Welcome to The Sourdough People, where our passion is all about celebrating the art and community of sourdough bread. As a hub for enthusiasts and experts alike, we take pride in showcasing the vibrant individuals, brands, and products that make the world of sourdough bread so special. In today’s feature, we’re thrilled to bring you an exclusive interview with a rising star in the sourdough scene, @SourdoughBrandon. Known for his inventive recipes and engaging food photography, Brandon has carved a unique niche within the sourdough community, bringing fresh insights and inspiration to bakers of all levels. His journey from a home baker to a recognized name offers valuable lessons and a heap of inspiration. So, grab your favorite crusty loaf, settle in, and discover what Sourdough Brandon shared with us about his sourdough adventures, challenges, and dreams.
Brandon, could you share a little about your transition from studying piano and music education to becoming “Sourdough Brandon”?
Certainly! I began playing classical piano at the age of four and pursued music education in college. Afterward, I worked in higher education administration, primarily with graduate students in various capacities. When the pandemic started, it seemed like the perfect time to delve into baking homemade sourdough bread, a passion of mine, especially since bread baking had always appeared somewhat elusive to me. I quickly fell in love with all aspects of it. To share my creations and connect with the sourdough community, I launched an Instagram account. This eventually led me to create SourdoughBrandon.com and write recipes for the sourdough bread I was making at home.
What motivated you to start SourdoughBrandon.com, and what goals do you aspire to achieve with the website?
My long-standing love for baking was reignited when I baked my first loaf of sourdough bread, and I knew then that I would continue baking for life. I am passionate about the process, constantly learning new techniques, and helping others bake at home. SourdoughBrandon.com aims to assist home bakers in succeeding in their kitchens by providing detailed recipes complete with numerous photos, videos, and instructions. I understand how daunting starting can be, so my goal is to support fellow home bakers, guiding them like a friend in the kitchen.
Growing up in Mt. Airy, North Carolina, how has your Southern upbringing influenced your sourdough baking and general cooking?
It has significantly influenced me. My mother and grandmother are both exceptional cooks, and I grew up immersed in delicious Southern-style cooking and baking, including buttermilk biscuits and cornbread. My sourdough adaptations of these dishes clearly reflect my Southern roots, from baking cornbread in a cast-iron skillet to creating flaky and soft buttermilk biscuits, which are hard to find here in Massachusetts.
The importance of seasonal produce also stems from my upbringing. We had a garden where we canned vegetables, and I learned to value the quality of fresh, homegrown produce. My parents had chickens, providing us with fresh eggs which are superior for baking compared to store-bought ones. Now, I have my own chickens and vegetable garden and live near apple orchards, so I’m deeply grateful for the appreciation of fresh produce and homemade foods instilled in me since childhood.
How has moving from NYC and Boston to a rural area in Western Massachusetts impacted your sourdough journey?
Living in one of Western Massachusetts’ rural hilltowns aligns more closely with my North Carolina upbringing. While residing in NYC and Boston during my college years and early twenties was beneficial culinary-wise, offering access to a wide range of international and regional cuisines, ingredients, and grocery stores not available in rural areas, my current location inspires me to develop classic recipes with unique twists, introducing new ingredients and techniques in my sourdough recipes.
Can you recall baking your first loaf of sourdough bread? How did that experience shape your passion for sourdough baking?
As someone detail-oriented, I thoroughly researched to ensure my first loaf was as good as it could be with the tools and ingredients available to me. Although I had low expectations, I was committed to making it work, and fortunately, it was a success. That moment solidified my passion for sourdough baking, and I immediately started looking into how to improve my next loaf.
In what ways do you find sourdough baking similar to or different from your experiences in music and education?
My classical piano background taught me the importance of mastering a method, practicing a craft, and focusing on small details that significantly impact the final product. The continuous learning aspect and the joy derived from the process, be it making music or baking, are strikingly similar.
Moreover, my educational background enables me to anticipate the questions bakers might have and to craft recipes with comprehensive details, ensuring replicability at home. This has been particularly useful in my workshops, where I introduce sourdough baking to attendees who may be unfamiliar with the process.
What are some key lessons you’ve learned through your sourdough journey?
Maintaining a sense of humor is crucial, as baking involves time and effort, and things don’t always go as planned, especially when testing recipes. I’m often hard on myself when results don’t meet my expectations, so humor definitely helps. For beginners, I would say that while sourdough baking may seem daunting, it’s actually quite flexible, and the more you bake, the better you understand how to adapt the process to fit your schedule.
What common misconceptions about sourdough baking do you encounter in your workshops?
Many people mistakenly believe that sourdough bread must taste sour, but that’s not necessarily true. I clarify that sourdough baking is more about the process than a specific bread type or flavor. Referring to it as “naturally leavened” often aids in understanding.
How do you approach teaching in your sourdough starter workshops, especially to accommodate both beginners and more experienced bakers?
I employ various methods: visual aids like photos, detailed handouts, lecture-style presentations, a Q&A session at the end, and demonstrations using products and tools. By explaining concepts in multiple ways, I aim to ensure comprehension even if some attendees might not grasp an idea the first time.
From your experience, what do newcomers find most challenging about sourdough baking, and how do you address this in your workshops?
Many newcomers are intimidated by the starter feeding process, mistakenly believing it requires daily attention, which can be off-putting. I show how to maintain a healthy starter through refrigeration or drying for long-term storage, making the process more adaptable to their lifestyles.
Tell us about the types of partnerships you’ve cultivated with food and home kitchen brands. What do you look for in a potential partner?
I believe the sourdough community is fortunate to have numerous individuals, companies, and entrepreneurs dedicated to enhancing our baking experiences. Brands that consistently innovate, support the sourdough community, and produce high-quality products are the ones I eagerly anticipate collaborating with. My website’s mission is to assist home bakers in creating the best bread or baked goods, so any product aligning with this goal certainly fits my criteria.
You’ve worked with companies like Wyman’s Blueberries and Almond Cow. Can you share some insights into how you incorporate such diverse products into your sourdough recipes?
Sourdough offers immense versatility, so I’m always keen on using fresh or unique ingredients in novel ways within my recipes. Collaborating with companies interested in how their products fit into sourdough recipes and allowing for my creativity is always exciting. For example, my partnership with Almond Cow, in collaboration with Sourhouse, involved creating a fully plant-based vegan sourdough brioche, matching the fluffiness and softness of my traditional sourdough brioche, which includes milk, eggs, and butter.
Your role includes recipe development and food photography. How do you balance creativity with the commercial aspects of these partnerships?
Different brands seek various qualities in their content creators or affiliates, so transparency about what I can offer and my ideas is key. If there’s alignment with their vision, we proceed with the partnership. Some collaborations are one-time projects, while others evolve into long-term relationships. Building trust in longer-term partnerships is crucial, as mutual investment in success is ideal.
With the current list of events posted on your website, how do you ensure your workshops and content remain fresh and engaging for your audience?
The evergreen nature of sourdough starter workshops means there’s always interest in learning about them. I refine presentations based on feedback, questions, and any confusion noted about specific topics. Writing articles for my website provides a detailed written resource for follow-up. Keeping abreast of new food or bread-baking trends is also essential, as attendees often ask related questions.
Social media is a significant aspect of your outreach. How do you decide what content to share across different platforms like Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, TikTok, and YouTube?
Social media, despite my mixed feelings, has been a boon, especially within the positive sourdough and baking community. It facilitates meeting others, building a virtual baking community, asking questions, and drawing inspiration. Sharing others’ recreations of my recipes on social media is incredibly flattering and useful for immediate feedback, allowing me to refine instructions or add FAQs.
I strive to produce content that is aspirational yet relatable, featuring creations that seem achievable for home bakers. Professional or overly perfect appearances can be off-putting, so approachability is key. I focus on Instagram and Facebook, where the largest sourdough communities are, repurposing content for other platforms. As managing daily video content is demanding, repurposing saves time. I share photos and videos from my website, especially new recipes, and film bread-baking videos when possible.
What kind of feedback do you receive from your followers, and how has it shaped your content creation and recipe development?
I often receive queries about ingredient substitutions and baking schedules. Therefore, I include comprehensive information in my recipe posts, offering substitution options and charts with sample baking schedules for intricate recipes, along with make-ahead and storage tips.
Can you walk us through a typical day in your life as Sourdough Brandon?
My days largely revolve around recipe testing, with something always proofing or baking. Activities range from researching recipes, testing, tweaking, re-testing, to photographing or filming the final version for the website. Additionally, there’s a plethora of behind-the-scenes work like website updates, photo and video editing, social media management, writing recipe posts, handling emails, the monthly newsletter, and accounting.
Sourdough baking requires patience and precision. How do you maintain the balance between the time-intensive process of sourdough baking and managing the business side of Sourdough Brandon?
The desire to rapidly release new recipes is challenging in sourdough baking due to the time required for testing and baking. Utilizing sourdough discard recipes, which generally don’t require proofing, helps speed up the process. I’ve optimized my workflow to expedite these types of recipes.
As a content creator, what challenges do you face when trying to convey the tactile and sensory aspects of sourdough baking through an online medium?
Condensing the several-day process of bread-making into a brief, engaging video is a formidable task. My bread-baking videos effectively showcase the dramatic transformation, from scoring the unbaked bread and adding ice cubes for steam and visual effect, to revealing the final product with a crispy crust and creamy interior after baking.
Looking ahead, what future projects or aspirations do you have for Sourdough Brandon and your community of homebakers?
I’m excited to have acquired a used Rofco B40 from a local bakery, allowing me to bake more loaves simultaneously. My goal is to obtain a cottage license to sell bread locally, perhaps from home, at a farmers’ market, or at a roadside stand. Additionally, I’m developing online virtual sourdough workshops for launch early next year.
What advice would you give someone hesitant to start their sourdough baking journey?
Investing in a baking scale for precise measurements is crucial. It’s a vital tool I mention in every recipe. If you’re struggling to create a sourdough starter from scratch, don’t hesitate to acquire one from a friend or online, saving time and avoiding frustration.
Where can our readers learn more about your workshops and potentially join in?
Details of my in-person workshops are available on my website events section, and information about future online workshops will be posted there. For in-person workshops, RSVPing with the venue (typically public libraries) is usually necessary.
If there’s one recipe or piece of content you’d recommend to every aspiring sourdough baker on your site, which would it be and why?
My Everyday Sourdough Bread recipe is a must-try. It’s a comprehensive, well-explained guide complete with photos and videos, helping bakers create an excellent loaf.
How can interested brands or collaborators best reach out to work with you?
I’m reachable via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or through social media @sourdoughbrandon.
Is there anything else you’d like to share with the readers of The Sourdough People that we haven’t covered in this interview?
Thank you for this opportunity. I’m always eager to discuss sourdough baking, see others’ creations, take recipe requests, and answer questions. Feel free to email or message me on social media anytime!
We hope you enjoyed this insightful conversation with Sourdough Brandon and found a new spark of inspiration for your own sourdough journey. The Sourdough People is not just a website; it’s a community brought together by the love of sourdough, where your voice and baking stories matter to us. To stay connected with our vibrant community, we invite you to follow us on Instagram and join our email newsletter for regular updates, tips, and delightful sourdough content. Your experiences and interests help shape our platform, so please feel free to use our intake form to suggest topics, people, or products you’d like to see featured on our site. Remember, whether you are a seasoned baker or just starting out, you are an essential part of our community.
Thank you for being here with The Sourdough People, where every crumb tells a story, and every loaf brings us closer.