Friday, January 29, 2010

Make Your Own Sour Dough Starter

"But how do you make the sour dough?" Mrs. Boast asked.

"You start it," said Ma, "by putting some flour and warm water in a jar and letting it stand till it sours."

"Then when you use it, always leave a little," said Laura. "And put in the scraps of biscuit dough, like this, and more warm water," Laura put in the warm water, "and cover it," she put the clean cloth and the plate on the jar, "and just set it in a warm place, "she set it in its place on the shelf by the stove. "And it's always ready to use, whenever you want it."
from By the Shores of Silver Lake

The last time I used sour dough starter a friend had given me some. Well, I let that go during our move and want to make sour dough bread again from time to time.
A sour dough starter is a leaven that develops from microscopic wild yeast and bacteria present in the air.
I found this recipe in The Little House Cookbook and wanted to share my experience with making the starter.
To begin you need:
1 1/4 cup unbleached white flour
1 cup bloodwarm water
Quart sized glass mason jar or similar

Cheescloth or muslin with rubberband for cover

Mix the flour and water in the jar and stir with the end of a wooden spoon. I covered the jar with a cut out piece of unbleached muslin and secured with a rubber band. Then the jar was placed on our mantle by the woodstove.

The batter must be warmed, but not hot - between 80 - 95 degrees F. Let the jar stand until the batter bubbles and rises. This may take anywhere from overnight to a week, depending on how warm it gets. Bubbles in the dough and expanded volume, or rising, are the chief signs that the starter is "alive" and working. The aroma should be pleasantly sour, the texture tacky. If after several days the batter has developed only a bad smell, throw it out and start again.

After your starter is "alive", store in the refrigerator if it will not be used for a couple of days. Your starter must also be fed. Every day add 1 T. flour and nearly 1 T. warm water and stir. Leave out for a few hours. Return to refrigerator.

When using the sour dough starter, always leave about 1/2 cup - 1 cup in the jar. You will then need to add another 1 cup flour and 3/4 cup warm water to build the starter back up.

I will share how my starter is doing tomorrow and what I do next with it as well as a recipe or two as I bake with it.

Warm wishes,



  1. I look forward to seeing the outcome! I too have the same cookbook, sadly I have not looked at it for awhile. I will have to grab it off the shelf and check out the starter recipe!


  2. Looking forward to seeing the outcome! I would love to learn how to make bread!

  3. When I was first married a neighbor gave me sourdough starter and called it "Friendship Bread". The idea was to "feed" it, use it and give some away. It was fun and I made not only bread but coffee cake, cookies, rolls with it. But, alas, I went to work and I forgot to "feed" it and eventually I just plain forgot about it. I hope you have fun with yours, I can't wait to see what you make with it. Thank you for the memory!

  4. I love sourdough. I grew up in San Francisco, and my husband is a native there, so we miss sourdough so much. We were told that the reason that it never tastes the same anywhere else is the molecular structure in the air around SF is unique, but I am still going to give this a try. Oh, I wonder if I could make GF sourdough. Now that would be a treat.
    Have a happy weekend Tonya

  5. we JUST got this book at a local used book store! we're already excited about seeing what great things are in've given me more to look forward to. I've always wanted to try this! (& we're pretty much obsessed with Little House).

  6. Oh...I'd love to try this! Thanks for sharing the "how to" with us. I always enjoyed the "Little House" books ~ so wonderful that you have the cookbook! :)


  7. Thanks for sharing. I have a couple of the little house books and dream of that simple life.

  8. I can't wait to see how yours tastes! I made this and mine wasn't sour at all; it was rather sweet. Someone told me that the flavor depended on the location where it the starter is made as well as the brand of flour.

  9. I love the little house series. I don't have the cookbook though. I am anxious to see how it turns out!

  10. We just had the Little House Cookbook checked out from the library too! I'm hoping to explore some new bread recipes soon also.

  11. Hello Tonya,
    I love the Little House Cookbook! Thank you so much for sharing this on your blog, I am definately going to give this a try:)

  12. Hello Tonya~We also have the Little House Cookbook here! We love it. I have never made bread by hand~I always use my breadmaker. But I am going to try this great recipe with my girls. Thank you for sharing, Rose

  13. Okay....I'm going to bookmark this! It's been something on my mind lately to get some sour dough started. You are a dear to share Tonya. I hope you're having a nice weekend.

  14. Hi Tonya

    We brought a jigger and a mill a number of months ago and we started milling our own flour. I have the little house cook book and would really like to give the sour dough a go. I will be back to see what you make.

    Thank you for sharing
    Warm regards

  15. We love this little cookbook too. Do you have the craft book? It is lovely also. I have never tried the starter that way , but will give it a go. Maybe I will wait and see how you do first...LOL! Have a great weekend!

  16. I've always wondered about how to make a sour dough starter. Thanks for sharing this...We love the little house books so it's neat that this ties back into the books. Have a wonderful weekend.

  17. ahh... I just read your other post, now I see why you are leaving it out. I have only fed my starter that my neighbor gave to me in the refrigerator. Now I realize you are actually starting your own and therefore keeping it warm. I love love love that you have a Little House Cookbook!!! That is now on my list, we are enjoying reading our little house books aloud in front of the woodstove in the evenings before bed : ) xo

  18. Do you recommend the Little House Cookbook? Beth

  19. Oh I see...I guess I couls make a gluten free sourdough starter. I'm excited! What fun it will be to concoct a gluten free sour dough bread.


  20. I'm so glad I've found this (found your blog via Soulemama). I would really love to give this a go.

  21. My friend and I were just enjoying some "country" bread from the bakery - a delicious sourdough rye bread and we said again that we really must get our own sourdough starter going. I've bookmarked your site and as soon as my youngest comes in from starting his "survival" fire we will get to the meantime I better go outside to be a little nearer to him. ;-) Thanks for the details on how to get it started.