Another major Instagram trend of the year, Dalgona coffee, landed the number one spot in Google’s rundown of the most-wanted recipes in 2020 – clearly, this cup of whipped caffeine-based goodness proved irresistible to the masses.
But it was bread that really ruled the day in a year of towering uncertainty. Different types of global bread or bread-based dishes (such as Turkish Lahmacun) dominated 90% of the top 10 recipes people around the world hunted down on Google over the past 12 months.
Last year’s Google recipe must-haves looked very different. Back in 2019, we were all about shepherd’s pie and Snickerdoodle cookies. Bread didn’t get so much as a mention in the top 10 searched-for foods.
So why the sudden interest now? Partly the appeal lies in bread’s long-standing reputation as a comfort food. This is something that’s been a staple of our diet as far back as the Stone Age, when our ancestors baked flatbread and used it to wrap meat such as roasted gazelle.
“Bread is a powerful link between our past and present food cultures,” Dr Amaia Arranz-Otaegui of the University of Copenhagen tells the BBC. “It connects us with our prehistoric ancestors.”
It makes sense, then, that when a crisis like coronavirus hits home, we seek solace in age-old and familiar recipes.
In fact Britain’s “National Loaf” – a dark whole wheat bread that was invented during World War II – started re-appearing in bakeries during lockdown earlier this year, amid a growing demand for its nutrient-rich goodness.
Clearly, bread is the kind of heroic foodstuff that we need when the going gets tough.
But it’s not just bread’s reliability that saw us whip out our rolling pins under lockdown. The eminently slow and soothing process of breadmaking also has a important role to play.
This is an activity that tethers you to the present, grounding panicked thoughts in a physical, well-versed routine of stirring, kneading and rising.
The link between baking and good mental health is well-established in the world of science; so much so, that it is often used as a form of culinary therapy to help those suffering from anxiety or grief.
“I believe that focusing on a specific task or skill, forcing someone to ‘get out of their own head’ […] can really be helpful to quiet one’s inner dialogue where the anxiety stems from,” Julie Ohana, founder of the organisation Culinary Art Therapy tells Healthline.
Then, of course, there’s the connection element of bread. At a time when we’ve been physically separated from our loved ones, the act of making and sharing bread is a reminder of the basic community spirit that ties us together. It’s nostalgic, and quietly satisfying.
“Amid uncertainty, cooking for yourself or your loved ones creates tangible results,” writes curator Elisabeth Berry Drago in a Science History essay on stress baking. “With more time spent in our own kitchens, the slow processes of rising, proofing, and maintaining dough ‘starters’ can become pleasurable exercises in mindfulness, keeping our thoughts in the present moment.”
Google’s most-searched recipes of 2020
Feel inspired to channel the life-affirming act of breadmaking? Here are Google’s top 10 most-searched recipes of 2020; time to roll up those sleeves and get baking.
1 - Dalgona coffee
Aka, the fancy whipped coffee you’ve seen all over Instagram. Learn how to make it with Stylist.
2 - Ekmek
A delicious Greek bread pudding that dates back to the Ottoman Empire. Find the recipe on My Greek Dish.
3 - Sourdough bread
Naturally. Grab a slice of Stylist’s recipe for this ultimate lockdown brag.
4 - Pizza
5 - Lahmacun
In many ways, Lahmacun is like pizza’s Turkish cousin. This crispy flatbread base is piled with minced meat and herby tomato sauce, but no cheese. Check out The Mediterranean Dish recipe.
6 - Beer bread
Two of our favourite things rolled into one. Have your favourite ales handy to follow Stylist’s recipe.
7 - Banana bread
Of course. Upgrade this lockdown classic with Stylist’s coffee-chocolate spin.
8 - Pita bread
Fluffy and moreish with endless scope for fillings. Get involved with BBC Food’s pita bread recipe.
9 - Brioche
An unexpected sweet entrant to the savoury line-up. Learn more about Stylist’s saviour; an at-home brioche kit with Nutella on the side.
10 - Naan
This much-loved South Asian bread was made to be torn up in hunks and dipped. Try a garlic naan recipe from Cook with Manali.
Images: Getty, Unsplash