Nobody’s going out to dinner these days. Instagram isn’t filled with those envy-inducing shots of tantalizing dishes at gastropubs and haute chophouses, with hard-to-score reservations and Michelin stars. There isn’t much fancy cooking going on anyplace, as we all huddle in our home kitchens and try to sustain ourselves actually and aesthetically. Everyone is down with simple cooking. And some days it’s difficult to move past the skills necessary to open and eat a box of Cap’n Crunch.
I have to admit that I am always a little slow to see what is trending. I guess it’s because I’m not glued to the internet all day long, and some things just pass me by. And that can be a good thing. I’ve missed out on the Kardashians, Dancing with the Stars, quinoa, Tiger King, K-pop, emojis, Tik Tok, and now sour dough bread.
Everyone who is anyone is baking competitive loaves of sour dough bread, and then posting the images on Instagram and Facebook and one suspects, Snapchat, if one was cool enough to have a Snapchat following. People don’t only post their bragging success photos – they are very proud to show you their big fat failures: the loaves of sour dough bread that could double for Olympic curling stones.
If I had sour dough starter to begin with, I am sure that that’s where my bread would be categorized – heavy, leaden, inedible loaves that could serve as door stops. Luckily, no sour dough starter has materialized in our kitchen. I would probably kill it, anyway.
There are ways to make your own sour dough starter. But frankly, I have started painting the back porch, and that’s one project I would like to finish in time for summer. But here is a little guidance if you have more time on your hands, and need a project: https://www.feastingathome.com/sourdough-starter/
Here is some more science: https://www.discovermagazine.com/the-sciences/whats-the-difference-between-sourdough-starter-and-yeast
I have had successes and massive failures baking bread. The failures came because I am impatient, and cannot wait for the bread to rise, often over night. When I start to bake, I would like immediate gratification. That’s why brownies are always so satisfying. Even Mark Bittman’s No-Knead Bread requires time and patience. It calls for a 24-hour prep time. https://www.markbittman.com/recipes-1/no-knead-bread
And yes, it is very tasty, eventually.
Which is why focaccia is the bread for me in these trying times.
Skillet focaccia: https://www.thekitchn.com/focaccia-recipe-261454
These are easy directions – you can start after lunch and have tasty, fresh, piping hot focaccia for dinner. My favorite part was poking the little dimples into the dough after it has risen. And then artfully scattering the rosemary leaves, which I picked from the plant running wild in the container garden. (The rosemary plant has thrived outside even through the past two winters. It is an amazement to me.)
I just loved baking this focaccia in the cast iron skillet. I’m adding it to the list of good foods that can be prepared in just one pan – always a plus in my book because most of the time I am the designated dishwasher. It was crispy and crusty and tasted divine dipped in a small saucer of olive oil and garlic, salt, pepper, dried oregano and basil. It is practically a meal unto itself. Add salad and wine, and if you are being really pesky, an entrée. Mr. Friday and I gobbled up half a pan, which left half a pan to go in the freezer, that we hauled out delightedly a few nights later. Food in the freezer = money in the bank and less prep time. More time to paint the back porch, or weed the lettuce bed, or sneak in another episode of “Run”. Use your quarantine time wisely.
“All sorrows are less with bread.”
― Miguel de Cervantes