As fun as venturing into the rabbit hole of detailed information surrounding each method and technique of sourdough baking can be, new home sourdough bakers at times feel obligated to do so. As a result it becomes easy to get overwhelmed by small details while getting their starters ready to bake with and then when preparing and baking their first loaves. Fortunately, there are a considerable amount of influencial bloggers within the world wide sourdough community who go out of their way to present sourdough baking as flexible and approachable. This in effect encourages home bakers to work towards developing a base recipe and process of their own and to view the recipe/s of fellow bakers as guides rather than definite sets of instructions. In my opinion, it also keeps the term “artisan” in front of sourdough bread; meaning, it gives each baker the liberty to figure out how to craft loaves which represent their individual artistic vision.
Hailing from a small village in the middle of England called Haversham, Elaine Boddy aka Foodbod Sourdough has made a name for herself by presenting sourdough baking in a practical and approachable manner. Whether through the addition of “mix-in” ingredients, ancient grains, or her recent enriched version. Elaine’s ‘master recipe’ has proven itself as a key to making sourdough baking fun and flexible. Furthermore, through her blog posts, YouTube videos, and interacting with her Instagram followers and members of her “Sourdough with Foodbod” Facebook group. Elaine presents herself as if she is welcoming her fellow bakers into her home’s kitchen to learn how to consistently bake their best bread.
So without further adieu, it is my honor to present to you Elaine Boddy of Foodbod Sourdough
Barry (The Brewed Palate): When you started baking sourdough in 2013, were you already a home bread baker or was reconstituting and then baking sourdough with your friend’s starter your first foray into bread baking?
Elaine (Foodbod Sourdough): I had already made various breads including flatbreads and loaves using commercial dried yeast, but venturing into sourdough was a whole new world, I’d never even heard of it before my friend Selma suggested it!
Barry (The Brewed Palate): As you dove further into the world of sourdough baking, who were some of your influences? Do you still follow them as resources for recipe development etc?
Elaine (Foodbod Sourdough): My influences, and guides, were my fellow food bloggers, the people who introduced me to sourdough, two amazing ladies from blogworld called Selma and Celia, and other bloggers within our sharing community. I read lots of different blogs and posts and experimented and played around with different ideas and suggestions as I learned about this magical art!
Ideas and recipe development nowadays tends to come from my imagination and what I find in my kitchen cupboard, but I am also inspired daily by the amazing cooks and bakers in my Facebook group, real home cooks in real home kitchens, they are the most inspirational cooks and bakers to me
Barry (The Brewed Palate): Beyond developing it as a dependable recipe, what other factors were important to you as you developed your master recipe?
Elaine (Foodbod Sourdough): To be honest, I did not go about ‘developing a master recipe’. Long before I launched my sourdough site or had any involvement in the sourdough world, I needed to be able to make several consistent successful loaves of sourdough per week for my sons daily breakfasts and lunches and I fell into a routine and way of making sourdough that worked for me. It was consistent, straightforward and tidy, it fit into to daily family life and it worked, and to me those factors are all important for a home baker. I created my website so that I could share it in case it was interesting to anyone and I called it my master recipe on a whim, with no idea it would take on a life of it’s own.
Barry (The Brewed Palate): Upon reading over your master recipe’s process, I found three notable differences between it and other versatile recipes that I’ve read since starting my sourdough journey. They are: the use of 50g of starter in order to do an overnight bulk fermentation instead of building a levain or using a larger volume of starter (e.g. 100g per loaf); using a single set of lifts and folds prior to transferring the dough to its banneton, rather than performing formal pre and final shape steps; and advocating for a completely covered bake, rather than splitting the baking time between covered and uncovered. What are your thoughts on these differences?
Elaine (Foodbod Sourdough): My thoughts are that there are many ways to make sourdough, these are the methods I use and that work for me, and now work for many others too.
It seems that there has been a set of supposed ‘rules’ that have been created by many other bakers in the past when it comes to making sourdough, and personally I don’t believe there are, or should be, any rules. The key is to do what works for you. And if you’re using a wild yeast starter, you’re making sourdough. It’s not defined by a process or steps or looks…
I share what works for me, and I encourage people to find their best process, in their kitchen, with their flour and their lifestyle. Sourdough is eminently forgiving and does not need it be so restrictive.
Barry (The Brewed Palate): As someone who has baked challah bread (an enriched bread) for quite some time, I loved reading over your enriched recipe. You presented it as flexible and customizable so that those who bake it can figure out what works best for them. For me, customizing this recipe would come from substituting some of the SWBF (strong white bread flour) with other flours such as spelt, whole wheat flour, and rye. How should one adjust dough hydration when using flours that typically absorb more or less water in this recipe?
Elaine (Foodbod Sourdough): I’m so proud of this recipe, I had great fun perfecting it and so many people have been using it recently and their loaves look amazing!It’s a great recipe made with 100% white spelt, and it would be easy to use other flours in conjunction with SWBF with no changes to the hydration needed. The recipe is, as you say, endlessly customisable. You can use flour mixes, throw in additions, it’s a fun recipe to play with. I would always advise caution with dark rye flour though and start small, it’s a very sticky flour and too much in a mix can make it hard to stretch and fold.
Barry (The Brewed Palate): You have some great tutorials videos on your Youtube channel. How do you view the interplay between your channel and your website?
Elaine (Foodbod Sourdough): Many people are visual learners, and lots of people want to see how things are made rather than just reading the text, so videos are crucial. Also, some people find me via YouTube first, some via my website first, they do different jobs depending on how people search for info online.
Barry (The Brewed Palate): Staying on the topic of social media, I admire how interactive you are with fellow bakers both on Facebook and Instagram. How has your approach to sharing your personal sourdough journey with fellow home bakers changed over time?
Elaine (Foodbod Sourdough): Thank you. It hasn’t changed at all, I’m a home baker just like everyone else and I think it’s important to share the fact that sourdough is accessible and achievable for anyone in their home kitchens. I also believe in honesty and openness on social media, I don’t see any point in being anything else so I share what works for me and what doesn’t and try to help people in their kitchens with their flours, ovens and environments.
Barry (The Brewed Palate): One often anxiety provoking factor of sourdough baking is making sure your starter will be ready to bake with when you plan on baking and that you’ll have enough to leaven your loaves…Once you’ve decided what you’ll be baking for the week, how do you go about preparing/maintaining your starter?
Elaine (Foodbod Sourdough): I keep things very simple. On the day I want to make my dough, I take my starter from the fridge, let it sit for 1-2 hours to warm up, then feed it based on what I’ll need for the amount of doughs I want to make.And that’s it. I don’t feed my starter numerous times or for days before I use it, I feed it to use it only. And I only ever feed my starter based on what I’ll need so there’s never any waste or ‘discard’.
Barry (The Brewed Palate): Your first book “Whole Grain Sourdough at Home” is slated to be released this Autumn (September 8th). Can you describe what the writing and recipe development processes were like?
Elaine (Foodbod Sourdough): The recipe development was great fun, I could play around with ideas and bake to my hearts content as I tried and tested recipes. I had lots of notes and got through lots of flour!
The writing process is really interesting having had my own food blog for eight years I am used to writing recipes, but to write recipes and text for a book is quite different; also when you work for yourself and you are autonomous, you’re not used to somebody editing your text and making suggestions, so to work with my editor and have that as a two-way thing was a very good experience and a steep learning curve and one that’s been thoroughly enjoyable. You don’t realise until somebody else read your text how often you repeat yourself, it turns out I say ‘lovely’ a lot!
Barry (The Brewed Palate): What is your favorite ancient grain to bake with and why?
Elaine (Foodbod Sourdough): I’m torn between wholegrain einkorn and white spelt. Einkorn has such a great flavour and history, being the oldest of them all, and white spelt flour is so silky, both are lovely to use and both taste great. But then I also love emmer flour, it makes great starters and has a wonderful flavour in loaves. I guess the short answer is that it’s impossible to choose.
Barry (The Brewed Palate): Taking the previous question a bit further: when you incorporate ancient grains into your loaves, what are your go-to bread and food pairings?
Elaine (Foodbod Sourdough): I like my bread to be the hero, especially if it’s packed with those lovely grains and flavours. I prefer to make the meal the bread, rather than bread accompanying a meal. So either just with good butter, or toasted and drizzled with olive oil.
Barry (The Brewed Palate): Sourdough bread is often called “living bread.” What do the terms “living bread” and “living food” mean to you?
Elaine (Foodbod Sourdough): To me it’s real food. It’s food that’s alive and grows and develops and gains strength and flavour and beauty the more we nourish it. It’s also a strong link to nature and the living world around us which is too easy forget in busy fast lives. One of the joys of sourdough for me is that it is a slow paced mindful process, and the fact that our starters are living beings is all part of that. We need to get to know them, and respect them, and nurture and love them, and like all living these, they will love us right back. So I guess ‘living food’ is all about loving food for me.