IT’S PART of urban mythology that nine months after the New York City blackout of 1965 there was a mini baby boom in the city. Turned out it wasn’t true, just a normal fluctuation in the birth rate. Similar speculation followed 2010’s Snowmageddon (also known as Snowpocalypse and Snowzilla) that blanketed the Northeast US and kept us all indoors.
But this time around, I think I know how Americans are busying themselves during the Coronavirus Quarantine: They’re baking!
I know this because on Tuesday the King Arthur Flour website said its all-purpose flour was “unavailable.” Ditto its bread flour, whole wheat flour and yeast. Today it allows you to order these items but warns it could be seven to 10 days before they arrive. And there’s a limit of two of each item per person. Even of the $16.95 candy thermometer!
King Arthur isn’t alone: Local supermarkets seem to be out of flour (King Arthur, Gold Medal, etc.), also local direct-delivery grocery operations (though this morning I was able to score a 4-pound sack of sugar, another hot commodity). Last week, I found a small carton of yeast packets seemingly orphaned in the rear of my little corner greengrocer. I bought the usual strip of three packets and now wish I had bought more: This morning they were totally out. Maybe next week, the manager said as he feverishly unpacked box after box of other packaged goods that are moving fast.
Part of the problem is a run on the products themselves and the amount the mills and manufacturers can crank out. Part is because USPS, UPS and Fedex are simply overwhelmed by the volume of general shopping and shipping that are going on.
My new best friend Danny the Doorman assures me there’s no real run on food in Manhattan; it’s that instead of going out to restaurants or even doing takeout, a lot of people are actually cooking and eating at home, for goodness’ sake.
Hear, hear! A couple of weeks ago I made za’atar bread. Last week it was Patrick O’Connell’s Salt-Crusted Pecan-Currant Rye Bread from the Inn at Little Washington Cookbook. On Monday I made my own pita bread. Wednesday it was classic Toll House chocolate chip cookies (but i subbed Costco‘s Kirkland-brand semisweet chips made with 51% cacao and listed on Wednesday on Costco.com as being out of stock). I’m blessed with hungry neighbors and a large apartment-building staff.
Thursday? I made nothing. I bought a loaf of pumpernickel bread. Not much fun in that.
So here’s what I want: all-purpose flour, some bread flour, dry active yeast (or fresh yeast if you have it), table salt (what a time to run low!), plus butter—I’m out of butter! And a nice plump red bell pepper; that has nothing to do with baking, but it will help my salads quite a bit.
If you can deliver, all the better.