Sourdough Starter

The nickname for Alaskan homesteaders. Do you know why? Because supplies only came to these settlers once or twice a year and bread was a staple. The solution was to carry with them a sourdough starter to keep the yeast going for their bread. Either that (my recipe explains) or these old timers resembled the “indomitable sourdough starter…” That part made me laugh, because I can’t see myself calling a rough and tough homesteader a sourdough, because dough is too squishy.

There’s a tradition here out on the ranch, pancakes every Saturday. Rain or shine. Mom makes pancakes. Really good buttermilk pancakes. Since Phillip has been raised with this fantastic tradition, it’s just a way of life on Saturday morning to make pancakes. Recently, however, his mom gave me a whole packet of information on how to make a sourdough starter, pancakes, muffins, etc.

I’ve always wanted to make sourdough. When I was young, my parents owned a pizza parlor in Fallbrook, a small town up the road from where we live now. It was called Sourdough Pizza and they got their starters on a regular basis from bakery in San Fran. The pizza was delicious and everyone in Fallbrook loved it. I recently learned that it closed down, which is sad. My parents sold it a while back, but it had a good run.

Have you ever wanted to make fresh sourdough at home? Sourdough is unlike regular bread where you can just dump yeast in warm water, add salt and flour and go. Sourdough needs to be made from a starter that has been soured. I always thought you had to get a little batch from a very long standing strain of sourdough, but that’s not true. It’s nice to get a starter from a strain of sourdough that goes back 100 years, but if you’re like me, you don’t have any connections that good.

Actually, sourdough starters are easy! Not only are they easy, but when I made a starter, then next morning I had enough left over “sponge” to make sourdough pancakes. I didn’t know that you could make sourdough pancakes and it’s a shame because they are fantastic both in texture and flavor! Here’s a website that describes how to naturally start a sourdough starter and it’s a little more involved. We’ve started two starters, one using the method below and one using the method from this site. They use natural yeast that is always in the air, making the bread more resilient to mold and probably has a more sour taste (which I think was missing from the starter below, but it might need time to acquire that sour taste). If you’ve ever had a sour ale or brewed your own beer, you are well acquainted with this kind of yeast and probably try to stay far away from it because it tends to contaminate your brewing gear.

Here’s how to make your starter from a package of yeast. The starter itself will only be 1/2 cup of this stuff, the left over mixture will be enough to make a batch of pancakes or bread…

In a bowl mix well:

2 cups flour

2 cups warm water & 1 package dry yeast

Sourdough Starter

Sourdough Starter

It will look like this.

Sourdough Starter

Put this into a container (I used a corning-ware dish and plastic wrap to cover). Leave this at room temperature over night. This is now your “sponge.”

Side note: It’s important not to use anything metal in this process. (Stainless is probably OK for mixing.)

In the morning, put boiling water in a clean glass or ceramic container (mason jars work great) to make sure the container is sterilized and dump it out. Take 1/2 cup from the “sponge” and put it into your clean mason jar or container. Cover either with plastic wrap or the mason jar lid, but don’t tighten it. The starter will let off gas and expand. Put it in the fridge. This is your starter!

Sourdough Starter

Sourdough Starter

Now make pancakes with everything that is left!


Here’s the sourdough pancake recipe:

Serves 3.

The left over sponge, after you have removed your starter (should be about 2 cups)

1 or 2 eggs

1 Tablespoon oil

1 teaspoon soda dissolved in 1 Tablespoon water

1 teaspoon salt

1 Tablespoon sugar

Beat with a fork and blend in all ingredients, except soda and water mixture. If you like, add a Tablespoon of milk to the recipe as well. Add the soda and water mixture right before baking. Bake on a hot griddle and only turn once (like any other pancake, but it’s worth repeating).

You can also add 1/2 cup whole wheat flour, cornmeal, wheat germ or branflakes to the batter (two eggs will provide the liquid for this addition).

Sourdough Pancakes


To use your starter later:

Create another sponge, by adding the starter to 2 cups flour and 2 cups warm water (just like the starter recipe, but no need for yeast now). Let this sit out, covered over night.  Then save a 1/2 cup of this sponge as your starter, just like before. Use the rest (should be about 2 cups) just as you did before in the recipe above.


I hope to make a few loaves of sourdough bread this week and to experiment with muffins, sourdough wheat bread, sourdough french bread, etc. I’ll keep you posted if I find some good recipes.


2 thoughts on “Sourdoughs.

  1. I didn’t realize it was so easy to make your own starter! We may need to pick up this family tradition again. With all the food allergies in this house, and Andy working long hours, we’ve let it go by the wayside after years of Saturday (or Sunday) pancakes. Thanks for the inspiration! :)

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