When lockdown for us began in March of last year, I wasn’t focused much on photography or creativity of any kind, beyond rethinking daily life. We had so much new information coming at us daily, a completely new way of living, and that took all my energy.
However, baking has always been part of my creative arsenal, and being forced to spend almost all my time at home led me back to the comfort of the kitchen. Eventually, I clued in to the sourdough trend that was happening. Given that yeast was hard to come by, it seemed a good time to make my own starter and see what I could learn.
My first few loaves (actually, the loaves for several months) were rather clunky and not skillfully made. Of course, that makes sense given that practice brings improvement, as is true for most things in life. I was simply proud of the fact that I’d successfully made a starter, and that I had edible loaves!
In the height of summer, it’s hard to justify heating the oven to bake bread, but I did so anyway. I’d often get up at 5 a.m. to get the oven preheating, scoring loaves and popping them in to bake an hour later. This wasn’t a daily occurrence, but I did follow this routine once or twice a week. And as I did so, my confidence and knowledge of how to create those loaves grew stronger. And my loaves got better!
Each time I bake, I keep notes about the timing of that day’s loaf: when I feed the starter, what time I mix all the ingredients, the timing for handing the dough throughout the day, and so on. Sourdough bread has its own quirks (and a specific vocabulary, too) and the note-keeping was necessary to keep me on track. Kitchen notes come in quite handy to keep things running smoothly.
So what does bread baking have to do with photography? Well, the fact that I was spending my days at home, (since weekly coffee dates and photo outings were on hold), meant that my loaves of bread became my photography subjects. As my scoring designs improved, it was fun to photograph the loaves, looking for different angles, the best lighting, and different backdrops to showcase the designs. And as my digital files began to grow in number, I felt the urge to get those images into an analog diary of bakes.
Enter my trusty Instax printer and a fresh supply of Field Notes notebooks. I was able to turn my daily kitchen notes into entries in the notebook, and the digital files became mini Instax prints I could affix to the pages. Voila! A more accessible look at my work and a quick way to reference recipes and scoring designs.
Entering into this new year, I plan to streamline the analog diary, focusing less on the process notes and more on simply printing photos of the loaves and designs. And I plan to keep experimenting with new and different scoring!
Also, I created a new Instagram account, @wildyeastadventures, just for my sourdough photos (I shared mostly on my stories last year) if you care to follow along! As you can tell, this innocent little foray into baking grew and grew–just like my loaves!–and has become a comfortable part of my routine these days.
Are you a bread baker? Or is there another hobby you have that’s been important to you during these pandemic times? Do tell me about it!
Oooh! These are gorgeous. I just started experimenting with no-knead bread a few weeks ago. Judging by how quickly it gets eaten I would say it was a success. Sourdough may be beyond my patience level but never say never!
Lucy, you can do it! There’s a learning curve, but I hope you give it a go!
Amazing! Bread and photography and notebooks – some of my very favorite things all in one post! I am not a baker but I have a good friend who makes sourdough biscuits and she swears they are not difficult to make. She’s offered to share the ‘starter’ many times and I’ve declined thinking it was beyond my abilities, but maybe I’ll give it a try! After all, if nothing else, I’ll get a few good pictures! Beautiful, Leslie!
Thank you, Donna! Yes, give it a try…you don’t have anything to lose. 🙂
I love all of this – your devotion to your art in this new form, the documentation and as always your lovely photos! ❤️
Thanks, Jackie! It’s been a fun new thing to learn, and it’s kept me busy in this strange time of being confined to home.
I’m pretty sure I’ve told you before, but your loaves are my absolute favorites! You’d better believe I’m following your new handle <3
Oh, thank you Alison! If you’re ever inspired to bake sourdough, I’m happy to share my tips. 🙂
I have completely LOVED watching your new passion grow this year. And the fusion of food and photography is just the best. I can’t wait to see your new adventures. You are definitely on a roll. x
Thank you, Kirstin! You are the master of food photography, so I appreciate your kind words. And yes, food and photography are a nice pairing.
Just seeing your pics make me want to give sourdough another go. I made my own starter in early 2020 and was so surprised when it all worked out straight away; my first two loaves were a success. Unfortunately I couldn’t recreate that success as either the next few breads did not turn out well, or I messed up the starter.
The other week I thought I might give it another go but wasn’t sure I wanted to do it all again; reading about your analog journal to chart your baking has given me the kick in the butt I needed. Off to the kitchen to make a new starter…
Kiki, definitely give it another go! I’ve learned that the starter and the dough behave very differently, based upon temperature. Changing seasons means changing the timing and how I do things, but you will learn to adjust. Also, I clicked over to your website, and your food photography is amazing! I’m so impressed.
I am in love with your loves and this project! I have been a bread baker for years and have kept a starter, but I have never tracked the recipes or created such beautiful loaves. I would love to talk with you about this! I’ve started following along on IG. I can’t wait to see more.
Thank you, Jennifer! It’s been a fun process. Feel free to message me on IG if you have questions!
Thank you very much, Leslie!
I’m on day 3 of starter making, and so far it’s looking good and going exactly how the foodgeek said it should. Fingers crossed, I hope I didn’t jinx it 🙂
Okay this looks absolutely delicious and I adore your baking journal.
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