Find all your DIY electronics in the MakerShed. 3D Printing, Kits, Arduino, Raspberry Pi, Books & more!

It’s been a very “exciting” few days here in the icy wilds of Northern, Virginia. The DC area has been ground zero for the winter storm of the century, with back to back blizzards making this the snowiest winter on record for the Mid-Atlantic region.

The landscape around my house is… well snowpocalyptic — giant drifts of snow overcome fences, a totally collapsed roofed trellis litters my neighbor’s backyard, and a relentless wind whips powder into white-out conditions. I have to admit, it’s actually a little scary. I had to muscle and kick my way through banks of snow leaning up against both my front and back storm doors Wednesday morning, just to get them open. I haven’t been near a grocery story since the first drubbing, but friends who have say it looks like something from a post-apocalyptic zombie film, with largely empty shelves and wide-eyed humans running around grabbing anything edible they can gather into their arms.

If this keeps up, I might end up as one of the hungry horde moaning for food. I’m running low on supplies. I ran out of bread a few days ago (which took french toast, tuna sandwiches, and peanut butter and jelly off of the menu). Last night, I’m sitting here thinking: Wait, I might be able to bake bread. I doubt I have all the ingredients, but I can check.

The supplies in my cupboard were sad. I found one bag of flour that was impressively rancid, but then, I miraculously found another, in an airtight bag, that smelled okay (even though it was at least a year old). Then I pried up some yeast packets stuck to an unidentifiable sticky goo on the door of my fridge. Three years old. I wondered how many yeastie beasties were still viable in there. And some crystallized hunks of honey in a forlorn-looking plastic bear with his nose punched in.

I dug out my old copy of the Tassajara Bread Book. Back in the day, in my communal youth, I knew the recipes in this book like mantras and I did some sweet-ass baking for a hundred hungry hippies. I figured the bread would likely be a dense brick-like disaster, but it wouldn’t hurt to try. I combined the flour, the yeast, and warm water, the honey (after I’d dissolved it over some heat), and some oil. A bunch of kneading, rising, punching, and more rising later, and I had high hopes for the two respectable-looking loaves I was popping into the oven. As they baked, and I blogged, and the wind whistled around and under my sun-porch home office, the smell of the bread was indescribable. Maybe it was driven by an unusual sense of need, stuck here in my cottage on ice, or the fact that I hadn’t baked bread in close to a decade (outside of a bread machine — which is really a robot doing all the work), but these loaves smelled like all good things rolled into one. If there’s truth in wine, there’s the bosomy comfort of home in bread.

And as you can see from the above phonecam image, the results didn’t look half bad. And let me tell you, they tasted far better. I speak in the past tense ’cause way too much of one loaf is already feeding my wind-whipped soul (I froze the other loaf). Now I’m antsy to make something else with the limited provisions I have left. Tonight, looking through Tassajara, I realized I have everything I need to make cinnamon rolls. That’ll be tomorrow night’s cabin-fevered entertainment. So, grab a shovel, hop onto your snowmobile (snowboard for you, Goli!), and come on over for sweet rolls! PLEASE? It’s getting really lonely here and the wind is creaking the snow-laden roof of my house in new and entirely unsettling ways.


Gareth Branwyn

Gareth Branwyn is a freelancer writer and the former Editorial Director of Maker Media. He is the author or editor of a dozen books on technology, DIY, and geek culture, including the first book about the web (Mosaic Quick Tour) and the Absolute Beginner’s Guide to Building Robots. He is currently working on a best-of collection of his writing, called Borg Like Me.



  1. Natalie Zee Drieu says:

    Wow it looks so good! You sliced the bread really well too.

  2. CircuitGizmo says:

    Yes – well cut. Did you use a guide? Electric knife?

    And a note to everyone experiencing this unusual quantity of snow: Get it off of your roofs. Partially wet/melted snow will make an ice dam. Then melted snow behind will dam up and leak through your roof.

    Best thing to do is to remove as much snow as possible and if there is a dam, provide a path for melted snow to drain away.

    Keep your home smelling more like yeast, less like mold.

  3. jedinc says:

    Been in NOVA 40 years, learned to read the jet set stream, and the storms along the Texas coast. We get stocket up a week in advanced – FORTUNATELY.

    I have bread making on my to do list but have so much else to do – like digging out – that I have not gotten to it.

    We have drifts 3 -4 feet deep in the side yard.

    Ice sickles 4 – 5 feet long off the side of the house.

    Sorry for your predicament.

  4. Julian Cook says:

    We’re slammed here in Takoma Park too! My wife, being a rabid baker, found herself in the same quandry and made some Irish Soda Bread. We didn’t have buttermilk so she used the old trick of whole milk mixed with lemon juice. If you let it sit for about five minutes it works great. It’s a teaspooon of lemon juice per cup of milk. (Vinegar works too, you need the acidity) It tastes even better the next day.

  5. Tim Lewallen says:

    Check out the book “Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day” to learn how to make bread dough in large batches that you keep in the fridge. Want bread? Just grab a handful of dough from the fridge, shape it for a few seconds and then bake it. It is really quite easy!

    I am also impressed with your slicing job!

  6. Gareth Branwyn says:

    Thanks. From you that’s a compliment. I was sort of amazed at how well the bread came out and how good it tastes, given how old and questionable (and bare-bones basic) all of the ingredients were.

    Yes, I have a bread-cutting jig (sort of a hard-plastic miter box for bread). Cuts really consistent, sandwich-width slices. And yes, an electric knife.

  7. Goli Mohammadi says:

    Wow Gareth–impressive, indeed! I doubt I could make bread that looks that good with all the amenities and no snow storm. And cinnamon rolls next? Hopping on my snowboard now–be right over!

  8. Gareth Branwyn says:

    They’re about to come out of the oven. That smell! Wish you were here, G. Cinnamon roll pig-out, my house. Everybody — come on over!

  9. Gareth Branwyn says:

    Second night of bored baking with VERY limited, and old, supplies. But still darn tasty!

In the Maker Shed