In this time of uncertainty, one thing is certain: we must find activities that help us cope with the current situation. For many, baking bread provides a sense of comfort.
Feeling defeated because you know you can’t change the course of the virus? Making bread is an all-consuming task and it can leave you feeling relieved and less stressed. It can be a very fulfilling task that will lift your worries. Quarantined bakers are able to funnel their anger, frustration, and energy into this activity, especially with the intense kneading which can also be a meditative exercise.
According to yeast manufacturers, the demand for yeast, a key ingredient for baking bread, has reached an unprecedented level. A survey on NPR showed a 457% increase in yeast sales over last year for the week ending March 28th. The increase for the week ending March 21st was over 600%! King Arthur Flour, a popular baking site currently has a 3-4 week backorder on yeast.
Flour too is in great demand. In an article in the Globe and Mail, Matthew Faust, manager of an urban mill and bakery in Toronto explains that, “We’ve seen close to a 700-per-cent increase in flour sales from our shop.” Some countries have restricted grain exports in fear a shortage of bread could lead to a revolution, as it has in the past. In 1789, bread shortages contributed to the anger towards the French monarchy and helped push forward the French Revolution.
For those that are ambitious, and also understand that baking is as much science as it is art, perhaps try making your own Sourdough Starter.
While you are locked in your house reliving the same day over and over, baking bread can be a great way to pass your time and gain a sense of accomplishment! Here is a recipe, and you do not even need yeast. Send pictures of your homemade loaves to firstname.lastname@example.org and we will post them
Homemade No Yeast Bread (Recipe from Sally’s Baking Addiction)
- 4 and 1/4 cups all-purpose flour (plus more for hands/ surface)
- 1 and 1/2 teaspoons salt
- 1 and 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
- 2 tablespoons honey or granulated sugar
- 1 and 3/4 cups buttermilk*, plus 1 tablespoon for brushing the dough
- optional: 1 tablespoon whole oats and a sprinkle of coarse salt for topping
- Preheat the oven to 400°F. There are options for the baking pan. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat, use a seasoned 10-12 inch cast iron skillet, or grease a 9-10 inch cake pan or pie dish. Set aside. Feel free to pre-heat the skillet in the oven too, though that’s not necessary.
- Whisk the flour, salt, and baking soda together in a large bowl. Set aside.
- Whisk the melted butter and honey/sugar together. Pour into the flour mixture and toss to combine. (The mixture won’t fully combine yet since there are so little wet ingredients and so much flour.) In 2-3 additions, pour in the buttermilk mixing for 15-20 seconds after each addition. After all of the buttermilk has been added, mix gently to form a shaggy, stiff, and slightly moist dough. If you used honey, there could be little specks of honey/butter in spots. That’s ok! Those will be extra flavorful specks in your bread.
- Pour the shaggy dough and any flour crumbles that haven’t been incorporated onto a lightly floured work surface. With floured hands, work the dough into a ball and flatten into a (approximately) 7-8 inch disc as best you can (make it about 2 inches tall). If the dough is too sticky, add a little more flour.
- Transfer the disc to the prepared skillet/pan. Brush the whole loaf with 1 Tablespoon buttermilk. Using a very sharp knife, score a 3/4 inch deep X into the top. (Without scoring, the bread can’t bake properly in the center.) Sprinkle optional oats and/or coarse salt on top of the loaf.
- Bake until the bread is golden brown and the center appears cooked through about 45 minutes. Loosely cover the bread with aluminum foil halfway through bake time to protect the crust from over-browning before the center has a chance to cook.
- Remove from the oven and allow bread to cool for 5 minutes before slicing. For best taste, though, let the bread cool for at least 30 minutes before slicing and serving. If you made a plain loaf, the slices are delicious spread with honey butter or your desired spreads. Slices taste wonderful toasted, too!
- Cover and store bread at room temperature for 3 days or in the refrigerator for up to 1 week!
*Buttermilk substitute: For each cup of buttermilk, you can use 1 tablespoon of white vinegar or lemon juice plus enough milk to measure 1 cup. Stir, then let stand for 5 minutes.