We've always seen ourselves as the kind of people who enjoy things like pottery or making nut milk, yet so often we're too busy or too stressed to do any of it in earnest. However, somewhere between the gentle push to work from home and the "shelter in place" orders, we've come into more time in the house with a more urgent need than ever to make it feel safe and cozy.
These hard times have made knitters, painters, and stress-bakers out of all of us. Emma Chamberlain, for example, just decided she might be making her own nut milk from now on. But it's baking bread, in particular, that seems to have surged as a regular household activity.
Sourdough, while still simple, is more like intermediate-level bread-making. It's for those who are able to successfully make a sourdough starter (which can be made without yeast if you have the time). And there's something to be said about artfully slicing into the floured top of your raw dough and watching it bloom apart in the oven. The bakes have found their way all over Instagram and there are live updates on Twitter, to the point where user Jessica Ellis called it out on Sunday: "Ok I understand everyone is freaking out but why are ALL of you baking sourdough."
The demand has been so high that many local bakeries are going the extra mile and selling their own starter or including it free with the purchase of a bread-baking kit. Bien Cuit Bakery, a New York bakery known for its bread, has been experiencing an uptick in the demand for sourdough starter. "I don't know the exact numbers, but it's definitely rising," a Bien Cuit employee told Refinery29, adding that she noticed a significant surge over the last three days. "I'm getting the vibe that people are baking more bread at home."
The word "starter" holds more promise and optimism than anything currently on the news. It's not just good for making bread, but it expands your baking potential to include cinnamon rolls, scones, and doughnuts.
If you look at Google searches extending as far back as 2004, you'll find a steady rise in searches for the word 'bread' with a yearly spike around November and December, as people are more likely to go the extra mile in the kitchen if it's for family around the holidays. As always, searches for bread spiked around the 2019 holidays. But then, around the second week of March, searches for bread again skyrocketed, surpassing not just the holiday inquiries, but hitting an all-time high. Searches for focaccia soared near the end of January, but search interest in sourdough and sourdough starter took off as recently as mid-March. Just yesterday, NYT Cooking decided to resurface its no-knead sourdough recipe on Instagram.
As the numbers suggest, this growing interest in baking has been a long time coming. But it's easy to see how #StayAtHome could give rise to more "how to make bread" inquiries. Not to mention, few things are as comforting as bread.