COVID-19

Bread baking boom means flour and yeast are flying off U.S. shelves

Kristin Schwab Apr 15, 2020
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There's something comforting about kneading your own dough and baking your own bread. Philippe Lopez/AFP via Getty Images
COVID-19

Bread baking boom means flour and yeast are flying off U.S. shelves

Kristin Schwab Apr 15, 2020
There's something comforting about kneading your own dough and baking your own bread. Philippe Lopez/AFP via Getty Images
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There’s no shortage of homemade bread recipes online right now. They show fluffy loaves fresh out of the oven, golden brown with beautiful cracks in the crust. Baking is fun, easy and delicious, the directions claim.

“It came out much more gooey … I tried to make it into a baguette,” said Antonius Wiriadjaja in New York, who has attempted one New York Times recipe five times with mixed results. “It came out looking like a rocket ship.”

Like a lot of people right now, Wiriadjaja has a lot more time on his hands and decided to get into baking. He had to order a $50 kit from a local bakery because he couldn’t find flour and yeast at the store.

And that’s because demand for flour and yeast is on the rise. Red Star Yeast, one of the country’s major producers, has said the surge is unprecedented. At Vermont-based King Arthur Flour, sales are three times higher than usual — even for whole wheat flour.

“Typically, at this time of year, we’re operating at 50% capacity,” said co-CEO Karen Colberg. “But in the past couple of weeks we’ve turned on to full tilt, and we’re operating 24/7.” Colberg said the country isn’t running out of wheat. Instead, the shelves are empty at grocery shelves because the supply chain is overwhelmed.

But why has baking bread become an obsession? In some places, a shortage of bread could be a reason. But also: carbs are comforting.

“There’s the kneading the dough with your hands. There’s the distinct way that the yeast smells,” said Amy Bentley, a professor of food studies at New York University. “And then I’m not sure that there’s any better aroma than baking bread.”

Plus, bread is cross-cultural. Sourdough, naan or challah — it all makes us feel more connected to family.

COVID-19 Economy FAQs

Which businesses are allowed to reopen right now? And which businesses are actually doing so?

As a patchwork of states start to reopen, businesses that fall into a gray area are wondering when they can reopen. In many places, salons are still shuttered. Bars are mostly closed, too, although restaurants may be allowed to ramp up, depending on the state. “It’s kind of all over the place,” said Elizabeth Milito of the National Federation of Independent Business.

Will you be able to go on vacation this summer?

There’s no chance that this summer will be a normal season for vacations either in the U.S. or internationally. But that doesn’t mean a trip will be impossible. People will just have to be smart about it. That could mean vacations closer to home, especially with gas prices so low. Air travel will be possible this summer, even if it is a very different experience than usual.

When does the expanded COVID-19 unemployment insurance run out?

The CARES Act, passed by Congress and signed by President Donald Trump in March, authorized extra unemployment payments, increasing the amount of money, and broadening who qualifies. The increased unemployment benefits have an expiration date — an extra $600 per week the act authorized ends on July 31.

You can find answers to more questions here.

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