Six Easy Ways to Bake Sourdough for Busy Mamas With Kids

by leavenly

It may seem intimidating to get started, but it’s absolutely possible (and easy!) for busy mamas to bake sourdough with kids of any age. Read on to discover my scheduling tricks, and age-specific strategies to make it as stress-free as possible.

Years ago, I was afraid of attempting sourdough. Why? Because I had kids.

I had made sourdough a handful of times before my kids came along, and one time when my oldest was about six weeks old, but then I decided it would be impossible to manage with kids, so I gave up on it.

Luckily, my sourdough-obsessed husband wouldn’t let me give up on it. He loved the idea of home-baked sourdough (obviously, who doesn’t?), and wouldn’t leave the matter alone.

Squeaky wheel gets the grease, as they say!


Six Easy Ways to Bake Sourdough for Busy Mamas With Kids

When I finally tried it again, I was a little overwhelmed. At the time, I didn’t know about schedule-accommodating tricks like cold proofing, and my sourdough process was a two-day endeavor. I didn’t like doing it with the kids around because they distracted me. It stressed me out, because I was in the kitchen for what felt like an entire day.

I still had this nugget of passion inside me, but couldn’t find a way to commit to the process.


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My a-ha moment came from a workshop I attended. My step-mom invited me to do a sourdough workshop at Denver’s Raleigh Street Bakery with her. I got excited, and baked sourdough a couple times in anticipation.

During the workshop, David (the owner of the bakery) introduced me to cold-proofing. Once our dough was done, we put it into proofing baskets and into the fridge, and we were done for the day. Wait, what? You can do that??

Once I learned that trick, I felt the fire light inside me again. I tried it at home, and at the time my kids were 1 and 2. It actually worked, it was actually easy, and we actually had homemade sourdough to eat! I was ecstatic, and that’s quite literally how Leavenly was born. I needed to share these secrets with the world.

All that being said, I don’t want you to struggle like I did. I want you to know from the beginning that it’s easy and doable. That you can work it into your day.

It really is possible, and I’m going to outline how.

Six Easy Ways to Bake Sourdough for Busy Mamas With Kids

1. Choose your own two- or three-day process

I personally prefer the three-day method. I find that it’s much easier to do it this way with kids, but mine are young and more demanding of my time. I feel pressure when doing the two-day method. For example, if I make my leaven at 7:00am, it can take 8-12 hours to be ready to bake with. This means I’m looking at mixing my dough anywhere between 3:00pm and 7:00pm. Well, late afternoon mixing doesn’t work for me. My kids are waking up from their naps, demanding milk and snacks, I’m trying to get dinner ready, the kids need baths, and my kitchen is probably a war-zone – so the whole situation just stresses me out. Plus, sometimes the leaven isn’t even done at 12 hours; don’t even get me started on staying up until midnight to mix bread dough.

But all that said, maybe it will work for you better than the three-day process. Maybe your kids are older, more independent, stay up later, etc. So I’ve outlined what the two- and three-day processes actually look like, time-wise. Use your judgment and choose which process would result in the least amount of stress for you.

Here’s what a two-day process would look like:
Here’s what the three-day process looks like:

Once you’ve decided which timeline works better for you, you can move on to step two.

2. Think ahead and plan your days

Sourdough baking does require a little planning. I typically look at how much bread we have and when we’ll run out, and decide when to bake based on that. For example, if I think we’ll need more bread on Friday, I know that will be my bake day. So Thursday will be my mixing day, and Wednesday I need to make my leaven. (This is on the three-day process.)

There are other factors to take into consideration as well:

  • When was your starter fed last? Is it on daily feedings, or is it hiding in the back of the fridge? Your daily-feedings starter will be ready whenever you are. Your back-of-the-fridge starter will require a few days of feedings before it’s good and active enough for baking.
  • What events do you have coming up? If you plan to make your leaven tomorrow night, but you’ll be out of town the next day, that obviously won’t work. It’s going to have to be when you’re home and accessible.
  • What other meals are you planning? For the three-day process, most action happens in the mornings, so it allows for cooking dinner in the evening. For the two-day process, you may want to throw something in the slow-cooker so you’re not doing bread and dinner at the same time. Again, it’s all about reducing stress.

3. Choose cold proofing

As I mentioned above, this is the greatest gift to mama bakers. Whether you choose the two- or three-day process, you’ll have your dough shaped and in proofing baskets, and then you’ll just throw it in the fridge overnight.

Cold-proofing allows the baker to extend the final proofing time from about four hours at room temperature to 12-24 (or even 36) hours in the fridge. The lower temperature slows fermentation, but doesn’t stop it completely. My bread typically cold proofs for 18-24 hours, but I’ve done longer and shorter with success.

The biggest factor that changes with adjusting the length of your cold proof is the flavor. A loaf that has cold proofed for 30 hours will have a more sour flavor than one that proofed for only 10. This is a fun experiment, to see how much sour flavor you prefer, and this is why it’s vital to take notes during your bakes. If you pull a loaf from the oven and it’s the best you’ve ever made, wouldn’t you want to replicate that? Your sourdough notes can work as a recipe. Download my free sourdough notes PDF template here, and start getting in the habit of taking notes with every single bake.

4. Work around your kids schedules

Advice for stay-at-home moms
  • Infants: These guys have absolutely no schedule at all, so you’ll have to just go with the flow. Luckily, when they do need you, it’s usually brief: a breastfeed, a diaper change, and back to sleep. I’d say you have free reign to do whatever you want in terms of scheduling, but be prepared to be interrupted.
  • 6-month-olds to 1-year-olds: By now, you’ll understand a little more of your baby’s rhythms and can better plan your sourdough days. My advice is to do your mixing and baking during their longest naps.
  • 1-year-olds to 2-year-olds: Personally, I’ve found this to be the toughest age range yet. They need you but they don’t want you, they try to tell you things but can’t communicate, and they’re easily frustrated. The good news is, the time you actually spend in the kitchen with your hands dirty is so minimal, that it’s even possible to do with a crying child grabbing on to your leg (been there, done that). Again, work with their nap times. Or try to do the most labor-intensive parts (mixing, shaping, baking) when they’re at their best: for my little guy, that’s mid- to late-morning. If all else fails, screen time! I do it, you do it, we all do it.. So let’s use it to our advantage in this case, and don’t feel guilty about it. You’re baking sourdough at home, for goodness sake!
  • 2-year-olds to 4-year-olds: Life is generally slightly easier simply because the communication piece is finally in place. You can explain to them what you’re doing, and ask if they’d like to help. If so, score! You can do your mixing and shaping whenever you’d like. If they don’t want to help, that’s fine too, but just get used to explaining that you’re busy for five minutes and they need to find something to do in the meantime. If all else fails, screen time always works. Don’t feel guilty about it, either – look at the good that will come from this.
  • 4-year-olds to 5-year-olds: Sometimes your 4-year-old will be in preschool, and if this is the case, great! Plan to use that time to your advantage. If they’re not in preschool, they’re a great age to be your special kitchen helper. Get them their own apron, and chef’s hat if they’re into it. Bonus points if their name is written on them. They’ll feel so important that you can basically plan your schedule for whenever you want. If they’re still napping, plan to use that time for the labor-intensive portions of the process, too.
  • 5-year-olds to 18-year-olds: They’re in school all day – WOO HOO! Carpe diem, mama!
Advice for working moms
  • Infants: When you’re home on a stretch of days off or on weekends, you know how unpredictable your infants’ schedule is. It’s best to just go with the flow, work with whatever schedule you want, but be prepared to be interrupted. Luckily, it’ll only be a few minutes at a time.
  • 6-month-olds to 1-year-olds: By now, you’ll understand a little more of your baby’s rhythms and can better plan your sourdough days. My advice is to do your mixing and baking during their longest naps.
  • 1-year-olds to 2-year-olds: Personally, I’ve found this to be the toughest age range yet. They need you but they don’t want you, they try to tell you things but can’t communicate, and they’re easily frustrated. The good news is, the time you actually spend in the kitchen with your hands dirty is so minimal, that it’s even possible to do with a crying child grabbing on to your leg (been there, done that). Again, work with their nap times. Or try to do the most labor-intensive parts (mixing, shaping, baking) when they’re at their best: for my little guy, that’s mid- to late-morning. If all else fails, screen time! I do it, you do it, we all do it.. So let’s use it to our advantage in this case, and don’t feel guilty about it. You’re baking sourdough at home, for goodness sake!
  • 2-year-olds to 4-year-olds: Life is generally slightly easier simply because the communication piece is finally in place. You can explain to them what you’re doing, and ask if they’d like to help. If so, score! You can do your mixing and shaping whenever you’d like. If they don’t want to help, that’s fine too, but just get used to explaining that you’re busy for five minutes and they need to find something to do in the meantime. If all else fails, screen time always works. Don’t feel guilty about it, either – look at the good that will come from this.
  • 4-year-olds to 5-year-olds: Sometimes your 4-year-old will be in preschool, and if this is the case, great! If you’re off on a stretch of days off while they’re in daycare, plan to use that time to your advantage. If they’re not in preschool, they’re a great age to be your special kitchen helper. Get them their own apron, and chef’s hat if they’re into it. Bonus points if their name is written on them. They’ll feel so important that you can basically plan your schedule for whenever you want. If they’re still napping, plan to use that time for the labor-intensive portions of the process, too.
  • 5-year-olds to 9-year-olds: These kids are in school, which works great if you have a few days off during the week. If you’re baking over a weekend with them, invite them in the kitchen! Some kids love to help, from measuring and mixing, to really getting their hands dirty. You’ll never know unless you ask them! If they’re not into that, work around other things going on in their lives: birthday parties, sleepovers, visits at a friends house.. This is all time that you have without them home, so use it to your advantage. If they’re home, have them do their homework at the table while you’re in the kitchen. Set up a cool craft, painting or Lego set they can do for a while. Maybe send them outside to play (our moms did that, remember?). Or put on a movie or video game! This isn’t the time to beat yourself up about screen time.
  • 10-year-olds to 18-year-olds: These kids are in school, which works great if you have a few days off during the week. If you’re baking over a weekend with them, try inviting them to bake with you. Depending on the child, they may be too cool for that, or they may be totally into it. You know your kid best. If you don’t think they’d like helping you, again, you know them best: let them play their favorite games or watch YouTube for a little while as you’re in the kitchen. Work around the time they’re out of the house, at friends’ houses or other events. Or send them outside to play or do chores! Just take the time to explain that you need some time to bake your bread and that you’ll be done in a few minutes. Eventually when bread-making is part of your regular routine, they won’t even question it anymore.

5. Include your kids in the process

I mentioned this a lot above, because I think it’s really important. I have this vivid memory of being invited into the kitchen to help make dinner by my step-mom when I was about nine or ten. I remember being so surprised that she would trust me and ask for my help. This may have been a small and insignificant gesture for her, but it altered the way I would raise my children twenty years later!

Inviting your kids into the kitchen instills trust, communication, and solidifies your relationship with your child(ren). They’re going to be so proud of helping make the bread, the dinner, the sandwiches, they will also become more confident children. If they decline your invitation, don’t despair: even the act of inviting them in has far-reaching effects that you may not be able to see right now… but you will. Keep inviting them and making them feel welcome!

6. Bake your loaves whenever you want!

On the third day, you’ll be baking your bread. What I love is that you can literally pick anytime in the day to bake your bread. If you have something going on, or some kind of plans, or even if something unexpected comes up, your sourdough is super flexible. You can do any of the following – do whatever works for you!

  • Bake all three loaves in the morning. Preheat the oven, and just bake your loaves back-to-back-to-back. Get it out of the way early, have fresh bread in the morning, and have a house that smells amazing all day long.
  • Bake one or two loaves in the morning, and the remaining one(s) in the afternoon or evening. This works if you want fresh bread for the day but don’t have the time commitment in the morning.
  • Bake three loaves at the same time in the afternoon or evening. If you’re busy all day, this may be the best route for you!

Whichever plan you choose for baking your bread, just be mindful of the length of time your dough has been proofing. Try to follow this rule of thumb: try to bake your bread around the same time of day as when you put your dough in the fridge. For example, if you put your dough in the fridge yesterday morning, try to bake it in the morning the next day. If it went in in the afternoon, try to bake it in the afternoon. And if it went in the fridge in the evening or night, aim to bake it the next evening or night.


I hope this was helpful for you! Please let me know in the comments below or send me an email at heather@leavenly.com if you have any questions, suggestions, or if you’ve tried other tactics that worked for you as a busy mama baking sourdough with kids at home. Good luck and keep baking!

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