Extreme feats of quarantine “can-do spirit” abound on the Internet, so it’s only natural that the Fixin’ Leaks and Leeks Team would try to either fashion a gym out of logs or sew a set of masks with realistic-looking beards. Amazingly, we haven’t done either of those things. However, we HAVE converted an ordinary-looking Mason jar into a time capsule of sorts. With this time capsule, we have stuffed rye/wheat flour and enough lukewarm water to create a frothy, burping mess. It represents all of our coronavirus anxieties, and we’ll bury it in the refrigerator. From time to time we will also feed it more flour and water. Under normal circumstances, these kinds of nutrient-rich flour and water combinations, crammed into a tiny space, form the basis of a starter dough—the kind we imagined ourselves making when we romanticized what it would be like to live in the late 1800s—or visit old-timey places with hand-cranked mills for grinding corn. However, the Fixin’ Leaks and Leeks Team woke up here recently, surveyed all of the empty grocery shelves that are picked clean of yeast, and screamed,
“Oh, no! It’s happening! We’re going to have to do stuff from scratch for real. Get the hand-cranked mill that’s on back order from Amazon!”
On the nearly empty shelves though, we found a lone sack of organic wheat/rye flour. We threw it into the car and drove home to mix about a cup of that flour with a cup of water.
“Alex,” I said, “if we are able to pull this off, we could have a starter dough that we could keep and pass on for generations. It would be the ‘Fixin’ Leaks and Leeks Team Coronavirus Starter Dough of 2020’—except, we can’t call it ‘coronavirus starter’ because that just sounds bad. It would be a family starter dough, and if you get married someday, your spouse will get a chunk of it to keep in the refrigerator, and when I come to visit, I will check to make sure that you still have it. I will be that person.”
Alex just nodded because he knows that I would do such a thing, but only if I could actually keep starter dough going for more than about a day or two. My track record with plants is not too good. I also once thought that I’d spend my evenings crocheting in front of the TV. “Where are all of those blankets and fluffy poodles you thought you’d make, Mom?” He didn’t say that, but I know he was thinking it.
Over the next three days, I dreamed of a starter dough that would last for hundreds of years in my family line, but then I realized that one day, in a cleaning frenzy, I’d most likely toss the starter dough out. Also, three days is a long time to dream about starter dough.
Dreams soon became reality on Easter Sunday morning, when we pulled some of the starter dough and attempted to make a “quick” sourdough bread. It didn’t quite turn out the way we expected it to turn out, but it was still delicious with our ham. The recipe, pieced together from several YouTube videos, follows below:
1/2 cup of starter dough
1 cup of lukewarm water
3 cups of flour
1 tsp of salt
Combine the salt and flour in a bowl. Form a well and mix the starter/water into the flour. Use your hands. The resulting dough will be rough-looking. As best as you can, gather it into a ball. Then, let the dough rest for 30 minutes, covered.
Shape the dough into a firmer, smoother ball. Then, cover again and let rise for 1 ½-2 hours.
Place a Dutch oven into the oven and preheat to 500 degrees.
Remove the Dutch oven, place, the dough inside (on parchment paper), and cover the dough. Place everything inside of the oven and bake for 30 minutes. Remove the lid and bake for another 10 minutes.
Results: The bread we made was dense, crusty on the outside, and soft on the inside. The distinct sourdough flavor was not there, but it was still pretty good. And, we added to the starter so that our little Mason jar time capsule—our memories of what we did in quarantine—would live on:
“ I hear that your great, great, great grandparents started the yeast we use for our bread,” someone from my future generation will say.
“Yeah, I heard that too—and that my great, great, great grandmother had a dream about crocheting a thousand fluffy poodles at night,” someone else will say.
“It was rumored that she was going to buy an inflatable hot tub online during the pandemic of 2020, but she got distracted by a ‘mindfulness’ coloring book peacock that looked rather menacing to her.”
“What did she do then?”
“She hit it with a rock and canceled her subscription to a liquor of the month club.”
“Ah, a sturdy soul indeed! Well, let’s clean up, and then we’ll sound the traditional craft alert to warn the neighbors.”
Happy Easter to all who celebrate it—and Happy Passover as well!
Your Turn: What projects have you done over the past month or so? Or, what projects are you avoiding?