make-believe: bread baking.

April 13, 2020

I live in a bakery now. In the past two months James has turned out an unprecedented number of sourdough loaves. Discard starter is going into tart crusts and crackers and pancakes for dinner. Yesterday, for Easter, he made us sourdough cross buns, smeared with apricot jam and devoured even by a three-year old suspicious of raisins.

Far from getting sick of it, having fresh bread on demand has us all jonesing for a thick slice with butter and jam as soon as we wake up in the morning. Our kids have become expert bread dunkers, loading up their slices with soupy beans and lentils and eggs at lunch and dinner. Peanut butter and jelly on fresh sourdough? If it’s wrong, I don’t want to be right.

Of course ours is not the only home that’s been turned into a defacto bakery in these troubling times—there’s been a run on flour and yeast in grocery stores across the country as folks seek sustenance and sanity in baking loaves of fresh bread.

Here, a dreamy home bakery wishlist from James (with a few additions of my own):

A honey colored cutting board.

A powerhouse bread pan.

A hand broom for sweeping up.

A fresh linen kitchen towel for wrapping fresh loaves.

A countertop grain mill.

A baguette tote for socially distanced drop-offs to family.

A great big boxful of jam.

A bitty bowl for sampling.

An extra-sharp bread knife.

A jar for starter.

Take action:

In an effort to ground this make-believing in something a bit more down to earth, here are a few very real things we can do:

Give to a food bank: As communities across the country suffer from economic precarity due to the coronavirus, local food banks are experiencing unprecedented demand. If you have the means, visit Feeding America to find your local food bank or make a monetary donation directly to the Feeding America network.

Support restaurant workers: Restaurants have shuttered leaving a majority of their employees out of work and without any prospects. To help support service workers, here are lists of funds that have been set up in New York City and nationally to help provide some relief.

Feed healthcare workers: Meals4Heroes is a local New York City effort aiming to provide healthcare workers with wholesome and nutritious meals made in local restaurants. As of last Friday, the effort had delivered 2,570 free meals to healthcare workers fighting the coronavirus in New York City.

Get hazard pay to grocery store workers: Details of the proposed plan are still subject to change, but Senate Democrats have proposed a Heroes Fund that would provide additional financial support to essential workers, including grocery store employees, working through the coronavirus pandemic. Showing your support of those efforts now could make a big difference to the folks keeping us fed.

This post includes affiliate links. Reading My Tea Leaves might earn a small commission on the goods purchased through those links

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  • Reply Mari April 13, 2020 at 4:02 pm

    What perfect timing for this post! I have been looking for a baking dish for the sourdough and a recipe for a starter. Do you have any recommendations? Also, we cannot find any flour in DC. Where are you able to find flour? And if you dont mind, can you share the recipes of those yummy sounding breads? Hope you are all doing well 🙂

    • Reply ERIN BOYLE April 13, 2020 at 4:15 pm

      Flour has been tough to come by! James called our local grocery store and asked when they get their flour deliveries and he heads to the store on those mornings when we run out! James didn’t make his starter (more on that in his sourdough FAQ in the archive) but there are tons of tutorials! Will report back on the buns!

      • Reply ERIN BOYLE April 13, 2020 at 4:18 pm

        Here are the buns!

        • Reply Mari April 13, 2020 at 7:00 pm

          Thank you very much! My parents from LA are shipping our 5 pounds <3
          Stay safe, stay healthy and thanks for sharing.

        • Reply Mari April 14, 2020 at 6:50 am

          Maybe I am new to bread making but how do you break down that recipe? I didn’t realize math would pay such a significant role.

          • ERIN BOYLE April 14, 2020 at 7:08 am

            I’m not the baker in the family so I can’t really help you here! There are tons of recipes online though, so I might choose a simpler one if you’re just starting out!

          • Mari April 14, 2020 at 9:28 am

            We will be doing that! Thanks again.

  • Reply Elise April 13, 2020 at 4:44 pm

    Hey Erin (and RMTL readers). I’m a many-year reader. I know you’re very interested in social justice issues, especially those facing New Yorkers. Some dear friends of mine met have started a petition about the racial, ethnic, and class disparities involved in the city’s/nation’s response to COVID-19. Interested folks can learn more here: Stay safe all!!

  • Reply GraceP April 13, 2020 at 5:15 pm

    I would lend you my Komo if I could! However, I think the shipping to NYC from Kansas would be cost-prohibitive, even if you actually wanted a germ box landing on your doorstep. I will say that they do have a 12 year warranty, so if you use it once a week, it’s a guaranteed good investment and Perfect Loaf has some amazing recipes.
    Stay safe over there. We’re thinking of all of you.

  • Reply Helen April 13, 2020 at 8:40 pm

    Sourdough baking is the best! We are enjoying making and delivering our creations too. I tried out the challenger pan and actually found it to be way too heavy, so I returned to the original enameled cast iron dutch oven, which–it turns out–was fine all along! That said, I have seen others who rave about the improved quality of the Challenger-baked bread, so maybe those with stronger arms will enjoy it! Also, Erin, I wanted to thank you for sharing the work of Jessica Stevens (sugarhouse workshop) several years ago–I bought some of her sourdough starter and it’s doing very well. And she has a wonderful little sourdough cookbook, which is now available to purchase on pdf and a great place to start for beginners! Happy baking 🙂

    • Reply ERIN BOYLE April 14, 2020 at 7:10 am

      So glad you connected with Jessica. She’s so lovely. Thanks for the Challenger feedback, too! James is excited to give it a try because our dutch oven is quite small and he’s always having to squish his loaves!

  • Reply Mellie Dee April 14, 2020 at 8:16 am

    I love this post! Esp the take action part. Stay safe and happy carbo loading!

  • Reply Christie April 14, 2020 at 1:24 pm

    Would love to see a post on feeding children during coronavirus, soupy beans, lentils, and eggs all sound lovely. We now have 5 people to feed 3 meals every day. We don’t buy pre-made or packaged foods, so we have to do a lot of planning. I would love ideas!

    • Reply ERIN BOYLE April 14, 2020 at 1:51 pm

      Ha! I mean soupy beans, lentils and eggs preeeetty much covers it, plus plenty of pasta and rainbow plates (fresh veggies, fruit, and tofu).

      • Reply Christie April 14, 2020 at 2:53 pm

        Haha. I understand. You just make soupy beans and lentils sound so good when describing that sourdough bread (it’s Passover, and what I wouldn’t give for some sourdough!)

  • Reply mado April 14, 2020 at 1:38 pm

    I also started making sourdough recently! I used the Kitchn’s instructions to make a starter from scratch, but then I also found this website for an easy, no waste bread recipe It’s worked for us! even though there is no such thing as bread flour in the stores here, it’s working ok with all purpose and whole wheat mixed. I’ve got my mom and my siblings all starting their own as well!

  • Reply Penelope April 14, 2020 at 1:40 pm

    Love all his wish items. Be sure to tell James about The Isolation Baking Show with Gesine Bullock-Prado on King Arthur Flour Facebook Page. There is a new 1 hour baking show every week on Fridays at 1 in the afternoon. Last weeks show they used this wonderful cast iron bread baker. You can check out the videos from previous shows on there facebook page.

    I live just a few miles from King Arthur Flour in Norwich, Vermont and they still do not have Yeast or Sour Dough Starter which I am looking for,

    • Reply ERIN BOYLE April 14, 2020 at 1:49 pm

      Will do!

  • Reply Kelly April 18, 2020 at 8:33 am

    Hi Erin,

    If you already have a KitchenAid, this German-designed burr grinder is great, and more affordable than a standalone. I bought it for my SIL a few years ago.

  • Reply Cussot April 19, 2020 at 10:47 am

    My SIL has that grain mill and LOVES it. I’d never seen such a thing, so at first I thought she had fallen in love with some guy named Fidibus.

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