What's Up With Sourdough Starter?
I guess I should finally reveal my secret. If you've noticed some American English floating around the Britain Loves Baking website, on our social media posts, or on our recipe cards, I am to blame. I'm an American college student working with Britain Loves Baking and as such you might have noticed some dialect differences.
Whew, now that that's out of the way, Greg the Baker asked me to use my nationality and lend some perspective to address the pandemic phenomenon that has taken root across the pond: sourdough starter. While the beginning of the pandemic saw soaring rates of banana bread creation, once all the bananas were gone we had to think of something else. Focaccia got a flash in the pan in February, but with a drought of inspiration as quarantine dragged on it was time for a new baking craze. Enter the humble sourdough.
According to Google Trends, interest in sourdough starter peaked the week of April 5-11, roughly mid-quarantine. After graduating from Bread Basics 101, Americans sought the next challenge. A multi-step, somewhat scientific process, that might feel a little bit like bringing Frankenstein to life. Perhaps an important sub-plot to this entire ordeal is the coining of "sourdough bro": the 20-something man working from home with little entertainment or human interaction, who, in a stunning series of events, has decided to turn his attention to loaves. Others note that having the starter is kind of like having a pet: it's a living mixture that helps bring sustenance to the table.
Like in the UK, the United States has been struggling to keep the baking aisle of the grocery store well-stocked. When ingredients aren't readily available, a sourdough loaf can be started with flour, water, and naturally occurring yeast in the air. Certainly, it's convenient for scratching that baking itch. While some argue that naming your sourdough starter is a bread-baking rite of passage, you could also argue it's all gotten a little out of hand. I'll let you be the judge.
While I haven't personally tried to take on this new trend, I'm happy to see my fellow Americans using quarantine to try something new and, for some, as a way to start baking. And, if we're being honest, I'm glad that when Americans turned to a white powder addiction during quarantine... it was for sourdough.
Cheers from across the pond!