I imagine everyone loves the aroma of baking bread permeating from the oven; I certainly do. The delicious smell of baking evokes happy childhood memories, and it has become a wonderfully productive coping strategy for me during the pandemic. I recall being a little girl, standing outside a small family-run bakery, closing my eyes tightly and single-mindedly focusing on the warm, comforting aromas wafting from the ovens inside. In 2020, #stressbaking had over 26,000 posts on Instagram, along with the hashtags #quarantinebaking and #sourdough also trending on social media. So, I don’t feel alone in my desire to reframe time with a gratifying bread baking experience.
HAVE FUN WITH THE KIDS
Bread making is a wonderfully tactile activity for children creating food from essential ingredients: flour, water, salt, and time. Hand kneading dough is a sensory experience that requires children to focus, and if they don’t mind the experience of sticky hands, it’s a fun process. Kids often delight in bread making, weighing, measuring, using simple fractions, acquiring practical math applications while building awareness of the ingredients that produce homemade bread. Baking bread together has the potential to become an enriching shared accomplishment for all involved.
DEVELOP BONDS & MAINTAIN COMMUNITY
My brother and sister-in-law began artisanal bread baking early in the pandemic. They invited me to join them in a virtual chat format that has become enormously supportive and encouraging. Initially, I felt curious about their attraction to sourdough baking in particular and decided to try it out for myself.
BACK TO BASICS
I’m in love with the simplicity of artisanal bread baking created with hands and a wooden spoon rather than mixing hooks or sophisticated machines. The process is slow and deliberate necessitating respect for humble ingredients coupled with patience and time. My commitment to learning how to make slow-fermented, delicious sourdough bread made without commercial yeast is an evolving learning process. I’m captivated by nurturing my homegrown starter. A friendly live culture known as lactobacilli, live micro-organisms, or natural yeast is the leavening agent credited to sourdoughs’ distinctive flavor and texture, incomparable to store-bought bread. Sourdough possesses an undeniably experiential aspect, requiring a long fermentation of 12-48 hours with a refusal to be hurried, requiring attention to water and air temperature, scale measurements, stretching, folding, scoring; ultimately developing a nuanced feel for the doughs life-cycle.
HIGHLIGHTS OF 2020
Baking sourdough has become a highlight of 2020, alongside baking braided challah bread for Friday night dinner. Part of my intrigue lies in how otherwise raw ingredients such as flour, salt, yeast, water, coupled with patience, and time come together to create a flavorfully tangible staple to share with family and friends.
“Adopt the pace of nature: her secret is patience.” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson
Photos by the Reisner Family