Ok. Seriously people is everyone baking bread now?! I can’t find flour anywhere! How am I supposed to do any coping baking, and eating during this quarantine without my baking supplies? I love that everyone is baking more but holy hell. Flour is getting impossible to find. I’ve even tried to purchase online from a variety of places. I typically use King Arthur Flour. They have a nice variety of flours and their bread and wheat flours make amazing breads. Even King Arthur’s company website is sold out of most of their flours. It’s kind of crazy. My cupboard is typically filled with 5 or more different kinds of flour. I have All Purpose, bread flour, semolina, 00 flour, self-rising, almond, rye, whole wheat, and gluten free. Most of the time their containers are full, and I have back up new bags of each ready to go. Now though, the containers are beginning to get low and I have only All Purpose and 00 backups. I found gluten free and rye flour recently online. I’m going to start experimenting with those flours, neither of which I am very fond. Gluten free bread is NOT my favorite. I don’t like the end results as much. I also don’t like the difference in structure or the feel of gluten free doughs. I also noticed that yeast and other baking ingredients are getting scarce. I did order a larger bulk package of active yeast, but I’m a bit worried how fast it will lose its potency. It’s not something I typically buy in larger packages.
We started to make a transition over to a vegan diet this past December which has also made my baking a bit more challenging. It was a health decision. Whatever I bake now gets given to neighbors and friends. I miss my fresh rolls, eclairs, scones, and biscotti with coffee. My waist doesn’t miss the baking. My brain however, does. The attention to detail that some of the recipes required especially. Baking helps to keep my bipolar brain engaged and distracted away from the usual paranoia and racing thoughts that typically dominate my every waking moment. Kneading and mixing the bread also helps focus energy away from the irritation and frustration that come with mood shifts. It’s such an amazing sense of accomplishment to make something from scratch. Measuring, mixing, molding something from scratch is very satisfying. I know that many people stuck at home right now are feeling the exact same thing as they experiment with their own baking. There’s no better smell in the world than that of fresh baking bread.
The next few months are going to be filled with adjustments and new challenges. I have to adjust my baking recipes now due to ingredient availability. This means making smaller loaves, using different flours, and researching gluten free and vegan recipes. If anyone has some good gluten free and vegan recipes send them my way.
Let’s all keep coping the best we can. If you bake, bake. If you read, read. Listen to music. Go for a walk. Pick up a new hobby. Remember, we are in this together.
This week I’m trying a rye bread loaf. I’ll let you know how it goes.
Recipe by Paul Hollywood
Equipment and preparation: You will need a large, round proving basket for this recipe. * *the black treacle is optional
500g rye flour, plus extra for dusting
10g instant yeast
20ml black treacle (dark molasses)
350ml cool water
olive oil, for kneading
- Tip the flour into a large mixing bowl and add the salt to one side of the bowl and the yeast to the other. Add the treacle and three-quarters of the water and turn the mixture round with your fingers.
- Continue to add the remaining water, a little at a time, until you’ve picked all of the flour from the sides of the bowl. You may not need to add all the water, or you may need to add a little more – you want dough that is soft, but not soggy. Use the mixture to clean the inside of the bowl and keep going until the mixture forms a rough dough.
- Coat a clean work surface with a little olive oil, then tip the dough onto it and begin to knead. Keep kneading for 5-10 minutes. Work through the initial wet stage until the dough starts to form a soft skin. You will find the dough feels different from conventional wheat flour dough – less smooth and stretchy.
- Form the dough into a smooth, round cob shape by turning it on the surface and tucking the edges underneath until the top is smooth and tight.
- Generously dust the inside of a large, round proving basket with rye flour. Put the dough into it, placing the smooth topside down. Cover with a tea towel to protect the dough and prevent a skin forming on the top.
- Leave to prove for about eight hours or ideally overnight. The dough will double in size eventually but will take considerably longer than wheat-flour breads.
- Preheat the oven to 220C/425F and put a roasting tray in the bottom to heat up. Line a baking tray with parchment or silicone paper.
- When the roasting tray is hot, half fill it with boiling water and return it to the bottom of the oven (this will create steam and help form a good crust).
- When the loaf is risen, invert it carefully onto the prepared tray. The basket should have left a pattern on the surface of the dough. Slash a deep crosshatch pattern on the top with a sharp knife. Bake for 30 minutes. To test, tap the base of the loaf – it should sound hollow.
- Remove from the oven to cool and serve in slices.