Skill Test

Around the first of this year, The Interweb was abuzz with folk suggesting we make the 2020’s just like the Roaring (19)20’s. They wanted to bring back dapper clothes and hats, jazz music, and the Charleston. We now have a raging pandemic, fomenting global conflict, a crashing economy, and we can not go out to bars. Looks like we should have been more careful what we wished for.

The two greatest enemies at a time like this are, in order of destructiveness

  1. Panic
  2. Wastefulness

So first- calm down. We cannot control the COVID-19 virus, but we can control how we act about it and how we act towards each other. Meet anger with empathy. We are all missing our former routine. Meet fear with love. Nobody knows how this pandemic will turn out. We can all be scared together. Most of all, meet need with help whenever you can.

Next-the phrase “waste not, want not” should be taken to heart right now. Everything your home economics teacher, grandmother, great grandmother, and that sweet old lady from down the street who used to babysit you sometimes told you about thrift in the kitchen is still true.

  • Take stock- know what you already have on hand.
  • Use up things that will spoil quickly first.
  • Store foods correctly to maximize shelf life.
  • Most of all, do not buy more of anything than you can use. Not only do you waste money when you toss spoiled food, but you take away from someone else who could have eaten what you wasted.

To show that I am practicing what I preach here, today I gave myself a DIYet skill test that used up some neglected produce. I was out of bread; I found two potatoes in the pantry. Now I have potato bread. Let me show you how that happened.

Step one, peel 2 potatoes.
Dice the potatoes and cook them. You can boil, bake or do what I did and use the microwave. No, that is not how either of my grandmothers would have done it. It is, however, how I did it. Because I live in the future.
While the potatoes are cooling down, mix half a cup of white flour, a pinch of sugar, a scant tablespoon of dry yeast and one and a half cups warm water. Let it get all foamy and bubbly. That takes 10-15 minutes.
Smash those potatoes with a quarter cup of butter, 1 tablespoon salt and 1 egg. Set that aside for now.
My grandmothers also never used a stand mixer to mix and knead bread. I do it all the time. Pour the foamy yeast mix into the mixer bowl. Add another cup and a half white flour and beat on high for about 5 minutes. You want to develop a lot of gluten before you add any of the other stuff. It will look smooth and stringy when you are done.
Add the potato mixture and some more flour. It might take only two more cups, it might take three and a half. Do not add too much extra flour or you will end up with a dry loaf. Mix another 5 minutes, until the dough pulls away from the side of the bowl and forms a single lump. I switched over to whole wheat flour, but you can use all white. Use what your have already, that is the point. I also switched out my mixing paddle for my dough hook.
Move the dough to a clean bowl and let it rise until it doubles. It takes a while. Depending on how active your yeast is and how warm your kitchen is, figure 2-4 hours.
Punch down the risen dough to deflate it. Divide the dough in half. Roll out each half to get rid of the bigger gas bubbles. You don’t want a big hole in your toast, do you? Shape your loaves as desired.
I went with classic bread pan shaped loaves. Let the loaves rise for another hour or so, until they fill out the pans and look cute and chubby. It might take a little longer if the kitchen is cooler.
See what I mean? Cute and chubby and ready for a 375F oven for 25-35 minutes.
One for the countertop, one for the freezer (so it will not go stale before we enjoy it). Or maybe the extra one will go to a friend. Just make sure the loaves are completely cool before you wrap and store them. Otherwise, moisture will condense on the crust and you will have moldy bread. Yuck.
This is great bread. It is soft and delicious. Definitely sandwich worthy. I might add less salt next time. There will be a ‘next time’.

It has been a while since a pandemic has interrupted the world like COVID-19 has. We are all nervous and anxious and out of our comfort zone. It seems like there is little we can do. However, we can all use our skills. DIYeters can use their high-level foodie skills to make the most of whatever is available. We can grow food and forage for wild food. We can share our extra with others. We can share our confidence with challenging food situations.

Which DIYet skills are you using most during this tough time? Share in the comments!