Baking with Suzie’s Sourdough Circus

Sourdough is no ordinary bread! We got to talking all things sourdough with Kathy Sager, author of Suzie’s Sourdough Circus. The book is a delightful rhyming story about a little girl, named Suzie, who lovingly prepares sourdough bread with the help of her dad. As she works, the sourdough “creatures” begin to stir and come to life. In no time, they are in full swing of their own “sourdough starter celebration,” where they “sing and dance in wild fermentation,” and get up to all sorts of zany antics!

The book features beautiful and comical illustrations by Eliska Liska. It also includes some sourdough recipes in the back pages, that are designed for you and your kids to follow together.

Kathy is a certified Early Childhood Educator and a mother of 2 youngsters, so she has a wealth of knowledge about baking with kids. She currently owns and operates Bonnington Blossoms Childcare Centre in Nelson, BC.

How did you get the idea for your book?

So I was mixing sourdough starter into a bowl of warm water one evening, to prepare the first stage of my bread. As I was mixing it, I imagined all the wild yeast and lactic acid bacteria waking up in the warm water and having a little party. I thought, I should write a children’s story about this! I was working at a childcare centre at the time and was inspired to write a book for children after reading so many great children’s books.

What’s so special about sourdough?

Sourdough is special for a lot of different reasons. For one, the fermentation process of making sourdough bread creates a more nutritious and more easily digestible bread than a bread baked with baker’s yeast.

Another thing that is important to me about sourdough is that it is made by everyday people and passed from friend to friend or family member to family member, rather than bought in a store like baker’s yeast. The sourdough starter I have has been shared for over a century and has its own history.

I also really enjoy the sour flavour that can be achieved by baking with a sourdough starter. It is interesting though, that depending on if you keep your starter wetter or dryer, as well as other factors, you can create a less sour or more sour product. Sourdough baking is a true art form and I think that is pretty special!

Tell me more about your sourdough starter. Do you know where it came from?

The sourdough starter that I have been baking with and sharing for about 9 years now was given to me by my friend, Sara. The character, Susie, is based on Sara, as she learned to bake with her dad and the sourdough starter was given to her by him.

If I remember correctly, her dad received it from a friend’s grandmother and they traced it back to Alaska over 100 years ago. Many sourdough starters were made in Alaska and the Yukon during the gold rush. The people who panned for gold were often referred to as “sourdoughs,” because they always kept a little pouch of sourdough starter hanging off their belt for making their bread.

What tips do you have for baking with children and getting them excited about it?

In my experience, all children are excited about baking. It takes a bit of extra time and planning to bake with children, depending on their age and developmental level, but it is well worth it. Baking is a hands on way that children of all ages can learn practical math skills and begin to understand chemistry and other science.

Because the fermentation process takes many hours, the first stage of sourdough baking with children needs to be done a day ahead of time. It is neat for them to see the changes that occur after the sourdough creatures eat the flour and blow bubbles in it overnight.

I wrote a short article that touches on how baking with children, and even the clean up stage, can nurture so many different developmental stages. **Note: You can read the article here.

Aside from sourdough bread, what are some other recipes that are popular to make with your daughters and the kids at your daycare?

We bake sourdough buns. I find this more fun than doing loaves of bread with children, because they can each have their own bun and it is a good size for their small hands to work with. They often get really creative with the buns and I like to give them raisins to put in the buns too. Raisins make everything more exciting and delicious!

For my children’s birthdays, I often follow the cake recipe found in the back of Suzie’s Sourdough Circus.

To find out more about sourdough, including sourdough sharing, great recipes, and informational videos you can visit The Suzie’s Sourdough Circus website.

You can purchase a copy of Suzie’s Sourdough Circus through the Harbour Publishing website.

Written by Miriam:
Miriam, one of our On Call Booking Agents, is originally from Toronto and has been living in Vancouver since 2010. She graduated from Trent University with a joint degree in Women’s Studies and Cultural Studies. Some of her favourite things include books (of the picture and non-picture variety), ghost stories, and making noises on her ukulele.