Baking sourdough bread has proved to be the perfect starter for chef Frankie Bodel, who lost her job last week.
As the COVID-19 pandemic took hold, Frankie said she found baking to be a very calming process.
“The simplicity of only a few ingredients can create something so incredibly nurturing,” Frankie told Region Media. “The smell in the house is like a big warm hug – something you can’t get from just anyone nowadays.”
The now unemployed former resident chef and cooking school manager at Foodish cooking school at Belconnen Markets said she had a feeling her job would be at risk, so she began selling fresh or dehydrated sourdough starter from home.
A sourdough starter is also called levain, which is a fermented dough filled with natural, wild yeast and a bacteria called lactobacillus.
“Sourdough is an incredible beast,” says Frankie. “There’s a story of some found on the inside of a pottery jug in ancient Egypt that was dated around 4500 years old. It was activated and bread was baked from it.”
The starter provides a lifetime of sourdough bread, provided its owner continues to nourish it.
Frankie is now mailing dehydrated sourdough starters to all parts of Australia for $10 each, which she says may not be a great business model, but may be the beginning of something bigger.
She can also deliver – with social distancing measures – fresh sourdough starter to your home or via contact-free pick-up from her front deck. Electronic payment is arranged and full instructions and a link to a detailed recipe with photos are sent via email.
Frankie says people turn to comfort food in times of crisis, and a good loaf of bread was right at the top of her list.
“Sourdough takes an extremely long time to prepare before it’s ready to be baked,” she says. “You need to feed up your starter for at least a few days until it is active and bubbly. Then you need to make levain from that starter, which you’ll let rest overnight. Only then are you ready to start the process.
“It takes kneading, folding and resting for around eight hours before it can be popped in the oven.
“An incredible amount of love and nurturing is required and that’s what we have time for now. I’m being contacted by so many people saying they’ve wanted to make sourdough for years, but only now do they have the time due to isolation.”
Frankie has already posted dehydrated starter all over Australia, including Tasmania, Western Australia and Katherine in the Northern Territory.
Proud sourdough break-makers are sharing their results, which Frankie says, may lead to a nationwide sourdough challenge.
“Last week, people were posting results of their baking, so it’s building a real sense of community by keeping people connected. That’s one of the wonderful things about a sourdough starter is you just send it off on a little journey in the mail, and those people will share it with some other people.
“It thrills me that my starter is heading off into all these different homes across Australia and will be feeding people and filling them with joy.”
Frankie has also started a page on Instagram and regularly posts tips and shares information about different sourdough recipes. Her page is called Necessity Kitchen (@necessitykitchen). For those not connected to Instagram, Frankie has a Shopify online store up and running, too.
“I called myself Necessity Kitchen because I found the saying “necessity is the mother of all invention”, and in kitchens you always have to think on your feet. Sometimes you have to pull something out of nothing.
“Besides washing your hands, there’s probably nothing more important than what we do with food at the moment. We need to be mindful of what we’re eating and not wasting food.
“It’s [sourdough starters] growing really quickly and I’m already going to the post office box and slipping lots of envelopes in the mail without them touching anything.”
One of Frankie’s starters is in the mail to Region Media and we’ll keep you posted on how we go with our sourdough.