The weather is warming, the tulip, crocus and daffodil buds are pushing their heads out of the soil, and it rains almost every day, so it must be spring! It was hard to notice that it came on March 19th, because it was just a few days after we went into full lockdown. But like it does every year, spring did come.
In a few weeks the trees and grass will start to green, and we might even see a flower or two. The days will get warmer, and longer. It’s hard not to feel optimistic when this transition is taking place.
Easter itself is a celebration of spring. For Christians Easter is associated with the resurrection of Christ. The Pagan ritual of Spring Equinox is a celebration of change and renewed life. Throughout history, spring is celebrated in many ways. In Northern India, Hindus celebrate Holi by wearing white and throwing coloured powders at each other. Thailand celebrates with a giant water fight. In Japan the appearance of the Cherry Blossoms in late March and early April is cause for celebration. And in Ottawa, we have typically celebrated spring with our Tulip Festival in May, which will be a bit different this year, but the tulips will still bloom.
So how can we celebrate spring during this time of isolation? My first thought is we can get out into our gardens. If you are fortunate enough to have a small yard, there is always work to do cleaning up after the winter. Maybe this year you can plant a few extra tulips? A number of places, like Brecks, will deliver the bulbs right to your home. If you don’t have a garden, you can plant the bulbs in pots in your home.
If you have been thinking about a new bike, there is no better time to order one from one of the local cycle shops. You can choose the bike of your dreams and have it delivered or made available for curb-side pick up. The Cyclery and Joe Mama’s are both fulfilling orders and offering repairs and tune ups.
There is always a good Spring Cleaning! I don’t know too many people who really enjoy cleaning, and these days there are a lot of us who contract out that task to someone else. But what better time to give your home and garage a deep clean? Make your grandmother proud of you and get down on your hands and knees and give your house a good scrub. Turns out there are lots of websites out there with step-by-step instructions on how do do it properly.
To help with your Spring Cleaning we are carrying the Lemon Aide counter cleanser and dish soap in our retail store, and these items can be added to your delivery orders too.
Finally, you can teach yourself something you don’t know. My sister taught herself how to repair her dishwasher by following YouTube videos. I know a number of people who are teaching themselves how to bake bread from scratch. Our good friends at Almanac Grains are offering their heritage grain flours for delivery by Canada Post or pick up at Dominion City Brewery and their website is full of great recipes including this one for sourdough bread.
This is a great base sourdough method which, once mastered, can be adapted to include other heritage flours.
Mix starter and water with fingers until starter has mostly dissolved and mixture is frothy.
Mix in flour with your hands just until it is well incorporated and there are no dry pockets of flour. Dough should feel slightly sticky, but not overly wet or sloppy. Add additional flour or water if needed. Let rest, covered for 20-30 minutes.
Sprinkle salt evenly over the surface of the dough. With wet hands, dimple and pinch in salt to mix evenly, gently squishing and folding the dough in on itself, while trying to avoid tearing the dough (if dough seems stiff, now is a good time to add a small amount of additional water.) Let rest, covered for 20-30 minutes.
Gently stretch and fold the dough over itself four times, rotating 90 degrees after each fold. Repeat four sets of stretch and folds every 20-30 minutes.
Allow dough to rest, covered, at warm room temperature for a total of four to eight hours until it has a slightly domed top, visible bubbles on the surface, and has increased slightly in volume (in a clear container, dough should have evenly dispersed bubbles throughout)
Gently ease dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Shape into desired shape and place into proofing bowl or basket, lined with a generously floured towel, or directly into greased loaf pan. Allow to proof, covered, at room temperature for 1-3 hours, until visibly increased by 25-50% in size and the surface of the dough springs back slowly when poked.
Place in refrigerator to proof overnight (8-16 hours), remove from fridge immediately before baking.
Preheat oven and baking vessel (if using) to 500 degrees for 30 minutes.
Turn out shaped loaf onto crumpled parchment paper, score with a bread lame or sharp knife, and carefully transfer into hot baking vessel (lifting the edges of parchment like a sling.)
Immediately reduce temperature to 475F and bake, covered, for 20 minutes.
Remove lid and bake for an additional 20-25 minutes, until desired colour is reached, and the loaf sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom.
Allow to cool for at least one hour before slicing.