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…

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62 thoughts on “Our stories of ‘sanity saving sourdough’ during lockdown 2020…”

  1. Lockdown has given me a new lease of life in terms of meal planning, baking but more importantly baking our own sourdough.

    I kept seeing people making their own starters at the beginning of lockdown when everyone was panic buying. I kept thinking it was going to be too difficult to do (plus the fact I couldn’t get hold of flour)

    With some help from a friend she gave me the confidence to try. And wow! I’m so proud of myself. Struggling with anxiety during a pandemic isn’t pretty so this has given me something to positive to focus on and we love baking our bread together. They may not be truly perfect every time but we love them all and they are so tasty!!

  2. I started making sour dough bread during lockdown, when my son in law sent me a dried starter, which in line came from Elaine. I have been hooked ever since and it has given me a new purpose in life. I am on the high risk list so cannot go out apart from short walks, so in between I make things with my starter or with the discard, I enjoy both just as much and in fact I am making a chocolate cake today with discard and also have pizza dough prepping from the starter. I have been one of the lucky ones and have a good supply of flours, I know some havnt been so lucky. I so enjoy Elaines site https://www.facebook.com/groups/503584793435810/?fref=nf everyone is so helpful with any question large or small.

  3. I started sourdough as a lark. I did not have any instructions or anyone to help me. Nobody I knew at that time, knew anything about sourdough.

    Fast forward 2 years, I was diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes. After doing the research, I found that sourdough is the only bread that is truly safe for diabetics.

    It was during this time, I met Elaine. Her method and teaching changed my sourdough journey forever.

    Fast forward again 1 year, COVID-19 strikes the State of California.

    As an essential service, I was out in the fray daily. Sourdough and my baking was my release from the stress.

    But, on 5/18, I was furloughed from my job. This was and still is an upsetting time for me. There’s been an issue with my unemployment and I’m not collecting anything yet.

    Now, my baking has taken on an entirely new dimension. It is literally keeping me busy and active.

    I have learned new ways. Used new flours that I would never have purchased in the past. I’ve experimented with new sourdough recipes.

    I have been able to learn more in the last few weeks than with my normal baking.

  4. I am loving these stories so much! Elaine, you will probably never know how much you’ve changed our lives, but with these narratives we can at least give it a try!

  5. Following on my friend Elaine’s heartfelt description of her sourdough journey throughout this unprecedented pandemic and lockdown, I would like to share my own experiences in this quirky, personal community.

    I was first introduced to the possibility of making my own sourdough bread two years ago when, on an annual food writers’ outing to a seaside town, one of our group brought along his sourdough starter and offered a two-day tutorial for us all. It was fascinating to witness the 24-hour process, though at the time I had no idea what skill was on display, and how difficult I would find the job myself. Our friend, Orlando Murrin, now President of the Guild of Food Writers for which I work, sent each of us who were interested home with a bit of his starter, so we could get to work in our own kitchens.

    I was a dismal failure. Somehow, I killed his starter, to begin with. I tried to produce my own starter, but either the bacteria in SE1 weren’t up to snuff, or the stars were unaligned for me. Undeterred, I signed myself up for a lesson at the venerable Bread Ahead Bakery at our local Borough Market, but that, as enjoyable as it was, was basically sleight of hand. Pizzas, rye loaves, focaccia, were all produced effortlessly, because all the hard work had been done for us – giving birth to and raising the starter, managing the day-long process of fermentation. I was none the wiser, really. I went so far as to order a starter from eBay! The sad, watery thing that arrived in my mailbox in a zipped plastic bag died, needless to say, on my kitchen counter.

    Orlando could not understand. “You get this expression on your face when you talk about these things you find so difficult. I call it your ‘Dropbox/Sourdough” expression, when you’re just determined not to understand something. It’s child’s play, really, perfectly natural, to make sourdough.” My child would not, apparently, play nicely.

    We went off to America for the summer and I tried to create a starter there, at our Connecticut farmhouse, where surely there was a plethora of healthy bacteria to feed it. Nothing. I now wonder if I was hampered by using only plain white flour, not knowing there were other choices that could be more nutritious for my little experiment. I went on to visit my mother-in-law in Iowa and gave birth to quite a promising starter on her screened-in porch, only to have it explode in my suitcase on the way home to London. Epic fail!

    I made several other starts and stops, leading my frustrated husband to say at one point, “Oh, if only we lived above a Gail’s Bakery… wait… we DO. Give it a rest!” But I couldn’t. Finally, at lunch with a friend one fine autumn weekend, I had a hunch about her. “You look like someone who bakes sourdough bread,” I ventured, and she smiled a yes, and sent me home with some of her starter. And then things took off. I baked successfully several times, but not very regularly. It was so much easier to pop into Gail’s!

    Then the pandemic hit. I took my starter, called Tacy after my beloved tortoiseshell cat, from the fridge and woke her up. We became fast friends. I discovered strong bread flour before there were shortages, and participated in a wonderful Zoom sourdough tutorial with my Guild friends, led by the magnificent David Jones of Manna From Devon, who walked us through the crucial shaping stages. I watched Jack on YouTube! I delved into Elaine Boddy’s wonderful, supportive, simple instructions that insist the bread-making work into your life, not the other way round. My husband brought hairnets by the dozen for me online to shelter my proving dough, I sought out rye, wholemeal and spelt flours, and the crucial rice flour for rendering my banneton stick-free. I was on fire.

    The greatest miracle happened when my bell-ringing friend Eva asked if I could talk her through learning to bake sourdough. I decided it was time to send my Tacy starter out into the wider world, and we met up in Bermondsey Spa Park, masked and social-distanced, and I left a portion of Tacy on a park bench for Eva. From there, she fed her into her own “Ophelia,” and after five days, we video-conferenced her through stretching and folding, how much salt, fermentation. She discovered in her furnished (very furnished!) flat an unexpected banneton, and rice flour! There was no stopping us, as a twosome. Her first loaf emerged as perfect as if she had been baking for years, and Ophelia has been going strong ever since.

    I’ve gone from my “Dropbox/Sourdough expression” to someone who’s talked at least six people on Facebook through building a starter and producing their own loaves. We’ve eaten dozens of loaves during lockdown in our little household, and everyone shares in my joy when the starter is particularly bubbly, when the scoring goes well, when the lid come off the Dutch oven to that “ta-da” moment, when I achieved my first “ear.” No one minds the constant sprinkling of dehydrated starter sprinkling the kitchen countertop. During these uncertain times, everyone is solaced by the smell of the bread baking, by having to wait that torturous hour to cut into the loaf, by the joy of spreading butter, piling tomatoes, roasted aubergines, Marmite, peanut butter, or marmalade onto these slices of something magical that cost almost nothing to make. I feel intense joy at watching my family devour half a loaf in one sitting. “Doesn’t that make you sad?” my daughter asked once. “To see something you worked so hard for, and put so much time into, disappear so quickly?”

    Nothing could be farther from the truth.

  6. Having been furloughed since the end of March, with no date to return to work yet, I’ve had a lot of free time on my hands. I went from being busy all day every day to having very little to do (well after I did the usual tidy ups/painting etc). I found myself worried and anxious about what was going on in the country and baking was my way to relax! I went from baking one loaf a week before lockdown to baking most days. I’ve been baking sourdough for almost a year and I never get tired of seeing the end results when you take it out the oven or when you first cut into a loaf. This has given me the time to experiment with different recipes (not all have worked) and try out sourdough pizzas, bagels, rolls etc. I’ve even set up an Instagram page just for my bread meaning I get to see lots of amazing loaves that other people have made. Now things have eased off a bit, I’ve been taking bread to family as gifts meaning I can still bake as often but there’s more chance I’ll fit in my uniform when I finally go back to work 🤣

  7. Covid came. ..then along came my new pet. Cyril my sourdough starter
    having tried sourdough in the past but with hefty discards and “waste” of ingredients I went to search a better way with less Faff…I found Elaines website and master recipe and have not looked back since .
    sharing triumphs and disasters.and let’s put our great British Sumner in the mix of “how to’s “and what ifs “.a community grew and the secret to happy dough will live on

  8. Covid came. ..then along came my new pet. Cyril my sourdough starter
    having tried sourdough in the past but with hefty discards and “waste” of ingredients I went to search a better way with less Faff…I found Elaines website and master recipe and have not looked back since .
    sharing triumphs and disasters.and let’s put our great British Sumner in the mix of “how to’s “and what ifs “.a community grew and the secret to happy dough will live on

  9. I started making sourdough during lockdown (here in New Zealand) as I was home and had the time to have a go. I watched various you tubes and got a starter underway. I have been enjoying the process (& the result). I intend to keep making sourdough, even though we are now no longer on lockdown. It is fun and I enjoy that it takes time and that each time I make a loaf I don’t really know what it might turn out like. There’s something deeply meditative about that. Whilst there’s a process and a recipe, it’s also something that can be adjusted (& sometimes needs to be) – I like that. I am very pleased to have found so many great YouTube’s and blogs with different methods and recipes, so I could play and find something that I enjoy doing (& playing with). Thanks! Perhaps good things take time and so sourdough is enjoyable on many levels.

  10. I totally agree, with everything you’ve said, thank you for adding your story xx

  11. My sourdough journey began the first part of April, 2020, when I began thinking of breaking out a packaged sourdough starter that I had ordered from Amazon sometime during the first of the year; I was waiting for “the right time to start”. Then came the lockdown to protect us from Covid19. I am at risk due to a weakened immune system, and my husband and I are well over 60, so our grown children insisted we isolate ourselves, so we did.
    I did a little research on the internet on sourdough baking and just felt confused about the whole thing. Then I started working the starter I had purchased. I had nothing but bleached white flour on hand, and the store shelves were empty and Amazon was out of everything, so I proceeded with the flour I had. After a few weeks, I decided my starter was a flop and threw it out.. After some more research, I stirred up another starter with some unbleached flour that someone found for me. Long story short, it finally started working about the same time my son’s neighbor gave me her starter a few weeks ago. Now I have two very active starters, and I’m having a ball baking sourdough goodies.
    Baking has helped me through these past weeks while we’ve been quarantined, by occupying both my time and my mind. I found your site Elaine, about two weeks ago, and by just jumping in and baking and following your easy, clear and generous advice and methods, I’m having lots of “Ah Ha” moments! I’m also enjoying your blog, and getting lots of advice and input from your FaceBook site. I’m in Southern CA, and baking supplies are becoming a little more available lately, so between our children and other extended family and friends, my baking supplies are ok. I’m looking forward to trying some different grains when things loosen up a bit more and baking supplies become more available. Thank you for this wonderful, inspiring place we can all go to learn, share and get your expert knowledge so easily. Sourdough baking has definitely lightened the burden of the lockdown and I believe I’m on my way to having a new obsession!

  12. Oh wow, thank you, what a great story, I love it! And I hope you continue to enjoy the journey xx

  13. I’ve always been a cook… can easily entertain 20+ to a 5 course plated dinner… but I’ve not ever considered myself a baker. I didn’t do cake and cookies…. not for lack of desire, but I had never really seen it done growing up and I felt like knitting or sewing, or cooking, baking was something you were born into. It seemed untenable.

    The 6 months before Covid (while being treated for breast cancer and with too much time on my hands and nothing to do) I had started to expand my cooking to try different cuisines. Chinese, Greek, Middle Eastern. A lot of the Mediterranean stuff involved using my oven. I had the chance to work with puff and filo pastry. Enter covid 2020. The first few months we were hyper safe because I was still in treatment and vulnerable. The desire to eat bread and not be able to go out and buy any had me starting to explore the possibilities.

    I had some instant yeast and the America’s Test Kitchen Bread Illustrated book. I simultaneously reconnected with two friends from high school on Facebook who bake often and they became my coaches. With nothing to do we formed a baking coalition of sorts sharing recipes and tips. I started working my way through that book with my friends to help when needed, and realized how bread wasn’t hard as much as it requires some patience. It took the fear out of bread making for me.

    My mom prefers whole wheat bread and lucky, I had a garage full of random flour my mom had been buying to make Indian flat breads which I could use to experiment with. She also had a bag of rye flour. I got online and found a recipe for a sourdough starter using rye.

    Then I went back to facebook and joined a sourdough group. Then 2. Then I found your videos on YouTube and then your group! I now make 2 loaves of sourdough a week for the adults at home (large joint family) and various white yeasted breads for the kids. I don’t think I could ever go back to shop bought bread.

    A million thank you’s to you and all the other you tubers who post videos to help take the sting out for those of us who didn’t know we too could make great bread at home 💕

  14. I had lost my identity as a singer in choir and as a Bedside Singer in Hospice.Total newbie who fell down the hole of dough! I am alone with my wee dog and now bake and walk the hallways to give away my baking.Still learning,my brain is capable of doing this and I love the positive nature of this group.
    Bake on my friends.

  15. I I have no covid sanity stories to share. My life hasn’t changed a great deal since our world fell apart. I’m still employed, go to work everyday as my profession is considered essential. I am so thankful and count that as a wonderful blessing because it allows me to have the necessary grains and flours to continue baking.

    However… Many individuals around me think I’m totally insane.

    Most shake their heads when they discover that I grind my own flour, coddle and feed my starter pet and even though there are only two of us in the house, I’ll bake anywhere from 4 to 12 loaves a week. I do this simply to give most of it away. To family, to friends and to our neighbors. Bread has opened up the relationships in our small street. Before we all stayed to ourselves. Now we greet each other and even lend a helping hand without having anyone having to ask for help. Maybe Covid has played into that as well. .

    I did this before Covid. I plan to do it long after.

    Covid has brought many hardships to a lot of families. It also has helped many slow down and realize sometimes the simple things are the best… like learning sourdough and breaking bread together.

    I give my dried starter away to all that is interested, and when they take it I always direct them here. To the Foodbod Master Recipe.

    Thank you Elaine for sharing your process with us.

  16. Thank you so much, Natasha, I hope you continue to enjoy it and are doing well now xx

  17. Thank you, Debra, your baking is amazing, and I love that you’re sharing your bread and starter with others xx

  18. I live in Canada, and my sourdough journey began 3 1/2 years ago when my husband bought me a Kitchen Aid mixer for Christmas. My bestie had been baking and gifting me with sourdough for years, and so I though I should give it a try. But it wasn’t until I came across this site that my process became simplified, and my passion exponentially exploded. The passion was always there, but the angst and the stress were also there, as well, I would measure down to the gram…after all this process was deeply scientific, or so I read! It was downright exhausting.

    Then along came Covid. And with it, no toilet paper, no yeast, no flour….but I had flour, and I didn’t need yeast, and I had enough TP to get me through most crap…and I had neighbors, and friends who were yearning to make sourdough. And so…..in the beginning there was sourdough starter, and the sourdough starter multiplied, and went forth into new homes and multiplied and gave friends and neighbors satisfaction and purpose, joy and passion during these times of uncertainty. And gave me great satisfaction and purpose to contribute to community and friends, and the courage to go forth and experiment myself.

    Thank you Elaine, for your sensible approach to sourdough…you’ve saved me countless hours, and untold amounts of stress. You’ve become larger than life in my life, and I recommend your website to anyone who wants a simplified approach to sourdough creation.

  19. Thank you so much, Taylor, your story, and support, is lovely x x x x

  20. I have baked bread since I was 10 years old and took the bread project in 4-H. I’ve been baking with sourdough since the early 1970s when I was given starter in Cheyenne, WY. I was told at the time that starter was over 100 years old. I have been baking with it since then, so now it’s over 150 years old. (I know it’s not really that old because it renews and changes with locale, but just saying …. ) I’ve moved to 14 different locales since the 1970s and took it with me to all, even South Korea. For travel to South Korea, I put my starter in a small jar inside several plastic zip bags. Since it was July, the starter grew and left the jar, but stayed in the plastic bags. I brought it back to the US the same way 2 years later … also in July. I’ve given starter to many people, but the only ones I know who still have it are my two sisters. When Covid-19 hit, my niece mentioned she didn’t have any yeast and that bread was scarce on grocery shelves. By this time, I had learned about drying starter, so I sent it to her. Her first bread baking experience ever was successful. I’ve never named my starter although I am fond of it and now I am glad the next generation may keep it going for many more years.

    Lois Hansen

  21. My sourdough journey started at the beginning of lockdown, I’ve always enjoyed baking and have always wanted to learn to make bread, My best friend had been encouraging me to do it for so long but I always said I didnt have the time!!!

    Roll on Lockdown and being stuck at home with my 3 children, aged almost 10, 8 & 4 and needing to homeschool them, I suddenly had this chance of wanting to learn how to make a starter, my lovely AJ ( first letters of my best friend and i) has been running smoothly since. She has given me 4 luscious loaves and today ( 4th June) I’ve successfully made Elaine’s Master Method sourdough… it tastes amazing and I look forward to teaching myself more sourdough recipes.

    My children have been enjoying baking and learning so much that now we do practical learning instead of written school work and the teachers have been so impressed and inspired! We’ve done it together and this has truly been the most rewarding thing I’ve done with the kids. My hope is that I dont loose the focus which I wont because it is so much nicer then shop bought bread and that my children look back as 2020 being the best year ever because this was the year I taught them a lot of new skills!

    I want to finish off by thanking Elaine for being so enthusiastic, encouraging and welcoming us to her life of sourdough, I will look back on this as meeting a new friend even if it’s just online!

  22. Oh Jen, thank you so much! I love reading your story and I’m very happy to call you a friend too xx happy baking!

  23. My Sourdough Story

    Cooking and being creative in the kitchen, something I have always enjoyed. The kitchen for me is a place of solace and when I have time a place to relax, enjoy and become completely absorbed.

    Workwise, I am a small bookkeeping practice, working with a mixture of clients from at home and at places of work. Covid 19 has meant a lot of learning – from the furlough scheme to all the other changes the Chancellor has introduced but also to some loss in business as some clients shut down. A challenging time.

    Before lockdown, with my love for cooking I had become a member of a group on Facebook with a similar enjoyment for cooking through the Great British Chefs Cookbook Club.

    At the beginning of lockdown many friends and members of this Facebook group posted about their starters or as some called it their mother. With names, feeding and other things which sounded more like having a pet, I watched with interest.

    Many posted about failures, some about discarding amounts and running out of flour to fulfil the aim. My initial thoughts were that this ‘fad’ was too time consuming and a waste of a large amount of flour. At this time, I was even finding plain flour for general cooking hard to come by.

    However, my interest in baking sourdough continued, as saw some amazing looking bread from those that had succeeded. The positive posts became greater and then several people on the Cookbook Club site recommended Elaine.

    With more interest I visited her website and looked at a couple of the videos on Youtube. I was now very keen to learn more as it is in my nature not to enter anything unless it is fully researched.

    I researched the history, the equipment and other bits needed to make this amazing bread.

    On discovering that a local meat supplier was also supplying one of the flours on Elaine’s list I thought I can give this a go.

    I have now fallen in love with the whole process of baking this amazing bread.

    My journey has only just begun but it is one that will continue.

  24. I was, as ever, a little late to the party. I’d been talking about starting making sourdough for a good few years but all the research I did frightened me off. It all seemed so complicated. I even thought about it at the start of lockdown but again thought it too difficult, but eventually at the beginning of May I thought JFDI.

    It hasn’t been the easiest of journeys – particularly not for a clinically anxious perfectionist like me – but Julian is now behaving pretty consistently and is producing very tasty, if not beautiful, loaves. The less said about the first few efforts the better though!

    The process is actually very helpful to me and my mental health. I tend to obsess about every little detail and feel the need to be doing all the time. With this I can’t – I have to leave it to do its thing and have faith in the process. If it fails it’s actually rather useful – each less-than-perfect-loaf has taught me something and I feel like I’m beginning to understand how it works now.

    The starter is just so useful to have too – I feed him extra so we can have fresh homemade crumpets at the weekend (unfed starter, bicarb, sugar and salt) and have recently branched out into muffins too. It has to be good for us to eat homemade, fresh, sourdough bread products rather than the mass produced, preservative filled shop alternatives (and saves so much in unnecessary plastic packaging).

    I wish I’d got started the first time I said I would – though better late than never!

  25. I have baked my own bread with ordinary yeast, for 10 years or more. I had read about sourdough in a couple of books but it seemed such a faff when I could produce good bread in a few hours, so I didn’t bother trying. Then during lockdown, yeast became difficult to come by. I had a small stash left and realised that I would run out. As a daily baker, this filled me with panic!
    Once again I read up on sourdough. I asked friends on Facebook for advice; a couple of people had experience and made suggestions for people to follow or recipes to try. I was overwhelmed by the complexities of sourdough! The hydration, the types of folding, the bulk fermentation and the retard… I didn’t know where to start. I was about to give up before I’d even started when I stumbled across Elaine’s blog (I think I’d reached the point of googling “easy sourdough” or something like that!). At last I’d found a method that seemed straightforward, so I made my starter (the children named it Donald Trump..!).
    One week later I produced my first loaf. I was so excited, I immediately took photos and posted them everywhere! My husband and children claimed it was the best bread they’d ever tasted!
    When the weather changed and I’d had to buy some emergency flour that turned out not to be very strong, I had a couple of fails. I went back to study Elaine’s recipe and kept trying.
    I also forgot to feed my starter once and the next day it had started to grow mould (I almost cried!) but thankfully I managed to rescue some; it lives in the fridge now…. I got a delivery of decent flour and adjusted my times and now I’m producing good bread most days.
    I don’t think I can go back to ordinary bread now!
    Thank you, Elaine!

  26. Baking in lockdown: I have always tried to dabble in baking and said I would like to try to bake this and that, sourdough do being one of the main things. Always made excuses and thought I did not have time to focus on it. Well enter lockdown and being at home since middle of March and do not know when that will change, what better time than this. So i saw your Instagram on someone’s stories and then your blog and youtube and I was instantly hooked. I couldn’t believe how easy you made everything. I jumped in feet first and never looked back. I have only done a hand full of loaves but I am starting to do more and experiment (working with green chilies right now) and have fun trying different recipes using my starter She-Ra. Baking has saved my sanity during this time. I use the time to think about this crossroad I have been handed and where I see myself down the road am I truly happy where I am now or do I use this opportunity to change the direction I am heading. I love to put on music be in the kitchen and watch the creations I can create. You have answered every question I ask and I really appreciate that you are there to do that. I plan on keeping the sourdough flowing no matter where life leads as I know that no matter what is going on I can always turn up the music and escape with my sourdough!
    Mequela

  27. How lovely, I can imagine you dancing round your kitchen 😃😃😃 thank you for sharing your story xx

  28. When lockdown hit, I was just coming out of a really bad six months where I’d left a job and honestly lost a bit of myself along the way. Learning to make sourdough has been tied up in my own little healing journey. Feeding my starter (Albus Dumbledough), proving, shaping and baking bread has given me a sense of control. Although I’m a key worker, as a teacher in a 6th form college, we’ve been shut down totally since March and I’ve had to adjust to online teaching as well as homeschooling my own primary share child (teaching other people’s children is definitely much easier!!)

    I’m not sure where the idea to start a sourdough starter even came from. Although I’m a keen baker, I’ve never ever baked bread. Starting with sourdough was definitely a dive off the deep end, but Elaine’s website and FB community has made it much less complicated; I love it. It also fits in with our family’s efforts to use the supermarket a bit less and try to shop local. We went back to using a milkman in January and in lockdown have rediscovered our local butcher and greengrocer.

    I really hope I can continue to fit sourdough baking into my life when school starts properly again.

  29. “Lockdown Sourdough”
    We’ve all heard of Yukon Sourdough or Alaskan Sourdough and right away it conjour’s up a picture of a rustic, basic bread. It was the pride of the prospector to be able to share it’s simple goodness with whoever happened to sit by his fire.

    Bread has always been the sign of down home, simple, and generous hospitality. How many of us can yet remember walking into childhood homes or grama’s home and be greeted with the aroma of fresh baking bread. There is just nothing like it! Topped with butter and fresh jam, oh my goodness…

    But… over time bread lost its allure to fancy, rich, complicated fare that screamed success. Bread became a non-event. In fact, if you only served bread at the table it was a disappointment in this age of new, bigger and better.

    How did that happen?
    Simple…mass produced commercial bread.
    A person didn’t have to invest time or effort anymore and bread became common place instead of something special.
    Now… delightfully… this is one thing this lockdown season has opened up for myself and for many newly discovered bakers. Home made bread.
    I call it, Lockdown Sourdough.

    When all commercial items were at a low; bread, yeast even flour, the basics were rediscovered. And a new sense of adventurous baking began. Flour, water, salt… so simple. Yet profoundly healing and stabilizing.

    In the chaotic swirl of covid 19 I got a sense of well being, of safety, of getting out of the swirl and back into normality. I could provide healthy food for my family.

    There is just something delightfully beautiful and healing in these breads made by my hands and made from my heart.

    Baking sourdough takes me back to basic real living from beginning to end. From the first mix of flour and plain water for my starter, to the lifting of the lid revealing the fragrant hot bread waiting to be devoured.
    I decided to call my starter “prospector” for many reasons…but I’ve realized one important reason was… I, as they were back then, was prospecting for gold. And the good is simple security, home, family. The things that make me breath deep and rest. Contentment.

    These can be found in many ways but when all other avenues were shut down in the season of lockdown, sourdough became my symbol of life, continuity, family…

    As I sunk my hands in the flour and water; mixed in the sourdough; experienced the magical change in the dough creating beautiful, nutritious bread from this shaggy mess it had started out as…it gave me hope. Hope for my life, for our family, our community.

    I didn’t make the sourdough work… the starter did that by itself. It took from the good that was already in the flour and in the air. It took what was available and grew.

    A picture for me of life both physical and spiritual.
    Covid 19 did not end that… there is life to be had… there is life in the air… holding out a hand of invitation to recognize it…

  30. Thank you so much for sharing your story, I’m so glad you’re loving it, and I will share tips soon for continuing with sourdough after lockdown xx

  31. How lovely, you’re so right, there is life to be had and our starters shine through and show that. Thank you so much for sharing your story my love xxxx

  32. Thank you so much for sharing your story, I’m so glad your research paid off and that you’re enjoying your sourdough xx

  33. Definitely better late than never! And I’m so glad you did, sourdough is such a great leveller and teacher, I’m so glad you’ve found it positive xx

  34. Elaine you were one of the first of many websites, YouTube’s, bits of information I read about sourdough just as we went into ISO. I have always wanted to bake bread. My late father used to bake and I never learnt. I am a big foodie geek here in Australia but bread for me seemed impossible. But I started and I haven’t stopped. I have tweaked and found my own method and timings that work, have had triumphs and floor drop disasters. I have taught others. I have lovingly shared my starter and for me that is almost the best part. To share your knowledge for me is what it is all about. So thank you for your knowledge and for answering my private message when I know you had so many others. What a delight this bread making has been in times so crazy. I have made about 14 loaves and shared more than half of those with great love. For me it will definitely continue.

  35. I love to cook and entertain, but I have never been much of a baker. Don’t care for sweet things at all really. Making bread seemed like way to much work and mess, plus I thought it was too difficult. Like there was some magic there that I didn’t know about.
    My next door neighbour gave us a beautiful loaf of homemade sour dough bread for Easter. I loved it ! It had seeds and was so crunchy. It had a different taste. I couldn’t quite put my finger on it.
    Here I was at home beginning to get bored with all this isolation. I couldn’t hug my own kids or my grandson. I was getting kind of sad.
    I asked my neighbour if she would give me the recipe for her bread. She said it was sour dough and I said oh that’s why I liked it so much. I found some yeast in the store which was a miracle and I was hoping she would give me her recipe. Little did I know the facts about making sour dough bread !
    I asked her again and she that if I was really serious, she would give me some of her starter and help me get going.
    Well, I was a little shocked at all the work involved in feeding this starter to get it going ! I remember thinking, no wonder sour dough bread is so expensive!
    I baked three loaves my first time out ! One turned out only because I put it in a small round roasting pan and the only way it could go was up ! The other two were flat and hard as a rock ! The colour was great and for some reason they had “ears”. They looked beautiful! You needed a chain saw to cut them ! I wasn’t patient enough, the starter wasn’t ready !
    After that I tried again, this time following Elaines master recipe ! I was hooked! That was about three weeks ago and I bake every day. I give most of it away. I am still paranoid about the starter and I have 6 jars of discard in the fridge and three jars of starter on the counter ! I have lots of discard crackers in the cupboard! I have discard English muffins in the freezer ! I have bread in the freezer ! All my neighbours have bread.
    This gave me the lift I needed. I will be forever grateful to sour dough bread, to my neighbour and to Elaine Boddy. This changed my life at a very crucial time ! Thank you !
    Dawne Poole 🇨🇦

  36. Thank you so much for sharing your story Dawne, I’m so glad this sourdough love of ours could give you comfort x x (reading about all of your jars of starter made me smile, I remember doing that too 😁😁)

  37. I started my sourdough journey around mid February before the lockdown in States. I have always been a healthy eater and cooking meals daily after work for my family. The sourdough bread process always intrigued me and I came across several Youtube videos and started preparing my starter. But I really started baking when I joined Elaine’s fb group and picking up all the tips and suggestions. I love the baking process and enjoy the results. Elaine and her team of other admins and moderators are so supportive, helpful and giving to every member in the group and I sincerely thank everyone of them. Baking kept me sane and busy during lockdown. Sharing my freshly baked breads with neighbors, friends, family, front line workers was very rewarding and gratifying. I know I will continue my sourdough journey as I cannot fathom to bring commercial breads loaded with preservatives in my home for my family. Now I am sharing my starter with friends and colleagues and helping them to bake and enjoy freshly baked breads with their families. Thank you Elaine for everything🙏😘

  38. Firstly THANK YOU!.. my journey with sourdough started way before lockdown and I was very close to chucking in the towel. However I came across your instagram page due to a friend and fellow baker. I never looked back. From that moment your method and process made life so much easier. Inwas actually enjoying sourdough and my family in turn loving my bakes. Your kindness and patients in answering question after question and keeping up the encouragement helped me so much. Thank you for taking time out of your already busy life to make so many happy bakers. Baking is my therapy and I work from home and we own our business so hubs has continued to work through lockdown. Sourdough has helped with the tensions that lockdown brought. … from the heart thank you very much xx

  39. I started my sourdough journey about 10 yrs ago with my sister who was in the middle of being treated for a very aggressive breast cancer. 10 yrs later, we are both still loving the process and the product. I recently found you Elaine and I don’t remember how or where. I think we are kindred spirits. I love your easy going process. Do you like the bread, then it is a success! I have made your master recipe, your breakfast loaf ( and mix ), pizza and crackers. Thank you for your genuine approach to baking. I don’t usually buy cookbooks anymore but plan on ordering your new book.
    BTW, I am a health care worker, work goes on every day, a bit more stressful but we carry on.

  40. My sourdough story does not have much to do with the lockdown, so I feel a bit like the ugly duckling… 😉

    I started baking sourdough about 13 years ago, when I got a book by Dan Lepard, The Handmade Loaf, that truly opened my horizons to wild yeast and the concept of minimal kneading. I made my own starter, and never looked back. Sourdough, in my opinion, is the most forgiving type of bread baking, very flexible to any schedule, and you can do so many different things with it, as Elaine proves day in, day out….

    I’ve been using Elaine starter for a couple of years now, so Star from the UK got transformed into Polaris, from Kansas… No doubt that bread baking bring folks together, as these comments show so well

    Stay wild, stay safe, stay home, and BAKE

  41. Never ever the ugly duckling!!! 😘😘
    Thank you Sally, I fully agree, stay safe and BAKE! xxx

  42. Thank you so much, Mary, I’m so glad you’re enjoying it x x thank you for everything you do 🙏🏻🙏🏻🙏🏻

  43. I’d never eaten true artisan sourdough until last year on Orkney, when we discovered Eviedale Bakery. We became so addicted to their beautiful sourdough, that we asked if they’d consider starting mail order. We later became their first mail order guinea pigs – sourdough baked on Orkney, within 24 hours it was being eaten in Leicestershire.

    We’d been looking forward to another trip to Orkney at the start of May, but the pandemic quickly changed everyone’s lives. I had been desperate for that escape, as 2020 had already been emotionally challenging for our family. To ease disappointment, we ordered mail order sourdough from Eviedale Bakery. I also ordered a lot of Orkney gin!

    It was around that time when I noticed the lockdown craze for making sourdough. I don’t have much patience, and thought it wouldn’t be for me. But intrigue took over, so I looked at sourdough groups on Facebook, and joined a few. I was almost put off by all the confusing information, not knowing which method to follow. I’d already began a starter from some wholemeal spelt from my kitchen cupboard. I’ve never owned a Tamagotchi, but decided it must be similar! I was amused by people naming their starters, but quickly realised it was a new living thing to obsess over. My starter became ‘Evie’ because Eviedale Bakery in Evie, Orkney, had inspired me. Coincidentally, I also have ancestors who once lived in Evie.

    When my starter was a week old, I still didn’t understand what to do next. My head was in such a spin, it was fuelling my anxiety. Then, in one of the groups, someone gave a link to the ‘Foodbod method’. Suddenly the prospect of making sourdough seemed less complex and scary. I quickly ordered a Falcon enamel roaster, after previously being perplexed over fancy Dutch Ovens, bread steels, pizza stones, and pans of water. I was so nervous on my first attempt, but when my creation came out of the oven it actually looked like sourdough, and by some fluke, even had an ‘ear’, it also tasted amazing! I was hooked!

    Sourdough really has been my saviour. I’ve suffered with anxiety and depression for a long time, but on top of family worries, COVID-19 felt like the final straw. I’m terrified of catching the virus as I’m asthmatic, so I hadn’t left home since the 17th of March. So my anxiety became worse, my self esteem plummeted, I had insomnia, and zero motivation to keep busy. Sourdough baking has given me a new positive and creative focus. After my initial fears of potential failure, I’m truly enjoying creating and nurturing my doughs. I’m excited to lift that lid to see the outcome. I’ve never bought so much flour in my life, I’m on my third Shipton Mill order, nor have I ever obsessed so much in wanting to get something right. My husband says he’s very proud of me, I’ve learnt a new skill, and I’m doing something positive which makes me feel good about myself. He’s also loving the now readily available supply of sourdough! By way of support, he’s kindly going to craft an oak lame for me.

    Thank you so much Elaine! I’d never have achieved this so effortlessly without your brilliant method, or the encouragement and support of you and your amazing group.

  44. THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU!

    What have I been doing during lockdown? Well, the other morning I’d baked a cheescake by 10am. Irrespective of the fact that it was my husband’s birthday, I think we can all agree that that is not normal behaviour.

    These are strange times and I think it’s important to identify things that keep you sane and utilise them as best as possible. For me, getting out into nature is a given. I go nuts when I don’t get a daily dose of trees. The weird one, though, has been cooking; bizarrely, what so often felt like a chore has become my go-to displacement activity of choice. Sure, I enjoyed trying new recipes or cooking for a dinner party; but day-to-day cooking I found flipping tiresome. Clearly, though, it’s one massive coping mechanism for me in COVID times. On days when I have felt especially trapped or despondent, I have cooked as though my life depended on it. On one day alone I made (and this reads like an excerpt from The Hungry Caterpillar):

    Hummus. From scratch, using dried chickpeas.
    Manaeesh flatbreads with zatar and haloumi
    Heritage tomato salad

    So far so relatively SW London normal

    But then I made:

    Ottolenghi’s lemony leek meatballs (first time and very yummy)
    + his roasted butternut squash & red onion with tahini and zatar
    Cheese scones
    Cheesecake (Sister’s insanely quick, non-baked recipe)
    Some weird Japanese milk bread for next day’s breakfast. (So good I made a second loaf the following morning for my stepdad.)

    And at a time when we can’t even journey up the High Street, we’ve travelled around the world via our tummies. I have spent a day connecting with my father’s heritage, battling to produce a Challah (it ended up the size of a small child, and only just made it into the oven). I’ve explored Thai; Indian; Indonesian and Sri Lankan cuisine, from egg hoppers and spice mixes to seriously good vegetable curries; tackled Korean pulled brisket and Bao buns; banged out more almond/polenta cakes than is decent, and finally, finally cracked sourdough. My 20-year-old son has never had life so good.

    That I have finally, finally cracked sourdough is all thanks to you, Elaine. Over the years I’ve been given various starters and not once have I managed to get to grips with how to feed them up to the point that they were actually active, let alone make a delicious loaf with them. Frankly, when everyone started banging on about sourdough during lockdown, I just figured this was one thing that I would never, ever get to grips with. Then you popped into the feed of the Sunday Times Cookbook Club Facebook group that we are both members of. Talk about a game changer. Everyone was singing your praises, so I found your site. I followed your guide to making a starter. With your encouragement, I stuck with it and, blow me, it worked. I bought the roasting tin you suggested. I followed your master baking plan and made my first sourdough loaf. It was incredible. I haven’t looked back.

    I now have two active starters (Muriel and Goldie) that are making fabulous bread and other sourdough goodies (today’s discard pancakes have gone down brilliantly with my son); I cannot imagine ever buying another ‘artisan’ loaf. Why would I? My son’s even told me I should make something of my newfound skills — he’s that impressed! And he will be taking a jar of starter with him when he eventually goes back to uni.

    But I have failed to read more than two chapters of my current book. My mind is not working as it used to, but that’s ok. And so I shall go and make another loaf. It will do my brain the world of good. My hips, not so much.

  45. I love this, thank you so much for sharing your story, I smiled the whole way through. I’m so glad I could help x x

  46. Oh Dawn, you’ve brought tears to my eyes, thank you so much for sharing your story and I’m so glad I could help and that sourdough has been such a gift to you throughout all of this xx

  47. These stories are completely heartwarming and so varied, and yet with the same theme – we have all learned so much from Elaine and her instinctive, gorgeous instructions. Thank you, Elaine!

  48. A little late to the party as always! My lockdown story echoes many of the stories above. I first started making sourdough in June 2019 at a time when my partner had received a rather unwelcome diagnosis. For various reasons, I was off work and therefore needed something to distract myself from the anxiety and the worry. By chance, my partner had started to buy sourdough bread but, as a typical Yorkshireman was complaining about the price! So I decided that I would give it a go.

    I had once baked a loaf of yeasted bread at school (a rather long time ago), so how hard could it be? I ditched my first starter after not realising that it takes more than a couple of days to really get going. Starter 2, “Arthur” fared a lot better (and is still going strong a year later!) and after a couple of weeks I was ready to bake. I used a couple of “beginners” sourdough recipes, but really struggled with the stickiness of the dough and everything. Then I came across Elaine’s website and master recipe, saw how easy it seemed and off I went. My baking wasn’t an overnight success but with her support and the support of all the Facebook group I persevered and am now able to bake reasonably consistent tasty loaves.

    Fast forward to early 2020, my partner was well on the road to a full recovery and plans were being made for holidays, etc. I was starting to read about some of the sciencey stuff around sourdough and try new techniques and recipes. My partner began to refer to me affectionately as “dough-girl”!
    Then of course COVID-19 hit. Once again I realised that my certainties of how life would be had all disappeared, and my anxiety and worry about family and friends threatened to get on top of me. My baking though afforded me the chance to keep us well fed, and, on occasion, make loaves for others. I guess it also gave me a space that I felt I had some control over, when everything around me seemed so out of control. Daft really when you realise how capricious sourdough can be! If I really wanted to be able to control things and have predictable outcomes, yeasted bread may be a better place – but where is the fun in that!

    During this time I have also found that the sourdough baking community generally and the Foodbod Facebook group particularly (with a very special thank-you to Elaine, Simone, Alan & Ulrike) to be a warm, friendly and supportive community where for a few moments I can leave the pandemic behind me and talk about autolyse; bulk fermentation, oven spring and flour!! None of us know how the future in a C-19 world will work out, but I still get a kick out of lifting the lid or opening the oven on a bake, and perhaps that is the way forward, to focus on the good things that happen every day rather than worry about all the stuff I can’t control!

    Happy baking everyone! 😀

  49. Thank you so much, Clare, it’s lovely to read your story and learn more about you, and your sourdough journey. I’m so glad sourdough has been a positive force for you, and that your partner is better. Thank you for everything you do to help me and the group. Happy baking lovely x x

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