Why have we seen supermarket shelves stripped bare of flour, and millers temporarily suspending their online shops? We’re told that there is no underlying emergency, it’s simply that our millers haven’t been able to keep up with the unusual demand for smaller retail packs of flour.

But there’s no getting away from the fact that the coronavirus pandemic has exposed the precariousness of the large retailers’ ‘just-in-time’ food supply system.

It hasn’t been able to respond fast enough to our desire to make more bread at home. This rapid rise in domestic bread baking isn’t surprising. Bread making gives us a sense of agency, a feeling that we have some control over our lives midst this pandemic. We see that it’s a skill worth mastering, one that can improve our daily lives long after this crisis is past.

And the Covid-19 flour fiasco is a creative expression of underlying public dissatisfaction with the lamentable state of industrial loaves. So if you’ve become more focused on bread quality during lockdown, here are some bread-centric initiatives fermenting away that are worth knowing about.

Lockdown loaves

The Real Bread Campaign, has launched #LockdownLoafers. Crowdsourced from the international hive of Real Bread Campaign supporters and friends, the collective knowledge harvested so far includes recipes and tips for using less, or no, bread flour when you can’t get your hands on any, and guidance on how to produce loaves without baker’s yeast.

Its website www.realbreadcampaign.org is the go-to hub for motivated home bakers, and definitely the place to find answers to that question: “Where can I find flour?”.

You’ll find lots of intriguing recipes for using more available grains and starches – couscous, cornmeal, rye, porridge, potatoes, rice – to make less usual breads. The campaign is an independent charity; feel free to “doughnate”.

Scotland the bread

Andrew Whitley, the living legend and guiding light of the UK’s “real bread” bread movement, set up this not-for-profit project.

It researches and grows organically varieties of wheat, such as Hunter’s, Rouge d’Ecosse, and Golden Drop, and types of rye, all genetically diverse, more nutrient-dense than average, and well adapted for growing in the Scottish climate.

Based at Bowhouse on the Balcaskie Estate in Fife’s East Neuk, they mill the grain into 100% wholemeal flour, using a UK-unique Zentrofan mill.

This cyclone mill produces a cool, ultra-fine wholemeal flour with higher-than-ordinary nutrient levels.

The flavour is full and satisfying, without the dry dustiness of some standard wholemeal flours.

You can become a shareholder, take out a subscription, donate, or simply buy their flours.

National flour for a national loaf

Mungoswells Mill in East Lothian is now producing an 85% extraction brown flour instead of two separate white and wholemeal varieties.

Milling just one flour speeds up production, addresses the backlog of orders, and helps bakers make a more nutritious loaf at home.

White flour from roller mills typically contains only 72-75% of the original grain, with the most nutritious bran and wheatgerm removed for animal feed or the extraction of vitamin E by the pharmaceutical industry.

Wholemeal, as the name suggests, contains 100% of the wheat grain – and ‘85% flour’ is somewhere in between, with a more substantial amount of fine bran and wheat germ oil in it compared to white flour.

It’s a move that’s reminiscent of the Second World War when white flour was banned to save precious grain supplies. The bread produced was more nutritious, and this National Loaf led to an improvement in public health.

Bread tutorials

I’m a huge fan of Joe Fitzmaurice’s free How To Make It videos. Joe’s is a simple sourdough recipe and method specifically developed for home bakers and those who have little experience in baking. Joe set up the Riot Rye Bakehouse and Bread School in County Tipperaray www.rye.ie and pioneered the Common Loaf movement to actively foster a culture of bread making that eschews the use of industrial additives or chemicals.

His vision is that knowledge of how to bake, nourish and share bread will be returned to the people, and once again become part of common knowledge.

Joe works exclusively with organic flours, natural and wild ingredients and delivers his easy lessons in a most comforting lilting Irish accent.

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