Welcome to The Sourdough People, a vibrant community where the art, culture, and science of sourdough bread-making come alive. We are thrilled to present an exclusive interview with Brittany from @BirdysBread, a passionate sourdough artisan whose journey encapsulates the spirit of our global sourdough family. At The Sourdough People, our mission is to spotlight the diverse tapestry of individuals, brands, and cultures that contribute to the rich world of sourdough bread. From traditional techniques to innovative trends, our platform is a hub for those who share a deep appreciation for this timeless culinary craft. Whether you’re a seasoned baker or a curious enthusiast, our content is curated to provide you with valuable insights, delightful stories, and, most importantly, a sense of connection with fellow sourdough aficionados from around the globe. In this interview, @BirdysBread generously shares her experiences, challenges, and triumphs, offering a unique perspective that is sure to inspire and inform our community.
Can you share a bit about yourself and your background?
I grew up in Ontario, Canada, but have lived in the PNW of British Columbia for 16 years. I’m currently a homeschooling mom of four kids ages 6-12, which is my full-time job. Before kids, my main gig was as a violinist and violin teacher, but these have taken a back seat as I’ve moved into motherhood. I love reading (I studied English and Philosophy at University years ago, simply for the love of them), NY Times crossword puzzles, doodling and lettering art, making bread and food for my family and friends, dancing, hosting parties, beachcombing, finding and celebrating beautiful things.
How did your journey with @birdysbread begin and what inspired you to start making sourdough bread?
My brother bakes sourdough, and he was my first inspiration. Then a friend of mine took it up and I asked her for some of her starter to give it a go. It was love at first bake. I started during covid as did so many people and I remember my very first loaf (which, crazily enough, was perfection.) It went downhill from there before it went up again. My first loaf was made during some fairly tight pandemic restrictions, but I sliced it up and brought it out to share with our neighbors in our not-quite-a-gathering culdesac happy hour. (They’ve been my biggest fans ever since) I will be honest: I’m in it for the scoring, for the art, for that daily blank canvas (that I honestly can’t mess up because it’ll taste good regardless of any “mistakes”). So that’s what really got me going with sourdough. The possibilities to make something beautiful. My sister suggested that I start an Instagram account and I thought why not. (The first reel of mine that blew up was scoring a cat… go figure…the internet loves cats!) Here I am 2.5 years later, never having imagined it would be such a big and fun piece of my life.
Could you walk us through your progression in sourdough bread making from a beginner to your current status?
Oh boy. As I said, my first loaf was perfection. I was so excited. But it went downhill from there. I am not a structured or scheduled person at all and I was trying to be exact and follow all these rules that I’d learned (mostly from YouTube at the time, but also from friends or random recipes), and for whatever reason it wasn’t working. While they tasted amazing, my loaves consistently were flat. I was really frustrated for a while and almost gave up until my sister-in-law just happened to mention that she fed her starter by feel. I thought, “wait a minute. I can go by feel and instinct? I don’t have to follow someone else’s rules?” (Is this typical middle child stuff? I don’t know. But I was excited.) And honestly it turned my bread around. I learned a few things I’d been doing wrong (yep, I know—some rules are meant to be followed) and then went by gut and instinct. My loaves have been pretty consistently good ever since. It’s how I live my life in general, so it works for me.
What is a day in your bread-making process like? Could you give us a brief run-through?
I keep a mother fridge starter, that I pull out and “discard” onto the counter when I’m ready to make bread. Being a homeschooling mom means that I’m at home quite a lot, but it also means I’m interrupted and distracted quite a bit too. My process might look something like this: feed my starter in the morning when I get up, mix it all up in my mixer at peak (sometime in the early afternoon), let it rise through the evening in a warm oven, and then shape it at night right before bed and keep it in the fridge overnight in a banneton. (There are two things that my husband will tell you I often say when we are about to get into bed, and neither one is exciting… either “GASP! The laundry!” or “GASP! My sourdough!”) Then I bake it literally whenever I get to it (I’ve left it 3 hours, in a one-day bake situation, and I’ve left it 3 days). Honestly, I get serious imposter syndrome when I tell my method, but it works for me and my unscheduled, unstructured, fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants life as a full-time homeschool mom. It also does produce fantastic bread.
Why does sourdough bread and its culture excite you so much? What sets sourdough apart from other types of bread for you?
I love how simple it is. Plus, how I always have what I need to make it. I also love that it has a rich history—it’s pretty awesome to think that I’m making the same type of bread that people did thousands of years ago. The world has changed so much, but bread is still bread—nourishing, bringing people together, slowing us down.
Could you share your favorite products or tools that are essential in your bread-making? Are there any brands that you are particularly fond of?
I think you can bake great bread with what you already have in your kitchen. I started with a stainless-steel pot that could go in the oven, a paring knife, and parchment paper. However, I’ll never go back to wasting and throwing away parchment paper now that I have @thebreadmat from @rosehillsourdough. I love my wood pulp-proofing baskets, also from the same brand. I’ve bought the Amazon alternatives for both these things, and they do not compare. (Let me know if you’re looking for either, and I’ll hook you up with a discount!) I like to score intricate patterns and details on my bread, and my favorite lame for that is the Lachila Duo from @rbfoodboard. I also love my @lecreuset Dutch oven, which was my biggest sourdough splurge.
Who has been a major influence or inspiration in your bread-making journey? Are there individuals in the industry that you particularly resonate with?
Before I ever posted a loaf, I was following Nusrat @sabzi.shabzi. Her scores were so inspiring to me. I’ve “met” so many lovely people in the sourdough Instagram world—Lou from @wildbluebell, Mike from @rosehillsourdough, Jaimie from @thesourdoughflourist and so many more.
Do you have any advice for those starting their sourdough bread-making journey?
Start with the rules, and then see what you can throw out because your gut might just be smart enough without them. Also, watch lots of videos from people on Insta who have been doing it for a while—you get to know all the different methods, mix and match what works for you and get inspired.
What does the future hold for @birdysbread? Any new avenues or projects you are looking forward to exploring?
This is a hobby I love, and I plan to continue baking for the love of bread (and for the love of the people I share it with). I’ve been asked to teach locally how to bake sourdough and it’s something I have in the back of my mind to try someday. But for now, I love being able to share my bread art in this mutually inspiring Instagram world. I know my “go with your gut and screw the rules” attitude toward sourdough is honestly horrifying to some, but it’s been really helpful for others—and I’m happy to represent and encourage the weird bunch of us who want to bake sourdough like that.
Are there new bread-making techniques or trends you are excited to delve into soon?
Oh, I’m always saving inspiring ideas but almost exclusively for bread art and what to score next. That’s my jam.
How do you ensure continuous learning and growth in your craft? Do you have any go-to resources or networks?
Instagram has been an amazing resource, with so many pros out there.
In your sourdough journey, is there an opportunity for collaboration with other bakers or possibly taking a mentorship role?
I’m an extrovert—I love meeting people. If there are people out there who want to collaborate in some way, I’m probably game.
Is there anything else you would like the community to know about yourself, your journey, or your sourdough bread?
Making sourdough is easier than it might look and you can make it work with your schedule, your personality, your kitchen, and your life. If you’re thinking about diving into sourdough, just go for it. However also fair warning: sourdough sometimes has a mind of its own; you’ll think you’ve mastered it and then it’ll throw you a curveball. It’s a great learning process that way. It might just keep you humble.
We extend our heartfelt gratitude to @BirdysBread for her invaluable contributions to this interview. Her journey, brimming with creativity and determination, beautifully illustrates the essence of what The Sourdough People is all about. We hope her story has sparked curiosity, inspiration, and perhaps even a desire to embark on your own sourdough adventure. As we continue to explore the fascinating world of sourdough bread, we invite you, our dear readers, to stay connected with The Sourdough People. Follow us on Instagram for daily updates, engaging content, and a glimpse into the lives of fellow sourdough enthusiasts. Don’t forget to subscribe to our email newsletter for exclusive insights, recipes, and the latest in sourdough trends. Lastly, your voice matters to us! If you know of intriguing individuals or topics that resonate with the spirit of sourdough bread-making, we encourage you to use our intake form to suggest future article features. Together, let’s continue to celebrate and enrich the diverse culture of sourdough bread-making. Thank you for reading, and here’s to many more sourdough stories to come!