Pandemic Baking: I made a lot of things
True Confession: I’ve been using a lot of baking flour lately.
When quarantine first started back in March in California, I didn’t know what I was going to do with myself. It was the month where we were buying toilet paper like crazy, stocking up on bananas, making schedules for the whole family (and we are not schedule people) and buying 25 lbs. of flour from Costco.
So when my mother-in-law dropped by to give me some sourdough starter chips “just for fun”, I quietly set it down on the counter and didn’t think about it again. Only I did. After reading the lengthy instructions on how to make the starter to make your own bread, I decided to go for it.
Y’all, I’m baking sourdough bread now. As well as cinnamon rolls. Breakfast bagels. Pizza dough. All from scratch. Who dis?
I now have a healthy starter in the fridge whenever I want to make these sourdough cinnamon rolls or this delicious sourdough bread with a crust that just makes you want to open your own bakery.
I’ve learned through these past few months that not all baking flours are alike, and since experimenting with different ones, I thought I’d share what I’ve been cooking up the last few (err, 8) months with links to all the recipes!
Never thought I’d be making bread. There were times when I was half-way through the process and my husband would just look at me and say “you know, we can just BUY bread”. He’s not wrong. But this loaf is good, which is saying a lot since the Bay Area is FULL of delicious, artisanal, organic bakeries. The recipe asks for all-purpose flour because of its versatility, protein content, and availability. I probably could’ve used bread flour, but since it was the first time making it, I’m not playing around with the ingredients.
Also didn’t think I’d be making cinnamon rolls, but these are amazing. I had found a recipe for Funfetti cinnamon rolls and they looked too delicious not to at least attempt it. The recipe called for sprinkles to be used in the batter, but I didn’t have the right ones that wouldn’t turn the whole thing grey so I just sprinkled some on top. Olivia loved them of course and tried to pick the cinnamon rolls with the pinkest sprinkles, because of course she would. This one also called for all-purpose flour.
These bagels were so yummy slathered with cream cheese that I had one for breakfast and another one for lunch. They require bread flour, which has a high protein content.
Since it’s the second time I mention protein content, let me fill you in real quick: baking flour has a protein content anywhere from 5-15%. The higher the protein content, the higher the gluten. The higher the gluten, the more elastic and strong the dough is, which translates into how chewy or flaky a baked good is. Bread flour has a high protein content, which means it’s sturdy and will hold its shape, but is also chewy. For bagels? The best.
When it seemed like the whole world was out of flour, it was the smaller markets and bakeries to the rescue. They would carry half a dozen eggs, milk, flour and yeast (something else that was impossible to find) for the novice and veteran bakers. I stopped by the adorable Baking Arts shop and noticed the small bags of four with the 00 on them. Turns out its pizza flour. Didn’t know there was flour that was perfect for pizza. Well folks, there is, and it’s called 00 flour. High gluten and super elastic, and since it’s milled into a super-fine flour, it can be rolled out really thin without breaking. Thin crust pizza FTW.
These sugar cookies have become our go-to. Basic sugar cookies in small batch (it makes 6 giant cookies and for our family of 4, that’s PLENTY), super easy to make and can customize them for holidays or just because. We’ve done “Elsa sprinkles”, candy eyes for Halloween and I’ll probably do something festive for Christmas.
For gluten-free cookies, check out this recipe for almond flour lemon cookies. They are so good!
If making something for teachers, friends, or anyone else this holiday season, check out this amazing pumpkin cake roll to give as gifts. Pretty easy to make and it’s deliciously indulgent. I won’t judge if you make one for yourself as well. For realz.
Want more info on flour? Check out my blog post on Zulily for all the details on types, benefits, and uses- it’s a good one. Happy baking!