Welcome to another inspiring feature on The Sourdough People, the go-to online community at sourdoughbread.ca for all things sourdough. Today, we are thrilled to share an exclusive interview with Nusrat the creative force behind the Instagram account @sabzi.shabzi. Known for her unique approach to sourdough baking and her engaging social media presence, she has quickly become a beloved figure in the sourdough community. In this candid conversation, she delves into the origins of her sourdough journey, her creative process, and how she manages to blend artistic expression with practical baking techniques. Her story is not just about baking bread; it’s a testament to the power of creativity, experimentation, and community in the world of sourdough. We thank her for joining us and encourage our readers to follow her journey on Instagram for daily doses of inspiration and sourdough magic.
Could you tell us about the beginning of your sourdough baking journey and what inspired you to create the @sabzi.shabzi Instagram account?
I started @sabzi.shabzi in February 2020, to share recipes and everyday food. Sabzi means ‘veggies’ in a few languages and ‘sabzi shabzi’ is a play on words that means ‘veggies and stuff’ basically.
What started me down the sourdough rabbit hole was a meme that asked have you even quarantined if you haven’t made sourdough? I took that as a dare and thought, that’s it, I’m doing it. Then I had doubts. I Whatsapp’ed my sister, what if I can’t figure this out? She said, I bet you’ll be awesome, you have a lot of natural ability. Her confidence allowed me to trust myself to learn something totally new.
Living in Southern California, how do you think the local culture and climate influence your sourdough recipes and baking style?
Recipe development and ideas often come from locally available and seasonal items like loquats, pomegranates, and persimmons. The weather here is not extreme so it gives me a wide and predictable window to make adjustments. And also Trader Joe’s! Nearly all of my St. Paddy’s loaves were inspired by ingredients from TJs.
Sourdough baking has its own distinct charm and challenges. What do you find most appealing and unique about working with sourdough?
There are some guiding principles and necessary basic ingredients, but beyond that, there are limitless methods to achieve success.
When developing a new sourdough recipe, what is your creative process like, and how do you balance traditional methods with new ideas?
I have a reverence for this thousand of years old tradition but I’m self-taught based on YouTube research. I use what I learn to be intentional about results, especially when it comes to geometric detailed scoring. People say you can’t control bread. But you CAN… if you know your dough.
How do you approach creating visually appealing and educational content for your followers on Instagram?
I eat with my eyes first – and it’s something I try to convey with my content. And imagining the one who is scrolling asking “what’s in it for me?” I openly share recipes, tips, and hacks. This is especially important for me because when I was starting out with sourdough, I messaged someone with a question about hydration. The response I got was kind of rude and unhelpful and that had a dual effect. First, I realized I could figure things out myself, and second, it has motivated me to always respectfully and honestly answer every question I get in comments or in my DMs. For me, sharing recipes, tips, and hacks is enjoyable. Food is a necessary nourishment, something everyone has in common. It’s an equalizer, whether a humble comfort dish or a bougie 5-star production.
In what ways has being an active member of the Instagram community influenced your sourdough baking and your journey as an artisan?
A side effect of creating content for my IG account is that I keep a detailed record of my recipes, techniques, and methods. At first, it was so I could share when people asked, but now that I’ve had over three years to build my repertoire, I can look back and see categories that could become something else someday.
You frequently feature various products, tools, and brands in your content. What criteria do you use to select these collaborations?
I don’t honestly feature a lot of brands. I’ve been asked three times (by legitimate small businesses) to try a product and share my thoughts, “no strings attached”. I’m happy to do that. For now, I bake bread as a hobby but for some, their channel is about their livelihood so I don’t mind supporting by sharing my experience of their product.
What common challenges do you think beginners face in sourdough baking, and what advice would you offer them?
The sheer volume of information can be overwhelming. Take in a basic amount of foundational knowledge, then go for it.
How do you select the ingredients for your sourdough bread, and how do they impact the final taste and texture?
My go-to ingredients are bread flour along with spelt and whole wheat. Bread flour brings the gluten, spelt has a distinctive chew, and whole wheat has the nutrition. Add-ins are selected based on what I find out there and what’s in season.
Do you have a favorite or signature sourdough recipe that you are particularly proud of? What makes it unique?
- An early favorite of mine was geometric scoring. I get the most satisfaction from all-over geometric patterns that stay intact though the bake.
- My cinnamon swirl sourdough along with my kitchen string hack is a favorite. I shape the bread using lamination to incorporate cinnamon and sugar. Then, to ensure a nice visual swirl in every slice I mark the direction in which the loaf should be cut by laying down a piece of kitchen string as a marker.
For someone just starting with sourdough baking, what are the must-have tools or products you would recommend?
My most used items when it comes to sourdough baking: are a kitchen scale, bench scraper, bannetons, Dutch ovens (though I enjoy doing open bakes as well), and a timer.
How do you keep yourself motivated and continue to innovate in your sourdough baking practices?
I just love baking and making and sharing delicious food – that’s my main motivation.
Looking ahead, what are your aspirations or goals for your Instagram presence and your sourdough baking?
I derive great satisfaction from sharing my content freely. Recognizing that people value what I have to offer, and the challenge of conveying a full story in 15 or 30 seconds, I am thinking about finally launching my subscription feature.
How do you manage the balance between the artistic aspects of baking and the more business-oriented tasks like brand collaborations and social media management?
My main focus until now has been the creative aspect – I would love to explore business collaborations in a more focused way.
Finally, what key piece of advice would you share with someone embarking on their sourdough baking journey?
The best way to learn is by doing it. Don’t let failure stop you. Be willing to try new things.
As our enlightening conversation with the talented sourdough artisan behind @sabzi.shabzi comes to a close, we are once again reminded of the boundless creativity and passion that fuels the sourdough community. Her journey, dotted with innovative techniques and a heartfelt commitment to sharing knowledge, embodies the spirit that we at The Sourdough People celebrate daily. We extend our heartfelt gratitude to her for sharing her experiences and insights with us.
We also invite you, our valued readers, to join our own growing community. Follow us on Instagram, subscribe to our email newsletter for regular updates, and become an active participant in our sourdough story. Your engagement and enthusiasm are what make our community thrive. Additionally, if you have a sourdough story to tell, a topic you’re passionate about, or a unique perspective you’d like to share, we would love to hear from you. Consider using our intake form to submit your ideas and stories to be featured on sourdoughbread.ca.
Together, let’s continue to explore, learn, and celebrate the wonderful world of sourdough.