Mercer Island Sourdough Cool Club creates community around cultures

April 30, 2020 | by Naomi Tomky

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Photo & bread loaf credit: Bao-Tran Nguyen, member of the Mercer Island Sourdough Cool Club

After the gift of a sourdough starter from a stranger in a Facebook group made a significant improvement in her life, a Mercer Island woman paid the favor forward by creating an online community for local people baking their way through the shelter-at-home orders, calling it the Mercer Island Sourdough Cool Club.

The supportive, encouraging group appealed to fermentation first-timers as much as sourdough savants, growing in the month following its March 22nd founding to nearly 100 members sharing advice, sources for hard-to-find ingredients, and photos of their latest creation, from flop to fabulous.

The founder, who wishes to remain anonymous, began baking last summer after she heard that sourdough – fermented flour and water, called a starter, used in place of commercial yeast – might help her be able to eat bread, despite not tolerating wheat. Soon after she started baking, she began giving away her starter culture on Next Door and in the Free Mercer Island Facebook group.

More recently, as the sourdough trend took hold around the country, she and others happily supplied neighbors with starters. “I want to be a member of the sourdough cool club,” joked one person in her request for some starter on the Free Mercer Island page. And thus, was born the moniker of the Mercer Island Sourdough Cool Club.

Photo & bread loaf credit: David Yarza, member of the Mercer Island Sourdough Cool Club

Carolyn Bone was quick to join the group – she had given some starter to the founder – and has been an active participant in other national sourdough groups since she started baking heavily and taking professional-level courses a few years ago. Now, she enjoys bringing that knowledge and some of her connections to local grain producers to her neighbors in the Cool Club.

“Sourdough is very forgiving,” says Bone, which has made it fun to see people without much baking experience diving in. “It tastes good, even if it doesn’t look like it should.”

When flour ran low in stores on the island, Bone helped people to try high-quality, local grain, running up to Cairnspring Mills, a Burlington producer she likes, to bring back 550 pounds of flour for 11 members, and connecting others to restaurant supplier Merlino, which is selling Smalls Family Farm flour from Walla Walla. Bone also relies on her own experience to help make sure the newbies in the group don’t get too frustrated.

“I was the very beginner in other groups,” she says, so she knows how it feels. “I learned so much.” But more than anything, she’s been pleasantly surprised at how many people have joined. “It’s fun to meet people I wouldn’t have otherwise met.”

Photo & bread loaf credit: David Yarza, member of the Mercer Island Sourdough Cool Club

The founder, too, was surprised at the group’s immediate popularity, but she attributes it to the stay at home order.

“They need something new, to learn something fresh in their life,” she guesses of those who joined her. “To feel like they can do something.”

While she never thought of herself as a leader or an expert, just a person who started a group, she has particularly enjoyed seeing how adventurous people are – trying out doughnuts – and how many posts are happening each day.

As for what might happen to the group and its recipes and resources when people can again spend significant time outside their homes, she says, “It’s an organic thing, it will be what it is.”

The Mercer Island Sourdough Cool Club can be found on Facebook ( and is open to Mercer Island sourdough bakers – or aspiring sourdough bakers – of all levels.