Bread made in quarantine

All Sorrows are Less with Bread

When I first started to come to terms with the reality of indefinite quarantine, I scoured the internet to identify new endeavors to take on. With all the extra time on my hands, surely I could become a taekwondo master, fluent in Russian, and a violinist by the time normal life resumes! Well, after about a week of dipping my toes in all of those projects, I realized that a) I don’t even have a violin and b) it is overwhelming and counterproductive to set unrealistic goals. Instead, I turned my attention to something more feasible and practical.

It started when I woke up one morning to the smell of something absolutely divine. I walked into the kitchen and learned that my mom had decided to make homemade bread; to everyone’s delight, it turned out beautifully. We all hovered around the loaf fighting for pieces (my brother and I both liked the top crust, which was a source of conflict), and between the four people living in my apartment right now, we finished the entire loaf within thirty minutes of it emerging from the oven. 

At our request, my mom made another loaf the next day. But this time, she let me decorate it. I used some of the extra dough to cut out a wreath of leaves, which I placed around the rim of the round loaf. This is in line with our Thanksgiving day baking tradition: my mom’s job is to make the pies taste good, and mine is to make them look good. Such is the way of the Heath family kitchen!

With this new enterprise, however, I wanted to do both. The third loaf we made was a joint effort between my mom and me. She walked me through the recipe and all of the ingredients, and then she let me spread my wings and do the labor on my own. I finished off the loaf with some scoring decorations before placing it in the oven. I was pleasantly surprised by how easy it is to make. I’ve always understood bread making to be an intricate skill that only Michelin star chefs are blessed with, but my experience showed me otherwise. I’ve been making multiple loaves a week, each one with a new design. 

One of my favorite takeaways from the experience is being able to bring a fresh, hot loaf of bread to my dad, who is quarantining separately from my family because he is a doctor working in the coronavirus ICUs. My long term plan is to start a mini operation in which I give my dad bread with personalized thank you notes for him to take to his fellow colleagues on the frontline. Certainly, our healthcare heroes, more than anyone else, deserve to experience the elation of biting into a warm piece of homemade bread at the end of a long shift!

No-knead bread only requires a few standard kitchen appliances, four common and accessible baking ingredients, this Sullivan Street Bakery recipe, and a little bit of practice and patience. If you’re a sucker for decorating, like me, this video will give you some inspiration for bread scoring patterns, which can be done with even just a razor blade. It’s a long process from start to finish, but actually not that much hands-on work, so I promise you’ll still have time for your Tiger King binge. And once your baby is baked and (b)ready, you’ll be the most popular member of your family! Enjoy it with butter, jam, eggs, or even just plain.

So, if you are struggling to find a viable quarantine activity like I was, I highly recommend breadmaking. It’s been nourishing for both my body and my soul, as I’ve found it has helped to get my mind off of all the sadness and uncertainty in the world right now. Also, playing with the dough is a really entertaining stress relieving activity! As the great Cervantes once wrote, “all sorrows are less with bread.”

Long story short, I’m not a taekwondo master yet. But I do know how to make a loaf of bread. Hey, you gotta start somewhere!