The world is the middle of a global pandemic. Thanks to COVID-19, we’re all stuck inside our homes. Socialising is out of the question for the foreseeable future. Most of us are worried about our families, anxious about our futures, and wondering when (if?) we will set foot in a pub again. So why, in the middle of a lockdown, are so many people baking banana bread?

Baking through a pandemic

According to Google Trends, the term banana bread has soared in the past few weeks. The most common reason is obvious: more time at home means more time to bake, and banana bread is a simple recipe that even the most amateur cooks can master.

Bananas are also one of the few ingredients that can be used past their prime. In fact, the mushier and browner the bananas, the better the banana bread. Plus, banana bread is a forgiving recipe. If you mess up a little bit, the loaf will likely still turn out okay.

Photo by Airin Party from Pexels.

Depression-era roots

Banana bread became popular in the 1930s. The Great Depression, beginning with the stock market crash of 1929, meant that all food was precious—even rotten bananas. Plus, baking powder and baking soda manufacturers had just begun mass-producing their products. With these ingredients readily available, bakers were inspired to use up their mushy bananas with banana bread recipes.

Perhaps our desire to bake bread right now stems from this Depression-era mindset. With too much time on our hands and a pantry full of ingredients (likely due to stockpiling groceries), it makes sense that people have turned to baking.

And it’s not just banana bread. Many bakers have set their ambitions a bit higher, hoping to create the perfect sourdough.

The sourdough baking challenge

Photo from @SourdoughClub

A bit trickier than banana bread, sourdough requires the bakers to successfully create their own “starter.” This is a mixture of flour and water that becomes tart and squishy as it grows natural yeast. It must be “fed” with flour and water regularly—making this passion project fairly time consuming.

The process for making a sourdough starter from scratch takes at least five days. But as the lockdown continues, there is plenty of time for first-time bakers to get started.

Hoping to jump on the bread-baking bandwagon? Here are a few recipes to help you get started:

Banana bread:

Sally’s Baking Addiction: Best Ever Banana Bread

Bon Appetit Best Banana Bread

Plus, if you’re a visual learner, you can watch renowned pastry chef Dominique Ansel make banana bread on Instagram here.

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Rainy day today, and if you’re like me, you probably have a bunch of bananas getting too ripe in your kitchen. So let’s make banana bread. Check out the full video, and here’s the recipe (from my book Everyone Can Bake, out on 4/14). Ingredients: 400g (2 cups) sugar 250g (2 cups) All Purpose flour (plus more for dusting) 3g (3/4 tsp) baking soda 2g (3/4 tsp) ground nutmeg 5g (1 tsp) salt 5g (1 tsp) baking powder 150g (3 large) eggs 400g (2 cups, about 3-4) overripe bananas, peeled & mashed 200g (14 tbsp or 1 3/4 sticks) unsalted butter, melted, plus more for greasing Equipment: loaf pan mixing bowl spatula 1. Preheat oven to 350°F (175°C). Butter the bottom, sides, and edges of the loaf pan. Pour in some flour, shake it around until the pan is evenly coated, then tap out any excess flour. (You can also use parchment paper). 2. In a large mixing bowl, mash the bananas with a fork. Add the dry ingredients and the eggs, and mix with a spatula until well combined. Stir in the melted butter until fully incorporated. 3. Pour the batter in the prepared pan, filling it to 3/4 inch (2 cm) from the top (you may have extra batter). Bake until the cake is golden brown (about 1 hour) and a cake tester or paring knife comes out clean. 4. Let the cake cool in the pan for 15 minutes. While the cake is still warm, turn it out of the pan. Slice and enjoy while the cake is still warm. Storage: The banana bread can be wrapped tightly in plastic wrap or placed in an airtight container and stored at room temperature for up to 2 days. For longer storage, wrap it tightly in plastic wrap, place in an airtight container, and freeze for up to 3 weeks. To use the frozen banana bread, remove it from the airtight container and transfer it to the refrigerator (still in the plastic wrap) to thaw for at least 3 hours or up to overnight, until the banana bread is soft again. #EveryoneCanBake

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Jame Oliver’s Sourdough Bread

King Arthur Flour: Extra-Tangy Sourdough Bread

New York Times: Sourdough No-Knead Bread

London bakery Bread Ahead is also offering sourdough starter tips on their Instagram (@breadaheadbakery) every day at 6pm GMT). Check out more bakeries and chefs offering at-home cooking tutorials here.

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