Θα θέλαμε να εκφράσουμε την βαθιά μας ευγνωμοσύνη προς τον Νίκο για τη συμμετοχή του και την κοινοποίηση της ιστορίας του με την παγκόσμια κοινότητα του σπιτικού σάουρντοου. Στον ιστότοπο The Sourdough People, λατρεύουμε την Αθήνα, την Ελλάδα και όλο τον Ελληνικό πολιτισμό και νιώθουμε ευγνωμοσύνη που μοιραζόμαστε την ιστορία του Νίκου με την παγκόσμια κοινότητα του σπιτικού ψωμιού σάουρντοου.
Welcome to the latest feature on The Sourdough People, your go-to resource for all things sourdough! Today, we have the pleasure of sharing an exclusive interview with an extraordinary baker who has made significant waves in the world of sourdough. Introducing Nikos, a Greek artisan baker whose journey started in the quaint town of Katerini and has now flourished in the bustling city of Athens. Nikos has a unique story, deeply rooted in family tradition and a passion for sourdough that’s as rich as the loaves he bakes. You can catch a glimpse of his captivating work and daily sourdough adventures on Instagram at @frommydadsbakery. In this interview, Nikos shares his insights, experiences, and personal milestones, delving into the art and science of sourdough baking. From his early days learning in his family’s bakery to his innovative techniques and recipes, he offers a wealth of knowledge and inspiration for both novice and experienced bakers.
Please tell us where you are from and what you love about where you live?
I come from a charming town in the North of Greece, Katerini, nestled close to the majestic Mount Olympus. Picture the quintessential Greek family – that’s us, with two hard-working parents and a younger sister completing the dynamic. My childhood unfolded around my family’s bakery, which is so ingrained in me – as I found out later on in my life – that I’ve embraced it as the essence of who I am today, and I am hoping that is captured at my page on IG @frommydadsbakery. Currently, I reside in Athens, a city that has captured my heart. In my view, it represents an ideal blend between the West and the East, a mixture of European, Balkan, and Middle Eastern influences, shaping the culture, the culinary experience, and, in essence, the lifestyle.
Nikos, what initially sparked your interest in sourdough baking, and how did you begin your journey?
It must have started very early on. Being the son of a baker, learning the art of baking became an inevitable part of my life, whether consciously or unconsciously. One of my earliest childhood memories involves watching my father knead bread amidst stacks of flour. The aroma of freshly baked bread will forever be associated with the memory of my father, who passed away 6 years ago. And essentially, that is the moment my journey in sourdough baking began. I believe, in the beginning, it started, maybe as a way of connecting with him, in tandem with the stress-relief dough kneading offers. And then, of course, the lockdowns happened, which gave me ample time to perfect and involve my skills.
How has being based in Greece added to your sourdough journey?
During the recent summer, I decided to dedicate my attention entirely to my bread-baking endeavors, and it was this commitment that ultimately brought me back to Greece, reconnecting with the art of bread-making. In every aspect, it feels like returning home.
How has your approach to sourdough baking evolved since you first started?
Initially, my fixation was on crafting the flawless, straightforward loaf. However, as my journey unfolded, my fascination shifted towards the intricate processes of sourdough bread making. I began exploring novel methods to illustrate and convey this process through diverse natural colors and flavors. Presently, I perceive my approach as more holistic, with a profound understanding of fundamental elements, like flour, and their pivotal role in shaping the outcome.
Do you have a signature sourdough recipe or technique you’re particularly proud of? Can you share a bit about it?
I can’t single out one particular recipe or technique. Each thing I produce and present, in my view, embodies something distinctive that reflects my work and aesthetic values. However, if I had to select one, it would likely be the techniques used to create intricate patterns on the bread. This involves collaborating with the microbiome of the sourdough starter to produce detailed designs on the crumb of the loaf. I find immense joy when people slice through what appears to be a simple loaf and unveil an entirely new world within—an entirely unexpected discovery.
Who are some of the people, brands, or companies in the sourdough industry that have inspired you?
I hold great admiration for numerous individuals within the industry, and each day brings the discovery of someone new who either impresses me or imparts valuable lessons. Whether they are seasoned professionals, passionate home bakers, or dedicated hobbyists, I am continually amazed by the diverse talents and capabilities within the sourdough community.
What are your must-have tools or favorite equipment for sourdough baking, and why?
How do you source your ingredients, and do you have any specific preferences or tips regarding flour, water, or salt?
Crafting sourdough bread involves using straightforward ingredients, making it crucial to source locally and choose high-quality products. Depending on your geographical location, you have access to various flours and ingredients that result in unique loaves even when following the same recipe. In my home baking, I consistently choose local ingredients and opt for organic options whenever possible.
Can you share a particularly challenging experience you’ve had with sourdough baking and how you overcame it?
The initial thought that comes to mind is the journey of Panettone baking, which presented its challenges. It took me about 20 days to establish my Lievito Madre, and then crafting a Panettone to meet my preferences required perhaps another year. Through extensive reading, participation in workshops, and experimentation to find what works best with my Lievito Madre and ingredients, I’ve developed a much more profound understanding of the Panettone process. The outcomes, if I may say so, are exceptional.
What do you enjoy most about baking sourdough, and how does it impact your daily life?
I adore every facet of sourdough. As you can imagine, I have recently transitioned from being a home baker to fully immersing myself in a professional bakery business. However, what truly captivates me about sourdough, in its intricate and interconnected process, is how its microcosm mirrors our society. Just as the sourdough starter depends on a symbiotic relationship between its wild yeast and bacteria, is almost a metaphor for how our communities can flourish through collaboration and shared values.
How do you balance tradition and innovation in your sourdough baking practices?
The craft of sourdough baking is a time-honored tradition with roots extending thousands of years, traversing diverse cultures and civilizations. Now, if we take this as the basis and understand its fundamentals, then the possibilities for innovation are boundless. I don’t know if I am successfully keeping the balance, but I do wholeheartedly believe that the way forward is innovation, in the products, processes but also ingredients we use in our sourdough baking.
Have you noticed any new trends or innovations in sourdough baking recently?
I’ve observed a significant commitment from the flour industry to enhance their products by maximizing the utilization of every part of the grain. I anticipate that this dedication will result in the production of higher-quality flour over time, with reduced reliance on artificial enzymes and additives.
What are some common misconceptions about sourdough baking that you’ve encountered, and how do you address them?
Contrary to common belief, crafting sourdough bread is often perceived as a complex undertaking. However, the reality is that the process is quite straightforward, demanding primarily attention to detail and a bit of patience. The ingredients are simple and manageable, and the steps involved are largely repetitive. Therefore, if you’re keen on baking your loaf, it’s time to get hands-on, dust off your sleeves, and embark on a bread-making adventure.
In your opinion, what is the most underrated aspect of sourdough baking?
Possibly the health benefits of sourdough bread are to this day, underrated.
Are there any books, videos, or online resources you’d recommend to those wanting to learn more about sourdough baking?
Tartine Bread and Flour Water Salt Yeast thoroughly explore tools, equipment, and baking science. Both cookbooks present user-friendly recipes, complete with sample baking timelines, making them especially advantageous for beginners. The Perfect Loaf, an exceptional resource for sourdough bread baking, is Maurizio’s website, featuring a plethora of detailed sourdough recipes with explanations and process photos. Additionally, there are countless other incredible home bakers and professionals one can learn from or find inspiration in.
What advice would you give to someone just starting with sourdough baking?
Embrace the notion that time is a crucial element in enhancing the flavor of your sourdough. Don’t be disheartened if your initial attempts at baking sourdough aren’t flawless; this is a normal part of the learning process. Just like with any baking endeavor, gaining familiarity with your dough, its idiosyncrasies, and how it interacts with your environment, tools, and ingredients is essential—numerous factors must harmonize. Commence your sourdough journey with a reliable basic recipe. After successfully mastering the fundamentals, feel free to experiment and introduce variations. It’s advisable to follow the recipe several times before making any alterations, allowing you to comprehend the nuances of the recipe and develop an instinct for working with the dough.
Each sourdough culture is unique; some may require 2 hours for proofing, while others may take 4 hours. Through repeated baking, you’ll become attuned to the specific characteristics of your sourdough culture, which may differ from others. Even if your sourdough loaf doesn’t achieve perfection and appears slightly flat, resist the urge to discard it—most often, it remains perfectly edible. As you explore sourdough recipes in books and on the internet, you may encounter various terms such as sourdough, culture, starter, levain, etc. Rest assured, they all refer to the same concept—a mixture of water and flour teeming with wild yeast and beneficial bacteria. Don’t be bewildered; they all function similarly. The primary distinctions lie in the quantity of water and the type of flour used.
How do you engage with your followers and the sourdough community on social media? What’s your style?
As enthusiasts of sourdough, food, and design, our discussions often revolve around these subjects, whether collectively or individually. I am mainly posting when I feel creative and when I have something new to say or share with the community. Typically, my posts and stories showcase material that I find aesthetically pleasing, technically accurate, and that I believe can inspire others.
Have you participated in any collaborations or community events related to sourdough baking, and what was your experience?
Certainly, some of my closest friends in Athens have been made through the online sourdough community. I enjoy collaborating with local artisans, fellow bakers, and individuals from various fields to adopt a more transdisciplinary approach to baking and that is what inspires me to keep experimenting and trying out new techniques in my baking journey.
What’s your favorite sourdough recipe to bake for yourself, friends, or your loved ones?
I don’t think I have just one favorite recipe—I relish hosting people and cooking for them. Whether it’s crafting savory pizzas, pinsas, and focaccias or indulging in the art of creating sweet babkas, tsoureki, and panettone, the joy is always present.
Do you have any tips or suggestions on how to manage a healthy sourdough starter culture?
Begin with high-quality local flour, and if you opt for tap water, ensure it is not chlorinated. Chlorine, which is sometimes found in tap water and public filtration systems, can potentially harm the microbiome in your starter.
Do you have any upcoming projects or plans related to sourdough baking that you’re excited about?
Absolutely! Just before Christmas, I started a collaboration with Ergon, a Greek company dedicated to excellent food and exceptionally aesthetic hospitality projects. They champion promoting the essence of both traditional and contemporary Greek cuisine and produce. This new project is set to launch soon in Athens, and I am incredibly excited and proud about it.
What do you hope to contribute or be remembered for most in the sourdough community?
I would find fulfillment in achieving my primary goal: encouraging people to bring sourdough bread as a gift when invited to dinners, much like they would offer a fine bottle of wine. I envision this bread to be a canvas for various patterns and artistic expressions hidden within. The concept of ephemerality in art, regardless of its form, fascinates me. I see the patterns on the bread I make as a form of performance art, sharing a common thread with the transient nature of artistic expressions. The ephemeral quality in both bread patterns and performance art provides a sense of liberation, akin to the symbolic and momentary impressions that a blink of an eye or a bite of food can evoke. The idea of slicing into a seemingly ordinary loaf of bread only to discover a world of colors, patterns, tastes, or smells, all crafted from natural ingredients and entirely edible, serves as my motivation to continue experimenting and creating.
Can you describe a moment when you felt particularly proud or fulfilled in your sourdough baking journey?
I take pride in my entire journey that has brought me to where I am today. This past summer, I decided to solely concentrate on my passion for sourdough and baking, which also brought me back to Greece. I am proud that I found the courage to completely change my career and start a new one from scratch, delving into the unknown and following the whispers of my heart. Another moment I felt particularly proud of was when my projects and bread pattern technique were awarded by a designers committee at Thessaloniki Design Week festival, securing the second prize among numerous other talented designers and artists, which is something I have never anticipated or even imagined that can happen.
If you could give one piece of advice to your past self when you started sourdough baking, what would it be?
Just do you – and do not hesitate!
Is there anything else Nikos that you would like the community to know about you or things you would like the readers to potentially purchase or subscribe to?
I would love to invite people to visit my profile on IG (@frommydadsbakery) check out my work, and follow if they like it. And stay tuned for the project that is about to start.
We hope you enjoyed this insightful conversation with Nikos. His story is not just about baking bread; it’s about heritage, creativity, and the continuous pursuit of excellence in the art of sourdough. A big thank you to Nikos for sharing his experiences and wisdom with us.
For more stories like this, don’t forget to follow us on Instagram at @sourdoughbread.ca. We love hearing from our community, so if you have a cool or unique sourdough story to share, please use our intake form to let us know. Your story could be the next feature on our site! Lastly, to stay updated on all things sourdough, including tips, trends, and tantalizing recipes, subscribe to our email newsletter.
Happy baking, and here’s to the wonderful world of sourdough!