The inevitable happened, and my flour supply morphed away from the familiar collection of yellow-bagged bread flours, the kind I’ve been baking with for years and years like a loyal customer and into other brands. I shook the last dregs from my bags of “Best for Bread” and multigrain mixes.
I then used up the last quarter(ish) bag of AP we keep on hand for cookies and pancakes.
Loaves 59 & 60 of the pandemic sourdough legacy are a mix of flours. The starter is a bit of yellow-bagged whole wheat and a bit of yellow-bagged all purpose. The bread-proper is a store brand generic AP that I picked up a month ago when flour shortages were still rampant.
I’m in the land of uncharted ingredient brands.
If this post comes across as flour-elitist, I don’t intend it that way. In all likelihood the bag of generic AP in my pantry was pacakged in the same factory from the same mill as the yellow-bagged stuff that I usually buy. I am simply amused that (a) I baked 58 loaves of bread (and a few dozen batches of pancakes) from the flour I had on-hand at the start of this pandemic (like, seriously) and (b) the fact that I feel — felt — a lingering if irrational disloyalty to a raw ingredient as I tore in the new bag and started mixing up my latest batch of bread.
The only measurable consequence to the new flour, if I’m being honest, is that for the first time in 60 loaves I baked what was essentially a white bread sourdough — or at most a five pecent grain loaf if one counts what the composition of the starter which will have some ever-halving percentage of whole grains for a very long time.
I christened the new loaves with a couple of delicious grilled cheese sandwiches. Obviously.
Fresh, thick slices of sourdough bread. A bit of grated cheddar. Some butter. And a hot cast iron pan.
Sixty loaves further cemented the pandemic sourdough in my mind as a kind of family legacy.
As I write this we’ve been in a state of quasi-isolation and lockdown for one hundred and twelve days. Eleven and a half million people have had or now have a severe communicable viral infection. Over half a million people have died. The economy has crashed. Borders have closed. The world has foundationally changed.
During that time I’ve fed my family with a few bags of flour and a gooey lump of yeast-filled sludge. When we look back at 2020, when the kid tells the story of this year to some future generation of kids, it would be impossible to tell our version without a buttered slice of sourdough to gnaw on along with it.
“Months and months passed, and every day there was this bread to blend, to bake, to eat.”
I dehydrated a bit of my starter and stuck away for safekeeping. It may never be needed, but it would be a shame if someday it were lost and the story of five dozen loaves — probably dozens more to come — were not recalled with something to taste along with it… whatever colour of bag the flour comes out of.