Istanbulites take up bread baking as rising coronavirus cases keep people at home

Eren Topuz writes: COVID-19 has resulted in a great deal of social distancing and efforts for meeting basic needs at home to the greatest extent possible. To that end, many Istanbulites have turned to baking their own bread at home. According to Istanbul Baker's Chamber, bread sales at bakeries and markets have declined by 35 percent since the outbreak reached Turkey.

Eren Topuz / DUVAR

The coronavirus has resulted in many people changing their daily habits. People practicing social distancing as a measure against the virus are trying to meet their basic needs at home to the greatest extent possible. To that end, according to Istanbul Baker's Chamber chair Erdoğan Çetin, bread sales at bakeries and markets have declined by 35 percent. Istanbulites who have began to bake their own bread at home shared their personal experiences and their methods of making bread.

36-year-old Salime has been making bread home since the beginning of the outbreak, explaining that she was even afraid of catching the virus by taking change from a cashier while making a purchase. 

“We can't trust that employees are adhering to hygiene rules. Are they keeping it clean over there, are they wearing clothes, you have no idea. Because the virus can be transmitted from even one touch, people are nervous,” said Salime, the mother of two children. 

Salime's bread

“I'm only grappling with kneading the dough. Otherwise it's not difficult. I pay attention to the yeast, and when it rises well it's enough. My family is eating it and they enjoy it very much. At least it's healthier than the bread bought outside,” Salime said, though she added that making bread at home is more expensive that purchasing it from the bakery 

“You are buying the flour and the yeast yourself, and you are also using the oven. One kilo of flour is 7-8 TL, one package of yeast is 1.60 TL. On top of that, you are turning on the oven for at least half an hour. From one kilo of flour, you can make three loaves of bread,” Salime said. 

61-year-old Sena, who suffers from chronic health problems and whose husband is older than 65, said that since coronavirus started to spread in Turkey they have not bought any bread from outside. 

“Making bread makes me happy. In the past I was doing it out of pleasure but not very often. I don't trust buying bread from the market anymore, 40 people are touching it with their hands,” Sena said, adding that amid the outbreak she has improved her bread baking skills. 

“At home I have learned many tricks, and I can make it much better. First I knead the dough. After I knead it I pound it against the counter to release the gas inside. It's a fantastic stress reliever. After that I add the yeast. I wait for an hour and then I knead it again. While the oven is heating up I add yeast again. Then I shape it and bake it at 250 degrees for forty minutes,” Sena said. 

Sena's bread

When asked if she would continue to make bread  at home after the pandemic over, Sena said “If we don't die we'll make it. If we die we'll leave the recipe behind.” 

29-year-old Tuğçe explained how she started baking bread at home with her husband: 

“We received a bread making machine as a gift, and right at that time the coronavirus discussions emerged. That same week we said let's stock up on flour. I'm not joking, we bought 10 kilos of flour. It's the two of us and we work at a pharmacy. Since we can't make cake, börek (a savory pastry) or çörek (a sweet pastry) we said first let's finish this flour and then started,” Tuğçe said. 

Complaining about the increasing market prices of yeast, Tuğçe said they first started to make cornbread at home. “It is easy to make the bread at home with a machine. When you wrap it and it stays soft for 5-6 days,” she said, adding that after the pandemic is over she will continue to make bread at home.

“Sometimes we add different amounts of things and it results in a different bread. Apart from the white bread that we can't live without for breakfast, we're not going to buy bread outside again,” Tuğçe said. 

32-year-old Devran said that he started making bread home just as a way to spend time:

“It's a very enjoyable activity in my opinion. There are different types of bread but generally you use flour, water, salt and yeast. After kneading these main ingredients, there is a one hour yeast process. Afterward I shape it, add more yeast and wait for 45 minutes. Then I put it in the oven,” Devran said, adding that while making bread at home is more expensive that buying it from the store, at least you know what you are eating, and that he planned on continuing to bake bread at home after the pandemic is over. 

Devran thinks home-cook bread is always much more healthy.

26-year-old university student Tuba explained how she started to make bread at home with her mother:

“As a matter of fact, we can get bread without leaving home, this isn't about the problem with going out. However when we learned about the virus spreading from surfaces, my mom said 'ok let's make bread at home.' Also it is something to keep her busy at home. I think social media had an effect on her decision. My mom is active on Facebook and has WhatsApp groups. I think that we were influenced by these,” Tuba said. 

“We use flour, water, yeast and salt. We add these in the appropriate amount and knead it until it achieves the right consistency. Then we let it wait for awhile so it rises, and the dough is also resting. When it is ready we put it in the oven. The temperature is around 200-220 degrees, and it bakes for 30-40 minutes. For my mom, she doesn't measure the minutes, when the top and bottom is baked she considers it ready,” Tuba said.