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  • Liz Totton

Kneading Dough at the End of the World

Confined to our kitchens with mouths to feed all day long, we’re all kneading dough like there's no tomorrow.

Photo by Elly Fairytale from Pexels

I don’t know what you’ve been up to during this COVID-19 lockdown, but I’ve been baking bread and kneading lots and lots of different kinds of dough.

Everyone is coping in their own way around the world with coronavirus lockdowns. Some are setting up home gyms, playing Animal Crossing, or turning to board games to pass the time. I, like many others, have been kneading dough and baking bread while in quarantine. I only had a passing interest in baking before the quarantine and rarely had the time for it. Now, a lost job has left me with an abundance of time, so I’ve unleashed my inner baker.

There’s something very satisfying about a piping hot loaf coming straight out of the oven. We all know the smell and even the carb-averse or gluten incurious would admit to salivating a little at the smell of a fresh loaf.

Why are we all doing this when we know we’ll just devour it in one go, trust me on that one, and then have more to work off tomorrow in our newly adopted probably pathetic living room YouTube workouts? We’re doing it our of boredom but also for some certainty in a cruel world.

In situations like this—famine, war, epidemics—the crisis goes on and on and on. There’s no point where you’re finished, so baking lets you take a project from beginning to end, see it through, and have a delicious end product.

In most situations at work and in life, if something goes wrong, there are endless possible explanations for what went wrong, but baking is a science. It’s all about chemical reactions. So, if something doesn’t work out, there’s usually a quick explanation and easy solution. It’s nice certainty that neither life nor work has.

The best part is that recipes don’t need to be complicated to offer some calm in a time of chaos. I’ve tried everything from a no-fail no-knead whole wheat loaf, a delicious though laborious leek bread, and a local fave manakeesh to the long but rewarding process of 72-hour pizza dough (thank you, Raj at Marmelatta, for this one) and replicating Momofuku’s bao buns to very mixed success—but I will keep trying.

This week, I'm tackling sourdough for the very first time. I’ll let you know how that went in seven days. I am using this sourdough for dummies recipe to walk me through this weeklong breadventure.

I don’t know your home situation, but I have two teens at home—one abruptly forced out of her first year at uni by the 'rona—both dragged down daily by distance learning, I’ve just lost my job, but I am busier than ever dreaming up my post corona incarnation. My husband is in the healthcare industry and is working longer hours than before—like everyone else, so we’re just trying to figure out how to manage all the needs of our family at home. We haven’t really come close to figuring out how to manage this new normal yet, but at least we have bread.

If you’re feeling inspired, try baking some bread, too! Here are 34 great recipes from the New York Times.

Tell me what recipes you've tried and liked!! Feel free to share some pics. Extra points for successful sourdough.

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