Sourdough – it’s a journey of constant learning

Sourdough bun recipe

I have a to-do list of promises that is as long as my arm (and the other and both legs) of recipes that I’ve said I’ll write up and share. This promise was made two years ago. It’s weird that it’s two years ago. It also seems that the phrase “two years” is running through so many conversations at the moment.

Two years since we were sort of let out

It dawned on me just yesterday, after the market, that it was this weekend, two years ago, that we resumed the McGregor Market. Restriction levels were 3A. Whatever that means. They seemed to change every week.

McGregor Market on a wintery 4 July 2020: Level 3A lockdown restrictions

I remember for three reasons.

  • It coincided – by a day – with The Husband’s birthday. Which we could not celebrate in any meaningful way.
  • The reunion of market pals was happy – almost like a family reunion. It was tentative, though, because we were all still caught up in the fear of this unknown thing that was the pandemic.
  • I added sourdough buns to my regular market fare, and I’ve been baking 24 of them – sometimes more – every week since. I have a customer who has a standing order for between 6 and 10 a week.


The first thing I learned about making sourdough, was that I had to keep mother alive. I have successfully managed to do that for more than two years. At the market the other day, someone actually asked me how old “the culture” was. There was no response when I said just over two years. I wonder why he asked. I had other customers, so I didn’t enquire.

Natural yeast is good for you

A few years ago – I’m not exactly sure how many – I stopped eating commercial bread. I felt hugely better for it and lost weight. A lot. Since I’ve been making bread with natural yeast (sourdough) – I’ve resumed bread eating – daily. In truth, I’ve eaten more bread in the last two that I ate in the previous two years. I’ve not regained the weight I lost. That tells me something a lot. I have certainly experienced the benefits.

Two years later: a confession

In January, I shared my first bake using sourdough with mother. It wasn’t a bread, and which is why I’m only now claiming chapter two with this post. And I am also going to confess: although I promised this recipe to Katie (my plantbased food fiend friend), especially after I re-created it in a vegan version, I didn’t. I just wasn’t sure that I’d perfected it. Truth be told, I hadn’t. Somehow, each week they were different and I was just not sure what I was doing wrong. Two years, and, I guess, about 104 weeks and more than two thousand rolls later, I feel more confident.

What I’ve learned

Sourdough bun recipe

The rolls are never exactly the same each week and you need to watch every step of the way. It’s trial and error and one has to be open to that. I will admit that just in the last six weeks to two months, something has just clicked and I’m getting them consistently “righter” than before. I am so much happier with them now.

What is it, I hear you asking?

I’m not exactly sure, but I’m leaning towards adjusting some of the quantities and instead of using a liquid measure for mother, I’m now weighing her instead. I am also not allowing myself to be tempted to add more water than the recipe says.

The results: much, much better.

McGregor Market
My sourdough offering at the market every Saturday

If you’d like the recipe for these rather delicious (even if I say so myself) buns, you can download it here. If you do download recipes, buy me a coffee. Or better yet, a glass of wine….?

As that photo confirms, those buns are not the only sourdough bread I’m doing. I’m doing those loaves, too. I’ve been doing them for about nine months. I’m still not getting things right there, so when I’ve learned what I’m doing wrong, I’ll share that recipe too. Oh, and I’ve also made naan breads – that recipe, too, I shall share. Possibly before the loaves because they are super delicious and given that it’s winter, I’m hankering for a good curry and naan.

Until next time, be well
The Sandbag House
McGregor, South Africa

Photo: Selma

Post script

If this post might seem familiar, it’s because I’m doing two things:

  • re-vamping old recipes. As I do this, I am adding them in a file format that you can download and print. If you download recipes, buy me a coffee. Or better yet, a glass of wine….?
  • and “re-capturing” nearly two years’ worth of posts.

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