Baking sourdough bread from scratch requires hard work and dedication. (Jennifer Bardsley)

Baking sourdough bread from scratch requires hard work and dedication. (Jennifer Bardsley)

Pandemic prompts renewed interest in baking sourdough bread

Her 15-year-old son is baking popovers, English muffins and loaves of bread with the fermented dough.

“Mom, come look!” It’s the same sentence my son has called out to me ever since he was little. He’s 15 years old now, and it still catches my attention. I put down my book and rise from the couch to see what he’s up to in the kitchen. The yeasty aroma of freshly baked bread is hypnotizing. It’s too bad I can’t eat gluten.

“Wow,” I say, as I stare through the oven window. “Those popovers are beautiful.” I’m impressed, because he’s working with an ordinary muffin pan. I owned a popover pan years ago and threw it away when the finish stripped off. But even though I used to be able to bake popovers — with the help of a specialty pan — my son has taken this skill to a higher level, because he’s baking sourdough popovers.

That’s right, my teenager has joined the sourdough craze that’s sweeping America as home bakers rediscover the ancient science of fermenting dough. My son received his starter from my Girl Scout co-leader Karen, along with strict instructions on how to take care of it.

“I need a food scale,” he told me as we drove over to Karen’s house.

“No way,” I said. “I don’t want anything else cluttering up my kitchen.”

But Karen backed my son up. “You need a food scale, Jenny,” she said. “And a bigger jar because this sponge will grow.”

She was right — and so was my son, who did extensive sourdough research before he ever made his first loaf. Tending a sourdough starter is like having a full-time job. He feeds it flour and water to keep it alive. The jar in our fridge has to remain in a certain spot so it doesn’t accidentally get pushed to back corner where it might freeze. Plus, he has to deal with the discard — the part of the starter that you either toss or use every time it grows.

Today my son used the discard to bake popovers. Yesterday he made English muffins. Tomorrow it’ll be a loaf of bread. This isn’t how either one of us thought he would spend the last month of his freshman year, but I’m happy he’s learned new skills that help feed his family.

Still, having a sourdough starter in the house is stressful, in that it’s another mouth to feed. It can be difficult finding flour at the grocery store, and I worry we’ll run out. I’ve ordered flour directly from King Arthur Flour, Bob’s Red Mill and Sunrise Flour Mill, in addition to putting it on my shopping list for Fred Meyer pick-up each week. Specialty flours, like rye, are even harder to locate.

But that’s part of the history of sourdough, isn’t it? Figuring out how to make bread without ready access to normal ingredients is what makes sourdough special. So the next time you tear off a piece of chewy sourdough bread, remember that scarcity mixed with hard work and resourcefulness can produce delicious results.

Jennifer Bardsley publishes books under her own name and the pseudonym Louise Cypress. Find her online on Instagram @the_ya_gal, on Twitter @jennbardsley or on Facebook as The YA Gal. Email her at

Talk to us

More in Life

A glorious example of Gothic architecture, Reims Cathedral's construction began in 1211. Around the back of the church, flying buttresses are hard at work, supporting the massive structure.
Rick Steves’ Europe: Bubbly, historic Reims: The toast of France’s Champagne country

Imagine that happy day around 1700 when the monk Dom Pérignon, after much fiddling with the double fermentation of his grape juice, stumbled onto a bubbly delight.

When to get professional help for your child

Here are some of the signs that a consultation with a mental health expert is in order.

Marty Stuart & His Fabulous Superlatives are slated to perfom June 13 at Edmonds Center for the Arts. (Associated Press)
Music, theater and more: What’s happening in Snohomish County

Country star Marty Stuart and his band, the Fabulous Superlatives, are performing in Edmonds on June 13.

Fishy experience at a bar in Istanbul ends up in a $7,853 charge

Nicholas Butler is robbed by criminals who prey on tourists. Will Wells Fargo step up and help him undo the charges?

Dolly Hunnicutt holds onto a metal raccoon cutout while looking through metal wildflowers at the Freeborn Metal Art booth during the first day of Sorticulture on Friday, June 9, 2023 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Sorticulture brings gardening galore, fun by the bushel at 130 booths

“Every year there’s something different to see,” one attendee said at the opening of the three-day festival in downtown Everett.

Photo by Patricia Guthrie   This old medicine bottle from Lee’s Pharmacy in Seattle was found in the dirt outside the log cabin.
A long-hidden cabin emerges from the mists of time on Whidbey

Demolition of a dilapidated farmhouse in Langley reveals an entombed log cabin that might be 150 years old.

Multiple signs at Boxcar Park alert park users to a ban on kites at the park “effective immediately” on Wednesday, June 7, 2023 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Everett’s Boxcar Park cuts strings with kite flyers due to power lines

Safety is the reason for the ban at the park with the perfect breeze for kite flying.

People begin parading down First Street with a giant balloon “PRIDE” during Snohomish’s inaugural Pride celebration on Saturday, June 3, 2023, in downtown Snohomish, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Your guide to Pride in Snohomish County

Mark your calendars; Pride Month is upon us.

Twin sisters Lyndsay Lamb (left) and Leslie Davis (right), co-hosts of HGTV's Unsellable Houses. (Photo provided)
Meet and greet HGTV’s ‘Unsellable Houses’ twin sister stars in Snohomish on Friday

Lyndsay Lamb and Leslie Davis have made Lamb & Co. a #twinwin home-selling, home-goods brand.

Most Read