With the lockdown of 2020 slowly beginning to ease off, I think it’s important we acknowledge the greatest side effect to come from this. Not the sudden appreciation for the NHS, the environmental benefits or even the fact we see our families more albeit via Zoom. No. I am talking about the simultaneous, almost unspoken decision to begin the Great British Bake-Off via Instagram. There was the banana bread period, the cookie phase and a host of lemon drizzle cakes. But arguably the best has been sourdough bread week.
I’ve always been into cooking and baking. I think food will always be my main love in life, inspiring my degree in Nutrition. However since starting uni, a very long time ago now, I fell out of it. I’ve never baked more in my life than I have during lockdown and I am so grateful for having returned to it. Bread however, was something I never really encountered in my day and so was brand new territory for me.
I started lockdown not being the biggest sourdough eater. Of course, now and then accompanied by poached eggs at a restaurant which I’m paying at least £10 for, it doesn’t go amiss. But I would honestly, happily, eat a loaf of Warburtons white toasty bread any day. Sorry Paul Hollywood.
But once again social media proves influential in my life. And how can you have a successful lockdown without baking a loaf of bread?
Let’s not forget how this began.
There was a lack of yeast in these streets. And although the pasta and toilet rolls slowly sulked back to the shelves, a packet of yeast remained elusive in the aisles for far longer than expected. What can you do? The answer is of course sourdough.
You cultivate and grow your own yeast.
There’s something about nurturing your sourdough starter that feels so fitting when life feels so uncertain. It’s something that needs you to keep it going, day after day. Something to focus on and watch grow and pray over that all the hard work will pay off. I suppose you could compare it to having a young child to look after during lockdown, except you get to eat it.
I really didn’t think my first sourdough baby would be a success. After many disasters and lack of correct equipment, I lost hope in the process several times. Making a sourdough loaf is a daylong commitment. If ever you needed a past time this is it. But as I sat in front of the oven watching it bake, a miracle happened before my eyes as it rose and grew and became something new entirely. What started off as flour and water was suddenly bread! a miracle with a dark crusty crust and light airy body, if slightly veering on the squishy side.
My second time round was with more precision and care. This time more confidence – I know I can do this. The joy of working the dough with my hands, spending time crafting and shaping it before it’s overnight rest. The pride I feel as I exclaim ‘Look! It’s growing!’ with my sister as witness on the other side of WhatsApp. The influx of photos every few minutes from my end streaming through.
Initially I thought the process was the downfall of sourdough. The hard work for a single loaf of gain. But honestly, the craft is the fun part, the bread is an added bonus. And the longer you go on with the commitment, the better it gets. Each loaf is an improvement from the last, whether in texture or flavour. Bread is no longer just bread, it is beautiful. It is the main event. With a generous swipe of salted butter, there is no greater delicacy than fresh sourdough. In fact, I would go as far to say it is a way of life.
Sourdough changes the way you think about cooking.
It teaches patience and care. The more you put in, the more you gain. Not to mention all the uses of the sourdough discard there are. I’ve made various recipes from the discarded dough collected each day – from brownies to crumpets to onion rings. And I’ve used the starter for bread, pizza dough and one day soon – focaccia! The possibilities are endless and exciting. And without the freedom of being locked in, I would have never explored this new world. It feels almost cultish how into it I am. But this is my life now. The sourdough agenda will never stop.
Follow my Instagram for more sourdough updates – ha.