Tuesday, August 11, 2020 – mid-morning
Using My Stay-at-Home Time Constructively
I know I’m not alone. We’ve all been adjusting to and living with various COVID 19 developments and restrictions for over six months now. We want it to end. As the saying goes, “Buckle up, Buttercup.” I’m convinced we’re going to be living in these uncertain COVID times for many more months, if not an additional year or so. But that’s just me.
COVID 19 came for a visit, and the realization that this was a historic worldwide event made many of us wonder, “How can I use this mandated stay at home time constructively?” Among the various options, bread baking received plenty of press. So I joined the craze.
When the baking craze started, it soon became difficult to find yeast and flour. I went to three stores, found a bit of all-purpose flour but no yeast. I turned to Amazon and purchased some yeast, but because of the demand, it took a while to arrive. Bread flour and whole wheat flour? Finally found some in May. Quality rye flour? Ordered from Amazon.
No problem finding recipes online, of course. I researched recipes for sourdough starter, French bread, Italian bread, rye bread, rye bread rolls, Jewish rye bread, Russian rye bread, sourdough pizza crust, bread, and rolls…hamburger buns, English muffins, and Naan. (Yes, I have a carb addiction problem that I try to keep in check.) I refer to all my attempts as “experiments,” so when I tried a recipe, I shared the results with a neighbor. Nobody got sick.
Of course, I took pictures. These are historic times, and before I die I wanted to make sure my friends and family knew that I had, indeed, succeeded with some of my baking experiments.
One of those bake-in-a-Dutch-oven recipes:
Getting kind of fancy with the sesame seeds. This one I did not share. Delicious.
Two loaves of Italian bread. Not too bad. Yes, I shared.
First attempt at French bread. Not bad. Certainly not traditional baguette quality.
Lemon meringue pie. Ok, I had a sweet tooth episode. Crust made with olive oil in an attempt to make it healthier. Shared with my neighbor, Bonnie H.
I think this was my first attempt back in April.
Becoming familiar with a high-quality serrated knife has consequences:
The first loaf of rye bread I ever made. There will be more. I love the flavor carraway seeds create.
Experiment with sourdough pizza crust. Great taste. A bit too thick for me, but it provided three meals. About 14 inches in diameter: onion, tomatoes, red pepper, black olives, and homemade pizza sauce.
Next experiment: “Pain de campagne” (French country bread) that requires using sourdough to make a levain and letting that sit for 20 to 24 hours…then preparing the dough and letting it sit in the fridge to rise slowly overnight. It uses sourdough starter, rye flour, whole wheat flour, and bread flour. A bit of a challenge, but I can taste it. The levain will be assembled to rest for 24 hours at 7 p.m. tonight. I think I’m going to love this one.
Slowing Down to Enjoy Literature Once Again
My baking craze has slowed down quite a bit because I’ve turned to reading these past several weeks: The Underground Railroad (2017 Pulitzer Prize winner) by Colson Whitehead…The Nickel Boys, 2020 Pulitzer Prize winner also by Colson Whitehead…This Much I Know Is True by Wally Lamb…The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin (a must-read to begin grasping the meaning of black Americans’ demand for justice in an unjust society)…and currently fascinated with The Overstory: A Novel by Richard Powers.
I believe I’m quite fortunate to be elderly during this pandemic. As a retiree who lives alone with an elderly dog and an aging cat, I do not have to deal with the craziness of juggling work and children that millions of others must face, plus I will not lose my job. I bake, work in the garden, read, watch things on Netflix and Amazon Prime, Zoom with a few folks, gather with gal pals outside where we chat about life and world events while socially distanced, and I get to visit my mom twice a week.
But I also weep for the suffering others around the world must endure. I read and watch the news every day to witness and learn what is happening to others around the world during this time of COVID 19. News of world events are at my fingertips one click at a time. It is overwhelmingly tragic and frustrating.
I weep and I feel guilty.
Winston, the cat and Cinnamon, the dog chilling while I watch the evening news Aug. 8. 2020