We just can’t seem to stop with sourdough. And we really hope you feel the same.
January brought new excitement for us and many of you. Typically, it’s been a month that is generally a little slow and quiet (as we all recuperate from the holidays), but this month brought unexpected connection and commitments-as many of us came together over a little water and flour aka our starters.
Some of us started out a little afraid of sourdough- some of us, meaning me. I was terrified by it. I had been given numerous starters and killed them all. Being able to be a part of so many classes, I knew the basics but never had a personal attachment to it. After hearing that it doesn’t take much to make my own starter (WHAT!? MAKE MY OWN STARTER?!?), I knew this may be the only way I might actually get it to stick. So that’s where it began—I needed to see this relationship through from the very beginning—from baby flour and water. I was blown away by the response! So many of you felt the same way and lucky for us, you jumped in along for the journey as well. As we began to build our first starter we couldn’t quite decide which flour to start with. So, in true Gygi fashion, we made three. Yes, three baby starters with all-purpose, bread, and whole-wheat flours. We knew we needed to name them so why not three iconic triplets from…. ‘Ducktales’…. Huey, Dewey, and Louie.
We fed and watched and fed and watched and fed each of these starters every day. Sharing the process of building, growing, and becoming attached to three mason jars full of bacteria in my kitchen with my kids was memorable. My kids would talk to them, ask me who was who and would remind me to feed them each morning. It was becoming a family affair. Not only would we watch them grow, but my kids became invested in the whole care process, including washing a sink full of spatulas and jars covered in sourdough that seems to be impossible to get off. They are the most grateful we are not feeding every day anymore.
What was so amazing was so many of you were doing it too. We all started from a place of inexperience but also curiosity. With so many people finding a love for sourdough back in 2020, certainly, we could all find it too. So we all fed those starters and learned a lot on the way there; to add the water first so the bacteria can spread before feeding it the flour; wide-mouth quart jars are the way to go, and warm places are key—kitchens in Utah in the winter really slow down bacteria growth. So many of you shared your tips and what you had learned on your sourdough journey, and we were able to pass on the love and excitement we all felt about little bits of bacteria.
After about two weeks of daily feedings, we were finally ready to bake. We fed our hungry starters early that morning and brought them to Gygi. We started mixing our dough, looking for differences in each type. We learned all about 1st rise, 2nd rise, and scoring. Our dough didn’t rise a ton so we carefully placed it in the fridge and loosely wrapped it up to give it a long cool rest (cold ferment) until we were back in the kitchen to bake. Two days later we took our bread out of the fridge, placed it into hot dutch ovens, and then we waited. Forty minutes seemed like a lifetime but all good things are worth the wait, right? After much anticipation, our bread was finally done—and what came out was almost emotional. This dough that we had created from nothing produced a perfectly baked, blistered, airy, crunchy outside, chewy inside, DELICIOUS BREAD! We did this. Our minds were blown. All three starters produced beautiful loaves that any baker would be proud of. And us newbie sourdough bakers; well, we were blown away.
I wish I could say every experience has been like this one but one Sunday, I tried my hand at cinnamon sourdough… let’s just say I was a bit upset by the outcome. How could something work so well last time and be soooo terrible this time? What did I do wrong? After asking a few friends I quickly realized it was part of the process. All of these experts had their share of failures too, but they didn’t quit and they certainly did not let it stop them. So, I pulled my starter out of the fridge and made a promise to keep baking.
These last few weeks have taught me so much about starters, baking, and making sourdough. But as I have had time to talk with many of you in our DM’s, in the store, and during classes, I realized that there were three major things I was able to learn that have nothing to do with this process at all. These three things may actually be the most important things I needed to learn- it just took sourdough to get me there.
1- Creating the starter was creating a better me.
As a busy mom, every morning I hit the ground running. With 4 kids to get off to school, an amazing husband who starts his day early, and a dog to feed (who will eat my shoes if I accidentally leave them out for him to chew on), answering emails, DM’s, texts—all the ways of communicating—all before 9 a.m. But as I began this starter process I quickly realized I needed to feed these before the day began. This way I could make sure it was done before the craziness started. Those 15 minutes of feeding my three new friends gave me some time each morning to gather my thoughts, do a little something for myself, see what changes had happened; but most importantly give myself some quiet and stillness before the busy day began. While I am not feeding my starters each morning anymore, I am grateful for that time I took to do a little something just for me. Some mornings it’s reading or even just watching the day begin out the window, but what I learned is how great it is to begin each day this way.
2- Don’t complicate this.
Flour. Water. Flour. Water. Flour. Water. Once we developed a growing bacteria we took that flour and water and added a little more flour and water and salt to create bread. Why do we complicate this? There are a million ways to do this and it is sooo important to find a way that works and sticks for you. Don’t let the rules or the weighing or the exact flour stress you out. Our friend Charity (charitylighten.com) teaches us a busy mom method of making and baking bread on the same day. Brandon (@chefbrandonprice on Instagram) helps us to see the scientific and preciseness needed to get consistent results each time. Both helped us in our journey and also helped so many of you to find your answers. We are all making our own versions of sourdough. No matter your method, find the way that works for you and make it happen. Don’t stress the details. Just bake.
3- Everyone loves bread.
Coming out of the last two years where many of us have felt isolated, alone, or had to find new ways to connect, I was blown away by the closeness we have felt to others through bread: a closeness with many of you as we have all been baking; a closeness to those still asking questions about getting started; a closeness to those of you sharing your knowledge as you have been on this journey far longer than we have and; a closeness to those we get to share our bread with. Bread comforts a sad heart, a happy face, a new neighbor, a moving neighbor, a hungry family, and feeds the soul. Bread is something everyone will welcome with open arms. Every time I feed my starter it has become a little reminder as I’m getting ready to bake that someone in my life that might benefit from a little bread. This weekly reminder helps me bake an extra loaf to share. It doesn’t take much longer and it helps someone close to me feel a little bit of extra love. So, find a way to use this newfound skill to share with those around you. That closeness and connection we have all been craving will be filled with friends at the table, or the doorstep, as we share hot bread with those around us.
I am so happy about this last month, I hope if you joined along with us that sourdough is something you continue with. If you haven’t found the time yet, I hope you try it soon. There is so much we learned—so much more than just bread—and we are all so grateful for this last month. We know everything goes by fast and we all need a little refresher from time to time. So, don’t worry we have everything saved right here as the Gygi Guide to Sourdough will be here to hold your hand through the process. It’s just like we’re there in the kitchen with you. Thank you for jumping in, for trusting us, and for teaching us so much. We love bread, but more so we love this community.