AT THE TIME THIS WAS WRITTEN THERE WAS NO LOCKDOWN IN THE UK
We are an international school, however, I have to advise that students in each country follow the guidance by their government. Given the new UK government instructions last night, it is no longer advisable to continue this initiative in the UK, or Spain, Italy or France.
Perhaps it is one we can work with this once the lockdown is over?
Stay safe everyone.
Right now is the time to look after each other. Please read the protocol before beginning.
This is the Sourdough Exchange & This is the free recipe with video tutorials for creating & maintaining a starter.
How do I get involved? well, you just need to want to. The rest is about communication & community & this the Sourdough Sourdough Exchange Door Poster that you can put on your door.
Most bakers are struggling to bake because the flour is suddenly in short supply, but there are many who have flour or other ingredients. So this is about exchanging.
As we have started this already, we’ve also started making soup as people have vegetables.
I know that under the pressure to stock that many people have bought extra supplies and left people short, and it is understandable. But when we start sharing and people open up.
So if you are a baker without flour you can still offer an exchange, but perhaps instead of flour, you could offer soup for flour? … you can adapt the ingredients, but the principle is the same .. same rules apply when exchanging .. hot soup must be poured into a container on the table without touching the container.
A call to action
I’ve been teaching people to make sourdough for over 15 years and have thousands of students. It dawned on me, as I read your messages of support, that I have trained an army of bakers. I have more than 250,000 online followers and there are more than 10,000 of you reading this newsletter. If every single one of the bakers connected to me bakes an extra loaf, once a week, for a month, that is 1 million loaves.
It doesn’t take any extra time or effort to bake an additional loaf of sourdough. The process is the same, the timings are the same, and you can use the same oven. If you happen to have six standard bread tins, you could make six loaves (this is how many will normally fit in a standard domestic British oven).
Here is a Basic Sourdough Tin Loaf Recipe I have put together for you to use.
Is there a shortage of flour?
This is a short terms shortage. You can only panic buy once and it won’t be long before the supply chain catches up. This is why if you have extra flour it is important to consider sharing a little more, especially for more vulnerable people. I spoke to the head of the largest mill in the UK, who told me there are currently 19 million tonnes of grain in storage. There are 16.5 million tonnes from our latest harvest, as well as 1.9 million tonnes leftover from the previous harvest. About 7.4 million tonnes are needed for animal feed. There is no grain shortage in the UK.
How the Sourdough Exchange works
We are not asking bakers to use their own flour. We are asking simply that they use their skills and a means of exchange that follows the government’s advice on social distancing. It is so important for anyone participating to observe both a social and a microbial distance to avoid spreading coronavirus.
How does it work?
You let your community know you are taking part in the Sourdough Exchange. You ask them to leave flour in a designated box outside your door. You bake bread for them, agree a time, and then leave their loaf for collection in a designated place. It’s as simple as that.
To follow the protocol you will need:
- A table, positioned in a space which allows you to maintain a safe distance from your guest. I recommend an outdoor table would be preferable to an indoor one. Not everyone has access to an outdoor table (or bench) so if inside your home is the only option and this exchange involves your guest entering your home, you should sterilise any door handles they may touch before and after their visit. You should also sterilise the table after their visit, and wash your hands with soap. The guidelines on handwashing are to wash for 20 seconds or more, thoroughly using soap, and to avoid touching your face.
- A flour bin, placed on the table for dropping off the flour. A bin or box into which the person you are baking for can tip their flour. This avoids the need for you to touch the outside of their flour bag.
- A box or a large cloth, such as a shoebox or large tea towel – for collection of the baked bread. The person you are baking for will need to bring this box or cloth and place it on the table so that you can turn out the bread straight from the oven into the box. Again, this means you and the person you’re baking for don’t need to come into contact with an item that anyone else has handled.
- To avoid contamination please use a clean tea towel or oven gloves you will need to drop the hot bread straight from the oven into the box or cloth.
We have suggested putting up a sign (we’ve designed one for you: Sourdough Exchange Printout) to explain how this works, and why maintaining these small actions and social distancing is so important.
Important note: If you are in isolation then please wait until this is finished before you join in.
What kind of flour?
Any wheat flour should be fine. Ideally, it should contain about 12 per cent protein, and a blend of both white and wholegrain – but as times are difficult, just use what you are given (but please do not use self-raising flour).
The loaf isn’t a complicated one. It is made in a tin which, as we explained above, allows you to fit as many as six loaves into a standard domestic oven. A little oil makes the bread last longer and the texture is soft, open and voluptuous. When you add wholegrain in, with the long, slow fermentation, it is satiating. The long, slow prove makes higher levels of resistant starch, which helps to control blood sugar levels: critical for keeping calm under pressure in these stressful times.
To take part:
- Please follow the protocol below
- Print out the Sourdough Sourdough Exchange Door Poster that you can put on your door.
- This is a Basic Sourdough Tin Loaf recipe we recommend following
- Share your baking using the hashtag #sourdoughexchange on Facebook and Instagram, and we will repost.
Protocol – staying well
I asked Dr Richard Griffith, a GP currently on the front line treating patients and one of our Sourdough School students, to check on our protocol, “an exchange of flour for bread is an excellent way to support the most vulnerable people, at this time. It is very important that if you want to take part in this amazing Sourdough Exchange that you follow these guidelines because there is evidence that this virus can survive on items that have been handled by anyone who has the virus on their hands. It has been suggested that it can remain active for up to 72 hours. There is also evidence that it can be caught from droplets in the air, for a sneeze of a cough. So, stay at least 6 feet away from each other. Vanessa’s recommendations are practical ways in which you can bake without coming into contact with the people you are baking for. I cannot stress highly enough that observing these protocols is essential, both to keep yourself well but also to protect anyone vulnerable that you are giving your bakes to.”
Why sourdough and not ordinary yeasted bread?
Sourdough has never been more relevant than it is right now. Here’s why:
You do not need to go to the shops to buy yeast. Both yeast and lactic acid bacteria are wild. They occur naturally in the environment and, given the right conditions, will quickly and naturally colonise your starter. What is relevant about the Sourdough Exchange is that it means that, even if you are self-isolating, you can still help others.
Sourdough is inexpensive to make. You just need flour, salt and water – and the knowledge. This can all cost as little as 20p.
All the research on sourdough shows that fermentation increases the bioavailability of the key nutrients needed by our microbes to function optimally.
Fermentation also acidifies the dough and increases the breakdown of gluten, which can be inflammatory for some people. It has never been more important to nourish our guts or to reduce inflammation to support immune function.
- The gut is at the centre of the immune system, and supporting your gut helps keep you well.
- If you have been following my work over that last decade, you will know that my focus is on sourdough and the gut microbiome.
- In addition, wholegrains deliver fibre. By increasing levels of fibre, you are feeding the bacteria that produce short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs), which are a major player in the maintenance of the gut as well as in supporting the immune system.
- There are many other ways in which sourdough can support the gut and, in the coming months, I will be sharing this knowledge here, for free.
- At this point, I am legally obliged to say that participation in the Sourdough Exchange is entirely at your own risk. The Sourdough Exchange uses techniques that follow the current guidance on Coronavirus. Please check all government guidance before participating.
I also want to add that am beyond grateful to the students who have been so incredibly supportive of my decision to temporarily suspend classes at the school.
For now, I will be teaching my students online but more than just teaching. I will also be mobilising an army of bakers – and sharing recipes (including our free basic sourdough tinned loaf) and techniques that apply both the art and science of baking. I’ll be focusing on how to best support our immune systems with sourdough, and how we can still connect despite quarantine. So, for now, I’ll have to wait to re-open the School, but in the meantime, I will be right here, teaching, sharing and baking. And now I am asking that, while we wait, you join me in looking after the most vulnerable members of our society.
Are you in?
Vanessa & team x