Dear bread fans,
I haven’t thought of turning on my oven. I’ve been focused on managing myself in the heat, walking and cooking early to take advantage of the cool-ish moments of the day. I live in upstate New York, and I grew up with hot, humid summers. July was a buzz of insects and quiet. Two days a week my sisters and I rode a school bus to the state park, relishing the noise of classmates and the cool of the lake. I didn’t have a clue that summers would be ominous.
The adult world never arrives, I guess, as you imagined. Responsibilities and reality are too hard to know — growing up is not simple as growing into a bigger pair of shoes. And even if, in the 1970s, I knew what the oil companies knew about climate change, my psychological prep for becoming who I am would have been what it was. Corporate honesty would not have resulted in another America snapping into shape, any more than the summers of 1967 & 2020 rewove the threads of our socio-economic fabric— let alone broke the loom of our economic and government structures. I would still be here, wondering what I and my country should do about the urgent necessity to rearrange life away from fossil fuels.
The world is boiling, thermally & geo-politically. For wheat and other staple crops, that means different things — the Russian war in Ukraine is wreaking havoc there and in the places that rely upon Ukrainian crops. Long-term, the climate crisis is a huge enemy of food as we now produce it, and here’s a good article from The Guardian about wheat breeding efforts in Mexico.
As an advocate for regional food systems, of course I have hope. Small flour mills and handling facilities for beans and grains provide markets & choices for farmers; the agricultural clock is wound from seed forward by the markets that will buy what is grown, and in large scale systems, there’s less flexibility in what to plant. But my hope has a sunburn right now, as I think about American and global disparities in wealth, and access to food and other basics.
I am not too worried to dream of floury bandages for my fears, though. When this heatwave breaks tomorrow, I’m going to wrap peaches in pie dough, ala my pie pal Ellen Gray. I’ll start another batch of sourdough pan pizza, using a recipe from Breadtopia & stoneground high extraction bread flour from Farmer Ground — which means I’ll up the water a bit to account for the presence of bran. And maybe I’ll make another batch of Rachel Wyman’s potato donuts. Here’s my take on her recipe, from the cookbook that grew out of her pandemic bake-a-longs, WILL RUN FOR DOUGHNUTS.
1 cup plain mashed potatoes (I’ve used leftovers that have salt, pepper, milk and butter — even though Rachel said don’t do that!)
1 cup sugar (I used half a cup)
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted
½ cup whole milk
1 large egg
2 ½ cups all-purpose flour (I used 3 cups Farmer Ground whole wheat pastry flour)
1 tablespoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
6-8 cups oil for frying
The above ingredient list comes from the book, and has my notes. The following instructions are mine. Please read hers, too!
Mix the liquid and dry ingredients separately, and then combine. Pretend like you are making biscuits and don’t beat them too much. On a floury surface, roll 1/2 or 1/3 of the batch 1/2 inch thick; use cookie cutters, glasses, or knives to cut into the shape you desire.
In a cast iron pot, heat about 3 inches of oil to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Slip the donuts into the hot oil carefully, and after a minute and a half of frying on one side, use chopsticks to flip each cake.
Put fried cakes in a paper bag with powdered sugar. Shake gently, eat heartily.