Quarantine Brunch

It seems as if the world is baking their own bread these days. So much so that its incredibly difficult to locate yeast in the stores anymore. For those of us who are regular bakers this is frustrating. But at the same time, it makes me all warm and fuzzy to know there are people out there who are using this time to share home baked goodies with those they love. They’re going back to learn the way our (great)grandparents ate and lived and spent their time. I’ve thus resorted to purchasing a 2lb bag of Fleischmann’s Active Dry Yeast on Amazon to split with someone and replenish my stash!

Families nationwide have been given the gift of time, however inconveniently, and they’re using it (in my humble opinion) wisely. I’ve seen much frustration over homeschooling on social media of course, but without outside distractions, families are now afforded the opportunity to spend time together in an unprecedented way. Imagine the connections reforged over the family dinner table. We’re all in this together and the food shortages and rationing remind me a little of the time our nation spent during both World Wars.

In all this, I’ve seen people come together (metaphorically) to combat the virus, show kindness to one another, share supplies as they have them, and lend a little more grace and gratitude to those who are called to the front lines to work in the midst of it all. Women across the world are even breaking out their sewing machines to sew N95 masks for healthcare workers. People are making hand sanitizer at home and distilleries have halted production of spirits to make hand sanitizers. All of this in the name of combating this illness as quickly as possible.

In our house, one of our favorite loaves of bread to make is a challah loaf. This loaf has made about a once a quarter appearance at our house for about a year now. It’s so rich and delicious that it’s great for eating on its own with a good slathering of (though definitely not kosher) salted butter, but that’s not all it’s good for. It makes an amazing vehicle for French toast… much like ours on the first Sunday of quarantine before church via live feed. So if you’re looking for yet another way to use up that fresh baked bread you’re all enjoying, I can’t recommend this food processor variation enough. (Note: this recipe is NOT kosher)

4tbsp sugar
1pkg (or 2-1/4tsp) of active dry yeast
1/4c water, 110°
4-1/3c AP flour
2tsp salt
2/3c + 1tbsp cold milk
1/2c melted butter, cooled slightly
1-3 lg egg(s)
cooking spray

1) In a 2c measuring cup, dissolve 2tsp of the sugar and the yeast in the warm water. Set aside and let stand for 5min until foamy.
2) In the work bowl of a food processor, insert the dough blade and add the flour, the rest of the sugar, and the salt. Pulse on “dough” speed to combine.
3) Combine the 2/3c cold milk, melted butter, and one egg with the yeast mixture. Drizzle the yeast mixture through the feed tube atop the food processor with the machine running on “dough” speed. Once the dough forms into a ball, continue to process for 45sec-1min to knead the dough. If the dough is too dry and doesn’t quite form a ball, add in the second egg. If the dough is too wet, spoon in 2tbsp of flour at a time to get the correct consistency.
4) Spray a large mixing bowl with cooking spray and place the dough ball inside, turning once to coat. Cover the bowl with a kitchen towel and place in a warm spot to rise (1hr). I recommend an unheated oven with only the oven light on. This produces enough warmth for a great rise!
5) Once risen, punch dough down and allow to rest for 7-10min. Divide dough into 3 equal pieces on a floured surface and use your hands to create 3 identical ropes about 12.-20in long (depending on the length of your baking sheet). Place the ropes side-by-side on a cooking-spray-coated baking sheet. Braid the ropes together loosely, starting in the middle. When you reach the end and you can’t braid any further, pinch the ropes together and tuck each end under the loaf.
6) Cover the loaf with the kitchen towel and allow to rise again in the oven with only the oven light on for 45min. Remove the loaf after the second rise and preheat the oven to 375°. While the oven is preheating, beat an egg with 1tbsp milk and brush the mixture over the braid.
7) Bake in the middle of the oven for 20min then reduce the temperature to 350° and bake for another 10min. Loaf should sound hollow when patted. Cool on a wire rack for 15min. (While the bread is cooling, pull the butter out of the fridge and allow to soften for easier slathering when you cut into the bread.)

This time in world history is a bit different, I’ll concede. We aren’t fighting overseas this time however, but a contagion on the homefront. Many of us are quarantined at home (furloughed), some of us are doing our best to work from home, and about a third of us are putting in extra time working in our respective “Essential Industries” to keep the supply chain moving and feed the nation. Don’t get me started on the Great Paper Product Shortage of March 2020

Due to the gentle instability of certain items’ availability, it’s forced families to get creative and flexible with their weekly shopping. (It’s also forced some families to ditch their fast food habit for about 85% of their meals – down from 100%.) If you’re interested in a resource to help you be more flexible and creative with even the most unpopular of ingredients, I recommend Joanne Lamb Hayes’ books Grandma’s Wartime Kitchen and Grandma’s Wartime Baking Book.

Never again will I take for granted the ability to meet together weekly with fellow believers. I am missing my church family something fierce and while I am incredibly grateful to have work when so many do not, I am so ready for this all to be behind us. Vera Lynn’s White Cliffs of Dover plays through my head no less than once a day. I know it’s a little dramatic and presumptuous to compare our current inconveniences with those who endured both World Wars, and I have nothing but respect for those who do, but I can’t help but draw minor hints. It’s enough to make me pray ever fervently for our country that we would not have to endure those times again.

What is your favorite “free morning” breakfast?

Currently Reading: Newsweek Special Edition: James Bond

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