North Carolina Sweet Sourdough

When I was ten years old or so, my dad briefly took up baking. I remember the sweetness of the bread and how wonderful it made our house smell! This was my first introduction to sourdough and all I knew was that he kept a starter in the fridge that he fed with sugar and potato flakes. While the baking habit didn’t last, my memories did. A few years later, I ordered sourdough bread on a family trip to San Francisco and was sorely surprised by the true sourness of their variety. While I love SF sourdough in its own right, it was not at all what I was hoping for or expecting.

Fast forward many, many, many years to COVID quarantine and I decided to jump on the sourdough bandwagon but I wanted the sourdough of my youth. I searched online for the words, “sourdough, potato flakes, sweet.” An assortment of recipes popped up with just a few resembling the bread of my childhood memories. I tried several versions and the one from Sugar Spices Life got me started. Since then I have tweaked and altered the recipe to suit our family’s tastes. I especially like the butter and honey version.

This recipe is a commitment but well worth the time.

Making the Starter: 

Starter Ingredients:

3/4 ounce active dry yeast (do not use instant yeast) 

1 cup warm water 100-110 degrees

*If you live near me, I’m happy to give you some of my starter! It doesn’t take much to get started.

Starter Instructions:

In a glass or plastic bowl, combine yeast and water. Cover and refrigerate for 3 to 5 days. 

Storing the Starter:

I store mine in the refrigerator in a glass jar with a hinged glass lid with a gasket. This allows my to take it out every few days to “burp” it. As it sits, the natural yeasts will break down the starches and produce gas in the jar. You can store it in any glass or plastic container but do not use metal.

Feeding the Starter

Ingredients for Feeding:

3/4 cup sugar

3 tbsp instant potato flakes

1 cup warm water 100-110 degrees

Feeding Instructions:

In a medium bowl, mix together sugar, potato flakes, and warm water. Combine with starter. 

Let the starter sit out at room temperature for 10 to 12 hours. Cover but do not seal closed. I usually lay a thin kitchen towel over the top. This protects your starter from any bugs you may have in your kitchen (like fruit flies that snuck in on some bananas) while also allowing the starter to breathe. On a warm day it will be more active than a cold one. Hot summer days will mean you do not need to leave it sitting out for as long and cold winter ones mean it may sit for more than twelve hours. My kids and I like to watch the starter grow more and more active the longer it sits. The solids will float around like a lava lamp as the gas builds up and releases!

You need to feed the starter every 3-7 days. The thing I like about this starter is that you do not have to throw any away! I have been known to pour the starter into larger containers as I feed it until I have time to bake. You will see instructions to “throw out” one cup of starter but I never do this and have great success! I have been making this bread for years and never throw away any starter. As long as you feed it regularly and give it ample time to sit on the counter after you feed it, the starter will stay happy and viable. It smells like pears when it’s happy!


1 cup starter that has been fed 

1/3 cup sugar or 1/3 cup honey (adjust water by reducing by 1/4 cup)

6 tbsp butter, melted and cooled

2 tbsp vegetable or corn oil

1 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 cups warm water 100-110 degrees

6 cups bread flour or all purpose flour or a mix of the two

Baking Instructions:

Add the paddle attachment to a stand mixer. In the bowl of the stand mixer, combine sugar, corn oil, salt, water, and one cup of fed starter. Turn the mixer on low and gradually add flour. Once all of the flour is incorporated, turn the mixer on high to beat the dough so it is well mixed, 2-3 minutes. The dough will be very sticky and wet! Don’t worry. 

You can leave the dough in the bowl of the stand mixer or transfer to another bowl. Spray the top of the dough with cooking spray to prevent the top from drying out as it rises.

Cover bowl with plastic wrap or a damp kitchen towel and let sit for 8-12 hours. I do this before I go to bed and then form it the next morning into loaves or rolls.

After 8-12 hours, punch down the dough. I use a plastic bowl scraper. The dough will still be sticky but the flour will have absorbed the liquid and won’t be as wet.

For Loaves:

Divide the dough into thirds and form into loose balls. On a floured surface, knead each ball about 10 times. You aren’t kneading it with much force. Mostly you want to push the air out of the dough and form it into a loaf. Usually with my hands I will press the dough flat to about 1/2 inch thick then will fold it into thirds, like a letter going into an envelope. I’ll then press the dough flat again and repeat the process. The dough will tighten up and start to make a loaf shape when you fold it. You may end up using a lot of flour on your surface. This is a wet dough and if your kitchen is humid, it will end up absorbing more flour.

Coat three loaf pans with cooking spray or with vegetable oil using a brush and place dough in each of the pans. If you have used the letter fold, place the seam on the bottom of the pan. Spray the tops of the loaves with cooking spray or brush them lightly with vegetable oil.

Cover pans with a damp kitchen towel and let rise for 5-8 hours. Make sure the towel isn’t touching the tops of the dough. If I have formed my loaves in the morning, they generally are ready to back between 1 and 3 in the afternoon. They will almost double in size.

Bake at 350 degrees for 30 to 35 minutes, until the tops are golden brown and your kitchen smells amazing! 

Optional: you can melt butter while the bread is baking and brush the tops of the loaves with the melted butter as soon as you pull them out of the oven.


This dough bakes beautifully in any form. I have made loaves, rolls, sweet rolls, cheese danishes, pancakes, and more with it. Once you learn how to work the dough, experiment. My kids love rolls made from it and I even have baked it in muffin tins.

The bread freezes very well. Wrap it well in plastic wrap and then aluminum foil to protect it from drying out in the freezer. Reheat in a warm oven.

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