Welcome to The Sourdough People, your go-to source for everything related to the art of sourdough baking. In this feature article, we’re thrilled to share the inspiring story of Brittny, a remarkable sourdough baker and educator who has made a significant impact in the sourdough community. Through her Instagram handle @kitchen_britt, Brittny has been sharing her sourdough journey, captivating followers with her passion, expertise, and unique approach to this timeless craft. From her initial intrigue to mastering the creation of her first starter, Brittny’s journey is a rich tapestry of learning, sharing, and community building. So, join us as we delve into her world, and don’t forget to follow Brittny on Instagram to witness her sourdough adventures and glean valuable insights from her experiences.
Brittny, can you share with us what sparked your interest in sourdough baking and the story behind creating your first starter?
Before the pandemic, I had heard of sourdough but had never thought about baking with natural yeast. Like many others, being “at home” created an opportunity for me to dive into the world of sourdough baking. I had been following a few influencers who shared food storage tips and bread making. One of those was Amber Egget from @amberskitchen. She made sourdough bread look really easy and fun! I followed her tutorials and then made my own starter. This is when @kitchen_britt was born. I shared the ups and downs of making your own sourdough starter. I think this was appealing to my followers to watch how someone like me, who barely even knew how to bake with commercial yeast, create a starter and begin to bake bread with it.
How has this heirloom influenced your baking practices and your connection to the craft?
My first sourdough mentor, Aida, was an acquaintance of mine who witnessed that I was struggling to maintain my starter. She kindly offered to come to my home and help me. Aida had been baking with sourdough for over 10 years. Her help was invaluable at the time! Having someone with sourdough experience help you in person is key. She taught me a basic artisan recipe that I still use today and teach to beginners. Then, I had a cousin reach out to me saying that she had her grandmother’s 40+ year-old starter and did I want some of it? I absolutely did! After baking with her mature starter I ditched my newborn culture and named her “Lola”. Inheriting a 40-year-old sourdough starter was quite special. Now Lola has been shared across the United States and Canada. She is so resilient and everyone loves her.
With such a deep dive into the world of sourdough, what is it about this particular style of baking that you find most captivating?
I am a dental hygienist. I’ve practiced for 18 years. What I love most about dentistry is it is constantly changing and improving. When I found sourdough, I was captivated by the fact that even professional sourdough bakers were still learning and improving with each bake. There is a reason why it is called a “journey”. You will never be done learning and improving. When I teach, I will often tell my students that how I am teaching today, may not be how I teach next year. I will continue to try new methods and techniques, flour blends, and recipes to improve my sourdough bread. This is what I love most about the world of sourdough.
Being a mother of five and managing to bake and teach sourdough is impressive. How do you balance your family life with your passion for baking?
Great question. I don’t know. Really, though, I’m at a stage of life where my kids are all pretty much self sufficient. I have always worked a little here and there throughout my years of raising my children. I am fortunate enough to not have to work to supplement our family’s income. I just chose to. I love contributing to society and doing something I feel called to do. I also think it is important for my kids to see that I am using my education and serving in our community. My family has truly been my greatest cheerleaders. For that, I am incredibly grateful.
Arizona’s climate can be challenging for sourdough baking. How do you adjust your methods to cater to the unique environment?
I love Arizona for sourdough. I have taught in Tennessee, Washington, Idaho, and California (some in formal settings and some in private) and I have to say, Lola behaves the best for me in our dry climate. Humidity, cold weather, etc. can make it tricky to manage a sourdough starter or dough. The only time I really need to adjust my methods are in the hot summer months and/or during the few months of cold weather we get during an Arizona winter. Fermentation times either need reducing or increasing during those months. I often say to my students, “The key to sourdough is to watch your dough, not the clock!” With the constant change in seasons, no matter what part of the globe you live in, you will need to make adjustments along the way. I think this is what causes a bit of angst to sourdough newbies. Where I live in Arizona, fortunately, our weather is pretty mild.
Since starting your sourdough journey, what are some of the key lessons you’ve learned that you emphasize in your teaching?
My number one objective when I teach is to simplify sourdough. I try to make it so that even the novice baker can understand and not be intimidated. I’ve helped many people who have never even baked with instant yeast before come to learn and love sourdough baking. This is so fulfilling for me. Another thing I stress in my class is to “watch your dough, not the clock.” Of course, this comes with practice and experience to know how to read your dough. When I teach beginners, I will say to them, “Commit to making this basic artisan recipe at least 10 times before you give up.” This puts in their minds that, “Hey, this may take some time and practice for me to get all the things right.” I tell my students that sourdough is a science and once you understand the rules, you will eventually learn how to break the rules. But in the beginning, always follow the rules. Otherwise, you will be even more frustrated and likely to give up too early.
Could you describe the feeling you get when you see someone bake their first successful sourdough loaf through your guidance?
There is great satisfaction in helping someone learn a skill that you have taught them and see how they use it to bless their lives. I especially love it when they teach their family and friends. Sourdough is meant to be shared. I will forever be grateful for Aida, Amber and many other sourdough mentors who shared their knowledge with me!
Your journey includes teaching others about sourdough. What motivated you to move from baking to also educating, and what has that transition been like?
One year into creating my Instagram page I began having followers ask me to teach them. First, it started with one person at a time. I told them, “Hey, I’m no expert. I am still figuring this out myself but I will teach you what I know.” They would agree and come to my home. Then it turned into two people at a time. Then three. Next thing I knew I was teaching four to five people at a time about once a week. I didn’t charge for the first year. Again, I was still learning myself. By the second year, I began charging a small fee. I wanted those who were coming to be invested and not just come for a “baking day with Brittny”. Sourdough is much more than that. You literally are taking on a pet! People kept asking me to teach them so I did. After another six months, I decided to take this more seriously and treat it like a business. Last summer I began meeting with a web designer and we launched my website kitchenbritt.com! I love that my recipes I’ve shared over the years on Instagram are now on a website I own. I also love that anyone who is interested in taking my in person or online course can access all the information there. It has made everything more efficient and now anyone anywhere can take my course. This past year has been quite a ride!
What are some of your go-to tools and brands that you believe are essential for those looking to get serious about sourdough baking?
Some of my go-to tools are Weck Jars, 6 qt Staub Dutch Oven, Challenger Breadware Pan, vintage ceramic bread bowl, dough hook (Barlow & Co), 7” Boule and 9” Batard Bannetons, scoring tools (I like Wire Monkey), and a serrated knife (I love my Challenger Bread Knife). My favorite flour is Hayden Mills Flour and Central Milling Flour.
You’ve been teaching sourdough classes for the last two years. What’s the structure of your classes, and what can a newcomer expect to take away from them?
My basic sourdough artisan class is about 2 hours in length and students will learn my sourdough artisan recipe from start to finish. They make their own dough and get halfway through the bulk fermentation then complete the process at home. I have dough prepared from the day before to demonstrate shaping methods and then we score and bake loaves that have been cold-proofed overnight. The processes of bulk fermentation, proofing, dough strengthening methods, shaping, and scoring are demonstrated and discussed at length. Starter maintenance is demonstrated and taught plus each student will take home some of my Lola. We also discuss how to dehydrate and rehydrate their starter. Lastly, we discuss how to convert instant recipes to sourdough. Each student receives a link to create a password and log in on my site so they can have access to my online course for future reference. This online course is everything I teach in person and is a great asset for them to refer to later as needed.
Sourdough has a robust online community with many influencers and enthusiasts. Are there any particular figures in the community that inspire you or that you enjoy connecting with?
Yes! So many! The sourdough community is AMAZING! I have learned from and continue to connect with many sourdough bakers. Ambers Kitchen, Amy Bakes Bread, Sourdough Explained, Southworth Sourdough, She Bakes Sourdough, Bread By Elise, and of course the person who improved my sourdough the most, Maurizio Leo. I love how we can ask each other questions and try each other’s recipes. We live in an amazing world where we can connect and learn together!
Your blog offers a wealth of information. What process do you go through to ensure the content you provide is both informative and easy to digest for your readers?
I have collected the most commonly asked questions from my Instagram page over the past few years and those are the ones on my website. I try to share clear, accurate, and informative information so that even the beginner will understand. When I was first starting out, it was so helpful for me to be able to read others blogs/tutorials/FAQ’s to help to make sense of it all. This is why I include them on my site.
What do you love most about the town or city in Arizona you call home, and does it influence the flavors or styles of bread you bake?
I have lived in Mesa, Arizona my entire life. I was born in Colorado but raised here. I don’t ever plan to leave! I mentioned before that I love Hayden Flour Mills flour. They are a local micro mill here in Gilbert, AZ about 25 minutes from where I live. Hayden Flour Mills is devoted to stone milling ancient and heritage grains. Maurizio Leo created his Perfect Loaf Blend with their grains. I use it in my bakes and their artisan bread flour. I am fortunate to work with them and use their incredible flour. When your bread consists of only flour, water, and salt, choosing high-quality flour is key!
Looking at the future of @kitchen_britt and your blog, are there any upcoming projects or aspirations you can share with us?
I took an online course with Sourdough Explained who resides in the UK and loved it! She did it all through Zoom. I plan to offer classes like this in the future as well. I would love to shadow a few professional sourdough bakers and continue to increase my knowledge. It would be a dream to work with Maurizio.
Finally, for someone who’s just discovered your page and is eager to start their sourdough journey, what first step would you recommend they take?
Sign up for my class. And if not mine, find someone’s class and take it. Or find someone local to you who has sourdough experience and ask them to teach you. Yes, you can learn online as well but an in-person class is so much better.
Thank you for joining us on this delightful exploration of Brittny’s sourdough journey. Her story is a vivid reminder of the joy and fulfillment that comes from connecting with our food and the communities around it. We hope you’re as inspired as we are by her passion and dedication to the craft of sourdough baking. For more engaging stories, tips, and insights into the world of sourdough, don’t forget to follow The Sourdough People on Instagram at @sourdoughbread.ca. We invite you to use our intake form to suggest topics you’d love to see featured on our website. And to stay updated with the latest sourdough trends and stories, be sure to subscribe to our email newsletter. Your journey into the wonderful world of sourdough starts here with The Sourdough People.