When The Going Gets Tough, The Tough Get...Baking?

Apr 7, 2020

It’s not just toilet paper...many stores are having a time keeping flour and yeast in stock as the pandemic continues. As KLCC’s Brian Bull reports, some bakeries are trying to help.

Loaves of bread dough, rising in their pans. Baking among residents seems to have exploded following Governor Brown's stay-at-home directive.
Credit Brian Bull / KLCC

In this undated photo, an Albertsons store has its baking aisle nearly depleted (almost as bad as the TP aisle, yes we already checked)
Credit Brian Bull / KLCC

It seems many people stuck at home during the COVID-19 pandemic are passing the time by baking. Many stores are running short of classic breadmaking essentials. 

Reisa Maddex works as an administrative assistant for Capella Market off of Willamette.

“All-purpose and bread flour have been two that we have struggled to keep in stock on the shelves, though we still have a reasonable supply in our bulk bins," Maddex tells KLCC.

"Yeast is one that we’re struggling to get resupplied right now.”

Meddex jokes that she's got a few bricks of yeast that she's NOT parting with. She also enjoys making cakes, and feels it's a great way to pass the time.

Zopf bread, freshly baked.
Credit Tony Ganzer, the Baking Journalist / https://www.anthonyganzer.com/the-baking-journalist/page/2/

Meanwhile, further into Eugene's South Hills area, Lox, Stock, and Bagels is helping bread groupies out by selling yeast and flour.  Owner Scott Lilly says he saw a number of posts on the Eugene Foodies Facebook page, lamenting the shortage of ingredients. 

In assessing his business' kitchen, Lilly realized he had 500 lbs. of flour, and 36 lbs. of yeast.  And figured he had some to spare, if people were truly having a hard time finding those staples.

After sharing the offer on his eatery's social media sites, local bakers came pouring in.

“They’re not even buying the bagels, they’re just coming in and buying bags of flour," says Lilly. "I’ve had a couple requests for 25 lbs. We get flour in a 50-lb. bag, and I actually sold one of those.

Challah bread.
Credit Howard Berkes

"So the response has been incredible.”

Lilly isn't sure if he'll ration or limit supplies.  "That's depending on if my own supply is cut off," he tells KLCC. 

Right now with sales down 30-35 percent due to the pandemic, he's fine selling flour and yeast, thought he acknowledges some of the bigger orders might have to be addressed on a case-by-case basis.

"I figure the uptick in baking is it's one of those things to do," adds Lilly.  Right now, Lox, Stock, and Bagel is holding up okay, and recently began offering take-out dinners with entrees like enchiladas.

Great Harvest Bread Company is also selling yeast and flour. Co-owner Gordo Wood says baking is great comfort.

Monkey bread in progress.
Credit David Gardinsky

“I think bread…heh…it’s a soul food. There’s a lot of emotion like, wrapped up in bread itself, you know?”

Wood says breadmaking takes time, and that's something many people have as they're waiting out the pandemic in self-isolation.

"This isn't about instant gratification," laughs Wood. "A baker here spends seven hours, doing a lot of mixing, then waiting.  Kneading, then waiting.  Throw the loaves into the oven, then waiting.

"Over seven hours here, you can make 140 loaves. But so many people are happy with that, it's a rewarding thing that really picks people up."

One Eugene bakery declined comment for this story, worried people might come and panic-buy bread ingredients as badly as they did toilet paper.

Note: If you'd like to mention that your business is also selling flour or yeast, feel free to comment below or on KLCC's Facebook posting of this story (or post a pic of your latest baking project!)  One listener has already chimed in that Camas Country Mill in Eugene has arranged pick up of orders, while the Camas Country Bakery is open for sales of locally-grown products as well.

Copyright 2020, KLCC.