With everyone at home right now, the possibilities that all this extra time have unlocked have manifested into Tik Tok videos, Tiger King memes, and throwing down in the kitchen. Now it’s been said that man cannot live on Joe Exotic’s drip and hitting the Whoa alone, as sustenance is key to survival. And though it’s universal to all how much good use of our time has been spent on unlocking our inner Gordon Ramsays, the fact remains that groceries are at a constant flux of being fully stocked to bare shelves in such a short amount of time, with essentials like bread becoming scarce.
But what if I told you that you can literally make your own bread for life with just two simple ingredients? A raised eyebrow of skepticism is what I’d expect, sure, but the overall simplicity of what it takes to bake bread really is just that — simple.
I asked Aaron Caddel, CEO and owner of Mr. Holmes Bakehouse in San Francisco and Los Angeles, why bread seems to be the unlikely hero right now and also to help us understand just how easy it is to make bread for you and yours for life.
“It’s just the survival component with people. Folks got really worried for a short amount of time that there was going to be a food shortage and I think that frenzy is still there,” Caddel explains. “Then also, folks just need to stay in the house. Making bread is cheap living and an essential part of a lot of folks’ dinner tables.”
Now just like the countless businesses and restaurants that have been adversely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, Mr. Holmes Bakehouse has had to pivot their regular business model to still serve their customers. In light of this, while also recognizing the need for bread right now, Caddel has now shifted priorities to offering Bread Starter Kits, with shipping available nationwide. Inside you’ll find everything you’ll need to bring your bread starter to life, including instructions on how to “maintain this bread starter for 100+ years,” as said on the bakeshop’s website.
But how exactly is it even possible to have a lifelong supply of bread from just two ingredients? Well first, one needs to identify that these two ingredients are literally just flour and water. But how does yeast play into this whole process? Isn’t it essential as well? These are questions I myself had at the beginning of my research for this story. To help answer that, I tapped fellow Foodbeast and resident food scientist, Costa Spyrou, for some of his gems:
While you can purchase dry active yeast from stores, it’s not necessary to make your own bread starter. The most unique custom ones come from letting your dough capture the yeast from the surrounding air. Starters of flour and water left out at room temperature (but safely covered) will capture yeast and bacteria from the area. Many wild yeast strains are species that will ferment the dough: the most common yeast species is Saccharomyces cerevisiae. As vital as these yeasts are to turning dough into bread, you also need some bacteria to help the yeast along. It’s a symbiotic relationship between the yeast and bacteria that help produce the many signature flavors of dough.
Ah science (and Costa), thank you for all the clarity you bring. And also, thank you to establishments like Mr. Holmes Bakehouse, who are still finding ways to service the community even during these challenging times. The phrase ‘let’s get this bread’ resonates now more than ever.