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How to Make Sourdough Friendship Bread and a Starter or Mother


Tony has been baking bread for many years and loves experimenting with bread from around the world. He enjoys passing on his experience.

Perfect friendship bread loaf.

Perfect friendship bread loaf.

What Is Friendship Bread?

I’m bonkers about hand-making bread. I make it every week and really enjoy the experience; in fact, I find it quite therapeutic. I wanted to share a few options for making sourdough friendship loaves and a sponge for the mix.

In these recipes, the sponge is the main element of the mix.

If you are keen on improving your bread-baking, its flavour and texture are all improved by using sponge. I occasionally include some sourdough mother in my yeast-bread recipes because I feel that it helps the bread come together better.

The sponges can be divided and given to a friend for them to make their own sponge mother or sourdough, hence "friendship bread."

The living sourdough starter or mother bubbles with life.

The living sourdough starter or mother bubbles with life.

It All Starts With Your Mother

There are many different versions of this, and I’m sure there are lots of recipes too. But this is my way and the way I’ve found to successfully produce a really tasty, above-average bread.

This bread is grown as much as it is made. It is necessary to first create what is known as a "sourdough mother."


  • 600 gms flour, white, wholemeal
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 370 ml lukewarm water
  • 15gms dried yeast
  • 1tsp brown sugar, or castor sugar

Instructions for Making Your Sourdough Mother

  1. Begin with a cup of strong white bread flour.
  2. Warm 1 cup of water to 100ºF.
  3. Mix together, and leave somewhere warm. I use a kilner jar, but with the seal ring removed. You don’t want it to be air-tight because you want the mix to take natural yeasts from the air.
  4. You can add apple peel, sultanas, or grapes to give it a start.
  5. Slowly, over a few days, the mix will begin to ferment, creating gas bubbles.
  6. After two days, add a little more flour and warm water.

How Can I Change the Flavor of My Sourdough Mother?

The chemistry and science behind what makes this a tasty bread are too complicated to go through here. And to be honest, I don’t suppose we really need to know. I’m a breadnut so I find it all interesting.

You can add grape musk, apple juice, milk, basil leaves (Greek sourdough), or any source of lactic acid bacteria to improve and change the flavour and character of your bread. Sourdough bread lasts longer and seldom gets mouldy.

Making the Loaf

Once you have followed the above procedure, you are ready to start your loaf.


  • 300g of bread flour
  • 125ml of warm water
  • Two big tablespoons of the mother
  • Two teaspoons of salt
  • One or two tablespoons of butter, which will give the bread flavour and help its keep its quality


  1. Mix the mother and the flour together.
  2. As the dough starts to come together, turn it out onto a floured surface and knead it until it feels right. By that, I mean it will begin to feel soft and spongy. It will stretch without tearing and hold together in a smooth ball.
  3. The bread needs proofing and cooking just as you would any bread.

If Water Forms in Your Mix...

If water forms in your mix, you need to feed it. First, pour off the liquid. The liquid is quite high in alcohol and used to be poured off and drunk, but I think it provided more of a headache than anything else.

Dough ready for the oven.

Dough ready for the oven.

Ready to eat.

Ready to eat.

Grandma Was the Best Cook Ever

I used to sit at the end of the kitchen table as a kid and watch my grandma make and bake bread from scratch. She had a range that heated the rest of the house too; it had two ovens, one above the other, a place for the kettle, and a bottom cupboard where the bread was proofed before baking.

She was stone deaf—a victim of the Low Moor munitions factory disaster in 1916 when the steel factory exploded. Although grandma was a few miles away in a village called Shelf, she was deafened by the intensity of the sound.

It may have affected her hearing, but she was still the best cook and baker I’ve ever come across, her currant and mint pasties were just heaven.

This Dough Is About Wasting Nothing and Sharing

The idea with this dough is not to throw away leftovers, as they can be used as the starter for the next batch. Some starters can be as old as fifty or sixty years. They can live on indefinitely because they will live as long as they are fed and looked after. Some people call this starter "friendship bread" because you tend to produce more than you need, and rather than throwing it away, you can pass it on to friends. And they, in turn, can also grow their own.

Funnily enough, my Italian friend Fabio and I both have the same memories of our grandmas who had stonewares pot that contained their sourdough starters. My grandma used to talk to it as she fed it; she said it was her bread-cow because she milked it every few days for the dough.

It makes a lovely soft crumb.

It makes a lovely soft crumb.

Rustic, tasty bread.

Rustic, tasty bread.

How Can I Make Bread Using Sponge?

This idea can be taken further, and larger quantities can be made if you use half and half milk with dry flour. Breads such as ciabatta are made in a similar way. But the exception is that the yeast is added and then proofed overnight in the fridge. There are other names related to this type of bread-making: biga, poolish, and pâté fermentée. These all mean "pre-ferments."



  • 300gm of mother
  • 300gm of whole wheat or wholemeal bread
  • Enough warm water 100ºF to form a slightly sticky dough
  • 2 teaspoons of salt
  • 2 tablespoons of butter
  • Optional: 2 teaspoons of sugar, or malt extract, or I sometimes add a banana

Instructions for Cooking Your Sponge

  1. Add the ingredients together, and knead until it feels right. Let it proof for about an hour. This gives the loaf strength and adds flavour to the bread.
  2. Divide the dough in half, and shape it as desired.
  3. Place on a greased baking tray or an oven stone. Proof the dough on a floured peel (one of those long paddle-like things) so you can drop it straight onto the stone.
  4. Preheat the oven to about 220ºC or gas mark 9. Cook at 9 for about ten minutes, and then turn down to gas mark 7 for about 20 minutes.
  5. When you get them out of the oven, turn them over and tap the bottom to see if it is cooked. It should have a hollow sound.

This bread is great on its own or with a thick, generous spread of butter. But, of course, it will go with anything, and I think that once you have tasted this, you will never eat shop-bought bread again.

I hope you try this recipe and that you have enjoyed sharing my kitchen for a short while. I've certainly enjoyed your company, so please leave a comment.


Tony Mead (author) from Yorkshire on March 16, 2013:


thanks for the return visit I hope it is the first of many exchanges between us.

Sad about your mother dough, at that age it must have had an incredible flavour and taste. I've recently started adding grated apple to my sponge and leaving it to ferment, what a flavour it adds and will bring the fermentation on leaps and bounds.



Rolly A Chabot from Alberta Canada on March 16, 2013:

Hi Tony... glad you slipped in and commented on my Wolf hub this morning and it brought me to here. I do love Sourdough bread and baked it for years while I lived in the Klondike. My 15 year old starter died a slow death through freezing in a moving van and I have been trying all sorts without much success. I will be trying this one. Thanks for writing this....

Warmest Regards... Rolly in Canada

Tony Mead (author) from Yorkshire on December 04, 2012:

Thank you sweetie for returning my visit, this bread is simple to make and in a warm climate it should be even better.



sweetie2 from Delhi on December 02, 2012:

wow it looks so beautiful bread, Though I don't think I would be able to make it but it is so beautiful.. making me hungry. voting it up and useful.

Tony Mead (author) from Yorkshire on April 23, 2012:


thank you for your visit and comments, votes.

It has a wonderful beery smell after a couple of days, and as long as you fed it with flour it will go on indefinatly. I think I'll leave my bread-mother to my grandkids;}

regards Tony

L M Reid from Ireland on April 22, 2012:

Wow what a Bread Recipe! I have never heard of Friendship Bread until I read this excellent article. The history of this unique way of making bread and why it is called this was also fascinating.

Thanks for SHARING. Up and Awesome

Tony Mead (author) from Yorkshire on April 02, 2012:


we have a much loved comedian over here called Ken Dodd, who always carried a tickling stick to make sure your chuckle muscles were in working order.

His concerts leave you gasping for breath and your chuckles muscles completly pooped out.

beam me up spotty.


stessily on April 02, 2012:

Tony, Those chuckle muscles are indeed important --- nay, they are essential to our moods at any given moment. Chuckle away.



Tony Mead (author) from Yorkshire on April 01, 2012:


many thanks for visiting and your comments.

You made me chuckle with your comments, and as we all know it is essential each day to work our chuckle-muscles.



stessily on March 31, 2012:

Tony, A very enjoyable, "deliciously" rewarding journey through starters, sponges, Low Moor, Alaskan gold, etc.!

Your photos are wonderfully helpful, and your breadly creations are assuredly as tasty as they are photogenic.

Proper champion, lad.

Toodles, Stessily

Tony Mead (author) from Yorkshire on March 26, 2012:

Hi Scarytaff,

How you doing my friend? I hope you're enjoying this weather.

Thanks for the comment and the votes of course I hope you give it a try.

cheers Tony

Tony Mead (author) from Yorkshire on March 26, 2012:

Baking bread101

Thank you for your good comments.

I don't have to tell you the pleasure of baking, and I find it so rewarding. The possibilities are almost endless and with the experience of my Italian friend's family I also heve some great input.

I've started putting honey, grapes, even herbs into the sponge which all help, and reduce that sour smell too.

goodluck, I'll take a look at your sour dough later.

cheers Tony.

Derek James from South Wales on March 26, 2012:

Terrific hub, Tony. Thanks for the info. Voted up and useful.

BakingBread-101 from Nevada on March 25, 2012:

I've been baking bread for over 30 years -- it's a rare thing for me to buy store bought. And yes, I'm one of those "other hubs" you talk about. You really did a great job writing this up. Your sponge is very much like the one I use for my sourdough. The longer the sponge sits, the more "sour" it becomes.

Tony Mead (author) from Yorkshire on March 25, 2012:

Derdriu, Do you think it sounds tasty or not? just joking.

Apparently they used to keep the mother mix in bags around their necks to keep it warm in Alaska.

Where they, your ancestors panning for gold, or did they have a business, because I think that there were many camp followers who supplied services and items such as food and clothing.

I have a hub almost ready about the explosion, it was a real catastrophy and showed how even civilians were suffering during the 1914-18 war.

All my memories of grandma and her house are fond ones, it seems now as if it was always sunny with her.


We've changed to summer time in GB the clocks go forward an hour until the winter equinox and then we change them back. This is the worst one, because you lose an hours sleep. Daft idea.

Thank you for taking the time to write I do appreciate it and your friendship.

take care


Derdriu on March 24, 2012:

Tony, What finger-licking, mouth-watering, stomach-growling, tummy-scrummy delicious, scrumptious, tasty recipes! In particular, I appreciate the patient description of exactly what to do, how and when. Additionally, I really enjoy the cultural details which flavor your recipes, such as the recounting of experiences during gold-rush times in California and Alaska.

Two of my paternal ancestors, George and Henry, participated in the Alaska gold rush. So it's interesting to read about sour dough and old sourdoughs ;-]!

It's also interesting to read about your grandmother whose lack of hearing was compensated for by fantastic baking, among other talents.

Thank you for sharing, voted up + all,


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