In early May this year something strange started happening on a quiet street in Crouch End. Twice a week, at allotted time slots, people were queuing up at a local resident’s front door. They were all there for the same reason: they’d heard about ‘the sourdough people’.
That’s the nickname that local couple Sophia and Jesse Sutton-Jones earned themselves during lockdown. It started with just one loaf. In mid-April, a neighbour who was self-isolating asked Sophia if she could bake some bread for them. She was happy to do it. She’d grown up in Germany where her dad was a baker and he’d taught her how to make sourdough. But when her neighbour asked if she’d consider making more loaves for locals, it planted the seed for something bigger. Sophia and Jesse had been running an online shop selling kitchen accessories and doing online cooking courses, but they were itching to do something new. ‘I’d always thought about it but I’d never had the guts to do it,’ says Sophia. This was their chance.
Their neighbour said he’d spread the word and within a week of dropping off that first loaf, they decided to bake 12 more and see what happened. ‘The 12 loaves went immediately and those people told their friends,’ Sophia explains. ‘Within a short space of time, people started queuing outside our house. These were people I’d never seen before, yet they came every week and picked up their loaves as if that was the only routine they’d ever known. That’s what made it so special.’
Very quickly, and with an eight-month baby and two cats in tow, their flat became a micro bakery called Sourdough Sophia. ‘Our entire house was covered in flour,’ says Sophia. To keep up with demand, they got deliveries of 25kg bags of flour from Shipton Mill, who were prioritising local and micro bakeries during the Great Flour Shortage. ‘Our guest room became a flour storage room and our dining room was the bakery. It took over our kitchen too – the amount of washing up was insane.’ Sophia already had a suitable oven from her baking classes, but they invested in fridges, a work bench and a food mixer.
At their busiest, Sourdough Sophia was baking close to 100 loaves of bread a day, starting at 5am and baking eight or nine batches throughout the day. ‘It was a steep learning curve,’ she explains. ‘Working with 40kg of dough meant I had to completely relearn everything. The whole game changes when you increase your capacity.’
Five months on since that first loaf and there are no longer queues outside their front door. Demand is as high as ever, but they’re taking some time off while they plan a permanent bakery in Crouch End, freeing up their dining table for, y’know, eating at. There’s clearly an appetite for it: they’ve already exceeded their £25k goal. If everything goes as planned, they hope to be open by November. ‘It’s like we’ve finally found ourselves,’ says Sophia.
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