In summer 2018, Lindsey Horton won a True Loaf competition with this story of how she began making sourdough Real Bread.
Nothing brings people together like good food. While living in Melbourne, I organised a small group from work to go on a sourdough course. That was the beginning of my obsession. After a stressful day at work, making sourdough seemed very therapeutic. Great for mind and body!
I was very happy living in Australia and hoped it would never come to an end but, after six years on a visa, it did. We had to prepare to leave this beautiful country. I needed the comfort of knowing I could take part of Australia with me. Not just fond memories of the lifestyle and friends, but one of them - my sourdough starter – actually to come with me. There were no rules to stop me taking it to the UK so I dried it out and into the shipping container it went.
It was a very sad time as, after spending five years in a nursing home with Alzheimer’s, my father had died recently. My 92 year old mum, who was in New Zealand, was now also in the first stages of dementia and I was the only relative living down under. Our one-way flights allowed us to return to the UK via NZ and I had two months to spend with her. It was precious time to scan in photos of the past, gather as much family history as I could and get all services and contacts for mum in place so I could be her carer from the UK.
This was where my understanding of sourdough baking improved. I needed to keep a positive attitude and sourdough was my saviour. Mum didn’t have working scales to weigh ingredients and so I had to do it by feel, and suddenly I gained a better understanding of the process. I came up with my basic formula, then adapted it and wrote down every detail and outcome. I didn’t know about baker’s percentages then. Decent flour was hard to obtain in the far north of NZ but it’s amazing how any bag of flour can miraculously change when made into sourdough - from ordinary to fantastic! With various friends and family visiting Mum and me from afar, I had plenty of people to practise on.
My parents had both been very slim and fit but they did have a sweet tooth. With the fear of dementia, I read articles on how cutting down on sugar, using olive oil and eating more fermented foods might help prevent, or at least delay, the onset of these terrible brain diseases. Eating sourdough could be the start and olive oil is a good partner.
I am now fitter and slimmer than I have ever been, sleep well and my memory seems better than ever. All in the mind? They do say that our digestive system is our second brain, so I will go along with that and hope my good bacteria multiply and appreciate the sourdough! I am now spreading the news, introducing everyone at work to sourdough and giving them early morning lessons on sourdough making. I wouldn’t eat any other bread now.
Last summer I took a Bread Angels microbakery course with Gaye Fisher’s Sticky Mitts, on which I learned a lot. Sourdough doesn’t normally feature on her course but, as all three participants were very so keen on sourdough baking, Gaye spent a fair amount of time discussing the subject with us.
Writing this has been very therapeutic as I am now on my way back to New Zealand to settle Mum into a home. We will then be on the move again soon, so I am now thinking how I could change this passion into a small business from home.
Originally published in True Loaf magazine in 2018