No matter what part of the country you live in, you have probably, at one time or another, been a part of the mob swarming your local grocery store before a major weather event hits your town or city.
If you live on the west coast, stocking up before a hurricane is, at this point, an annual tradition, and if you’re on the east side of the country, filling your pantry with canned goods before a snowstorm is practically a national sport.
Yes, panic-buying and grocery hoarding is a fairly common practice in the face of a significant weather event, but this year Americans are flocking to their local supermarkets because of a storm they cannot see: the COVID-19 pandemic.
Since the virus began rapidly spreading across the globe, people everywhere rushed to the grocery store to stock up on essentials out of fear that they would be forced into quarantine and unable to leave their homes.
Since it was nearly impossible for grocery stores to keep up with the sudden increase in demand, there were shortages across the country for a variety of items, like toilet paper, canned goods, and bread. Many people who have been confronted by empty store shelves have, however, decided to take matters into their own hands.
Baking is the New Pandemic Pastime
Millions of Americans have been laid off as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, and since they are forced to stay at home, have no work to do, and are trying to cut costs, many have turned to baking as a pass the time .
Interestingly enough, this has led to some other, more unexpected shortages: yeast and flour. So many people have begun baking their own bread at home (or at least attempting to) that the demand for ingredients has skyrocketed, and it caught grocery stores completely off-guard.
Sylvain Charlebois, professor of food distribution and policy at Dalhousie University, says that this change is because of a sudden shift in consumer behavior.
“Before, consumers went [grocery shopping] to buy a finished food product for that day or the next couple of days,” he said. “Now, consumers are walking into grocery stores looking for ingredients for the next couple of weeks. That’s a huge paradigm shift.” 
The yeast shortage has been particularly surprising and has even prompted a few crafty individuals to teach people how to make their own yeast online. One of these helpful people is Sudeep Agarwala, a yeast geneticist and biological engineer living in Boston. According to him, there is never a shortage of yeast.
“Yeast is all around you – you can just cultivate it and use it to make what you want,” he explained .
Agarwala shared his method for cultivating your own yeast on Twitter on March 29, and since then has been retweeted nearly thirty thousand times. He was shocked to discover that so many people were interested in what he had to say.
“Here’s something I’m passionate about and this stupid tweet I post on a Sunday morning, and now I see people discovering yeast for themselves – I think it’s wonderful.” 
You can learn about his method by clicking the Tweet below and following the thread.
You Can Bake Bread Without Yeast
For many, the idea of baking their own bread at home- working with yeast, coaxing it to rise, and baking it just right- is still very intimidating. If you’re considering jumping on the baking bandwagon but you fall into this group, you needn’t worry.
If you’re a first-time baker, try starting with flatbread. It’s just about the easiest kind of bread you can bake, and since it is unleavened, it requires no yeast at all, so shortages won’t be a problem.
This recipe for Navajo Flatbread requires only five ingredients, can be made in under one hour, and will keep for a few days on your counter, or frozen and saved for later:
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 ¼ cups of lukewarm water
- 1 tablespoon of baking powder
- 1 teaspoon of salt
- 2 teaspoons of avocado oil + additional oil for frying (feel free to supplement with any oil you have in your pantry)
- Mix flour, salt, baking powder, and 2 teaspoons of avocado oil together in a mixing bowl and add most (but not all) of the water.
- Continue mixing and adding water until it has the consistency of tacky pizza dough. Knead for 3-5 minutes.
- Let the dough rest in a greased bowl for 30 to 60 minutes.
- On a floured surface, divide the dough into six pieces and roll them out until they are very thin (about the thickness of a tortilla).
- Heat a cast-iron skillet or griddle to 350 degrees Fahrenheit, then add one tablespoon of oil. Heat it until it is hot, but not smoking.
- Place one round of dough on the hot pan and cook until golden brown spots appear on the bottom side. Flip the round and cook the other side until it is golden brown. Store under a flour sack towel.
Recipe Inspiration: The Beehive shoppe.
Have Dietary Restrictions?
If you have dietary restrictions, but still want to try your hand at some home-baking, this recipe for low-carb flatbread uses a combination of shredded cheese, egg, and almond flour to make a crispy bread-like substitute. This recipe is deep-fried, but you could try pan-frying them instead to make them a little healthier.
Gluten-free bread can often be trickier to make because gluten-free flours don’t come together as well as traditional flour, and the bread often turns out to be much denser than a regular, fluffy loaf of bread. For this reason, flatbread is often a much easier alternative to make at home. This recipe has a longer ingredient list than recipes using wheat flour, but is an excellent option if you or a family member cannot eat gluten.
Baking to Relieve Stress
Not only is baking your own bread extremely cost-effective, but many Americans are turning to the seemingly forgotten ritual because they’re bored, they have nothing else to do, and it can act as a great stress-reliever.
Philip Muskin, a Columbia University psychiatry professor and the secretary of the American Psychiatry Association, explains that baking is an effective way to distract yourself from the negative events happening around you that you cannot control.
“Baking is mindful. Mindfulness means paying attention to yourself in the moment and not being in the past or the future, but really being there,” he says.
According to Muskin, for this reason, baking can have a similar effect on the mind as meditation or breathing exercises .
Food writer Charlotte Druckman believes that baking also offers people a sense of control.
“I think a lot of it has to do with control, a feeling that you started something and you completed it within a certain period of time,” she says .
Whatever your reason for pulling that sack of flour out of the back of your pantry and donning your apron, whether it be as a cure for boredom or an antidote for stress, baking can be a fun way to pass the time, can help you cut costs, and if nothing else, provide you with a sense of accomplishment.
So if you are on the fence about whether to join this latest trend, perhaps it’s time you join the spatula-wielding masses and fill your home with the delicious scent of freshly-baked bread. If the baking process doesn’t make you feel any better, the fruits of your labor just might do the trick.
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