TOILET rolls may have been the most sought-after supermarket item at the start of the lockdown, but as the weeks have passed by, products such as flour and yeast have also started to mysteriously dwindle.

The culprits responsible for the cookery aisle’s empty shelves are north Essex’s budding Paul Hollywoods and Mary Berrys, who have turned to home baking since the start of the pandemic in order to pass the time.

Everything from colourful rainbow cakes and freshly-baked breads to homemade biscuits and stunning birthday cakes, have been created by master chefs young and old.

Gazette: Bakers - Sami, and Saleem, 4, helped make a birthday cakeBakers - Sami, and Saleem, 4, helped make a birthday cake

The attraction of producing something edible and entirely from scratch has been explored for a variety of reasons.

For some parents, for example, baking has provided them with a way to keep both their children occupied and their creative sides stimulated.

For others, it has proved to be therapeutic and a way to keep mentally focussed during the anxiety-inducing affects of lockdown and a global pandemic.

And for everyone it has provided tasty treats to cheer the body and the soul.

Natasha Pearson, 46, for example, has produced a variety of sweet and savoury dishes during the lockdown.

She says being able to apply herself to something creative proved to be an enormous help in coping with the coronavirus pandemic.

She said: “Cooking has kept me sane if I’m honest.

“There is nothing quite like putting on some good music and getting stuck into a good recipe to ease the boredom.

“Plus you get something yummy at the end of it.”

Gazette: Cute - Heath-Hunter helps his mum make a cakeCute - Heath-Hunter helps his mum make a cake

Clearly the escapism of baking can provide people with much more than just a stunning cake or lovely loaf.

So, as part of what we are calling the Great Lockdown Bake Off, we have compiled some our readers’ best and most ambitious baking efforts in celebration of the tasty art form.

Enjoy the gallery.