Dear Bakers and Friends,
Happy May and welcome to the Taurus issue of Betterbaking.com.
Have you ever had so much to say and then the time comes to speak and you’re all tongue-tied or you simply forgot the stuff on your mind? That’s me a lot of the time but so much more so lately because day by day, especially these days, I have a new revelation. The world is morphing dramatically and most of what I know has shifted and/or ceased to be altogether. I refer to basics like picking up my mail, or knowing I can easily restock on eggs, or leave a batch of cookies for my neighbours, or see a friend or my own off-spring. Even taking a simple walk around the block is new territory. Nothing that was before is a given. These shifts, however inconvenient or different are part of being lucky in a hard time because there are shifts far more profound going on. Some are painful and some are positive and many more (especially the positive) are still germinating. Like the wheat that will be harvested this summer, so much is under the surface. How it will all sprout up in our newly shaping world is conjecture. Some will evolve in ways we can forecast and many others, because life is like that, will be a total surprise.
A short while ago I shared some bread recipes with all of you thinking that would be a help. But many, perhaps most of my readers are out of flour and yeast, especially yeast. So I don’t know how helpful I was. And whereas sourdough, so in vogue these days (cabin fever and no yeast on hand will do that) is fun to make bread with it doesn’t work for everything (like biscotti). Still, I adore sourdough baking myself but it took even me awhile to get up to speed.
Start your starters!
If you’d like to make a starter, my starter recipe is just ½ cup water and ½ cup unbleached flour. I freshen (or feed it) with equal amounts flour and water for 4-6 days until it’s bubbly. If it gets ungainly, I take out half a cup (discard) and then refresh it. Once it’s a frothy, lively mess I either bake with it (taking out the portion I need) or refrigerate it. That’s it.
Certainly, there are lots of great books on sourdough which I myself own and read but to get started I go simple. I don’t weigh things (ok, sometimes I do), I don’t always use bottled water (my sourdough seems to prefer tap), I don’t always use organic flour and I don’t take its temperature. I look at it the same way as I do my plants. My starter (and plants) tells me what it needs. Despite my imperfection or organic way I go about it somehow, I make rather good bread.
People who need people are the luckiest (and bakey-est) people in the world....
For anyone reading this newsletter, I know it didn’t take a pandemic for us to fall in love with baking. We were there already. For us, baking is a love affair that never quits. It’s who we are; it’s where we live. Somehow, with baking on the rise, it feels good to already ‘be there’, that is, to already be a baker person. But there’s another bonus. Bakers are the luckiest people in the world because at times like these, while we may not be front line peeps, we are needed in our own way: feeding our families or quarantined house guests (friends or family). It makes us feel useful, capable and contributing. We’re flour wranglers, good nesters and we’re broody about baking. All this to say, maybe my (and your) own dirty little secret is: I love being needed. I love knowing I can nourish people and bake up anything they want or need. It’s not a CDC approved mask or surgical gloves, a vaccine, or a treatment or tonic but it is something and it does a body good. Plus I can also pass on recipes and share the healing power of baking. Being needed is such a priviledge and baking with purpose makes me feel....radiant (no one can ever accuse me of being low-key)
So on this 39th day of hibernation/sheltering, and this 23rd anniversary year issue of BB, I offer you a serviceable quartet of recipes. I’ll also probably have some more freebie recipes on Medium.com later this month so stay tuned.
Happy May, happy Mother's Day and as always,
Much love and as always, warm wishes from my kitchen to yours,
Author, Master Baker
May 2020 Recipes