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Lockdown home baking frenzy, grain exports and Depression chic

As Wikipedia says, “Bread is a staple food prepared from a dough of flour and water, usually by baking. Throughout recorded history it has been a prominent food in large parts of the world and is one of the oldest man-made foods, having been of significant importance since the dawn of agriculture.” As the UK enters an extended lockdown period of at least three weeks, it’s fascinating to see the popularity of bread rising even more, proving once again that it really is one of the world’s best-loved staple foods. And no, we do not apologise for the puns!

Here’s the news.

The popularity of lockdown baking soars in the UK and beyond

As the UK remains under lockdown, sourdough and banana bread have risen to the top of the list for home bakers. Some of us have never baked bread before, others are returning to baking after a long break, a few have always baked their own… but whatever the reason, there’s a creative frenzy going on, and some extraordinary bread recipes are making their way online. Some are even going viral.

Look beyond the UK and the same goes. According to Pinterest, bread searches have soared worldwide, with searches for ‘damper bread’ – a traditional Aussie soda bread – rocketing by 263% in Australia. In France searches for ‘Japanese brioche’ have shot up by more than a thousand percent, and 350 times more Americans than ever before are searching online for ‘Navajo bread’. Closer to home, in Britain we’re searching for ‘no yeast bread’ and ‘banana bread recipe’ 38 times more than average.

Grain exports stopped in some countries

While we’re fast becoming a nation of home bakers, other countries are suffering shortages. Ukraine, a vital ‘breadbasket’ nation, has decided to limit its own exports of grain. The same goes for rice as Vietnam, the staple’s biggest exporter, stops exports and disrupts the supply chain. In total at least ten nations have recently brought in export restrictions on grains and rice.

All this is being billed as a ‘wake up call’ for governments around the globe. Developed, wealthy economies depend heavily on grain and rice imports, those like the UK, could easily end up facing problems under circumstances like this. When there are shortages, having the money to pay for goods isn’t the issue – the issue is getting the supplies you need under difficult circumstances.

Right now, apparently, the world has ‘more than enough’ grain and rice in the form of stockpiles of key staples. The problems we’ve seen in our shops, which have been running out of pasta and so on, are down to lockdown-led distribution bottlenecks, not shortages. But the spectre of shortages has been raised by the Covid-19 crisis, and increasing numbers of experts are calling for governments to start examining how to ‘further boost their agricultural sector’ for a more secure future. Singapore has already decided to set up a task force to increase local food production by the year 2030.

There’s more. It looks like the UK is beset by a ‘flawed’ system that imports vast amounts of crops, many of which we could grow here at home. Luckily at Speciality Breads we use British flour, so our supply chain is relatively safe and secure.

Depression chic – Six ingredient peanut butter bread and more

Thanks to Metro for letting us into the secret behind depression-era chic six ingredient peanut butter loaf, first published in Canada during 1932 when the world’s economy nosedived. There’s no yeast required, and by all accounts it comes with a wonderful nutty flavour.

These extraordinary times we’re living through are generating a slew of equally extraordinary bread recipes, some extremely simple. When times are hard you can make tasty breads from mashed potato, and from porridge, and we’re seeing numerous three ingredient and two ingredient bread recipes surfacing on the web. If you’re running low on bread flour you can even use plain flour. It may contain less protein than bread flour, but adding more water and letting it rise for longer does the trick. Some say the results are pretty tasty…

Open for the foodservice sector

We’re still open, still baking and still delivering great artisan breads to the foodservice sector. If you want to test drive our breads, get in touch and we’ll send samples. In the meantime stay safe, and stay well.