain's picture

Even in the veiled anonymity of these TFL blogs there is a sense of personal community, support and general respect for shared experiences...thanks for taking a moment to read my post Pul and for your kind comments!

TomK's picture

I agree wholeheartedly about the meditative aspects of baking. To be able to make something sustaining, healthful, and beautiful in one of the oldest traditions of humankind is really fulfilling.

And those are really beautiful loaves, from crumb to scoring. Wow!

Bake on,



Cedarmountain's picture

Exactly that, very well said...sustaining, healthful and beautiful, in one of the oldest traditions of humankind.  Thanks Tom!

leslieruf's picture

I am not so good with words but I feel  for you and others that suffer.  From my own experiences of pain, I have achieved a great deal of peace from my bread baking and the comraderie of this site. 

Please keep baking and sharing, your bread is lovely and an inspiration.


Cedarmountain's picture

Oh Leslie, you may not think you are good with words but your posts are beautiful and speak eloquently of your joy in bread baking.  You made me smile with your response to a comment I made on your last post - you said "I just love baking" and in that, I understood what you mean about achieving a great deal of peace from your bread baking. I get that. So thank you for that little bit of brightness and for so eloquently sharing your bread baking experiences!  

Stuart Borken's picture
Stuart Borken

Is this why I bake bread often?  Is this why I sometimes weep without reason?  The wife says, "Just get over it, that was a long time ago".

You keep baking those beautiful loaves, get some assistance for your situation, life can be good, I hear.

Cedarmountain's picture

I think so Stuart, it's certainly why I bake bread so often...not for the bread primarily, but for the process.  It is an "acceptable" way to spend time alone by myself, the routine of preparing the dough and loaves occupying just enough of my attention to keep me in the moment; this is the meditative nature of bread baking that others have commented on too, focused in the moment there is not so much room for the dark stuff.  And Stuart, weeping without reason...there IS a reason, a reason that has deep roots in the trauma, the moral injury. The moral injuries that accompany the traumatic events leading to PTSD are difficult to explain/understand - internal grief and conflict arising from an assault on one's conscience, moral/ethical underpinnings,faith, basic human decency.  For me, it manifests in every day life as anger, weepy sorrow, antisocial behaviour, pessimism. In a clinical setting this is often attributed to a PTSD event but not the moral injury. I believe the actual traumatic event may well be proven in fact with dates, times, locations, event descriptions but the moral injuries - they are dynamic, fluid, unique to each of us.  I hear that life can be good too, well-intentioned and ignorant people tell me I just have to " ...move on, get over it, that was years ago". What they don't understand is that even though the moral wounds associated with operational injuries/PTSD are not physical or visible they are manifest in very real physical, mental, spiritual damage. Just as surely as bleeding to death from a physical wound, the loss of hope, loneliness, relentless despair, suicide are how we bleed out and die from a moral injury.  You don't just "get over it" but you can bake some bread!


Stuart Borken's picture
Stuart Borken

Lv you Cedarmountain for careing enough to respond to me.  

not.a.crumb.left's picture

everyone said so many beautiful words here already that there is little to say more ..... I am humbled by people who have professions like you  that put themselves at risk for the welfare of others and I am glad that there are changes now to support those who have helped other people by risking their own well being.

My wishes for you and all the others to be well and and finding that place where you feel whole....Kat



Cedarmountain's picture

Thank you for your wishes Kat, that's what I would like - to be well and in a place where I feel whole again.  It's seems a bit odd perhaps to experience a bit of that in an anonymous bread blog community but as you have said, so many beautiful words here already...I am humbled by the generosity of TFL kindred spirits in allowing me to share and connect.  

isand66's picture

Great post and so happy you find some solace in baking bread. I can't imagine what you must go through to suffer PTSD but I'm glad our government if finally doing something to help.  Thank you for your service too. 

Best Regards,

Cedarmountain's picture

Thanks for your kind comments and support Ian.  

Yippee's picture


So sorry to hear that you've suffered.  I may not be able to help, but I'm all ears.  Glad you've found peace in bread making, it's important to have the strength from within to live and fight the demons. When in crisis, I boost my physical fitness to fight the battle.  I use music to nurture my mind.  And I remind myself to search for the stars beyond the darkness.  Hang in there, my friend, you will see the stars. 


Keeping you in my thoughts.








Cedarmountain's picture

Hi Yipee,

Thanks for your encouragement.  I agree with your comment about physical and mental fitness, it  too is my "drug" of choice when I need to come off the edge and get away from the noise in my head. For me, the solitary pursuit of things like running, kata, playing music, baking bread...they bring me some solace in the moments of crisis because my body and mind are occupied together in a singular focus instead of being overwhelmed by the discordant, rancorous chaos of the PTSD.  

sayersbrock's picture

Hearing about the meditative, calming effect that bread- making has on you is very inspiring. I tend to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of life far too often, and it translates to my bakes: rushed kneading, under-proved dough, forgotten dough in the fridge, etc.

Your process is very complex and intricate, but all that hard work clearly pays off. Your bread is stunning. Wish I could taste!

Cedarmountain's picture

I think it's been said by other TFLers... the meditative and calming process of baking bread is one of the wonderful things we can do that is good for the spirit and has a great side benefit, the finished bread, that nourishes the body.  Thank you for your kind comments and I would happily share a taste with you if I could!