OK, so I didn’t bake these lovely loaves of bread but, if you want to know how I spent my quarantine, baking bread was a big part of killing time waiting for life to begin again. Mine just don’t come out as pretty but they taste pretty awesome.
It looks like a lot of you also spent your quarantine baking bread. According to the Atlantic, the shortage of flour and yeast now replaced earlier shortages of toilet paper and hand sanitizer during the pandemic. The hand sanitizer I get, the rest, is still a mystery.
Sourdough seems to reign supreme right now. I’m not quite sure why, although I love a little sourdough whenever I can get it, so send your extras on over.
Sourdough, for those of you not infected with the bread baking bug, is the most challenging of all bread baking and takes serious commitment. I might wake up today and decide I’d like a nice fresh loaf. I add flour, water, yeast, maybe some sugar, and butter with a dash of salt ad 4 hours later, I have a nice loaf of bread. Yummy.
If I want sourdough, I needed to start yesterday or the day before because sourdough bread requires a starter of fermented yeast to sit out until it sours — where did you think it got its name??? And, while I love sourdough bread, I can’t stand the smell of sourdough. I guess that’s because I used to work with yeast back in my days working on my masters in biology. The smell literally turns my stomach. Plus, I’m an instant gratification kinda gal and 4 hours is my limit on waiting to eat fresh bread. If I want sourdough, I’ll add it to my curbside pickup (LOL).
If I haven’t turned you off on sourdough or you want to try some other types of bread, here’s my advice:
- Spend the extra money on bread flour. It’s a finer grind that rises better and results in a fluffy texture rather than a course bread.
- Ensure everything is at room temperature before you start. Remember, yeast is a living thing. How would you feel if someone threw cold water and eggs on your head? And, while that won’t kill you, just piss you off, it kills your yeast. No living yeast, no nice bubbles, and you now have flat bread.
- Proof your yeast to make sure it’s ALIVE (whenever I think of that I’m reminded of the line from Young Frankenstein, “it’s alive” — OK, maybe it’s just me). Just like every other living thing, yeast needs to eat and drink. So, adding yeast to a mixture of flour and water, with a little sugar mixed in because yeast never has diabetes. A cup works for this. Add everything in a small bowl, tuck your yeast in nice and warm, and wait 10 minutes. If you come back to a bubbly mixture, your yeast is good. If not, throw the mess out and order yeast the next time you find it — there’s also a serious shortage of yeast. Some local bakers will sell you a small quantity if you ask real nice.
- You’re gonna get dirty so don’t expect to use a machine to do everything for you. Even if you mix in a machine or with a mixer, you need your hands. They’re already clean from all the hand washing and sanitizer, so that’s taken care of. BTW, using a mixer results in a mess as the dough gets sucked up into the blades to the mixer. And, a bread machine is good, but baking in one results in weird-shaped bread that doesn’t brown right — IMHO. At a minimum, you need to knead your bread — I just love saying that!. To knead, push the bread away from you on a floured counter, fold over then repeat – for about 5 minutes or more.
- Don’t rush. It takes time for the bread to rise — at least 2 hours.
- That’s it, you’re now a master baker — LOL
Why I spent my quarantine baking bread
It’s cheaper than therapy and safer in a pandemic.
I’m not a psychologist, but as a marketing professor, a lot of my coursework involved psychology. A wise professor once taught that marketing has 2 parents — economics and psychology and she was right. My pop psychology answer to why we, as a collective group, are obsessed with baking bread is that it’s something creative. In a world where we can’t make anything, our jobs that consumed many of our waking hours disappeared, and just about everything in our routine changed instantly, we could still make something happen, even if it was only making a ball of flour rise up to triple its size then turning it golden brown to feed our families. Baking bread made us feel productive in a way that the pandemic took from us.
In fact, we’re all cooking up a storm and many of us learned how to turn on the stove for the first time. There are Tik Tok videos on cooking, new cooks are teaching as they’re learning how to cook, and even children are getting in the game. There’s just something awesome about feeding people that gives us a sense of self-worth.
Maybe there’s also a little control in there, as well. The pandemic took away any sense of control we had — we no longer determine what we do, who we see, and, for many of us, how to pay rent. But the laws of biology are finite and dependable. Once we add yeast (a living organism in dried form) to water and flour, the little buggers start churning out carbon dioxide that forces the ball of flour to expand. Baking the mixture, fixes the solid elements leaving little holes where the gas escaped and creating a texture we find pleasing. Control.
I think the whole kneading thing also helps work out frustration. If I had to guess, I’d say this is the real reason why everyone is going crazy baking bread. For 5 minutes, or more, you get to punch a blob of dough and no one’s gonna send you to therapy or call 911. You have the perfect excuse to punch something other than your partner’s head, which is what you really want to do after watching the way he ________ (fill in the blank, chews, brushes his teeth, leaves his socks all over … ), even though he knows it irritates you. A little tip here, it’s possible to overwork your dough so if you’re really frustrated, divide your dough into smaller segments, and beat each segment for 5 minutes or so. If you run out of dough, just make another batch.
OK, enough for today. Enjoy your baking.
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