Dough Is An Edible Canvas At Sourdough School House

Shannon Peckford from the British Columbia-based workshop Sourdough School House talks about baking it forward and how mastering sourdough is a journey.

by Phillip Mlynar
PHOTO: Sourdough School House

“Sourdough slows me down,” says Shannon Peckford, the founder of Sourdough School House in the Okanagan Valley of British Columbia. “Life is so busy and you’re constantly moving at a thousand miles an hour and you’re multi-tasking. But with sourdough I always say it’s a little bit of work over a long period of time—and in that moment, you’re really focused on that one thing.”

At Sourdough School House, Peckford teaches workshops in the art of mastering sourdough. After originally hosting classes in her home kitchen, Peckford came to realize that pivoting to online sessions would be a natural progression that allowed a greater number of students to benefit.

“Now we have students in over 15 different countries,” says Peckford. “It’s like-minded people baking the same things and connecting with live calls.”

Taking a moment out from planning classes, we spoke to Peckford about learning to love sourdough and improving dough scoring technique. We also touched on the joy of sharing bread with other people.

Discovering Sourdough


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“My husband and I were on a paleo diet for about five years and were learning about the health benefits of fermentation,” says Peckford, pinpointing the moment when she began exploring sourdough.

“I loved the process when I started working with it,” she explains. “It’s probably the calmest I ever am when working with dough and baking. You can transform it by shape and do different things to get different outcomes. I found it very inspiring and creative. I’ve basically tried to convert everything to sourdough ever since!”

Read more: Here’s what you need to get started with sourdough—from starter to artisan loaves!

Starting Sourdough School House

After attending a couples class with her husband at a cooking school in Vancouver for their 17th wedding anniversary, Peckford became inspired to pursue the idea of teaching similar classes based around sourdough.

“It was such a great way to revolve around food,” she recalls.

Don’t Overthink the Process

Addressing entry level sourdough tips, Peckford says that her students often feel overawed by the sheer amount of information about sourdough that’s available.

“There is not just one way to do sourdough,” she explains. “You’re going to make changes for different doughs. But I teach one method that takes you through seven steps. Once you understand those seven steps, you have more freedom and don’t feel so overwhelmed.”

Read more: At Blue Truck Bread, the farm runs on sourdough and ancient grains.

Scoring Creative Patterns

When it comes to adding eye-catching designs to the top of a loaf of sourdough, Peckford teaches that there are two fundamental ways to approach scoring patterns.

“There are the light intricate patterns that give you the details,” she explains, “and then there are slashes that are designed to give you that big open ear, so you go a lot deeper.”

Peckford adds that it’s easier to score cold dough that’s been in the refrigerator for a while. Also, adding a little water to your bread lame or cutting tool can help slide through the dough.

“I would say sourdough is a journey. Be kind to yourself in the process, and practice, practice, practice,” she adds. “If you don’t get the design you want this time, remember it’s an edible canvas so try it again!”

Baking It Forward

“I’m always astounded at the joy people get from baking,” sums up Peckford when talking about the rewarding nature of teaching people to bake sourdough. “Making something from scratch is so satisfying. It’s amazing the joy that presenting someone with a loaf of bread brings to both parties.”

Follow Sourdough School House at Instagram.

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