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Sourdough Bread Recipes: Starters

Updated on February 3, 2013
Marye Audet profile image

Marye Audet-White is an internationally known food writer, food editor for Texas Living, cookbook author, and food blogger.

What is Sourdough?

Sour dough bread describes any type of risen bread that is made with a starter.

The starter can be made any number of ways. Each has it's own distinct flavor and creates a unique texture in the finished bread. Sourdough can be used to leaven pancakes, biscuits, bread loaves, muffins, waffles, and almost any other type of baked good you can imagine.

Sourdough has been around for centuries. The Egyptians seem to be the first civilization that utilized sourdough in breads. They were using it regularly by 1500 BC.

Historically it depended on yeast spores floating in the air to interact with a mixture of water and flour and begin to grow. This starter was added to the batter or dough to make it rise. Part of the starter would be saved for the next batch and so on. Since starter could be made into a solid dough and not just the liquid we think of today, it was easily transported and used on the frontier where straight yeast was not available.



Sourdough Starter Recipes

Each type will create a different flavor in the finished bread. Creating a sourdough starter is not rocket science, there is nothing exact about it. Experiment and see which you prefer. After using the starter in the recipe feed it with a little sugar (or honey), flour, and water. Allow it to sit before using again. Once the sourdough is active it should be kept in the refrigerator and allowed to come to room temperature before using.

Filtered water is best for making sure that your sourdough works properly and will yeild the most consistant results.

Starter #1

  1. Boil 3 good sized potatoes in their skins until very tender.
  2. Remove the skins and mash in the water making a slurry.
  3. Add 2 cups of the cooled mixture to 2 cups of flour and a tablespoon of sugar or honey.
  4. Beat until smooth and leave, loosely covered, in a warm spot. Starter may take up to a week to become bubbly.

Starter #2

Day One: 2 T. whole grain flour 2 T. unsweetened orange juice Cover and let sit at room temperature for 24 hours.

Day 2: 2 T. whole grain flour 2 T. juice Stir well. Cover and leave a room temperature.

Day 3: 2 T. whole grain flour 2 T. juice. Stir well, cover and leave a room temperature.

Day 4: Stir down, measure out 1/4 cup and throw away the rest. To the remaining 1/4 c starter add 1/4 cup flour 1/4 cup water.

Day 5: Stir down, measure out 1/4 cup and throw away the rest. To the 1/4 cup add 1/4 cup flour 1/4 cup water

Day 6: Stir down, measure out 1/4 cup and throw away the rest. To the 1/4 cup add 1/4 cup flour 1/4 cup water.

The mixture should start to bubble, expand and smell like yeast. If it does not some people add a little vinegar to cause the yeast to activate.

Starter #3

  • 1 pkg dry yeast
  • 1/2 c. warm water
  • 2 c. flour
  • 2 c. warm water
  • 1 tbsp. honey

Soften yeast in the warm water. Stir in flour, remaining warm water and honey. Beat until smooth. Cover and let stand at room temperature until bubbly. This will take a few days during which the starter should be stirred a few times daily. Renew every 5-10 days.

Starter #4

This is a solid starter, much like the pioneers used.

  • 1/3 c flour
  • About 2 tablespoons of water

Add the water to the flour and mix until you have a small piece of sticky dough. Knead for about five minutes or until it is springy, just as if you were making bread.

Cover with a damp towel and let it ferment for about three days. Dough will be moist and wrinkled with a thin crust.

Pull off the crust and mix the leftover dough with 2/3 c flour and 1/4 c water. Set aside.

After two days remove any crust and mix with one cup of flour. Set aside for about 12 hours.

Starter should be fully risen and ready to use.

Starter #5 (Friendship Bread Starter or Hermann)

  • 1 package active dry yeast

  • 1/4 cup warm water

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour, divided

  • 3 cups white sugar, divided

  • 3 cups milk

Day 1

  • In a small bowl, dissolve yeast in water. Let stand 10 minutes.
  • In a 2 quart glass container, combine 1 cup flour and 1 cup sugar. Mix thoroughly. Slowly stir in 1 cup milk and dissolved yeast mixture.
  • Cover loosely and let stand until bubbly. Leave loosely covered at room temperature.

Days 2-4

Stir starter with a spoon.

Day 5

Stir in:

  • 1 cup flour

  • 1 cup sugar

  • 1 cup milk.

Days 6 - 9

stir only

Day 10

Stir in:

  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 cup sugar

  • 1 cup milk.

  • Remove 1 cup to mak your first bread, give 2 cups to friends along with this recipe, the Amish Bread recipe. Store the remaining 1 cup starter in a container in the refrigerator.

Starter #6 Salt Rising Bread Starter

  • 2 medium potatoes
  • 4 cups boiling water

  • 1/4 cup stone-ground cornmeal

  • 2 tablespoons sugar

  • 1 teaspoon salt

Peel potatoes and slice them thin. Put them into a large crockery or glass bowl. Pour boiling water over them. Stir in remaining ingedients until sugar and salt are completely dissolved. Keep at a constant 130 degrees, if possible, and let stand for 24 hours. Starter will smell really bad! Discard potatoes. Continue with Salt Rising Bread Recipe.

Starter #7 Rye Starter

  • Mix 1 Tablespoon yeast in 2 cups of warm water.
  • Beat in 2 cups of rye flour.
  • Add a small onion, peeled and halved.
  • Cover the bowl with plastic wrap. Let stand at room temperature for 24 hours. Remove onion. Beat in 1 cup tepid water and 1 1/2 cups rye flour.
  • Cover and let stand for 24 hours longer.
  • Use this right away or refrigerate for up to 24 hours. Bring to room temperature before using.

Salt Rising Starter

Sourdough Starter

Taking Care of the Starter

Once the starter is active and working it can be kept covered in the refrigerator. Be sure to bring it to room temperature before using. You will need toreplenish it with an equal amount of flour and water when you use it. For example oif you have 1 cup of starter left after baking you will need to add 1/2 c water and 1/2 c flour to feed the leftover starter and then allow it to sit on the counter for several hours.

If you are not baking bread, feed your starter every week or so, and keep it in the fridge.

Now that you are all set with the starter it is time to make the bread!


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    • dutch84 profile image

      dutch84 9 years ago

      the one with honey sounds the best