Blog

Our stories of ‘sanity saving sourdough’ during lockdown 2020…

Who knew what the reality of lockdown would be?

Who really had any idea?

I know I didn’t.

For us, my husband continued to work, being considered a key worker, and my 18 year old son’s school life and A level exams suddenly got completely wiped out. But for me, I work for myself, I work from home anyway, so I didn’t foresee much difference…except for having the added extra of my son’s lovely company every day…

How wrong I was; I have literally lived through one of the busiest, if not THE busiest, periods of my life.

Let me explain: I set this website up a couple of years ago to share my process for making sourdough simply, successfully, and consistently, for anyone who wanted to make it at home. I see and read so many over complicated recipes, numerous processes with unnecessary and excessive steps, and I knew it didn’t need to be so hard and so seemingly inaccessible, so I decided to build this website and to share my process and tips with anyone who might be interested. I was already sharing my loaves on Instagram and people seemed to like them, so I set up my Facebook page and then my group, to chat and to share more of what I was doing.

I had no idea if there would be any interest, I thought I would share my sourdough world with my friends and family, and that would be it. But the interest in sourdough has been building over the last few years and my audience has grown along the way and I now have a whole lovely extended family of ‘foodbodders’. It’s been amazing, and a source of great joy to be able to help people all over the world to make great healthy tasty homemade bread.

Enter lockdown. And that level of interest went supernova! On an average day during lockdown I have answered hundreds, no exaggeration, literally hundreds, of messages, emails and comments per day.

And why? Because during lockdown the interest in making sourdough grew exponentially. I think there are several reasons this happened; suddenly people who have always wanted to give it a go had the time, then others saw what they were doing, and saw the press stories, and fancied having a go and got involved too. Supplies of commercial yeast also run dry so people were looking for alternatives and making a sourdough starter and generating your own yeast became the perfect answer.

And with that comes questions and feedback and cries for help. Sourdough has a magical capacity to turn minds to jelly at the best of times, add in the heightened emotions of the Covid 19 situation, and insecurities for some sourdough newcomers were even greater than would normally have been. At the same time flour shortages hit, so that threw in more confusion and a lot of questions about different flours and alternative options. The beauty of this though is that it gave people the chance to try flours they may have never used otherwise, as well as learning just how different the outcome of sourdough can be depending on the flour you use.

For a sourdough lover like me, lockdown has been an amazing time. It has been a joy to see so many people getting involved and being able to share this amazing joy from my kitchen to theirs. Sourdough saved so many peoples’ sanity during a time of such uncertainty; it gave people a chance to see how you can take the basics of flour and water and make a starter, the positivity of nature and creation, as well as the timely reassurance of renewal and growth. They enjoyed watching their starters come to life in front of their eyes; it’s been a welcome reminder that life goes on. They also enjoyed the welcome distraction of looking after their starters, creating their doughs and producing their loaves.

I’ve been sent photos of loaves baked using my process during lockdown from every corner of the globe; the excitement when people unveil their first loaves is palpable. And it’s enabled them to create their own heathy, homemade bread to enjoy with their families and share with others. People have told me about local virtual baking groups they’ve created, family and friends’ sourdough WhatsApp groups, how they have been sharing their starters, doing produce swaps for flours, baked loaves for their families and neighbours, provided bread for vulnerable isolated neighbours. It’s been infectious, as much because sourdough is so rewarding, but also it’s a satisfying, fulfilling process. It’s something people can get lost in and excited about, and we all needed some of that during lockdown.

The other question I’m asked is this: do I think the interest will continue once restrictions lift and people go back to work?

And my answer is: I truly hope so. Lockdown enabled people to start making sourdough from scratch, and gain experience whilst they had the time. And that doesn’t need to stop.

Sourdough is the healthiest form of bread we can eat, making our own means we know exactly what is in it, and those benefits and that joy can continue. It can also easily be made during a working week. So yes, I think the interest will continue and I hope that people enjoy their new found interest and skill and happy baking!

But the point of this post is about how sourdough has helped peopled through such an unprecedented uncertain time. For me, I’ve been too busy to think; I haven’t had time to dwell on things, I haven’t had time to worry, plus it’s made time fly. I’ve talked to people all over the world daily, shared sourdough help as well as lockdown stories. Between helping others and looking after my home and family, I haven’t had time to be scared. It’s been a gift in so many ways.

So how about you? How has sourdough helped you through lockdown?

I’d love you to comment and share your experiences and build a living diary of our sourdough lockdown experiences. It may prove to be inspirational, even cathartic, or just interesting to see read others’ experiences.

Below are some stories from just a few of my bakers that you may find sound familiar to your experiences…

“Baking in general has always been a form of therapy for me. However, these last few weeks it has proven to be a life-saver or rather a “sanity-saver”. Sourdough baking with its processes, feeding and folds is something I can get lost in and something I can be a part of. I can control nearly everything happening in my loaf and that grounds me. Something else it has shown me (although I already knew this) is that my favourite part of baking is sharing. Sourdough has become an integral part of my life, one that brings me happiness and comfort, specially these last weeks.”

Aranzazu García Tomás, English teacher from Zaragoza, Spain

“My sourdough journey started last October, I was laid up after having an op on my foot. I was totally immobile so I started browsing ‘sourdough starters’  and baking sourdough bread, and there started my addiction. I spent two weeks reading and watching everything about sourdough, and when I could hobble around, I thought I’d give it a go.

Suffice to say it’s been an up and down journey, my first two loaves stuck so much to the pot I had to soak them in water to get the ‘bread’ out, I say bread, it was inedible.

But I persevered and it’s now a passion beyond anything I’ve done before.

Sourdough grounds me, the whole process, feeding my starter, watching it rise, mixing the dough and then the magic happens in the oven.  I’m a mental health worker in the NHS, the lockdown has had a huge impact in my line of work, mental health of the nation has really suffered.  So to come home, start a loaf, whether we need one or not is my way of putting the work day down.  For me, sourdough is almost ‘ mindful’ it grounds me and brings me back to what I love about making sourdough bread, it’s a joy and has kept me sane during lockdown.  Of course another side of the coin is my work colleagues love it as they see the fruits of my labour, it’s a win win scenario in tough times.  I feel truly blessed, especially currently to have not only the ability to make bread but to have to sourdough community which has been a huge help during lockdown. 

Sourdough is now a way of life for me, shop brought bread is a thing of last year and never to come into my home.  I make delicious, wholesome bread at home, it may not always win the beauty contest for looks  but who cares?

Some people close to me having jokingly said I’m “obsessed” with sourdough, I’d like to call it passionate, whatever it may be , I don’t care as long as I’m baking sourdough, I’m happy.”

Karen Tacey, Community Support Worker, Nottingham

“Sanity saving sourdough in lockdown. Three months ago this would have given me pause, before I began research into their meaning. Now after living with this since March 5, 2020 I understand much too well. Spending most of those three months alone has been much harder than one could appreciate at the outset. I am a retired critical care RN of nearly 40 years. I take care of people and make them better. I am a mother of three and “Nan” to 1 grandson. Suddenly I had to stay at home to stay safe-virus free. My sourdough starter, Olivia, was born December 10, 2018 and help me produce many loaves of wonderful bread for my children(all in their 30’s). I could still bake bread for them and arrange transport… or so I thought.

With the panic of jobs closing, people forced to stay home and schools closing there was also a ‘panic buying’of cleaning products, masks, toilet paper and flour! This is when I became actually frightened. Sourdough bread was important to how I take care of my family now. I realized I could still bake, but I must be smart. I could still produce bread for my kids and myself, but only perhaps once a week. I could still feed my starter, Olivia and drink in the sweet sour smell and watch her bloom over a few hours. I could still mix Olivia into a beautiful stretchy dough and let them work together under my guidance. The touch and smell of this dough kept my feet on the ground. Eventually, after much searching, I was able to find bread flour to order that did not come in 100 pound bags! I ordered my flower, but it still took three anxious weeks to come, or maybe a bit longer. What a wonderful day that was when that flour came!

Perhaps one of the biggest pieces of my sanity anchors, besides making my bread, is the Facebook group I’ve been inspired by- Sourdough with foodbod. I lurked in the shadows a bit and became so inspired by so many sourdough bakers from all over the world. Elaine Boddy and all her moderators are there to help and inspire! That is what a lockdown baking community should be- inspiration and how to continue baking in our new normal.”

Lesley Fuson, Nashville, Tennessee, USA

Please read on in the comments to read Kristen’s fabulous story and then do please add your own…let’s build our own living history of how sourdough has helped us through lockdown and show the world how wonderful this sourdough world of our is…

Please note that your comment will not show immediately; it is not lost, check back in a little while and it will show up.

Cheese and ketchup sourdough babka loaf…

One of the things I love is that I can use my master recipe dough in so many ways, whatever I fancy making, I can use the same dough as a base. Including lots of the creations in my recipe index, and this latest creation from my kitchen: a cheese and ketchup sourdough babka loaf.

I chose to use cheese and ketchup in this loaf because I knew my son would love it, but you could choose any fillings of your choice: cheese and marmite, cheese and pesto, cheese and chilli sauce, cheese and whatever takes your fancy basically! Or, use the same basis for a sweet loaf..the possibilities are endless!

In this loaf, the cheese melted and the tomato sauce caramelised across the surface to produce something magical!

I was so pleased with how this came out, it made such a soft tasty loaf. To see exactly how I made it, check out my video here.

Whatever you choose to fill it with, I hope you love it!

Spiced spinach sesame seed sourdough flatbreads…

My flatbreads served with a plate full of leftover roast vegetables, ajvar, zaatar and tahini

I do like a ‘chuck it all in a bowl and see what happens’ kind of creation, which is what these were…I’ve made many spinach flatbreads in the past, but this was the first time adding some starter. It adds an extra flavour and of course, all that sourdough goodness we love!

These are also packed with great healthy ingredients and are a great way to get kids eating spinach! You can use them as flatbreads or make bigger rounds and use them as a pizza base.

Equally great the next day, the flavours continued to develop

This recipe can serve as a basis for something you might fancy making, you can swap out the ingredients for things of your choice or just follow it as it is. I’ve included the spices I used, feel free to swap these for your favourites, an Indian inspired spice mix works well too.

Ingredients

200g starter (this can be discarded starter, unfed, or fed for the purpose)

250g baby spinach leaves

150g flour of your choice, I used buckwheat flour

50g toasted sesame seeds

3 tablespoons tahini or olive oil

3 garlic cloves, peeled

2 teaspoons tabil spice mix (toasted even amounts of coriander, cumin and carraway seeds, ground)

2 teaspoons pul biber chilli flakes

2 teaspoons paprika

Salt and pepper to taste

All in the bowl

Method

In a blender whizz up the everything expect the sesame seeds, starter and flour. Run it until the spinach and garlic are finally chopped.

Scoop it all into a mixing bowl, stir in the seeds, then fold in the starter and flour.

Cover the bowl and leave the dough to settle and develop.

Now you can leave the dough for an hour, or several or overnight. The longer you leave it the more the flavour will develop, it may even prove and little and puff up.

When you want to cook your flatbreads, heat your oven to 180C fan/200C non fan.

Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and break off portions. Shape them into round then flatten them out to 1/2cm thick.

Place them onto a oven tray. Either bake immediately or cover and allow them to prove again for an hour before baking.

The uncooked dough is such a great colour and smells amazing

Bake for 10-15 minutes until slightly puffed and darker in colour.

Eat warm or store for later, they’re even better after 2-3 days, and can easily be reheated in a toaster.

Enjoy!

I hope you like them!

More top tips…

Some more top tips for you and answers to the questions I am most often asked…
🌟🌟🌟🌟
Give your starter time, it may look like it’s doing nothing, but it’s building strength, stick with it
🌟
If your starter is thin with tiny bubbles, add extra flour to thicken it up, it needs the extra food
🌟
If your starter has a layer of murky liquid in the top, it’s not ruined, it’s just hungry. Feed it! And make sure you are not keeping it anywhere too warm, the heat will make it constantly thin and weak
🌟
Don’t keep your starter in the oven with the light on, it’s too hot, it will work too fast and always be too thin and weak
🌟
The flour you have made your starter from does not need to match the flour in your dough
🌟
Follow the process steps and allow your dough time to do its work
🌟
Don’t leave dough on the oven overnight with the light on, it will over prove and be spoiled
🌟
Check out all of the info on my site about flour, weather, scoring, storing, the FAQs, baking times takes, there’s lots of free info there for you
🌟
Check out the equipment list, and….
🌟
If you don’t have a banneton, line a similar sized bowl with a clean tea towel and sprinkle it with rice flour
🌟
If you don’t have rice flour, grind some uncooked rice, it’s the same thing
🌟
You can use any covered oven proof pan just make sure it’s big enough
🌟
Sourdough is a wonderfully slow process, let it happen and enjoy it, it will be worth it
🌟
Watch your dough and not the clock
🌟
Give your dough time to double overnight; depending on the temperature overnight this may take shorter or longer than my usual times stated in my master recipe
🌟
If your dough is soft and spreads, use 25g less water in your dough next time
🌟
If you dough spreads when you turn it out in the pan, but bakes up to a lovely loaf, don’t worry about the spreading, enjoy your loaf
🌟🌟🌟🌟
Always my biggest and most important tip:
🌟🌟🌟🌟
If it tastes good IT IS GOOD!
🌟🌟🌟🌟
Don’t focus on looks and holes and scoring, they don’t make it taste any better, enjoy what you’ve created, it’s amazing x x
🌟🌟🌟🌟

Top tips for new sourdough creators…

The massive surge of interest in sourdough during the lockdown has been amazing, I am literally inundated with messages and emails from dawn til dusk. A lot of them are from people asking for help as they make new starters, others are asking about how to use the various flours they’ve managed to get hold of.

If you’ve recently joined the sourdough fun and are making a starter, have made one, or are struggling getting flour, I thought I’d share some tips in case it’s useful..

*You only need small amounts of flour to make a sourdough starter.
*You can use any flour to make a starter, ideally not gluten free flour although it can be done, it will be a lot weaker.
*You don’t need to feed your starter the same flour it was made from if you’ve now run out.
*Once your starter is established, you only need to feed it to use it, daily feedings are no longer necessary.
*It doesn’t need feeding again to store it.
*Only feed your starter what it needs to generate what you need for your recipe, this way there’s no waste and you’re not using unnecessary flour.
*You don’t need to work to ratios or percentages.
*The flour you made your starter from does not need to match the flour you make your dough from.

If I can help anyone with their starter do let me know. And if you’ve got random flours and would like some ideas for using them I’m starters or doughs, let me know too.

Goats cheese and pesto sourdough waffles

Let me introduce you to my most recent creation….it all began when I bought a waffle maker recently, possibly a huge mistake for my waistline, but so much fun to play with!

Making waffles with starter adds the lovely flavour we all adore, as well as a great texture.

I’m a savoury eater, so you could convert this easily for a sweet option but let me assure you that these are worth trying.

I used just starter, egg, goats cheese and some tomato pesto. It’s great way to use discard if you’re making a new starter, or using up some if you’ve been building up too much, or feed up your starter for the purpose then portion out what you need for the recipe.

You could also use less starter and top up the rest of the mixture with flour and water. Personally I prefer them made with all starter for the flavour.

Ingredients

Makes 1 round/4 quarters (double the quantities for 2 rounds)

200g starter (discard, unfed, fed and active and stirred down)

OR 100g starter, as above, plus 50g flour of your choice & 50g water

1 large egg

50g crumbly goats cheese (or cheese of your choice)

25g pesto of your choice (or harissa, chilli sauce, whatever you fancy)

Method

Heat your waffle maker to maximum.

Stir all of the ingredients together well, but don’t break up the goats cheese too much. Let it sit for 10 minutes to thicken.

Once the waffle maker is ready, pour all of the mixture in (it all fitted perfectly in mine, assess how much yours needs from your own experience), close the maker and cook for 10-15 minutes or until there’s no more steam coming from your maker.

Carefully ease the cooked waffles from the maker, cut into quarters and serve.

Tuck in as soon as cool enough to hold!

If you don’t have a waffle maker, maybe add a little extra flour and try these as pancakes or flatbreads?

My waffle maker is made by Netta and I ordered it on amazon.

A guide to making sourdough pancakes…

Making pancakes with sourdough starter is simple, fast and oh so satisfying! It’s also a perfect way to use up discard if you are making a new starter, or using up some if you’ve found that you’ve started keeping too much starter.

Alternatively, feed your starter for the purpose. Build it up so that you have 100-200g of starter then mix it with milk of your choice, and an egg or egg replacement, and, if you feel the batter needs it, extra flour. Whisk it all up together.

*If you are feeding your starter solely for making pancakes, just feed it more than normal to create what you need. If you’re using discard it doesn’t need feeding or any additional attention, just use it as it is.

*As a guide, I whisk 150-200g starter with 1 egg and then enough milk to make the batter I want, depending on whether I’m making crepes or scotch/American pancakes. Thinner for crepes, thicker for the smaller thicker pancakes.

*You can use any type of starter and any type of flour to make your pancakes, I use whatever takes my fancy, hence the different colours of mine shown here.

*Make the batter as thin or thick as you usually would for pancakes.

*Let it sit until you’re ready to use it, or use immediately. If you’re going to let it sit, maybe for 1-2 hours, it will ferment a little and develop some more flavour, just cover the bowl until you’re ready to use it. It can sit at room temp. I usually use mine immediately.

*Heat a large pan over a medium heat and melt some butter in the pan. Spoon in a ladle full of batter and cook until ready, turning halfway once the base has browned.

*Eat the pancakes with your choice of sweet or savoury fillings.

I used 2 of my sourdough pancakes to make quesadillas, I filled 2 with a homemade chilli sauce and grated cheese and melted them together
Tasty sourdough quesadillas

Bee pollen sourdough…

I was very lucky recently to be sent some bee pollen by one of my very kind Instagram followers. I’ve had bee pollen before, but not like this, this one is a vibrant yellow with lovely fat granules. Sourdough loves bee pollen, it loves the natural wild yeast and sugars that it brings to the party.

For this loaf I played with a new starter adding bee pollen to it from the beginning, and you’ll see from the photos in the grid below that it went a bit wild! It was very exciting to wake up to. Once I’d stirred it down and fed it again the next morning, it was still active and bubbly and ready to use within an hour.

This is what I used to make this loaf, however, you do NOT need to make a new starter yourself. If you would like to see how much starters like bee pollen, feed up your starter, split some out into a new bowl and feed it for a couple of days with your usual flour and water and a good amount of bee pollen before giving it a go. Or if you fancy making a new starter with some, then go for it! I didn’t measure out the bee pollen, I used a dessert sized spoon amount each time I added some.

Top left: the bee pollen;
top right and bottom left: my happy starter after an overnight bee pollen feed; bottom right: an hour after a feed of flour and water that morning

To make my loaf, I used my master recipe, exactly as it is (link on the left of your screen) with this bee pollen boosted starter. You can also add the bee pollen to your dough instead.

For this loaf I used my 28cm long oval banneton and baked in my 30cm long oval pan from a cold start for 55 minutes. It’s all in my recipe 👍🏻

And this was inside the cut loaf. You can see the yellow tint from the bee pollen. Although bee pollen is sweet it does not make your loaf sweet using this small amount, but it does make the sourness more mild, and really produces a great texture, really fabulously chewy! It was a lovely loaf to eat.

If you do try it, I hope you like it!

My breakfast mix loaf…

I’ll be honest, I absolutely love this loaf; the smell, texture and flavour is wonderful! I’ve made a small version before but this time I made a full sized loaf…

I made this loaf with dough that I added a portion of my breakfast mix to. My breakfast mix is packed with oats, seeds and spices, hence the amazing colour from the turmeric, so this loaf is packed with character, as well as the goodness of sourdough and the benefits of all those added ingredients. It is literally a loaf full of fabulousness and goodness!

Here’s what I did:

🌟 I used my master recipe with 400g of type 00 flour (you can use bread flour) with 100g of my breakfast mix (below) to make it up to my usual 500g. I did everything else the same as usual.

🌟 I proved the dough on the counter for a total of 17 hours, this can be a slow dough to prove due to the dough being heavy, the effect of the spices on the dough. Watch it and allow it time to double in size but don’t worry if it takes longer than you’re used to.

🌟 I then pulled the dough together into a ball, rolled it in oats and placed it into my banneton and into the fridge. This video shows how I add the oats for the crust.

🌟 I turned it out, scored and baked it from a cold start 12 hours later. And here it is….

And here’s the inside view…you can see the colour the spices added and peeks of some of the seeds…

My breakfast mix is something I put together in large batches to eat as porridge every morning. I don’t measure it so this is a guide by eye and memory based on filling a large jar:

🌟 70% oats (I use a mix of rolled and thick cut/steel cut oats)

🌟 15% mixed roasted seeds (I use pumpkin, sunflower and linseeds)

🌟 10% milled flaxseeds

🌟 5% my spice mix

Sometimes I throw in chopped roasted nuts or toasted flaked almonds, depending what takes my fancy and what’s it my cupboard.

For the spice mix, again, I never measure out any of the spices, so this is a guide based on what I put in a jar and then shake it up to mix it:

🌟 60% ground cinnamon

🌟 15% ground ginger

🌟 10% ground turmeric

🌟 5% ground nutmeg

🌟 5% ground cardamom

🌟 5% ground cloves & ground black pepper

If you try it, I hope you like it!