During the early days of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, home bakers had time on their hands. They baked all manner of cakes, breads and other goodies. But sourdough bread seemed to reach a certain pinnacle.

Sourdough takes time, attention to detail and patience. Bakers certainly had time on their hands. Michel Suas, co-founder of the San Francisco Baking Institute, said home bakers make up 40% of the institute’s attendees, which has increased over the years. The institute welcomes bakers from all over the world.

“We were surprised and not surprised because we have a lot of people — home bakers — come to the school for a week and do that for fun,” he said. “They take a one-week vacation to come and understand better what they’re doing so that way they have more control.”

It provided people with something to do that they could share on social media, said John Friend, president of Farm to Market Bread Co., Kansas City, Kan.

“It doesn’t take a ton to feed your starter, but you have to make sure you do it every day,” he said. “People being stuck at home felt like maybe that was something they could take on. In our social media culture, trends just kind of blow up and go really fast.”

The trend helped fill the days for people, said Justin Spannuth, vice president and chief operating officer of Unique Snacks, Reading, Pa.

“It’s actually a pet rock that’s living. You got to watch it grow. The process was fun for people who like to cook,” he said. “Some people did it, and they did it in the most simplistic way possible and were just happy to have something to do. And then other people took it to a whole new different scientific level which was really cool.”

The proliferation of online videos made the trend more accessible, said Josh Allen, founder and owner of Companion Baking in St. Louis.

This article is an excerpt from the September 2021 issue of Baking & Snack. To read the entire feature on Sourdough, click here.