The COVID-19 global pandemic has forced everyone inside, limiting social activities with friends and family. People have been picking up hobbies since March, with one of the most popular being breadmaking. Basic ingredients—flour and yeast—were hard to come by this spring, but supermarkets have restocked and are ready for the next round of self-taught bakers to get back in the kitchen.
There are several reasons why so many gravitated towards breadmaking, such as it’s a staple of human civilization or it can be very relaxing. It also passes the time while you’re binge-watching The Great British Baking Show. But most important, making your own bread has numerous benefits for your body, budget, and brain.
Scoring more nutritional points
One of the best parts about home cooking is being able to control the ingredients that go into your meals. Store-bought loaves can contain high amounts of preservatives, sugar, and sodium. But mixing your own batches of bread allows you to substitute ingredients to make them more nutritious.
To boost nutrition, you can use whole wheat flour, nuts, and seeds which have more fiber and items like flaxseed, whole oats and omega-3 fatty acids are packed with protein. Adding these types of ingredients will help you get your USDA-recommended daily serving of at least three ounces of whole grains. You can also substitute honey as a natural sweetener and to activate the yeast, as in this recipe for soft, seedy sandwich bread.
The gluten can go
The CDC estimates one in 13 children (8%) and 26 million adults (10%) in the United States have food allergies. Common ingredients in bread, including wheat, gluten, and nuts could cause severe allergic reactions. As head chef in your own kitchen, you can customize recipes to leave out or replace certain items. You can also make sure there’s minimal-to-no cross contamination, which can occur on equipment in mass food production.
More bake for your buck
COVID-19 has affected our economy and employment opportunities now and into the near future, which has led to complete lifestyle changes, including how we spend money. Home cooking has always been one of the best ways to reduce your costs. While purchasing all the ingredients for bread baking is a small investment, your savings will be greater over time.
As of August 2020, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports a loaf of white bread at $1.50, with whole wheat coming in at $2 per loaf. That’s just about $100 a year if you’re purchasing a loaf a week. Healthier, homemade loaves will cost $0.75 each, which comes out to around $40 total for the year if you’re making a loaf each week. The good news is that most of the ingredients are already in your pantry or fridge, and additional items won’t break the bank.
Good mental health on the rise
In addition to knowing you’re getting more nutrition, avoiding potential allergy attacks, and saving money, the actual act of making bread is a great stress reliever. With so much going on in the world, in your community, and in your own home, concentrating on measuring ingredients, kneading, and watching the bread rise in the oven is a healthy distraction and form of mindfulness many can use. There’s a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment that comes with pulling that warm, crusty loaf out of the oven and making a sandwich with bread you made.
Because so many are trying this new skill, there is definitely a social aspect to enjoy. Among home cooks, recipe swapping and tips are shared virtually every day. Find Facebook groups, stumble on Bread Tik Tok, or sign up for online cooking classes to connect with others at a safe distance.
If you’re looking for another hobby and a way to stay healthy—mentally and physically—during this pandemic, bake two breads with one stone and get cooking today. Here are a few recipes to, on your marks, get set, bake!