That and the perplexing penchant of people to horde commodities they think may dry up. Toilet paper at first, then flour, bleach and sanitizer, face masks … and now yeast!
That all seems so long ago. There was never a real shortage of these items, just pressures on the supply chain! Flour seems to have made a return, along with hand sanitizers. Even face masks are in greater supply.
But yeast … well, it’s still hard to get!
Hijacked supply of yeast
Professionals and serious home bakers are up in arms! The yeast supply has dried up, they say because legions of hobbyists are making enormous demands on the inventory. Using it to make bread to stave off boredom during these days of social isolation. They have “hijacked” the supply of yeast that professionals need to make their “daily bread.”
In the online baking forums, you’d think there was the smell of revolution in the air. Many say that instant dry yeast, which is often in plentiful supply, is going to service the whims of people just wanting to stay busy. Or to the profiteers!
One baker took out his frustrations on the yeast suppliers who, he said, should “earmark” a large part of the supply for bakeries, so “we don’t succumb to irrational behaviours; and we can have some he confidence in our sources of yeast.”
Companies who make yeast, one post said, were “contributing to the irrational behaviours by not putting forth efforts to communicate with and assure product to bakeries.”
This poor fellow is understandably upset, but others are using this situation to reacquaint themselves with the time-honored practice using a sourdough culture to leaven their bread.
It’s a simple solution, one that may require a few adjustments to schedules and recipes. Still, it ultimately will produce great bread, both in terms of taste and nutrition.
Flour and water, that’s all it takes to get a good sourdough starter going.
A friend for life
You can’t make a sourdough starter overnight. Time and patience. But once it’s established, you’ve got a friend for life!
I’ve been getting a lot of requests for the sourdough starter we use at the Happy Monk Baking Company. We call her Bettina. And there is lots of her!
I’m thrilled to oblige these requests. I feed Bettina every day, and once or twice a week, use about a kilo of it to build the Happy Monk breads.
There’s lots of discard. Almost every day, I remove two-thirds of the starter and replenish the supply with fresh flour and water. I put the discard into jars, which go into the refrigerator … until there is no more room! Some discard starter gets made into waffles or pancakes … or quick pizza dough.
And some of it gets flushed down the toilet. Sadly.
It’s nice to know that part of Bettina can go to a good home. Just as long as she’s fed and cared for!
It’s an awesome responsibility!
Try making your own starter
That’s one reason why I try to get people to make their own starters from scratch. By urging the naturally occurring yeast organisms to live in a culture of flour and water, you build a deep bond with the starter. Like it’s your own child.
You feed it every day … or most days. And when you open the container and see those happy carbon dioxide bubbles and get a whiff of the sweet smell, you know it’s content. You’re making it comfortable.
If you neglect the starter, you won’t see as many bubbles. If you take a deep whiff of a hungry starter, the aroma will blow your nose off! It’s “hangry!”
But your starter can be really forgiving. If you stick it in the fridge and forget it for a week, you can still bring it back … and soon it will be its sweet-smelling self again. It’s a miracle! You see why I call it a friend?
Get going on it tonight, and by next weekend, you might be ready to make bread.
If you’ve got a happy, active sourdough starter and you feel ready to make bread, may I suggest you start with something simple.
Try a very basic sourdough loaf. Four ingredients, maximum: Flour, water, starter, and salt. You can add a handful of sesame seeds or oatmeal flakes to sprinkle on the crust, but that’s not essential.
Try this recipe from the New York Times. There are about 10 minutes of hands-on time and up to 24 hours of waiting. If you follow the instructions carefully, you’ll undoubtedly get a beautiful smelling loaf. It will taste great too.
Try, try again
If it doesn’t rise as much as you like, don’t feel discouraged. Try the recipe again. Experiment, try something different.
Learning to bake any bread — sourdough or not — can be a long road.
Have you got the patience for it? If you love bread as much as I do, the trials and tribulations will pay off. Try to find success early, keep at it. Stay with the same recipe for a while until you’re ready to move on.
Cinnamon-Raisin bread, an enduring Happy Monk favourite. And here’s proof of Mildrith’s (the wood-fired oven) recent health check, as she just baked 41 loaves of this (and another 40 of Seed Feast) with lots of heat left to spare. Long live Mildrith and long live Cinnamon-Raisin bread!
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Happy Monk Tidings - September 28, 2022 🍞 - Baker's Choice: The Approachable Loaf; Blog: This Island of Apples; South Pender Growers and Makers Market [ See LinkTree in Profile ]
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Happy Monk Tidings - September 2, 2022 🍞 - Baker's Choice : Volkornbrot (German Rye); Blog: The Golden Loaf of Gorsefield Rye; NOTE: We're closing two weeks for Mildrith Maintenance [ See LinkTree in Profile ]...
It was a dirty day, Wednesday. The sky hadn't been washed, the ocean was soiled, and the air was muggy and smelled oily. Then, moments before the rain started, the sun shone through and a glorious slash of colour opened up. And a rainbow! No unicorns, sadly....
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