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Knead to relax?

How lockdown will once again prompt a return to making sourdough.

With the introduction of another level 5 lockdown confining Irish people in their millions to lockdown, bread making has become an almost therapeutic and empowering act helping people to eat better and feel better at the same time.

The bakers at Bread 41, which helped kickstart the sourdough craze again by giving out free starter packs and have once again reintroduced this for the latest Phase 5 Lockdown while Bread 41 will be posting some bread how-to videos up on Bread 41 YouTube channel to help people with managing their starter and making real bread, while he will be taking questions from home bakers on Instagram all the time, he said the response has been overwhelming.

John McCormack hadn’t made a loaf of bread in years. But stuck in his Dublin City apartment during the first coronavirus lockdown, he started thinking about bread again. Jim works as a school teacher, and like many educators he now spends his weeks dealing with meetings, emails and distance learning. But when his school recently went out for the summer holidays, he began baking with a a sourdough starter to make real bread.

With the reintroduction of lockdown level 5, he started thinking about bread again. He says it’s helped him feel productive and deal with stress. “It was a good exercise in mindfulness and a distraction from thinking about the world, so in those ways it certainly eased some anxiety,” he says.

Baking your way through anxiety or uncertainty is nothing new – in fact anxiety has been on the rise since 2017, according to the UCD school of psychology, and baking has climbed with it. But with the pandemic confining millions to their homes, the practice is rising faster than starter.

While cakes, cookies, noodles and pastas are all proving popular, bread has emerged as the baking project of choice. Earlier on this year flour shortages had been reported in supermarkets across Ireland Google has documented an all-time high in queries about bread, including yeast, and “how to make bread without yeast.”

Eoin Cluskey, the founder and co-owner of Bread 41 Dublin Ireland, says he is not surprised by the turn to making real bread given the healthy benefits associated with doing so.

Also making bread Eoin believes is highly therapeutic, rolling, kneading and mixing have a calming effect forcing you to focus on the moment and staying in the present and this helps with dealing with the pervasive negativity that studies have shown that baking is connected to positive feelings. Psychologists have started exploring cooking and baking as a therapeutic tool to help people dealing with things like depression and anxiety.

Eoin also believe that people are also looking to make their own bread at home because trips to the shops are stressful for some. “People want to have fresh bread while avoiding the shops when they can,” he says. “You’ve got time on your hands, and maybe you have wanted to learn to bake bread and now you have the time to do it.”

Time is a necessary ingredient for bread, Eoin mentions, and that extra time at home has prompted bakers to attempt things they may not have before – such as sourdough, which can take days to produce. Professional bakers are turning to social media to demystify the process, and amateur bakers are posting their homemade experiments.

Where : 41 Pearse Street, Dublin 2

When : Every day from 08.00

What is it : 10 Starter Kits per day or up to 100 starters per day free of charge or until we run out.

Starter.

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“ My its Margaret, my daughter and I attended your class in October and we left with our very own starter.. well, I just want to encourage you that due to Covid 19 and having plenty of time on our hands your starter has gone “viral” up here on the north coast … I have passed your starter on to so many of my friends .. It began when I made a video for a friend as she wanted to make it and due to isolation I couldn’t go to her house .. I made a video for her of the process and delivered some of my starter to her .( making sure I adhered to the social distancing guidelines) she has since passed it on to several of her friends … my 11year old granddaughter wanted to make it so i passed on a starter and the video and she now has so many of her mums friends engaged in making sourdough … so Eoin your starter is continually multiplying up here and not only here but my daughter who came to the class in October is doing the same down in Rathfriland in Co. Down … so thank you my friend for giving us both the encouragement to start making our bread… the wee starter you gave us in October has multiplied many times over and has encouraged so many .. may you care in these difficult days… “

Margaret Avid Cook