As we all know from last year’s resurgence of stonewashed denim, trends are cyclical and short lived, and that remains true even in these pandemic end times. Now, after only a few short months of frenzied sourdough starter, yeast, and flour purchases, consumers seem to be giving up on their home baking fantasies.
As reported by NPR, both the price of flour and eggs dropped within the past month, which they state is a possible indicator that aspiring bakers may be moving away from their yeasty, hearth-centric fantasies. This is also supported by data from Google Trends, which show that search terms like “baking” and “sourdough” experienced an enormous surge right at the time when people began to shelter-in-place, and have since been tapering off.
Beyond simple trend fatigue, there are probably a variety of other reasons people are baking less. For one thing, the official start of summer (June 20) is only a few short days away, and people may not be as inclined to use their ovens. Plus lawsuits in California and Texas allege that egg producers and supermarkets deliberately fixed prices during the pandemic, so theoretically it’s possible that price drops could be related to egg producers and sellers knocking off illegal and unethical behavior.
It’s also worth considering that yeasted dough can be mercurial, and home ovens are notoriously unreliable. It is extremely common for oven temperatures to vary by 25-50°F, and sometimes miscalibrations can result in even more dramatic variations. Plus, beyond technical challenges, caring for sourdough starter kinda sucks. According to the wildly detailed baking grimoire Modernist Bread, maintaining a small 2-cup jar of sourdough levain for one year requires 100 pounds of flour, an assertion that makes me think I’m not feeding my own sad fridge-bound jar nearly enough.
On the plus side, drops in prices and greater availability of ingredients means people who are year-round bakers will experience much less frustration, and baking projects aren’t always difficult. Cookies, for instance, seem like a good idea regardless of the season.