I woke up at 6 am this morning to bake bread.
It had been proofing overnight in my cast iron loaf pan, dusted with flour and lightly covered with a bit of plastic wrap to keep it from drying out for the twelve hour counter-top rise.
It was the one hundredth and fourty-fourth loaf I’d baked since that first pandemic lockdown began back in March 2020. One dozen dozen sandwich loaves.
Bread as far as the mind can see.
Had I not picked the “cast iron guy” as the name for this blog, a close runner up could have easily been something to do with sourdough.
As much as countless people have jumped on the sourdough bandwagon during these times of COVID restrictions and being stuck at home needing something to do I’m going to claim early-adopter status and say I have been dabbling in sourdough bread for half a decade now. My interest sparked after reading a book by Michael Pollan where he discussed the history of fermentation and other slowish food preparation methods. My research didn’t end there, though, and after a couple false starts with starters, I gave rise to my current levain in early 2019.
Yet a mere one year ago my two year old starter was nothing special. I’d been baking bread three or four times a month, usually when we needed a good dome loaf for a holiday or a party or to accompany a nice meal at home.
Then about ten and a half months ago I got sent home from the office to “temporarily” work from home.
On my drive the radio was talking about potential food shortages and the chance for panic buying as people stocked up for the long haul. I stopped and picked up a few groceries, including a big bag of flour. Upon arriving home I pulled the starter from the fridge to let it warm up for a batch of bread.
I’d been tracking my bakes with sharpie tick-marks on the lid of the starter’s container, but I switched colours to track the loaves I was going to cook while the pandemic passed us by. The Kid asked me as I was weighing out the flour if I could make “square loaves” (instead of the usual domes) because it was easier for her sandwiches. We baked those first loaves the next day after a long rise in a pair of cast iron loaf pans. We haven’t really stopped. Multiple times per week fresh bread comes out of the oven, usually two loaves in a batch, and there is always fresh sourdough to be eaten on our counter.
One hundred an fourty-four loaves later, a dozen dozens, sourdough has become our pandemic legacy.
So many sandwiches, breakfast toasts, afternoon snacks, and heels turned into garlic wedges.
A pair of pans.
A tub of cultured flour, water and natural yeast.
And one family fed on a reliable source of delicious bread.