Fisherman’s Daughter: Meet the Sourdough champion
Gluten intolerance, it would seem, is on the rise. Though numerous reports have suggested that only a minuscule percentage of the general population suffers from actual gluten intolerance, the rise in the number of consumers opting for gluten free products indicates the opposite. However, Katrina Wood, a dietitian turned Sourdough baker says that the consumption of the readily available and cheaper variant of bread – the commercially yeasted white bread that is devoid of nutrition - is one of the contributing factors for the rise in gluten discomfort.
Through her Instagram handle, Fisherman's Daughter, the Adelaidean is trying to create awareness about the importance of incorporating sourdough bread into our diets, as the latter is both nutritious and tasty.
In a chat with TAL, Katrina discusses events that led to her becoming a baker, emphasis on sourdough and the immense influence her Greek upbringing had on her love for good bread.
Have you always dreamt of being a baker?
Not at all. I studied and worked as a Dietitian for several years before taking interest in sourdough and the food industry. I always had a strong interest in bread and I think this stems from my upbringing in a big Greek household surrounded by delicious traditional baked goods, and just generally really good cooking. My yiayia (grandmother) used to make her own filo pastry (and everything else), which involved stretching the dough across the whole dining room table. I can still smell the butter and yeast when all the women used to come together to make koulouria (traditional Greek biscuits).
What were you doing before turning to full-time baking? What prompted you to turn to baking?
I worked as a Clinical Dietitian in Melbourne and London. I had a great time being a Dietician and continue to have immense love for the profession, and all the amazing women who mentored me and worked alongside me. I think I simply lost some of the passion I had when I first started. I’ve never been a believer in needing to do ‘one thing’ for the rest of your life. I found myself wanting to do something a little less clinical and more hands-on. When I was in London I did a couple of short baking workshops at E5 Bakehouse in East London. These workshops inspired me a great deal.
I’d made bread before (not good) and eaten loads of it and something just clicked. I started volunteering at an incredible social enterprise/sourdough bakery called Better Health Bakery and just loved it. Through all our travels across Europe, I visited some great bakeries and met bakers making fantastic bread. Since coming home I’ve done some staging and met some super talented Australian bakers. I knew I wanted to be part of a community that was promoting and supporting better bread in Adelaide.
At this stage, I am managing a busy bakery in the Central Market and baking on the side from a tiny gas oven at home. I’m waiting on a semi-commercial oven to bake more.
Why the name Fisherman’s daughter?
When my great-grandfather migrated from his island of Symi in Greece to Australia, he was ‘re-settled’ in Ceduna. He was a fisherman and started what would be ‘Angelakis Bros’ so my father is a fishmonger and that’s where the name comes from.
What prompted your interest in sourdough bread? What kind of bread do Australian consumers often buy, and what can you tell us about the nature of Australian bread supply?
(As opposed to commercially yeasted bread) I never really thought of making anything but sourdough. Sourdough bread, using wild yeast and bacteria present in an active starter, is more interesting.
As for the type of bread consumed by Asutralians, it’s really hard to generalize. There are so many different ‘types’ of bread like Yeasted, Sourdough, white, wholegrain, wheat vs. spelt vs. rye, stoneground, organic, Gluten free.
I personally believe (or maybe I hope) people are moving away from the ‘white’ options towards more wholegrain, and moving away from commercially yeasted (‘supermarket’) breads to true sourdough bread. But ‘white’ still tends to be the most common option I guess.
The bakery I work at is predominantly sourdough and I still get asked for ‘normal bread’. Sourdough to me is normal – it was the norm before commercial yeast was even a thing.
White bread tends to always be the cheaper option. But to me, white bread is empty calories devoid of any good nutrition. Therefore, technically you are spending your money on nothing. A sourdough loaf made by a real person in a bakery with good quality grains may cost more but you are getting better nutrition and supporting a local economy. That is the true bang for your buck!
Why is sourdough a healthier option?
It is very complex to answer and depends on a lot of things. Sourdough bread made with quality flour (and ultimately a good portion of this being stoneground wholegrains), and made without any life-extending additives, free from commercial yeast is a healthier option.
The method of milling is important - stoneground flours retain more nutrients in the grain as opposed to roller-milled flours. Using wholegrain flour (the ‘whole grain’ is present) as opposed to white flour (stripped of the bran) contain far more nutrients and fibre.
Sourdough bread is slowly fermented which results in a partial break down of gluten (it will still contain gluten) so for some, this may be better tolerated. Health is important but so is taste. And for me, sourdough bread has so much more flavour and complexity than ‘normal bread.’
Are Australian consumers unaware of the benefits of sourdough? Why is there such a widespread ignorance about it?
One thing that really makes me sad is the popular belief these days that carbohydrates/grains/gluten is bad for you. Some people have genuine trouble with gluten (celiac disease, wheat allergy, non-celiac gluten sensitivity). But I think bread has been an easy one to blame because of the presence of so much ‘bad bread’ (i.e. factory-made, yeasted, white, full of preservatives etc.) which probably is making people sick. Education needs to focus on growing people’s understanding of the healthfulness of grains and the sourdough bread-making process.
The word sourdough is completely thrown around. It’s not a protected word so even if you use only a small amount of sourdough starter but add commercial yeast you can call your product sourdough. This is also misleading consumers.
What kind of trend in bread consumption do you see in Adelaide? Are people more inclined towards healthier options or opt for normal ones?
There seems to be a move towards healthier options at least within my circle and the people I meet. But I also think there is a lot of misinformation about what the ‘healthier option’ is. I.e. people avoiding wheat under false or incomplete information. Or, going for gluten free options that aren’t necessarily healthier. But in a general sense, I think people are seeking more wholegrains and different grain varietals altogether which is a positive shift as they are seeking better alternatives to white flour.
What kind of recipes can sourdough be used for?
First and foremost sourdough can be used to make a good bread! Loads of recipes that call for commercial yeast or a leavening agent could be supplemented with a natural sourdough starter for a healthier and more interesting product. Pizza, flatbreads, bagels, naturally-leavened pastries (think croissants, cinnamon buns, Danishes), pancakes, muffins, cakes!
What is your personal favourite recipe using sourdough?
My personal favourite is a little-tinned loaf I make with whole rye, whole spelt, toasted walnuts and sunflower seeds. It reminds me of the bread I ate through Germany and keeps you going all day.
On a side note, I would like to recommend ‘Bread’ by Jeffrey Hamelman. This is the bread bible and his recipes are a good place to start.
What are your future plans with regards sourdough baking? Are you planning to start your own bakery?
Somewhere down the line, I’d love to start a little micro bakery and produce bread for my local community. Watch this space for more about me, I guess!
Katrina Wood was born in Adelaide and lived here until her final year of University. She then moved to regional SA for a little while followed by Melbourne where she worked for several years. She has spent the last couple of years in London and has made a full circle by moving back to Adelaide.
Follow Katrina's tryst with everything sourdough on her Instagram.