This story originally appeared on MUNCHIES in September 2015.
There are two things to know about Swedes: they love to travel and they are freakishly obsessed with their sourdoughs. They are, in fact, so enamored by these two things that there is now a hotel for them to store their beloved dough starters while they go on holiday.
Earlier this summer at the Arlanda airport in Stockholm, the bakery RC Chocolat launched a 24-hour hotel for sourdoughs. Anyone can store their sourdough there and be sure that it will be fed, massaged, and well taken care of.
I met up with the owner Charlotta Söör to discuss why sourdoughs need their own hotel and why Swedes have developed such a craze for this tart loaf.
MUNCHIES: Hi, Charlotta! First things first: What's going on here? Charlotta Söör: We decided to open up our sourdough hotel after one of our regulars told us we should do it! We felt like we would gain a lot of attention from it as well, and get people to come here. However, I need to tell you that we are not the first or only bakery to open up a sourdough hotel. I've heard about other bakeries in Stockholm doing this as well.
Why did you decide to open the hotel at the airport? Swedes love to travel and they love to bake with sourdough. But the thing with a sourdough is that you can't leave it alone if you decide to travel. Without anyone taking care of it, it will die. It needs to be fed and taken care of on a regular basis. So we're the perfect solution if you want to keep your sourdough alive and travel at the same time!
OMG. What happens when your sourdough dies? Nothing too dramatic—it just shrivels up and stops growing. Basically, you can't bake any more bread on it and you have to throw it away.
Oh. So, how does your hotel work? It's pretty simple. You can check in your dough 24/7, since we are staffed all hours of the day. During its stay, your dough will be fed regularly with an organic flour of your choice and water, which we then blend into the dough. I guess you can call it a massage! We will also make sure to keep the dough at a good temperature and dispose of the extra dough it will produce in order to keep it in the original size you left it in.
Who is the typical person that checks in their sourdough at your hotel? If I can use a stereotype …
Please do. Then I would say it's a Stockholm hipster who cares about organic and high-quality food and needs someone to take care of their sourdough while they're off to their two-week hipster-esque holiday in NYC.
How much does it cost to keep a sourdough at your hotel? 100 Swedish krona [about US $12] a week.
And how many stars would you give your hotel? Oh, it's definitely a five-star hotel.
Have you actually had any human hotel guests yet? Nope. But we got an email from a woman asking if she could not only check in her sourdough but also her doughy husband. She asked us if we could make him fitter. It was strange.
Strange indeed. Why do you think that Swedes are so obsessed with their sourdoughs to begin with? I'm not really sure, but I think it has to do with the fact that we Scandinavians like what I would call food with some acid in it, such as sour milk, yoghurt, and quark. Sourdough bread has something that other breads lack; it's got a more complex taste. Swedes also love to be healthy, and the lactic acid bacteria in the bread is said to be good for your stomach. And one has to remember that a sourdough can live for generations as long as you take good care of it, which is pretty amazing.
If I ever go away on a soul-searching trip around the globe for a whole year, will you take care of my dough the whole time? Hmm … we'll probably just give you a new sourdough, to be honest, since the maintenance of your dough will get pretty expensive. But money talks.
Thank you, Charlotta!