Many people are baking through the coronavirus pandemic. Here’s how it helps

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As more Canadians work from home and practice self-isolation due to COVID-19, there’s been an increasing interest in turning on the oven and baking.

Baking-related search terms are up on Google, grocery stores have experienced an increase in flour purchases and sugar and flour manufacturers are working overtime to keep up with a spike in demand.

In other words, it seems as if everyone is using quarantine to audition for the Great Canadian Baking Show.

“Traffic to my site has about quadrupled in the past couple weeks,” said Julie Van Rosendaal, a cookbook author and creator of recipe site Dinner with Julie.

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“Beyond baking, everyone is cooking all their meals at home right now, which is amazing to see.”

Paul Hetherington, the president of the Baking Association of Canada, said there’s been increasing interest in baking over the years, but people may be especially inclined to get crafty in the kitchen now due to the current climate.

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“It’s one of the things we can control in our environment right now,” Hetherington said. “And there are so many things that are beyond our control.”

What are people baking?

Van Rosendaal said her most popular recipes at the moment are for bread.

There’s plenty of interest in the no-knead method, she said, popularized by baker Jim Lahey and the New York Times.

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“[It] is simple for first timers, and only uses 1/4 tsp yeast — which is significant considering there’s a general shortage of yeast on grocery store shelves,” Van Rosendaal said.

She also recommends Julia Child’s “white sandwich bread” recipe.

Stephanie Wise, the creator behind baking site Girl Versus Dough, said her recipes for no-knead Dutch oven bread and her sourdough 101 series “have seen a huge uptick in traffic lately.”

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While many people are making sourdough, Van Rosendaal said producing many loaves can require a lot of flour, which may be tricky for people to find. She stresses, however, that Canada won’t run out of flour; “store shelves just need to catch up” with demand.

Not only is bread relatively easy to make, Hetherington said it also allows people to rely less on grocery store runs.

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“If you’re looking at doing breads and rolls, you have control of the process and you’re producing a natural, nutritious staple to your diet,” he said.

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“That’s very positive.”

When it comes to sweeter recipes, Van Rosendaal said there’s lots of interest in cinnamon buns.

“Biscuits are also a fantastic thing to be able to make — you can turn them into savoury cheese biscuits or sweet scones — and a simple muffin you can add anything to.”

Why are so many people baking?

With hours indoors, baking is one way people are combating boredom. 

It’s also a way to make use of food supplies, including vegetables like sweet potato and zucchini. Overripe bananas are often best used in recipes, including the internet’s favourite bread, banana bread.

Plus, baking might help reduce stress, the Smithsonian points out. Experts also previously told Global News that making food can be a form of therapy.

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“I find baking incredibly calming and therapeutic,” Van Rosendaal said.

“The mixing and kneading, the process of focusing on a hands-on project that requires my attention but still allows my mind to wander (or for conversations to happen), and the smell… A house that smells of baking — any kind of baking — is a comfort to anyone.”

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For parents with kids at home, baking is also a way to keep them occupied while learning a new skill.

Hetherington said because children are spending more time inside and out of school, they have the opportunity to bake now in a way they perhaps hadn’t in the past.

Wise, who bakes with her two children, added that it helps teach her kids math and science.

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“They also love preparing baked goods with me, whether it’s adding the flour to the bowl, or whisking ingredients together, or scooping dough onto a baking sheet,” she said.

“My daughters are five and two; at this age, they love the end result most.”

Questions about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:

Health officials caution against all international travel. Returning travellers are legally obligated to self-isolate for 14 days, beginning March 26, in case they develop symptoms and to prevent spreading the virus to others. Some provinces and territories have also implemented additional recommendations or enforcement measures to ensure those returning to the area self-isolate.

Symptoms can include fever, cough and difficulty breathing — very similar to a cold or flu. Some people can develop a more severe illness. People most at risk of this include older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease. If you develop symptoms, contact public health authorities.

To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. They also recommend minimizing contact with others, staying home as much as possible and maintaining a distance of two metres from other people if you go out.

For full COVID-19 coverage from Global News, click here.

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