April 15, 2020

The Explainer: Sourdough Videos

What it is: Videos that instruct viewers on how to make sourdough bread. Although this has been a rising trend for some time, viewership of sourdough content has increased sharply since much of the world began self-isolating.

Where it is: Global

Facts & Figures:

  • Global average daily views of videos related to sourdough have increased over 260% since March 15 compared to the average daily views for the rest of the year.
  • Uploads of videos related to "sourdough bread" hit an all-time high in March 2020.
  • Uploads of videos with "sourdough starter" in the title hit an all-time high in March 2020.

Views of sourdough bread videos rise swiftly

Daily views of videos related to sourdough bread

Views of sourdough bread videos rise swiftly

Source: Global YouTube views, 3/1/2020- 3/24/2020

Look out for:

Global Trend: As people around the world have been spending more time in their homes, viewership of videos related to cooking have risen around the world. Global average daily views of videos with "cook with me" in the title have increased by over 100% since March 15th compared to January 1 through March 14. With that rise, videos related to baking have also increased. In the UK, average daily views of videos related baking more than tripled starting March 21, compared to the rest of the year. So this specific hobby is part of a larger global shift in viewership to cooking content.

Cultural Heritage: All sourdough is reliant on the starter, a combination of flour, water, and sugar that ferments over the course of a few days. Starters can be finicky, but, if fed and cared for consistently (much like a plant), can last for decades. Because of this, starters are often passed down within families, making them an unlikely genealogical artifact.

On YouTube, creators and their audiences speak to this rich history. How-to videos document the starter feeding process, with many home cooking influencers (Alex, Joshua Weissman) sharing their secrets. More recently, a small number of homesteading channels have tracked the progress of their feeding processes in daily videos with diary-style formats (Making Lemonade From Lemons, Bumblebee Junction, The Kneady Homesteader).

Comment sections, meanwhile, are full of fans trading stories of their own starters that have been passed from one generation to the next, as well as their experiences "raising" starters from scratch.

Overlap with other communities: Last year, we witnessed the rise of PlantTube, a trend that saw creators sharing their experiences caring for their plants. While creators baking bread might seem dissimilar, the process of making sourdough draws many parallels with plant parenting and shows how this trend fits with larger narratives we’ve seen playing out on YouTube.

Sourdough videos and creators are a small but growing trend that ties in with other back-to-your-roots communities on YouTube, including VanLifers and homesteaders. There is also, in some cases, an ASMR/oddly satisfying element to bread baking, as evidenced by audiences’ desire to see crumb cross-sections and witness bread slicing.

Key Videos & Creators:

Alex (1.26M subscribers) - Alex, aka French Guy Cooking, is a self-taught home cook whose videos from his 2017 sourdough series (Which Flour For Baking Bread?, 3 Lazy Ways To Put Your Sourdough Starter on Hold, A Non-Baker’s Guide To Making Sourdough, A Frenchman’s Guide To Making Sourdough Starter) remain some of the most popular sourdough bread videos.

Joshua Weissman (1.06M subscribers) - Weissman cooks many things, but is "obsessive about bread", a sentiment that comes through in his "ultimate sourdough starter guide", a video he says he made in response to requests from fans. (He later followed up with a second sourdough starter how-to to answer audience Qs).

Pro Home Cooks (1.66M subscribers) - Chef Mike G. offers a paywalled "Sourdough University" course through his site. And his free sourdough videos on his channel — which include ‘Bread Porn’ The Perfect Sourdough Loaf, NEVER Throw Away Your Sourdough Starter, and 15 Mistakes Beginner Sourdough Bakers Make — are among the most-viewed sourdough videos.

Elly’s Everyday (36.6K subscribers) - Australian creator Elly’s videos about sourdough baking are among her most popular (her first upload, a sourdough tutorial, has received more than 446K views), but she also shares soap making, gardening, and solar cooking techniques.