Many Finding Joy in Baking Bread…


By Donna McMillan

SUZANNE Andrews of Port Ryerse has been making bread for the past 52 years. All of her family’s needs for loaves of bread, hot cross buns, bagels, pie crust, cakes and more have come out of her oven since she was first married.
For the retired mixed media artist, who now works with Polymer clay as a hobby, bread-making has been another passion of hers.
It is nothing for Suzanne to make buns for 40 guests at a Canada Day party to put their barbecued pulled pork on. It’s nothing to bake multiple loaves in a morning.
“It’s easy. It’s cheap. It just falls off my hands,” she told the Maple Leaf. And, she loves to share. Recently she was delivering extra loaves of bread to friends in Port Dover. One, she said, met her at the end of the driveway with a shovel in his hand. He extended the shovel and she placed the loaf in it. Social distancing in action.
During this COVID-19 pandemic, many have joined the bread making band wagon.
Newspapers and television channels have been featuring the art of bread-making for the past two months; and they haven’t been the cooking channels. Baking needs have been flying off the shelves at our local grocery stores. Suzanne was happy to have recently bought some flour at Mike’s No Frills.



Manny Vita, Associate Manager at the store confirmed the demand for baking ingredients have been far greater than normal. “Flour and yeast are not staying on the shelves long,” he shared. The shelves are often bare, although he said there was some bleached white flour available at the time of talking with the Maple Leaf.
In her early years of bread-making, Suzanne said she was making plain white sandwich bread in a loaf pan that she referred to as “instant bread.”
But, in the ’80s, she said, thanks to some bread-making gurus, knowledge evolved.
“Bread is simply flour, yeast, water, salt and then anything else you think you might want to throw in the mix,” she said.
“White flour in Canada has 11% protein or more,” she said. She recalled when No Frills carried a marvelous Spring Red Wheat flour from Saskatchewan, which had 13% protein. “The bread was magnificent. Bagels even better. With the higher protein – more chew!”
The new science of bread-making she was following showed a two or three day process resulted in better flavour. From the ’90s onwards, Suzanne said there was a resurgence in the science of cooking, explaining why food tasted the way it does.
Yeast is commonly used in the fermentation process, but Suzanne also talked about Pate Fermentation, Sponge, Poolish, Biga (used in Italian style breads) and Sourdough, Levain (French baguette) and Barm, all dough starters made from wild yeast.
Suzanne has been using the same sourdough starter for 40 years, she said. A bakery in France claims to have the same starter that goes back to Napoleon times.
“Using a starter of any type will enhance your bread flavour,” she said. “Most of my breads are baked free form on a baking stone in a very hot 500 F oven with steam which helps rise the bread quickly and the steam gives it a great crust.”
Her favourite bread recipe sites are The Bread Bible, Berenbaum 2003, Practical Baking 1986, Cooks Illustrated magazines as well as such programs as America’s Test Kitchen on PBS and such gurus as Alton Brown, Jim Lahey and Grant Crilly.
Suzanne makes 2 to 4 loaves of bread a week that can be rye, whole wheat, sourdough, egg and more. She has also made bagels three times in the past month, hot cross buns and hamburger buns.
While she eats little of her creations, she said husband Bob enjoys and she gives about 50 per cent of it away. “It’s a comfort thing,” she said. “People always seem happy to get it.”
She noted it is very cheap to make your own bread. She said forty years ago it cost her 17 cents a loaf to make and now it costs 30 cents a loaf. She can make 8 bagels for under $1. Yeast has only gone from $3 lb to $7 lb. While she started off hand kneading, she now uses a big stand mixer. She also owns a “nutria – mill” for occasionally grounding her own flour.
She noted she will see a dozen people in the baking aisle now when shopping and has been a bit more challenged to get the ingredients she wants. Suzanne, who has taught breadmaking classes, said “it has never been a big deal. It takes nothing to do it.”
o o o


Charlotte Wright of Port Dover has also always made her own bread. She makes several different kinds, including plain white, flax, oatmeal and anything else that might be different, she told the Maple Leaf.
For plain white, she lets it rise overnight and then bakes it in a casserole loaf at 450F. She prefers to make the no knead bread and mentioned it only requires a 1/4 tsp. of yeast. “Yeast has not been easy to find lately,” she said.
A recent loaf of no–knead was set to rise for 3 to 4 hours and then baked for 30 minutes in a dutch oven, she said. The lid was taken off for the last 5 to 10 minutes. In the past she has also made baguettes, English Muffins and bagels.
In social isolation, “I’m tending to bake more bread,” the retired teacher said. “I don’t eat a lot. I like to give it away.”
Charlotte said she got her first recipe for bread making from Stu Smith of Port Ryerse, an avid bread maker. Her most recent challenge is Sourdough bread. She has tried three different recipes to make the starter and none were to her satisfaction.
For the first one, she said she tried whole wheat flour for the starter. She didn’t like the smell of it and threw it out. She bought a 5 gallon jug of distilled water in case that made a difference.
The second one she tried was with potato water. Potatoes are high in starch which is ideal for culturing yeast. She got a thin hooch layer that she drained off but didn’t get the rise she was expecting. It and a third attempt using another recipe also went the way of the first trial.
Now, Charlotte said, a friend has offered her some sourdough starter. But, she also learned from Brad Lewis at Urban Parisian that sometimes it takes two to three weeks for the starter to take; much more than two to three days.
“It’s frustrating that I’m not seeing success with this,” Charlotte said. Well known for her great tasting home-made bake goods of everything from bread to pies to cakes, she will be making another attempt to get a good starter going.
Charlotte also gives much of what she makes away. She has been successful in getting the flour she needs at Mike’s No Frills.



Published in Port Dover Maple Leaf, May 13, 2020

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