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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.
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Read More From Delishably

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.

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