I joined the cool kids sourdough club about one and a half years ago. One and a half years ago, when I finally gave myself the last kick in the butt to actually make use of the sourdough starter that my Two Kitchen Brussels partner in crime, Sophia, gave me. I always liked sourdough bread, but I never really got what it was or better said, I never gave it a thought. It tastes sour, it’s ‘sour dough’, makes sense I guess. Where does the sour taste come from? How do the big holes get into the pieces of bread? Why can you find it in every hipster brunch place in New York, London, Paris? Things I didn’t think about until I finally gave the baking a go myself.
The sour taste comes from fermentation, wild yeasts, lactic acid and some other chemical magic happening when you mix flour and water. Yes, flour and water and then you wait, and wait, and then you feed it (it being the small monster you’re creating there) with fresh flour and water. A tamagotchi for everyone above 30, as someone put it. The big holes get into the bread cause of the CO2 that forms during fermentation and then escapes the bread once baked. The gluten forms a network that then traps the CO2 and all gases escape at high oven heat. Great, last question is to be answered with: I don’t know, cause it’s cool? Cause all hipsters are depressive and anxious and apparently baking bread has a soothing, relaxing effect that makes you feel like you’ve accomplished something?
Oh, maybe that’s why I find it so addictive? Ok, away from self-therapy and back to the behaviour of the crowds. Why did baking sourdough bread become so popular during Covid-19?
One answer is definitely the lockdowns. To bake bread and to start a sourdough starter one needs time and patience and more patience. You need to watch it, smell it, feed it. Then, if you’ve been a good parent, you’ll be gifted with a stinky, bubbly, sour and sticky mass of fermented dough. Don’t relax now, cause it ain’t over. No, no, once the starter – your natural yeast so to say – is ready, you need more time to actually get more dough going and turn it into a bread. This needs time. Lockdown gave people more time, hence the sourdough.
Second, shops were out of yeast so people thought that setting up their own, natural, yeast will be profitable for the future. It is! You save plenty of money by a) not needing to buy yeast and b) by not having to buy lame bread in supermarkets anymore.
Third, I think many felt that the extra time Covid-19 involuntarily gave them through lockdown, must be used wisely. Learn how to play the guitar, learn to drink wine from a glass that your partner is holding in their mouth while leaning backwards, managing to TikTok-dub Kim Kardashian’s highly intelligent comments and yes, baking sourdough bread was also on the list. It seems that no second was meant to be left unfilled and people needed to keep learning and getting better at things. Why not learn how to bake sourdough bread then?! I agree!
Finally, it is indeed soothing and relaxing. The feeling you get when you open the oven and out comes a steamingly fresh loaf that smells of…bread, is indescribable. Making your own bread is fun, makes you feel like you’ve achieved something and you see the direct result right in front of you. And the best part: you can eat it!
It’s also easier to digest than bread made with commercial yeast and the lacto bacteria are good for your gut. Apparently even people who are gluten intolerant (NOT speaking about coeliacs here!!) can eat sourdough without facing issues.
Do you also want to be cool and bake sourdough bread? Well, lucky you! I’m offering online classes for beginners (HERE) and for those who are slightly more advanced (HERE). Both with video material, all tricks & tips written down and 24/7 support from me. For the beginners class there’s also a Zoom live bake-along once a month where we make bread together from scratch.
See you later, bread bakers!