Through the changes Americans have endured over the past few years — a pandemic, a new administration and soaring inflation — one thing has remained constant: bread.
During the 2020 quarantine era, many forgotten hobbies resurfaced. Since then, baking bread from scratch — rather than buying it at the store or a bakery — has become a more common practice again.
Even between Cindy DeOrnellis’ busy life working and living on a farm, she is a regular baker specializing in sweet rolls and french bread. If there is a family gathering or friends coming to town, they look to DeOrnellis for doughy treats.
“I really enjoy bread making. It’s therapeutic and relaxing, with the end product true comfort food,” she said.
According to a survey conducted in 2021 by consumer market research firm Hunter, 41 percent of Americans say they are continuing to bake more than they did before the pandemic.
“People had to spend a lot of time at home, so they had time to experiment,” DeOrnellis said.
Aaron Holsapple is a coworker of DeOrnellis, as well as an avid baker who has seen the results of the COVID-19 pandemic on how people are choosing to spend their time. And for him, it’s flour-covered.
“With people staying at home due to COVID, it’s maybe forced people to consider a new hobby and try something they’ve always wanted to,” Holsapple said.
At the beginning of the pandemic in 2020, Holsapple began a new sourdough starter and experimented with different kinds of flours to make sourdough bread, which he said is “kind of a whole new genre.”
While regular bread uses packaged yeast to rise, sourdough bread is leavened with a “starter” — a mixture of flour and water.
“If you really kind of get into it, the appearance and taste (of sourdough) is so much different,” Holsapple said.
His journey with baking began after his grandmother taught him her cinnamon roll recipe, and he began baking the homemade breakfast treats in college.
“Hot cinnamon rolls fresh in the morning, yeast rolls, are always a treat when you take those to a gathering or to work,” he said.
DeOrnellis and Holsapple occasionally exchange baking stories that involve their family and friends, echoing the sentiment that people make good memories when they share homemade bread.
While he tends to lay off baking bread in the summertime, Holsapple bakes about once a week in the colder months.
“We don’t always eat it all here in the house, so a lot of times I give it away to friends,” he said. “It’s kind of a nice gift when you can knock on the door and drop off a half loaf, and it’s just nice to see their smiles and excitement over it.”
Social media influence on the *rise*
While it’s difficult to pinpoint exactly when the history of bread begins, the process and ingredients have certainly changed with the times.
Most recently, TikTok has influenced how people are making bread with the return of the bread machine — a popular 1990s appliance. Just dump the wet and dry dough ingredients into the machine and push start, and a fresh loaf is ready in about three to four hours.
The hashtag #breadmaker has amassed more than 73 million views on TikTok, and many mind-blown Gen-Zers are looking for the appliance at thrift stores or buying them on Amazon for $60-$150.
DeOrnellis said she has seen baking bread become popular again through social media, specifically as a means to save money.
“The artisan breads, those are expensive if you go buy them in the store, but there are a lot of resources that can help you make them,” she said.
“The internet has been extremely helpful to answer a lot of questions for people and help them get over their fears and trepidations about bread baking.”
Baking bread can be harder than it seems — it takes time, patience, and trial and error.
“Don’t be discouraged, because it takes practice to learn how to make yeast breads,” DeOrnellis said. “There’s an experience and just a feel for it, and the more you bake bread the more you learn.”
Put simply, practice makes perfect.
“Probably not all the time are you going to make that perfect loaf, so you kind of have to live and learn a little bit and accept that you’re going to have some failures along the way,” Holsapple said. “If it tastes good, that’s part of the perfection that brings smiles to people’s faces and stomachs.”