On bread alone? Definitely willing to give it a try…

She is risen: "Bread with benefits," courtesy of Montauk-based Night Owl Baker Tracy Stoloff.
By KATE FULLAM //

As we enter month six of dealing with COVID-19, the scope of this unprecedented experience begins to come clear –  and so do our national coping mechanisms.

Much of the country turned to food as a source of comfort, part of a routine to get through it all. I found myself clinging to culinary comforts (with a balance of exercise) to get through the pandemic.

It’s no surprise that baking is the No. 1 activity Americans have turned to during the crisis. As supermarket shelves emptied of flour, I snagged 50-pound bags in March and May – welcome deliveries from Baldor – and reveled in the ritualistic act of making sourdough bread for friends and family.

It was a great excuse to use a special starter East End Food Institute co-founder (and avid baker) John de Cuevas first cultivated in 1965. It’s true that the secret of making good bread is time, but fortunately, most of that time is dedicated to making the starter, then simply ignoring the dough while it ferments.

Kate Fullam: Bake the best of it.

(Drop me a line if you’d like to try some hand-me-down sourdough starter, or check out 1610 Bakehouse to learn how to make one yourself, and care for it.)

Unlike most commercial bakers, I take a casual approach to baking bread, and it has become a calming routine. If you’re short on time, patience or attention, I recommend finding a local producer to satisfy your carb cravings.

Carissa’s The Bakery, the Blue Duck Bakery Café, Night Owl Baker and Hampton Sourdough are some of my favorites – especially when I need a baking break, or it’s too hot out to heat up the oven.

If you need a one-stop shop, OurHarvest now carries Sullivan Street Bakery bread along with other regionally sourced grocery items. For the gluten-free, Milla’s Puffs is a go-to option, featuring a traditional recipe from Brazil called “pão de queijo” (cheese puff). These bread-like treats are made with locally sourced eggs and Mecox Bay Dairy cheese, and go from freezer to toaster oven to tummy in about 20 minutes.

Upper crust: It smells pretty good inside 1610 Bakehouse, you’d imagine.

Of course, don’t forget the finishing touches – it’s all about enjoying the bread (or puff) with locally sourced toppings.

For breakfast, I love to slather on kale pistachio pesto from the EEFI’s Virtual Farmers Market, then top it off with a fried egg (Browder’s Birds does just fine). When lunchtime is tight, Finn’s Smoked Fish Dip on toast is a great option, and if you’re lucky enough to catch Aki’s Kitchen before her egg salad sells out, I highly recommend spreading that on also. (Side note: Two spreads and a few bagels equal one terrific Sunday brunch.)

Do-it-yourselfers like me will love this simple recipe for tomatoes in brown butter from Food52 founder Amanda Hesser. This is absolutely the best “simple dish” I have tasted this summer (I used heirloom tomatoes from Sang Lee Farms) – and the treat at the end is using your bread to soak up the leftover tomato-butter mixture.

Dinner is (simply) served!

Kate Fullam is the executive director of Southampton-based East End Food Institute.