Dalgona coffee, sourdough and frying-pan pizza: the lockdown food trends that went global

The food trends of this pandemic have been more about stimulation than survival

Frying pan pizza
DIY food trends have dominated search engines and social media feeds  Credit: Pizza Pilgrims

It was a creamy, frothy coffee craze which trended on YouTube, Facebook, Google Search and TikTok, dominating Instagram after initially being popularised by South Korean vloggers. But why did dalgona coffee (an instant coffee, sugar and milk drink, whisked until pillowy-light and picture-worthy) break the internet? And why, along with sourdough loaves and banana bread, is frying-pan pizza now the latest cult culinary activity to occupy our evenings and our social media feeds?

No doubt the brief but extreme popularity of dalgona (named after a Korean sugar sweet), was fuelled by coffee lovers missing their flat whites, but is there more to it than that? From the first day of lockdown on 20 March to the height of the novel drink’s online reign on 5 April, daily searches for dalgona coffee in the UK increased by 1900 per cent according to Google Trends. I, for one, am not only running out of things to do during the long hours at home, but my desire for human connection is such that the idea of making something that everyone else is making too (and sharing a snap of the results, naturally) has a very particular appeal. If nothing else, jumping on the bandwagon meant I had something to talk about other than Covid-19, and recipe tips to exchange when I next spoke to my friends on Houseparty.

I suspect that’s also the reason there’s so much chat about sourdough starters merrily fermenting away, and why the nation posted about banana bread more than 45,000 times on Instagram last month. Though we couldn't share a slice, we could at least feel connected in our endeavours. Combining two quarantine trends at once – frying-pan pizza and sourdough – Google searches for “sourdough pizza” in the UK increased by 769 per cent by the end of April compared with the first week of March, with a similar worldwide trajectory. 

American culture journalist Shirley Li writes in The Atlantic that, unlike food innovations from crises past (such as wartime or natural disasters), coronavirus-inspired recipes and such improbable quarantine micro-trends as these, attaining global reach, are “more about stress relief than survival” – especially for those who are isolated in their homes but have the time, money and inclination to purchase ingredients and experiment. They’re activities born out of boredom, rather than necessity. 

Whatever you make of them, at a time when our daily routines have been turned abruptly upside down, it’s clear that the way we eat is shifting, too. Who knows what the long-term ramifications of the pandemic will be (it's tempting to predict a lasting revival of home cookery), but with these trends and more to come, there is at least something delicious to be distracted by.

Frying-pan pizzas

All the rage since Jamie Oliver taught the nation how to make a simple pizza in a frying pan in his makeshift pandemic cookery show Keep Cooking and Carry On (The Naked Chef adds sliced jalapeños to his version, still available to watch on All 4). Cult UK pizza chain Pizza Pilgrims has also shared a recipe (and step-by-step video) for making its Neopolitan-style pizza in a frying pan, and are selling frying-pan pizza kits nationwide, equipping you with everything you need to give it a go. 

According to Waitrose, pizza is high on the list of DIY dishes to make at home during lockdown; searches for the term ‘pizza dough’ are up 332 per cent year on year on Waitrose.com, with the term ‘pizza sauce’ also up by a whopping 531 per cent. 

According to Kendall Zaluski, chef tutor at the Waitrose Cookery School in London, the frying-pan method is not such an unusual approach. “I actually think that the best way to get a top notch pizza at home is in a frying pan – you get that initial heat to the bottom of the pizza, which gives a crispy base and better rise throughout the dough. Pizza is such a fun, family-friendly dinner to make and the topping possibilities and pizza shapes are endless, so it’s not surprising that it has become a lockdown staple,” she says. 

Banana bread

Google reports that banana bread was the most searched for recipe in all US states in the 30 days up to 28 April, which is, well, really quite bananas. Here in the UK, Google searches for banana bread recipes increased by 525 per cent in the UK since lockdown measures were introduced, and 567 per cent since the beginning of March. An easy bake for novices, many report finding it therapeutic (though another hot take is that it’s simply a good way to use up bananas, if you’d got the time). Searches for carrot cake also rose by 150 per cent in April. 

If you’re in search for a next-level banana bread recipe, try Diana Henry’s delicious banana bread with zesty orange and a pecan topping. With the addition of sunflower seeds and linseed, it makes a great breakfast or afternoon snack. Rukmini Iyer also has a great vegan take, with the addition of moreish chocolate chips. Claire Thomson, meanwhile, pairs hers with rashers of streaky bacon and maple syrup (well, why not?). 

Pecan nuts add interest to Diana Henry's classic banana bread Credit: Yuki Sugiura

Here at Telegraph Food, we’re also fans of the lemon drizzle cake (chasing after the 1.8m posts of banana bread on Instagram, with a current log of 95.6k). After all, when life gives you lemons...

Dalgona coffee

There are now hundreds of variations of dalgona coffee circulating the internet, from Warsaw to Wandsworth – but really, all you need to do is whisk a few tablespoons of coffee, granulated sugar and boiling water (equal parts) until fluffy with stiff peaks, and spoon the mousse-like mixture over a cupful of hot or a glassful of cold milk (add ice cubes if desired) of your choice, depending on whether you’re after an iced coffee or a latte-style drink.

Nescafe Gold Blend is a popular option. Luminous green matcha and pretty pink strawberry iterations are novel twists – we’ve also spotted them garnished with rose petals, crumbled Oreos and whipped cream toppings. It’s all in the presentation: the only rule is to painstakingly style your best ceramics or glassware for the occasion. Here’s a YouTube demonstration, courtesy of The Cooking Foodie.

Sourdough 

Sourdough loaves: whether yours have been successes or failures, home-baked bread will likely be remembered as an emblematic image of life in lockdown. Water, flour, salt, and gently bubbling yeast – everyone’s at it, to such a degree that there continues to be a dearth of flour on supermarket shelves. Searches for sourdough recipes rose by 188 per cent on Waitrose.com in March compared to February, and grocery sales of flour as a whole are up 92 per cent compared to the same period last year, according to consumer analyst Kantar (there have even been reports of the "flour shaming" of those who have stockpiled the now-precious commodity to excess). 

The mother of bread: Vanessa Kimbell shares her guide to making your own sourdough starter with Telegraph Food Credit: Vanessa Kimbell

If you’re late to the party, fear not: Vanessa Kimbell of The Sourdough School in Northamptonshire is on hand with her guide to how to make a sourdough starter. All you need is organic stoneground flour, organic wholegrain flour, filtered water, and a few jars to get lively yeast activity going and enjoy the sense of achievement and bragging rights to be had from parenting a sourdough starter and subsequently baking your own mindful loaf. Once you’ve mastered that, it’s time to dust off the bundt tin and attempt her honey and muesli sourdough cake recipe.

How to make frying-pan pizza

Try the Waitrose Cookery School’s recipes for both a basic frying pan pizza margherita made with dried active yeast and strong white bread flour, and a sourdough pizza made with a sourdough starter. Add olives, anchovies, capers, artichoke hearts, mushrooms, cooked ham, rocket, spicy salami, gorgonzola, ricotta or any of your favourite toppings. 

Sourdough pizza

Prep time: 15 minutes, plus resting time | Cooking time: 10-12 minutes

SERVES

2-4

INGREDIENTS

  • 80g sourdough starter, wholemeal or white 
  • 100g spelt flour 
  • 300g strong white bread flour 
  • 8g fine sea salt 
  • Semolina, to dust 
  • Olive oil, for greasing 
  • Basic tomato sauce or passata, to top
  • 1 x 125g ball mozzarella 
  • Basil, olive oil to garnish

METHOD

  1. Combine 280ml tepid water and the starter in a large bowl, using your fingers to gently distribute the starter. Add the flours and mix with your hands until incorporated and a rough dough is achieved.  Cover the bowl and set aside for 30 minutes to allow the flour to absorb the liquid.
  2. Add the salt and 30ml of water to the dough and mix through to combine, ensuring the salt is evenly incorporated.  Place the dough into a lightly oiled bowl and set aside in a warm place. 
  3. After 30 minutes, wet your hands with cold water or olive oil and gently lift and fold the dough into itself, stretching the dough on each fold, 4 times in total to ensure the dough has been stretched evenly.  Continue to do this every 30-45 minutes for at least 5 turns.  
  4. After these turns the dough can be covered and left in the fridge overnight to slowly prove or allowed to rest for 15 minutes before being used immediately.
  5. Preheat the oven to 270C/250C fan/highest gas mark and place a flat oven tray or pizza stone on the middle shelf.
  6. Place a non-stick pan on a high heat.
  7. Divide the dough into 3 and shape into a small ball. Dust the surface of the dough generously with semolina and press the dough, flattening using your hand until you have a round even shape.
  8. Pick the dough up and stretch it out, rotating as you go to maintain a round shape. Place the dough on the surface so it catches the semolina on the bottom then carefully place into the hot frying pan.
  9. Spread a thin layer of the tomato sauce on top, leaving the edges clean. Add your desired toppings, then very carefully slide the pizza from the pan to the hot tray inside the oven. Bake for 6-8 minutes, until lightly golden around the edges and the cheese is bubbling.
  10. Sprinkle with fresh herbs and a drizzle of olive oil and serve immediately.

Frying-pan pizza margherita

Prep time: 20 minutes, plus proving time | Cooking time: 15 minutes

SERVES

2-4 (2 x 30cm pizzas)

INGREDIENTS

For the dough

  • 7g dried active yeast 
  • ½ tbsp caster sugar 
  • 2 tbsp olive oil 
  • 500g strong white bread flour, plus extra for dusting 
  • ½ tbsp fine sea salt 

For the pizza topping

  • Tomato sauce or passata, to top
  • ½ x 250g pack grated mozzarella 
  • 150g pack Italian mozzarella cherries, halved 
  • ¼ x 25g pack basil, leaves only 
  • ½ tbsp olive oil 

METHOD

  1. To make the dough, mix the yeast, sugar, and olive oil with 325ml of warm water together and leave to stand for 2-3 minutes until the yeast is totally dissolved.
  2. Combine the flour and salt into a medium sized bowl and make a well in the centre. Pour the yeast mixture into the well and mix to bring together.
  3. Tip the dough onto a lightly floured work surface and knead for 8-10 minutes until you have a smooth elastic dough. Place in a large flour dusted bowl, cover with a damp tea towel and leave in a warm place for 45-60 minutes until the dough has doubled in size.
  4. Preheat the oven to 270C/250C fan/highest gas mark and place a flat oven tray or pizza stone on the middle shelf.
  5. Place a non-stick pan on a high heat.
  6. Divide the dough into 3 and shape into a small ball. Dust the surface of the dough generously with semolina and press the dough, flattening using your hand until you have a round even shape.
  7. Pick the dough up and stretch it out, rotating as you go to maintain a round shape. Place the dough on the surface so it catches the semolina on the bottom then carefully place into the hot frying pan.
  8. Spread 3-4 tbsp of the tomato sauce evenly over the base. Sprinkle over the grated mozzarella, mozzarella balls and half of the basil leaves, then drizzle with the oil. 
  9. Place in the oven and cook for 12-15 minutes until the base is golden and crisp and the toppings are melted. Scatter the remaining basil on top and serve.

What have you been cooking and baking during lockdown? Tell us in the comments below