Baking taking us back to the good ol’ days
Lockdowns came and went, but the pandemic gave rise to more than just homemade sourdough bread. Cakes, biscuits, slices, breads, and pastries have seen a much-deserved return to grace, baked in kitchens nationwide, with a collective obsession for home-baking living on.
Fueled in equal measure by a desire to return to the nostalgia of childhood during a time that offered little security, certainty, and reliability, it was the old-school treats from childhood that cut the mustard.
Retro sweets are back, from black forest cake, and old fashioned bee stings to sticky finger buns and cream buns from the school canteen. The classic cobbler is once again being dragged out at special celebrations by parents, and Nanna’s marble cake is back on the doily.
Empty shelves in the baking aisle at the supermarket rivalled the staple absences, like pasta and rice, but instead gave purpose to possibility and creativity as opposed to fear.
“In dark times, we crave things that make us feel safe, secure and nurtured. It’s been heart-warming to see people resurrect that emotional tie to home baking – bringing them joy, laughter, and comfort.
“Aussies turned to recipes that reminded them of past days, reviving bake-sale favourites like banana bread and challenging themselves with sourdough from scratch, or a cake recipe that had been passed from generation to generation,” Manildra Group Director Caroline Honan told The Cultivator.
Today home-baking remains strong, with social media feeds full of decadent show-stopping desserts and classic comfort treats. As people venture out of their homes to socialise and eat, many question whether the booming home baking trend will continue.
“People have rediscovered the happiness of home baking as a simple pleasure and way to bring family and friends together,” said Ms Honan.
Third-generation flour millers, the Honan family, purchased a flour mill in central west New South Wales in the town of Manildra in 1952, pioneering the flour and bakery industry in Australia.
“One of my fondest memories involves baking in the kitchen with Mum, making lamingtons, dipping them in rich chocolate and rolling them in coconut.
“Somewhat unsurprisingly, I have since grown up spending my working life with food, visiting the flour mill on weekends as kids, and then working in marketing in fast-moving consumer goods products, so I have always had an interest in retail.
“When I started working for Manildra Group, we had been supplying flour and associated bakery ingredients to the major retailers for many decades, however we had not launched our own retail flour brand,” she said.
Ms Honan said she was determined to bring innovation to an already crowded paper packed flour aisle. Inspired by a bottle in the company’s test bakery, she set about researching and developing the iconic 1kg “easy store” reusable container with a unique grip handle.
“It was a game-changer for the industry, the flour maintained its freshness for longer and distinctively, we enriched our range with vitamins and minerals. We are so proud that The Healthy Baker is one of the top selling flours on the shelf, competing against brands that have been in market for decades,” Ms Honan said.
Today, The Healthy Baker brand is synonymous with consumer baking, and the brand’s website is filled with recipes, advice, videos, and other baking resources. Manildra Group Head of Retail, Michael Brink, said the pandemic had been a perfect opportunity for the brand to continue to connect with consumers through the brand’s social channels, “responding to a demand for home baking”.
“For those that wanted the basics, we provided them with simple recipes and ideas on how to stretch the basics in their pantries. For those that were having trouble getting to the shops or unable to find a loaf of bread or their favourite biscuits, we provided them with a suite of classic recipes including bagels, doughnuts, and shortbread biscuits,” Mr Brink said.
“Last year we launched The Healthy Baker Protein Pancake Mix, available in select Woolworths’ supermarkets and at Woolworths online, for people that were after a balanced protein fix.
It’s ideal for the whole family; you can add your favourite toppings to create good-for-you pancakes for breakfast, brunch or dessert.”
The Healthy Baker is stoking interest with nostalgia, as Manildra Group celebrates 70 years since its establishment in the heart of rural New South Wales, Australia.
“Growing up, I always loved baking with our grandmother Nanna Honan, she was a great baker. Every second weekend, she would teach us how to bake sweet treats including her famous traditional scones, and Victoria Sponge with jam and cream,” Ms Honan said.
“When I started a family of my own, I really started to learn and appreciate Nanna Honan’s recipes. As a family, we continue to make her traditional Christmas pudding every year, and it’s a dessert tradition I will pass onto my kids,” she said.
Baking evokes memories and emotional responses, however, what cements so many of these warm, fuzzy food memories in our brains is repetition.
“To make the same dish year after year, decade after decade, there’s something in that that connects us to the past. For me it’s like food for the heart. When I’m baking a rainbow coloured marble cake or lemon torte, I reminisce about my childhood memories making these with Mum,” she said.
Ms Honan said that customers wanted to support local Aussie businesses and products made in our own backyard, whilst re-creating old-school bakery items and classics with a modern twist.
The Healthy Baker will continue to embrace nostalgia, offering recipes online that connect people by making or serving family favourite dishes with love.