Breadmaking works great at scale. Process-wise, it’s as easy to make three loaves as it is to make one. You keep all your dough together, one giant mound, only dividing it up when you’re ready to do the final proof or rise it in the loaf pan.
One clear advantage is, you’ve got just one bowl chewing up refrigerator space. And, here in the heart of growing season, space is at a premium. We’re already playing Jenga with bulk stores of tomatoes, figs, okra, beans, blackberries and blueberries. (Oh, god, so many blueberries.) Granted, it’s a larger bowl, but still an easier thing to deal with than two or three separate ones that can’t be stacked.
Another advantage is, it limits air’s intrusion on the dough.
Air and bread have a funny relationship. They absolutely have to be together at first, and, sure, it’s all lovey-dovey smoochie smoochie. But soon, they have to be separated or the dough will get a tough, crusty exterior. It becomes hard to work with, unpalatable, and pretty much ruined for anyone else. (Sound familiar, Uncle Joe? No, you weren’t “accidentally” left off the reunion invite.)
So the trick is to give the bread-to-be an airtight cover at the right time. Most bakers use plastic wrap. That rubbed us the wrong way here at the Dew Abode, where we’ve been waging a war on plastic. First I tried just using a cloth to cover the bowl, but a cloth is not airtight, and I found H2O violating the restraining order. I relented and tried plastic wrap, but the bowls I’m making my bread in are too wide across for a single sheet to cover it. So I was having to use two sheets, trying to press them together on the seam for a tight seal. It never worked.
Duke of oil
Our friends at Root Simple sparked the solution, though, with their recent post about cotton cloth waxed with beeswax.
I thought about buying a yard of cotton from a fabric store and waxing it with some local wax. But Kelly at Root Simple warned it wasn’t completely airtight — it’s loosely analogous to covering a bowl with a plate. It wouldn’t be worse than I was already doing with my plastic wrap that was never holding together, I reasoned. I made a mental note to go buy some cloth.
And then we were at a breakfast diner with my mom and her friend Byron. Byron’s a remarkable 80something guy, who, among other things, is a bagpiper in an Irish band. He made a remark about the nice oilcloth tablecloth on the table, and the lightning struck.
Oilcloth! I thought. With its impenetrable surface, smooth, slick and laminated, Oilcloth will save the day!
Except when I made it to the fabric store, the guy just shook his head. “Don’t know where you’re gonna find oilcloth. All we have like that is vinyl,” he said.
First off, mister, the answer to “Don’t know where you’re gonna find” anything is always “The Internet.” But I’m also trying to reduce impacts by avoiding shipping stuff, when I can. So I looked at the vinyl, chatted it up with Jenn a bit, and was sold. I swear, I was in no way swayed by the fact that there was a pattern of John Deere tractors on one of the rolls. Because Jenn vetoed that one anyway. I think she hates me.
I bought a yard of the stuff, which was enough to make three giant bowl covers, which I can hold tight to the bowls with rubber bands.
Yes, I’m aware of the irony that, in order to limit our use of plastic, I purchased a yard of vinyl. Which is plastic.
But if I use it forever, it’s a net reduction of exactly 99.something percent. Considering how easily they wipe clean and are never exposed to extreme heat or sunlight, using them forever is entirely feasible.
Also, Wikipedia told me that the etymology of the word “vinyl” is the Latin word for “wine,” because of the product’s relationship to alcohol. Not only do I respect that relationship, but it totally makes it foodie-friendly, right?