Why Are We All Baking Sourdough Bread?

You may have noticed an uptick in bread baking posts on Facebook and Instagram since we all went into isolation in March. This isn’t your imagination – across the UK, flour producers have doubled production, but are still struggling to meet demand. In addition, Google searches for ‘homemade bread’ have more than doubled over the last three months.

Google searches for homemade bread

It’s clear that people across the UK are turning to baking in this time of crisis. But why? And why are so many attempting sourdough, one of the trickiest and most time-consuming bread recipes? I’ve got all the answers for you here.

 

Why are we baking bread?

To put it very simply, baking bread has been shown to help with mood. A study done by Edinburgh Napier University by Elizabeth McKay has shown that baking has a positive impact on an individual’s mental health. Participants in the study gained a sense of purpose, structure to their days and an increase in motivation levels. With many people on furlough from work, baking bread can therefore add a much-needed routine in lieu of a commute or other daily tasks.

The sensations created when baking bread also helps with mental health, whether that’s the distinctive smell of yeast or the physical sensation of kneading dough. Elizabeth McKay agrees with this, saying that,”With baking bread there’s a lot of physicality, and the kneading of the dough and getting it into the right shape can help you relieve some tension.” It seems that there’s some truth to the idea that baking bread helps when you’re feeling angry or stressed.

On a more practical level, baking bread, unlike other tactile hobbies such as knitting or origami, also creates a necessary product. This has taken on even more importance lately due to the scarcity of everyday items in even the largest supermarkets. Right now, by baking bread you can maintain some sense of control. You might not know what’s going to be available in the supermarkets, but at least you know there’s going to be some hot, delicious bread on the table.

 

Why are so many people baking sourdough bread in particular?

If baking simple white loaves can create a routine, then baking sourdough can take that much-needed structure even further. Simply making a sourdough starter (this is the wild yeast and bacteria that gives sourdough its distinctive taste) can take up to two weeks depending on your flour and the conditions of your kitchen. Therefore, sourdough, with its slow process of fermentation, also helps re-frame the passage of time into a more positive experience. Instead of counting the days spent in isolation, it helps you look forward to the next couple of days, when you can go onto the next step of the process.

Baking sourdough bread is also particularly appealing right now because we don’t normally have this amount of free time on our hands. Many of us now have the time to properly create a starter and give it the time and care that it deserves. We can properly nurture the bread and help it improve. This will not only create a fantastic end product, but it can help us feel good about ourselves and our ability to look after something, even if that something is made of yeast and water. McKay agrees, saying that, “Seeing progress from week to week… can increase confidence levels.”

The final reason that homemade sourdough is so popular right now is because of its excitement and unpredictability. All starters behave differently depending on the environment and the types of water and flour that you use, and even the best instructions cannot predict what your final loaves will look like. In a time when most of us are stuck in the same rooms and seeing the same people every day, even the small excitement of wondering what your sourdough will look like at the end of the day feels very important.

 

How can I make great sourdough?

I’d recommend heading to Foodbod Sourdough. This website explains everything about making sourdough – from making your starter t0 creating sourdough pizza bases. If you prefer a cookbook, I would start with Sourdough by Casper Andre Lugg or Vanessa Kimbell’s The Sourdough SchoolPro Home Cooks also has a fantastic series on YouTube about baking sourdough which I would highly recommend.

 

Saucy Dressings recipes:

While we tend to go along the Life Is Too Short philosophy here, we have quite a few quick and easy bread recipes if you’re not quite ready to take the plunge into sourdough.

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