Bread dough is on the rise in homes across the West, as quarantined home bakers exorcise their cabin fever with furious kneading and punching. Manufacturers of commercial yeast — the tiny living organisms behind good bread, beer and wine — say demand is soaring to near-unmanageable levels.
But there’s still plenty of bread in shops — and the proliferation of boules, baguettes and buns on social media suggest that most home-bakers are hardly hoarding their flour reserves for lean times.
Rather, for those locked into a monotonous daily landscape, unable to help or change the crisis outside, bread-making offers the relief of an all-consuming task: You can’t check your phone to mainline infection statistics while up to your elbows in dough.
“It’s funny because only one month ago, everyone was on a gluten-free diet. Now, suddenly everyone is a baker,” says Maddalena Borsato, a researcher in the philosophy of bread at Turin’s University of Gastronomic Sciences, and a former baker at several of Italy’s most legendary pasticcerias.
In Italy and France, where great bakeries are around every corner, the rush to make bread at home is particularly unusual. Borsato hypothesizes that it has to do with solidarity despite social distancing.
“It’s something you don’t do only for yourself, you do it also for others,” she says. “Everyone is baking a lot and posting and sharing photos of their bread but they cannot actually share their bread, so it’s shared in a symbolic way.”
Plus no one will be the wiser if you eat the whole loaf.