The Shrinking Bread Saga

Last week I went to a bakery in Bend and was shocked to see artisan bread being sold by the half loaf. The bread was about the same price I paid for a whole loaf a couple of years ago. We’ve all witnessed the rising cost of food in the past year but this seemed to punctuate the seriousness of the problem. I have heard the term “shrinkflation” which means smaller sizes for about the same price and this was a perfect example.

This price increase had a profound effect on me and for the next several days I was haunted by the $5.50 half loaf of bread. I wondered how far “shrinkflation” could go. Ten dollars in 2025? Then I remembered a book that my friend Ellie lent me several months ago “Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day”. Now I felt motivated to read it, so I did. I learned that I could greatly simplify the bread making process. The basic idea is to make a big batch of no-knead dough, keep it in the refrigerator and when I want to bake, pull off a chunk, shape a loaf and pop it in the oven. The longer the bread sits in the fridge, the more flavor it accumulates, apparently much like sourdough. Not only will I get an almost effortless loaf of bread, the kitchen will fill up with a lovely aroma. The book has a master recipe that opens the door to many variations.

I followed the instructions and whipped up a batch. It’s presently sitting in the fridge and I am going to play with it this week. Play, I’m so excited! I will let you know how it goes. Who knows, I just may end up being thankful to that $5.50 half loaf to get me jump-started on E-Z bread baking. I look forward to warm bread smeared in butter and honey with a cup of Earl Grey (who is Earl Grey??) tea at 4:00 in the afternoon. Ah, life is good.

Meanwhile, the accountant in me kicks in and I want to calculate the cost. The basic recipe uses only flour, yeast, salt and water. I can buy a 25lb bag of Gold Medal flour for $24.39 and properly store it in five gallon food grade plastic buckets with airtight lids. The recipe called for six and a half cups of flour and that weighs 27 ounces. The flour is about six cents an ounce, so the flour for a couple of loaves is $1.62. I’m out of room so I will calculate the cost of the salt and yeast next week. I may even calculate the cost for half a loaf of bread. Stay tuned!