Lockdown baking: sourdough loaves and ambitious pastry projects, why did we do it? I could have counted on the fingers of one hand how many times I had made a loaf of bread in my lifetime prior to March 15 2020. So how did I go from happily buying my bread in a supermarket to dedicating hours of my life to creating the perfect example of sourdough? And how did everyone else, as I was certainly not alone.
Definitely we were responding to a real necessity. After all we were not able to, or at least not supposed to, go to the shops every day. Perhaps we were filling a void: many people had extra time in their day to fill. We had the chance to rekindle an interest in baking or even start from scratch with a skill that we had not tried before. The feeling of completing a challenge and taking some control over the circumstances, adding a structure into our days, the joy of creation, the enjoyment of eating something delicious that you have baked yourself. All of these factors come into play. But isn’t it food that brings us together, even when we can’t be together? The act of baking made us part of a community, a common purpose and shared experience. The lockdown showed us what are the things we can do without and the things we cannot. Searching for human connection and we found bread. Like discussing the weather, talking about bread and baking and sharing recipes, tips and tricks gave us an easy conversation when the harder things to talk about, like the fear of contracting coronavirus, the fear of poverty, the anxiety and depression, the COVID rollercoaster, were just too much for us to cope with.
Consumer psychologist Kate Nightingale said in an article on the Stylist website, “In these times all of us are experiencing a strongly reduced sense of control over our lives,” she explains. “Self-reliance is a manifestation of control and therefore helps us to meet one of those truly basic human needs: safety. Baking bread is the ultimate act of self-reliance. The independence the act of baking bread delivers is unparalleled to many other manifestations of control right now.”
For Nightingale, the act of baking bread is also a way to soothe ourselves in a time when social contact is significantly restricted. “Safety, especially emotional, is also well achieved by meaningful social contact,” she explains. “The smell of baking bread or cakes is subconsciously associated with a warm family atmosphere and therefore a sense of child-like comfort and safety. This is something we all need to feel right now – even if we’re not admitting it to ourselves.”
One of the “super sharers” was Trudi Murray, a professional soap maker and the founder of Gaia Natural Products. Trudi went online in the Majorca, Mallorca, At Home Together Facebook group and taught us in live streamed videos how to make the “mother” for the sourdough. She then enthusiastically demonstrated to us all how to create, knead, nurture and bake a puffy, crispy, and delicious homemade loaf of bread. She took us from zero to baking hero in five days. Her baking videos even featured on Maltese television! Now she is planning to teach bread making workshops with her son Max who is a professional chef. You can contact her at www.gaia-natural-mallorca.com.
With the sudden interest in baking came a scarcity of flour and yeast. We learned how to identify the different types of rising agents and what their names are in Spanish, a black market opened up in sachets of yeast as the gaps on the supermarket shelves widened.
But we managed, and we baked and baked, and baked, like these members of the group and friends from around the world…
Another of our “Super Sharers” (and my mum, Hi mum!), Maureen Hemingway McLeod said, “Being unable to go out and self-isolating at home, looking at social media and seeing what others were doing, rekindled my desire to make my own bread again. I have always enjoyed baking, cooking all sorts of foods, and making preserves and it gave me great satisfaction to share my recipes with others.”
Katrina Attwell said “I stocked up on flour etc to bake with my kids which I did a few times but then started baking by myself as some stress relief, just me in the kitchen, peace and quiet cooking up a storm I loved it! I baked cakes for people’s birthdays and video-called them and we sang and blew out the candles then I ate the cake for them! This continued for weeks until my waist band continued to expand and I thought I have to stop!”
Jennifer Riggins said “I started making no kneading bread by Jenny Can Cook. I like cooking but never bake as it is the death of creativity. Making food bread — and cutting my own hair well — gave me an impressive but fleeting feeling of control and instant-ish gratification.”
Helen O Pitt “At the beginning of lockdown I had a bake-off Saturday with my beautiful friend Summer who is 12 years old. She is an amazing soul and knowing I hadn’t been well she wanted to cheer me up. The following week a couple of other children close to me joined in and it continued each Saturday with around 12 children I know living here and in the Uk with various themes joined. I had 3 judges unrelated and not knowing the children judging from pictures I sent. It was a special time for me as due to cancer I couldn’t see people at all during lockdown and it was an “event”. We stopped 2 weeks ago as they could start doing other things and it was time. Maybe we will do it again in the winter. The children had fun and I felt less lonely and closer to wonderful children in my life!”
Wendy Elizabeth Hudson “I got addicted to Peter Glover that put his bran cake recipe in the Majorca Daily Bulletin so easy to make and then started adding stoned dates and chopped up walnuts to it and my other half loves it.”
Birgitta Nilsson “I had 2 reasons really: 1, Facebook pressure, everyone showed off and one person better than the other and in the end I fell for that pressure. Of course I liked it as well. Didn’t post about it though as I ate it as soon as it came out of the oven so forgot to take photos! 2, To avoid going to the supermarket too often. If I would have had small kids I would definitely have done it “for fun”.”
Maria Bonnin “I stocked up with flour and baking materials in February, being convinced we would go into lockdown. Always hated baking, but started making plain soda bread. Loved it. Then started adding to the bread, garlic and rosemary for savoury bread, blueberries and cinnamon for breakfast bread. Now baking bread most days and am a convert.”
Anders Sjöstedt “I think for me it was something about physical grounding – and also really missing the sourdough from Palma Bread, where we couldn’t go.”
Hattie Halpin “I’ve never baked bread, ever, until lockdown! There were so many recipes and lots of people discussing it and it seemed an essential thing to do to have toast in the mornings (however late that was!) Putting an unused pinny on, chucking flour everywhere and some stress releasing kneading was a revelation! I’m carrying on with it because it is, in perhaps some kind of twisted way, good memories of bad times and much easier than I ever thought it would be.”
Rachel Shuckburgh “Baking kept my 10 year old daughter happy. She baked weekly and shared it with our neighbours. We also made a homemade box of 3 different types of cookies for our army neighbour to take to his colleagues. My daughter Darcey always says that a nice piece of cake can cheer anyone up.”
Heather Donahue said, “It’s something I never think I have time to do. I baked myself a cake almost every week, like it was my birthday. I did it because it delighted me. So simple and pure cheer.”
Unfortunately, with an increase in baking there is an increase in consumption of calories, and an inevitable widening of girth. I’ve had to rein my personal sourdough creation right back, I can’t fit in my clothes and I certainly cannot afford to go and buy more. My sourdough mother, which I named “Trudles” after Trudi, is sitting idle in my kitchen, wondering why she is not getting the avid attention she had become used to. Sorry Trudles, I will try to pay more attention to you, I miss the quiet time with you in the kitchen.
P.S. If you want to see any of the amazing recipes from our lockdown visit https://www.facebook.com/groups/MajorcaMallorca and click on the RECIPES section. Enjoy!