Welcome to The Sourdough People, our online hub for the art and community of sourdough bread baking. In our latest feature, we’re excited to introduce you to McKenna, a dedicated sourdough enthusiast whose journey from a first taste of homemade sourdough bread has transformed into a mission to share the joys and versatility of sourdough baking with others. Located in the heart of southeastern Wisconsin, McKenna has cultivated a deep love for sourdough, using her local roots and family-oriented lifestyle to enrich her baking practices. Through her website, Simplicity and a Starter, McKenna offers nearly 100 innovative sourdough recipes, from traditional loaves to inventive sourdough discard creations. Her story is not just about baking; it’s about community, perseverance, and the discovery of simple joys in a fast-paced world. Whether you’re a beginner intrigued by the idea of starting your sourdough journey or an experienced baker seeking new inspiration, McKenna’s insights and recipes are a treasure trove of information. We encourage you to follow her journey and baking adventures on Instagram @simplicityandastarter for your daily dose of sourdough inspiration, tips, and a supportive baking community. Join us in celebrating the passion and creativity that McKenna brings to the sourdough community.
Please tell us where you are from and what you love about where you live?
My family and I are located in southeastern Wisconsin. I love this state because you can experience all four seasons of the year. But what I love most of all, is that it is where our family is all located. I am blessed to have both sets of parents and extended family just minutes down the road from us. We are all very close-knit and love to spend plenty of time together enjoy good food (sourdough!) and have plenty of quality chats.
McKenna, what initially sparked your interest in sourdough baking, and how did you begin your journey?
I first was exposed to sourdough by my sister-in-law. She baked some fresh sourdough bread for a family gathering and it was the chewiest and tastiest bread I had ever tasted. She shared with me just how attainable it is to bake homemade sourdough and offered to show me the ropes. She gifted me some of her sourdough starter and took me step-by-step through making my first sourdough loaf ever. And from there, I was hooked!
How has being based in Wisconsin added to your sourdough journey?
The temperature changes can pose some challenges. When I was first starting, I was baking in the summer months, which are much warmer than the winter. I quickly learned how important temperature is in the sourdough process. I am grateful for this challenge because it has caused me to learn the signs of properly proofed sourdough bread, rather than sticking to a timeline. I’ve also had plenty of “flops” of my own, which I believe has helped me to better assist others on their sourdough journey because I can relate and assist them with easy solutions.
How has your approach to sourdough baking evolved since you first started?
For about the 1st year of making sourdough, I only made artisan loaves. I then gained the courage to try other recipes like sourdough bagels, pancakes, and sandwich bread, which were all INCREDIBLE! But it was when I began my website, simplicityandastarter.com, that I crossed over into making everything with sourdough. I couldn’t get enough. I was updating old family recipes and experimenting with new recipes to include the goodness of sourdough. I love how versatile and delicious sourdough is.
Do you have a signature sourdough recipe or technique you’re particularly proud of? Can you share a bit about it?
I have been LOVING my Sourdough English Muffin recipe. I grew up eating Thomas’ English muffins, but when I developed the recipe for a sourdough version, I fell in love with English Muffins all over again. This recipe is soft and cloud-like. It perfectly soaks in all of your favorite toppings, butter, honey, jam, you name it! I shared it recently on my website and social media and others have been loving the recipe as well.
Who are some of the people, brands, or companies in the sourdough industry that have inspired you?
Elaine Boddy @elaine_foodbod and Emilie Raffa @theclevercarrot were two of my first sourdough inspirations. I love Elaine’s laid-back approach to sourdough. She instructs well but doesn’t overcomplicate the art. Her cold bake technique was a game changer – saves time/energy and still bakes incredible bread! I received Emilie’s cookbook as a present and she has so many amazing recipes that inspired me to step outside of just baking sourdough artisan loaves.
What are your must-have tools or favorite equipment for sourdough baking, and why?
Ooo, fun! My first love has to be the kitchen scale. Not only does it remove headaches when preparing dough or testing sourdough recipes, but I love to use it in my day-to-day cooking as well. Fewer dishes to clean and it’s such a cheap investment. Couldn’t recommend it more. Besides that, I’m a huge fan of “The BreadMat”, Danish dough whisks, and Rosehill Sourdough Proofing Baskets.
How do you source your ingredients, and do you have any specific preferences or tips regarding flour, water, or salt?
Can you share a particularly challenging experience you’ve had with sourdough baking and how you overcame it?
I would say learning the importance of temperature when it comes to bulk fermentation. Learning the signs of when your dough has been properly fermented can take a while to grasp, but it’s important not to give up. I also learned new ways to reinvent any “flops” like using underproofed or overproofed bread to make French Toast Casseroles, breadcrumbs, and croutons. It’s almost always edible!
What do you enjoy most about baking sourdough, and how does it impact your daily life?
I love the ability to bless others with sourdough. Whether it is hosting friends or family and serving them homemade sourdough bread, dinner rolls, etc, or bringing over a loaf to someone unexpectedly. It can be such a simple, yet meaningful and delicious way to bring joy to those around you that is out of the ordinary.
How do you balance tradition and innovation in your sourdough baking practices?
I love learning new techniques from other bakers. There is so much to learn in sourdough, which keeps it lively and fun! I also love to experiment with recipe testing.
Have you noticed any new trends or innovations in sourdough baking recently?
One new trend I am starting to experiment with is the Caddy Clasp. I’ve only done it a handful of times, but I’ve had good results. It’s simple to do and such a timesaver!
What are some common misconceptions about sourdough baking that you’ve encountered, and how do you address them?
That sourdough is too overwhelming! I believe you can make sourdough as simple or as sophisticated as you like. I encourage others to learn the essential steps of the art of sourdough and then experiment to find your perfect rhythm in your kitchen. You will find the rhythm that fits you and it will make the process that much more enjoyable!
In your opinion, what is the most underrated aspect of sourdough baking?
I love how sourdough forces one to slow down. In a world that is so fast-moving, the extended process causes our attention span to focus on one thing at a time. The art of sourdough can be so therapeutic.
Are there any books, videos, or online resources you’d recommend to those wanting to learn more about sourdough baking?
My own?? 🙂 I launched my Simple Sourdough Starter Pack this January. It’s packed with everything I needed and wanted when I was first starting my own sourdough journey. I take the reader through making a sourdough starter from scratch, troubleshooting and maintaining a sourdough starter, mastering a sourdough bread recipe, and all they need to know about sourdough discard with some yummy recipes included! It’s a clear and simple step-by-step guide with plenty of helpful pictures for visual learners!
What advice would you give to someone just starting out with sourdough baking?
Don’t give up! In this journey, you will have “flops” and it can feel overwhelming at times, but I promise, you will learn something new with every single bake. With time and practice, you will see improvements little by little, and your confidence will grow. And in all honesty, even the sourdough “flops” are still just as tasty.
How do you engage with your followers and the sourdough community on social media? What’s your style?
My largest following is on Instagram. There, I love to share sourdough tips and tricks, sourdough tutorials, and all of my new sourdough recipes. It’s a place where I hope others will be equipped, encouraged, and inspired in their sourdough journey.
Have you participated in any collaborations or community events related to sourdough baking, and what was your experience?
I recently just completed a homesteaders collaboration with The Hillside Market. 40+ homesteaders from around the world gathered together to share their expertise in a skill toward simple living and self-sufficiency. Some examples included raising chickens, creating a vegetable garden, using freshly milled flour, and of course, making sourdough. This is where I debuted my eBook “Simple Sourdough Starter Pack”. It was a great experience and collaboration.
What’s your favorite sourdough recipe to bake for yourself, friends, or your loved ones?
Oh goodness! This is a tough question! It’s like “What’s your favorite movie?” I have so many!!
Here are some top recipes that you can find on my website:
- Double Chocolate Espresso Sourdough Bread
- Sourdough Dinner Rolls
- Fried Sourdough Chicken Tenders
- Sourdough Banana Cake
Do you have any tips or suggestions on how to manage a healthy sourdough starter culture?
I highly recommend using a digital kitchen scale to feed at least equal amounts of starter, flour, and water. This is an easy way to maintain a healthy and happy starter. I tried to “eyeball” it for a season, which resulted in a very inactive, sluggish, and sad starter. Feed it properly with good ingredients and your sourdough starter will serve you well.
Do you have any upcoming projects or plans related to sourdough baking that you’re excited about?
I’m always giddy about my newest sourdough recipes. I post at least 1 new recipe every week on my website simplicityandastarter.com.
What do you hope to contribute or be remembered for most in the sourdough community?
I hope others will know me as someone who encouraged them to take the leap of faith to start their own sourdough journey. There can be so much fear, overwhelm, or confusion when it comes to sourdough and it prevents so many people from just starting. Through my resources and inspiration, I hope others feel equipped to start. This could lead to them finding a new passion, blessing their families with the goodness of sourdough, and, who knows, maybe starting a new passion for generations to come <3
Can you describe a moment when you felt particularly proud or fulfilled in your sourdough baking journey?
It would have to be making a loaf of sourdough bread with my mom. My mom isn’t much of a baker, but since I’ve fallen in love with sourdough, she has shown interest in learning the art for herself. I used to be a music teacher, so I have a passion for teaching others what I am passionate about, but there is something extra special when you are teaching those you love.
Is there anything else McKenna that you would like the community to know about you or things you would like the readers to potentially purchase or subscribe to?
Absolutely! I’d love for the community to delve deeper into the art of sourdough baking through my various resources. My website, Simplicity and a Starter, is a treasure trove of almost 100 sourdough and sourdough discard recipes. It’s a great place to start if you’re looking to expand your sourdough repertoire or just find some baking inspiration.
For those who enjoy engaging with visual content and step-by-step guides, following me on Instagram @simplicityandastarter is a must. I regularly post tips, tutorials, and new recipes that cater to both beginners and seasoned bakers.
I also offer a free ebook that includes a collection of beloved sourdough recipes, from fluffy pancakes to moist banana bread and chocolate chip oatmeal cookies. It’s an excellent resource for anyone looking to add a sourdough twist to their favorite treats.
A big thank you to McKenna for sharing her sourdough passion and expertise with us, and to all of you, our readers, for engaging with her story. We hope you’re as inspired as we are. For more sourdough stories, tips, and updates, follow us on Instagram @sourdoughbread.ca and sign up for our email newsletter. Have an interesting sourdough tale or tip of your own? We’d love to hear from you via our intake form.
Together, let’s keep the art of sourdough baking thriving!