Welcome to The Sourdough People, the hub for all things sourdough! We’re thrilled to bring you an exclusive interview with Amy from @AmyBakesBread, a celebrated sourdough enthusiast and baker who has turned her passion into a flourishing pursuit. Amy’s journey with sourdough baking is not just inspiring but also a testament to the love and dedication she pours into every loaf. As you dive into her story, don’t forget to follow her on Instagram to witness her delightful baking adventures and get a daily dose of sourdough inspiration.
Amy, can you share with us the moment you realized that sourdough baking was more than just a hobby for you?
My sourdough journey really started over a decade ago when I was very overwhelmed with twin babies and a toddler and I needed something for me. I remember lying on the floor of my twins’ bedroom willing them to sleep and researching everything I could about sourdough. Discussion boards at the time were where a lot of the “answers” were and they were fascinating to a busy mom. I think it was at that time that I realized I had a passion for sourdough. I just didn’t have a lot of time to pursue it then. Once all my kids started full-day school, I finally had the time to truly pursue my love of sourdough. You know it’s something you really love when you are excited to talk about it and help others troubleshoot every day.
How did your journey into sourdough and baking begin?
I have always loved to bake. My mom, to her credit, let me have free reign of the kitchen as a kid, and I could always be found mixing up something and trying to work our bread machine. When I started having children of my own, I really wanted to make most of our food from scratch. That desire led me to sourdough – something I grew up eating in the San Francisco Bay Area but never considered making myself. I spent a month trying to make that first starter over a decade ago, not really knowing what I was doing, and I remember being so proud of that first flat loaf of sourdough.
With your full-time role as a mom to four children, how do you balance your time between family and baking?
Now that my kids are in school full-time, it gives me a block of 4-5 hours a day to work on creating recipes and running my website. I actually started my website a few years ago with the idea of working on it more once my youngest was in school full-time. Now my day is split in half – working in the mornings/early afternoons and then driving kids around to activities the rest of the day. I also encourage them to bake with me and we like making recipes together.
You mention that you’re passionate about creating traditions. Could you give us an example of a baking-related tradition you’ve started with your family?
We have favorite recipes that we bake for certain occasions; for example, cinnamon rolls for Thanksgiving week – always! Our traditional family Christmas Cookie is a chocolate caramel pecan star cookie that I grew up eating as a kid, and now we make them together every year. One of my favorite baking traditions actually came out of the pandemic and we call it the “Great Family Bake Off.” We loved watching the Great British Bake Off together that year and the kids wanted to do their own version, so we created it and do it about once a year as a family or with extended family. The kids love it.
We’d love to hear about the cottage cookie bakery you run with your children. How did that get started and what has been the key to its success?
Our cookie business started very organically in our community. My kids (5th and 3rd grade at the time) had been asking for an entrepreneurial experience and had the opportunity to do a bake sale at a local craft fair. We spent 48 hours baking as much as we could and completely SOLD OUT. They were so excited about their success that they went door to door that Christmas selling cinnamon rolls to neighbors and friends and from there it snowballed into a cookie business. We’ve been making thousands of cookies and selling them in our community over the past few years.
I think the key to its success has been having a great product where we focused on one thing – cookies, and then creating a website that makes it easy for people to order them. It’s been a great entrepreneurial experience for my kids, and they have learned so much through their small cookie business.
What’s your favorite sourdough recipe to bake with your kids, and why?
Probably my sourdough discard pretzel bites. It’s such a crowd-pleaser and they love rolling out the dough into logs, cutting it into bites, and brushing the tops of the bites with baking soda before baking. We season them with salt or cinnamon sugar and they get gobbled up fast.
Can you walk us through your process of developing a new sourdough recipe?
When I want to develop a new recipe, I’ll often think about holidays coming up or what season it is, and what I like to eat during that time of year. Then I’ll research different recipes for that item and notice differences and similarities. I sometimes start with a base recipe but change out the fat or sugar content depending on my flavor preferences. I’ve spent many years baking with yeast before I converted over to sourdough, so I know how a lot of ingredients work together. Now part of the challenge is figuring out how they work with sourdough, too! I often make recipes 3-4 times before settling on the right version, and some recipes I’ll make even more than that! I don’t like to post a recipe unless I’ve tested it multiple times. I’ve experienced too many “Pinterest fails” to be willing to publish unproven recipes.
In your blog, you share a wealth of baking tips and tricks. What’s one sourdough tip you wish you knew when you started?
I wish I understood the role that temperature plays in sourdough fermentation earlier. Temperature is one of the most important variables in sourdough and if I had known that earlier, it would have saved me a whole lot of underproved loaves!
What are some of the seasonal treats and eats that you’re currently excited about?
I love, love Christmas cookies and also look forward to our New Year’s fondue tradition with some good crusty sourdough bread.
Kentucky is famous for its Bluegrass region. How has living there influenced your baking and your choice of ingredients?
Kentucky has some really amazing local produce and I look forward to our summer CSA boxes from our local farm. You’ll often see those items popping up in the sourdough bread and our summer pizzas. I like purchasing my flour from my local mill which is known for its soft red wheat (perfect for biscuits, pancakes, waffles, etc).
How does the local landscape inspire your baking, as you occasionally give a glimpse of the beautiful Kentucky scenery on Instagram?
The Kentucky Bluegrass is really one of my favorite places. Rolling green hills and beautiful horse pastures. We love living in Kentucky. One of my favorite pie recipes actually originates from Kentucky and is made and eaten often during the Kentucky Derby Weekend. My Derby Day Pie (with a sourdough crust) is such a traditional and delicious Kentucky pie.
How important is the use of local ingredients in your baking, and do you have any favorite local suppliers?
Weisenberger Mills is one of my favorites. I love their bread flour and all the Kentucky Proud ingredients they sell. They are a 6th generation mill in the Bluegrass. I am a big proponent of using local ingredients, but I also understand that everyone is at a different point in their baking journeys and I respect that. When I was starting out, I used a bag of all-purpose flour from the grocery store because I didn’t really know any different. The more I learn, the more I’ve switched up the ingredients I use in my baking.
Sourdough baking requires specific tools and products. Do you have any favorite brands or products that you swear by in your baking?
I love my Brod & Taylor Bread Proofer. I got one for Christmas last year and it has changed my sourdough baking so much. Being able to set the exact temperature is a game changer when working with sourdough bread.
Traveling seems to be a big part of your life. Can you tell us about a destination that has inspired your baking in a memorable way?
Traveling is a big part of my life. Six years of my childhood were spent in Europe, and I attribute that to my love of good bread! I remember riding my bike down to the local Potraviny (Czech Republic) and picking up my favorite rye bread from the little grocery store. I always slathered it with unsalted butter too. So delicious and many good childhood memories. Those memories are what caused me to persevere with sourdough when I was just starting out because I wanted to be able to make the bread of my childhood memories again. Sourdough was the key to that.
The sourdough community is rich with influencers and enthusiasts. Are there any fellow sourdough bakers on social media whose work you admire or have connected with recently?
There are so many amazing sourdough bakers in this sourdough world! I definitely admire Maurizio Leo, and his book “The Perfect Loaf” really helped me fine-tune my sourdough baking and understanding of fermentation. In general, I appreciate how supportive and encouraging the online sourdough community is.
You encourage your followers to join your email list for tips and deals. Can you share a recent baking deal that you were particularly excited about?
There were so many good deals over the Thanksgiving/Black Friday week and weekend. In particular, the Brod & Taylor bread proofer was on sale, as well as Bosch Mixers and the Harvest Grain mill. I also just launched my online sourdough course and offered a coupon code to email subscribers.
You have a Pinterest page full of baking ideas. How do you curate content for it, and what do you look for in a pin-worthy baking idea?
Truthfully, this is an area I’m looking to improve. It’s hard to do it all when I’m just one person. But I like to post pins about recipes I’m making and recipes that may work well for upcoming holidays.
What has been the most challenging sourdough bread you’ve tackled, and what did you learn from that experience?
This is hard to admit, but my sourdough sandwich bread was the one I struggled with the most. I kept under-proofing it and baking it before it was ready. Through this process, I once again learned the importance of temperature and sourdough fermentation. Now I know to let the bread proof up and to keep it warm during its final proofing stage, but I made SO many loaves of my sourdough sandwich bread before finally getting it just where I wanted it. Now it’s a bread that I make every week.
The internet is a vast space. What motivated you to start your own corner with Amy Bakes Bread, and how do you want it to grow?
I feel like there is always room for more voices. You are needed and your perspective is needed in whatever space you are passionate about. I have always been passionate about baking in general and the more I learned about sourdough, the more I wanted to share my tips with others. I really want anyone and everyone who wants to learn the art of sourdough, to be able to make it. I think it can fit in anyone’s life and I hope to spread that message and give confidence to someone just starting out. Everyone deserves to eat good bread.
For someone just starting on their sourdough journey, what advice would you give to help them along?
It’s not going to come in a day. It’s going to take time. But it’s going to be worth it. Every time you bake, you will learn something (I still am!). Just keep going. Stick with it. Find a method. Find the best recipes and find a mentor. It’s worth it.
Anything else you would like the community at The Sourdough People to know about you?
I am passionate about baking good bread and sharing it with others. I want to provide you with great recipes, lots of my best tips, and the confidence to get baking and make the best bread for your family and friends. You can do it!
A heartfelt thank you to Amy for sharing her sourdough journey with us and being an integral part of our community. Her story is a wonderful reminder of the joy and fulfillment that comes from pursuing one’s passion. To all our readers, we encourage you to follow The Sourdough People on Instagram for more inspirational stories, tips, and updates. Join our extensive email newsletter for exclusive updates, savings, and promos on sourdough products and tools. Your input matters to us, so don’t hesitate to submit your favorite brands and sourdough personalities through our intake form. We look forward to featuring more amazing individuals like Amy on our website. Keep baking, and let’s keep the sourdough love spreading!