Sonya Pierce shares her journey with the bread.
By Susan Thompson | Lake Panorama Times
During the COVID-19 pandemic, increased interest in home baking caused shortages of baker’s yeast in stores. Because sourdough bread is made from the natural occurring yeast and bacteria in flour, the attention of many turned to this bread that doesn’t use commercial yeast.
Sonya Pierce of Panora is a more recent convert to the joys of sourdough baking.
“I began my sourdough journey in October 2023 after watching countless hours of TikTok videos, following many Facebook and Instagram accounts, and doing a lot of my own research on how to make sourdough starter and use it to bake bread,” Pierce says. “I had no idea this ancient way of creating bread was so unique and has such great history behind it.”
Pierce grew up in Panora and graduated from Panorama Community Schools in 2004. She met her husband, Kenny Pierce, in 2003.
“High school sweethearts, I guess. We’ve been together ever since and married for 14 years,” she says.
After high school, Pierce attended Grand View University to major in business administration. While in college, she wanted to become a commercial property manager.
“The 2008 stock market crash and job market had other ideas for me,” Pierce says. “I was manager of the Mercy West gift shop until 2013. For the last 10 years, I have been involved in finance and banking. I’ve worked for Guthrie County State Bank for the past five years, first as a universal banker and now as the marketing director and loan administrative assistant.”
Kenny Pierce is a salesman for a company based in Council Bluffs. The couple lived for a time in Menlo before returning to their roots in Panora. In 2021, construction began on their new home on Lake Panorama’s west side.
“For many years, Kenny and I struggled with unexplained infertility,” Pierce says. “We dreamed of having a baby in our new home, and while in the middle of building, we found out we were pregnant. In October 2021, we moved into our new home, and in February 2022, Paisley was born. She is 2 years old now, very rambunctious, and brings so much joy to our lives.”
With a full-time job at Guthrie County State Bank and an active 2-year-old, Pierce didn’t begin her sourdough baking hobby with plans to turn it into a business.
“My name was passed along by a coworker to Ignite Nutrition & Health in Panora to speak to a class about sourdough — what it is, how to start it and how to use it. I did a short presentation about what I’ve learned and experienced, which led to someone asking if I sell sourdough bread,” she says. “I had never thought about that, but I was intrigued. I posted on my Facebook page to see if there was interest.”
Within two weeks, beginning right before Christmas, Pierce had 38 orders.
“It was the best feeling to have the community support behind by new-found passion,” Pierce says. She created a micro-bakery under the name Midwest Sourdough Co.
“I always tell people the first ingredient in a sourdough starter is patience,” she says. “It takes quite a long time to establish your own starter if beginning from scratch. I’m always up for a challenge when it comes to baking, so I gave it a try. It was questionable at the beginning, but the process is easy — it’s just flour and water, no crazy ingredients. You just have to be consistent with the technique and trust the process. I had a period of five to 10 days when I thought I had killed it, but I kept up and now have a healthy and strong starter.”
Those who want to try sourdough baking can purchase dehydrated starter or have starter gifted to them.
“I do have starter for sale and include instructions on how to care for it,” she says. “Because it is a live organism, it does take some maintenance, but it’s simple.”
Pierce maintains her starter by “feeding” it once a day, since hers sits on a kitchen counter 24/7. It’s equal parts water and flour to a small amount of starter. As the day goes on, the starter feeds off the new flour and water, making it active to bake bread or other bakery items. Those who don’t bake as often keep their starter refrigerated, but the “feeding” process must continue.
“You can use sourdough in just about anything you bake, you just need to adjust the flour and liquid in your recipe,” Pierce says. “I have made regular bread, flavored breads, cookies, waffles, pancakes and cinnamon rolls. I am experimenting now with brownies, sandwich loaves, pretzel bites and tortilla shells, and expect some of these will be on my order list in the future.”
Pierce currently offers a variety of flavors for her artisan sourdough loaves, including original, rosemary and jalapeno cheddar.
“I will be expanding to others and am willing to take custom requests,” she says. “Prices vary between $12 to $15 based on what ingredients are included. Clients typically get a large loaf that weighs about two pounds. Those loaves can last up to a week and a half in the fridge, if it doesn’t get eaten sooner.”
For now, Pierce has Facebook and Instagram pages, as well as TikTok. A website is in the works where she will be able to create orders, keep clients apprised of their orders, and schedule pick up and drop off dates.
“My plan is to share my journey with sourdough — the good and the bad, because we all have fails while baking, along with tips on how to care for your starter. I plan to be at the Stuart Farmers Market this summer and would like to expand to other farmers markets as time allows,” Pierce says. “I’m also hoping to collaborate with local businesses to hold pop-up sales on occasion.
“Kenny and I are blessed to have amazing friends, family and neighbors so close to us in Panora and at Lake Panorama,” Pierce says. “I’d like to thank all those who have made this a success in such a short amount of time. We have an incredible community, and I look forward to continuing this as long as I’m able.”
To ask questions or place an order, email firstname.lastname@example.org. Other options are to private message her or fill out the secure Google form in her bio on her social pages: Facebook — Midwest Sourdough Co.; Instagram — Midwest.Sourdough.Co.IA