The Urban Deli bakery on Södermalm in Stockholm offers the novel service to its customers for 200 Swedish kronor ($30) a week with a promise to give increasingly popular dough the love and care it requires.
“We were just sat talking and thought of the idea of a nursery for sourdoughs. Then we took it further and came up with the hotel idea. It was just for fun really, we didn’t think it was going to get this big,” says Åsa Johansson at Urban Deli.
The bakery has even been involved in a collaboration with Josefin Vargö, a student at the University College of Arts and Crafts and Design (Konstfack) who started a sourdough archive for her master project.
Even though the hotel hasn’t attracted a huge number of paying customers in its first few months of operation, the bakery has developed own archive of more than 35 jars of sourdough that have been given to them by Vargö but also by their customers.
“We have one that is 130-years-old and one is all the way from America. They’ve all been labelled with the name of the maker, the date it was made and how much their owners think their dough is worth,” Johansson says.
Urban Deli uses the sourdough starters in the archive to bake bread that is being sold in the bakery under the name of the dough’s maker.
Sourdough is created by mixing flour and hot water and leaving it untill little bubbles form, making a natural yeast containing a lactobacillus culture.
As long as this starter culture is fed flour and water weekly, it can stay at room temperature indefinitely.
A sourdough starter can also be dried and brought back to life by mixing it with water and flour.
“The bacteria in sourdough are really good for you. You get a tastier, more beautiful bread with a long life,” Johansson says.
Sourdough has become very popular in Sweden in the last couple of years and sourdough blogs, sourdough bakeries, pizzerias and cafés have popped up in the bigger cities.
“We think the reason it has become so popular and a ‘status symbol’ to bake sourdough bread, is because it’s a lot more difficult than baking other bread so it has become a prestige thing,” says Viktor and Linn, owners of a sourdough bakery in Stockholm with the same name.
Josefin Vargö agrees with Viktor and Linn and says it takes experience, planning and time to get started and used to baking with sourdough.
Åsa Johansson says the hotel has brought new customers in to the bakery and she gets a lot of questions about sourdough and how to bake the perfect bread.
“We think it’s fun when people discover sourdough and even though we’re a bakery we still want to encourage the home bakers,” she says.
“It’s not going to be great the first time but you just have to keep trying.”
Urban Deli’s top tips for a good sourdough:
For a less “sour” sourdough mix flour with lukewarm water to a pancake mix thick consistency. Store it in room temperature.
For a more “sour” dough use more flour and colder water to make the dough a bit thicker. Store it in a cool place.
If you’re not planning on baking straight away you can leave your dough to “sleep” in the fridge for up to 10 days. You can leave it for longer but your dough will feel better if you take it out and feed it once a week.