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ArticleFood & Drink

The comfort of baking.

People of all ages (and not just bakers) are caring for a fermented friend.

Aug 9, 2020

Words: Andrew & Juanita Collier

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A sourdough starter has been called the ‘Tamagotchi for people in their 30s’, yet now given the extended home time due to the Covid-19 restrictions, people of all ages (and not just us bakers) are caring for a fermented friend.

The sudden abundance of time — as well as the fact that you can only watch so much Netflix or learn so many TikTok dances before a fierce hunger sets in — has spurred on another appetite: one for real, homemade, get-the-kids-involved type foods.

(Especially because the kids always become involved, whether it’s actively, judgmentally or with that perpetually hovering nature they seem to have.)

A sourdough starter has been called the ‘Tamagotchi for people in their 30s’

This newfound time, and forever ravenous social media accounts, mean more people are attempting sourdough, a culinary ‘unicorn’: something that requires patience, persistence and only three very common ingredients that are already lurking in the pantry.

A sourdough starter, also known as a ‘mother’ or ‘levain’, is a mix of only flour and water, which is fed each day to provide new food to the naturally occurring bacteria found in the flour and air. As the bacteria eat the nutrients from the flour, they produce carbon dioxide (beautiful bubbles) and lactic acid (sourness). After a week or so, an active mother only requires some more flour, water and salt to create something amazing. Oh, and some patience.

The creation of your new pet will repay that patience in delicious, crunchy, tender loaves of bread. Something you can share with family and friends with pride and love, or at least get a good laugh from after your first few sourdough attempts because we have all had a flop or two...

The salivating smell of freshly baked sourdough
The salivating smell of freshly baked sourdough

There’s a well-known real estate agents’ ploy to bake bread or cookies just before a house inspection. The smell will not only make potential clients salivate, but it also serves as a subconscious reminder of happy times from childhood, hopefully turning a house into a potential home. The baking can trigger memories of your mum baking cookies for after school, the smell of fresh toast at Grandma’s house or the tempting aroma of coffee and fresh brownies for breakfast.

"Baking can trigger memories of your mum baking cookies for after school"

Just maybe, baking sourdough has helped sell us on the beauty of our own home, or stoked feelings of love, patience and happiness — sentiments required to get through the recent difficult time with a smile on our face. Our efforts in baking can create a sense of comfort, reminding us that isolation doesn’t mean being alone, and that we will soon come together at a table to share a meal again. We find happiness in creating something from scratch — delicious sourdough dancing on our taste buds and filling our belly.

During this challenging period, first the bushfires and then Covid-19, Andrew happily answered calls asking for sourdough assistance and pointers. But why would a sourdough baker give out his secrets? It turns out there are two reasons.

Firstly, there’s a community among bakers — we have each other’s backs. The encouragement we have received over the past year since embarking on our new business has helped us considerably and we want to pay it forward. Secondly, because when life returns to our new version of ‘normal’ and we’re no longer slinking about home, bra-less in trackie daks and looking for a distraction, you will still want sourdough... You will have cultivated a taste for sourdough, but will no longer have the time or required patience to produce it.

But we will. So, come see us when you are ready, we’ll be here with a loaf just for you.

Seasalt Sourdough began in May 2019 after learning there wasn’t a local sourdough baker selling to the public. With the assistance of many amazing friends, a helpful local council, blood, sweat and a few tears, owners Andrew and Juanita Collier converted their garage into a commercial bakery. They now sell delicious bread through well-established local retailers and to the wonderful cafés and restaurants of East Gippsland.

Like other businesses in the area, they struggled through the summer bushfires, evacuating three times. Amazed and overwhelmed by the community spirit that arose during that tenuous time, they threw themselves into helping to foster that spirit, teaming up with the Bairnsdale Neighbourhood House to deliver doughnated sourdough to the hardest hit and most stranded communities. They also instigated a collaboration of four local businesses — Gippsland Jersey, Forge Creek Free Range and Tambo Valley Honey — to provide donated boxes of essentials to people during and after the bushfires. This is continuing, as they still have more boxes to disperse.

The COVID-19 restrictions resulted in the loss of 2/3 of their wholesale customers, as cafés and restaurants turned to takeaway instead of sit-down meals. To continue their baking adventure, Andrew and Juanita began a no-contact home delivery service from Bairnsdale to Orbost, offering delivery of sourdough and pantry essentials to help while people stayed at home.

This is one of many inspiring tales of uplifting community support and business ingenuity during the recent challenges Gippsland has faced. Gratefully, Seasalt Sourdough has received a wonderful response from their initiatives and have been able to keep baking the entire duration of the restrictions. Brilliant!

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