Grocery stores the world over are selling out of flour and your feeds are full of banana bread selfies. Yes, #QuarantineBaking is a thing. With the majority of the world’s population cooped up at home, it’s unsurprising we’ve all turned to our mixers and ovens for a bit of respite from the dire day-to-day news. The deeply meditative (if occasionally frustrating) appeal of creating something delicious is, it seems, universal. But while sourdough starter and old bananas are America’s new “it” ingredients, the recipes providing catharsis for the rest of the world are as diverse as the countries themselves.
According to an April 15 Pinterest insights report, the top recipe searched around the world is, unsurprisingly, bread, but other popular ones include homemade churros in Spain and strawberry pie in Algeria — the comforting, familiar, nostalgic stuff that tastes of one’s own better days, wherever they were.
In India, puran poli, a sweet flatbread, is appearing on many people’s at-home menus. On Instagram, you’ll find pictures of the bread, usually stuffed with nutty chana dal, along with various recipes that include ingredients like flour, turmeric, and shredded coconut. On the other side of Asia, Indonesians are trading mashed bananas for potatoes and making deep-fried donat kentang, doughnuts made from mashed potato, usually coated in sugar. The Indonesian fritters are tagged in over 250,000 posts on Instagram, and considering some recipes don’t require the increasingly precious white flour, this may well become a global trend.
In Denmark, where bread and pastries have been perfected for centuries, the Danes are rolling out sweet cinnamon rolls (kanelsnegle). Search Instagram and you’ll find well over 22,000 posts of plump, swirled buns drizzled with white icing.” “Every corona day is baking day,” wrote one Denmark-based baker, who shared an image of four homemade snail-like buns on Instagram.
Also in Europe, Italians are whipping up mimosa cake (torta mimosa), a spongy cream cake which is usually baked on Women’s Day in early March when the mimosa tree blooms with yellow flowers. Considering the strange time warp we’re all living in, Italians have continued to bake the bright yellow dessert well through April (the lockdown in Italy began on March 9), adding seasonal elements like fresh strawberries. “Happy birthday to me! I made the cake with the quarantine party,” wrote one Italian baker.
Further south in Argentina, medialunas, the Argentinian take on croissants made with butter or lard, are doing the rounds on Instagram, Twitter, and Pinterest. “Day 48204 of quarantine and what better way than spending it eating croissants and coffee with leche,” wrote one baker, who shared an image of the glossy pastries alongside a recipe. Another food blogger posted an image of half moon-shaped medialunas, warning that, although they do take time and require patience, they’re worth it. We might be almost out of sugar, but thankfully time is one luxury we all have plenty of.
Directly across the Atlantic, South Africans are baking (yes, banana bread) but also a historic local favorite, rusks. Similar to biscotti, rusks are double-baked bread dough that are dried out until they acquire a crispy biscotti-like texture. They are always served with tea or coffee (usually dunked) in the morning or afternoon. “Tea won’t be boring anymore,” wrote one Instagram user, who posted a snap of buttermilk rusks next to a cup of steaming tea. “Craving all the childhood favorites at the moment,” another South African baker posted alongside a rusk recipe.
Back in the U.S. people are furiously baking sourdough, but according to Pinterest, they’re also making another type of more local bread, the deep-fried flatbread known as Navajo bread, or fry bread. Often served dusted with cinnamon and sugar, fry bread was first created by Native Americans from government-provided rations of lard, white flour, and sugar. While born out of struggle, Sean Sherman of the cookbook The Sioux Chef’s Indigenous Kitchen asserts it was also a product of “perseverance and pain, ingenuity and resilience” — a fitting recipe for the times.
Mary Holland the former online editor of GQ and Glamour South Africa, now living and working in New York.