Erica’s beer bread, made without yeast, is perfect for pandemic pantries! PHOTO: MARISA ROMANO

By Marisa Romano

By now it is clear: kneading dough during this COVID-19 pandemic has become a common ritual in many Canadian households. Witness the shortage of dry yeast (and flour) in baking aisles of supermarkets all across the country.

Whether a stress-reliever, a blues catcher or just the yearn for old trad­itions, kneading dough is always gratifying, and it rewards with mouth-watering results enjoyed by everybody around the table. But right now, hand­ling dough with baker’s yeast seems to be on hold.

The leavening agent flew off the shelves during the rush to stock house­hold pantries at the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis and to date is one of the hardest food items to find. John Heilman, vice-president of yeast manufacturing with the company that produces Fleischmann’s yeast, recently told US TODAY that it will take one to two months to restock supermarket shelves.

But do not despair. While Heilman’s company is getting organized to ramp up production at its two plants in Can­ada and one in the United States, we can still bake fragrant homemade bread, just not the type made with baker’s yeast.

Sourdough with its naturally occur­ring yeast, baking soda coupled with buttermilk and baking powder are all leavening agents that can produce good-tasting light breads. Bread can also be made with no raising agents. Common unleavened breads are cha­patti, matzo and Mexican tortillas. With this in mind, let’s keep helping flatten the curve and bake on.

Sourdough starter can be made at home; “how-to” directions are easily found on the internet. For example, check the website of True Loaf, the artisanal bakery on Gladstone. Eas­ier yet, you can order it for curbside pickup from Eldon’s on Bank Street. It comes in a kit with instructions on how to keep the starter and enough flour to bake two loaves. Recipes for classic soda bread and a variety of breads leavened with baking soda are also available with a click of the mouse.

Here is an easy and delicious one. Reworked by Erica Louter, this recipe is inspired by Tieghan Gerard’s Half Baked Harvest Cookbook, a collection of simple seasonal recipes prepared with whole foods that encourage cooks to try something new.

The combination of baking powder and beer gives this quick bread a good lift, honey adds a touch of sweetness and olives or sharp cheeses counter it. The result is a spongy savoury loaf that can be prepared in a jiffy. Served warm, it disappears easily from the table. Good with soups, chowders, stews or just a dab of butter. Thank you, Erica, for sharing!

Marisa Romano is a foodie and a scientist with a sense of adventure who appreciates interesting and nutritious foods.

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