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Sourdough, the starting place for more than just bread.

Sourdough is probably the oldest known leavened bread. Starters were kept in small wooden buckets or casks, but many lived for years in lard pails, crocks and kettles. Some starters have been known to live for years, passed from generation to generation.

TEXARKANA, Ark. –  I love the smell of sourdough. The aroma is zesty and tangy, with a hint of sour, and can make your entire kitchen smell heavenly.

Sourdough has deep roots in American history. In early America, a pot of sourdough starter was a part of a bride’s dowry.

Sourdough is made from flour and water and allowed to ferment with yeast. Yeast is used as a leavening agent, where it converts the food/fermentable sugars present in dough into the gas, carbon dioxide. This causes the dough to expand or rise as gas forms pockets or bubbles. When the dough is baked, the yeast dies and the air pockets "set," giving the baked product a soft and spongy texture. The use of potato flakes, eggs, or sugar in bread dough accelerates the growth of yeasts.

The sourdough starter is a precise mixture of flour, water and yeast that is fed and kept alive to use over and over again in breads, biscuits, pancakes, waffles, and cakes. The yeast, a living organism, feeds off of the flour and gives off carbon dioxide gas which forms bubbles in the dough and eventually causes the baked product to rise again.

Starter can be easily made. In a quart canning jar, mix together 2 cups warm water, 1 package yeast, 1/4 cup potato flakes and 3/4 cup sugar; let it sit at room temperature until the mixture bubbles, then refrigerate.

Because the yeast is a live organism, feeding your starter is essential. It should be fed every three to five days. If left unfed for more than five days, the starter will die and your bread will not rise. To feed your starter, remove it from the refrigerator and add 3/4 cup sugar; 3 tablespoons instant potato flakes and 1 cup water. Mix well. Cover, but not tightly. Let it stand out of the refrigerator all day. Remove one cup from the starter and either use in a recipe, give away, or discard.

For best results with your sourdough, use glass or pottery containers to mix and store sourdough starter. Never use a metal container or a metal spoon in the starter. The fermentation process can cause the metal to discolor.

There are tips to successful bread making. First off, remember that if you are using your starter daily, it can stay on the counter; if not using daily, refrigerate it. If poorly handled, your starter will die, meaning your bread will not rise. Most importantly, like all homemade breads, sourdough has no preservatives. So, if the loaf won’t be eaten within a day, wrap and put it in the freezer, not the refrigerator, as the refrigerator dries out the product.

There are numerous uses for sourdough other than just bread. The sweet mixture can be used for muffins, cinnamon rolls, and the best sourdough pancakes that you have ever tasted.

To receive your free copy of “Sourdough, The Starting Place for More Than Just Bread” handout, contact me at the University of Arkansas, Division of Agriculture, Miller County, 400 Laurel, Suite 215, Texarkana, AR. You may also call 870-779-3609 or email me at

Here is my recipe for Sourdough Pancakes. They are “melt in your mouth” good.

Sourdough Pancakes

1 cup sourdough starter

2 cups lukewarm water

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

2 large eggs, well beaten

2 tablespoons sugar

1/2 cup heavy cream or milk

2 tablespoons cooking oil

1 teaspoon baking soda

Mix starter, water and flour in bowl; keep in refrigerator overnight. Stir in the remaining ingredients next morning. Let mixture bubble for 10 minutes. Bake on hot, greased griddle, using one-fourth cup batter for each cake. Makes 2 dozen 5-inch pancakes.

By Carla Due M.S.
County Extension Agent
Family & Consumer Sciences
The Cooperative Extension Service
U of A System Division of Agriculture

Media Contact: Carla Due M.S.
County Extension Agent
Family & Consumer Sciences
U of A Division of Agriculture
Cooperative Extension Service