Put 1 cup of flour and 1 cup of warm water into a stone crock or earthenware bowl or glass jar and let stand at room temperature. Take a look at the mixture every day to check for the bubbling which means that fermentation has begun. This usually takes about ten days but could happen faster if your kitchen is very warm.
When fermentation is well under way, take off a small amount of the clear liquid which has formed on top. Measure the quantity of liquid you have. Mix an equal quantity of half flour and half water. Combine with the starter liquid and return to the crock.
Add the flour, water, yeast, salt and sugar to the starter in the crock and let stand for at least 12 hours, or until it begins to bubble again.
Let stand, covered, for 18 hours more. There should be a faint sour odor from the crock.
10 hours before you want to have fresh loaves of bread on the table, take 2/3 of the dough from the crock and put into a large mixing bowl.
Add the salt and soda to the starter right out of the crock. Beat. Add the eggs and beat very well. (Taste the dough now. You don't want it too sour. This is a hard term to define, but your own taste buds are probably your best guide. If it's unpleasantly sour, add a pinch more of soda and beat well.)
Add enough flour to make a stiff dough. Fold over and over, kneading as it is turned and folded. If the dough gets too stiff, add a little syrup or a small amount of melted butter. The dough should be so stiff you can hardly stir it before you shape it.
Mold into shapes and put in greased small bread pans. Cover and let rise.
Turn loaves onto a floured board and knead well. Shape again into loaves and fill the same pans, no more than half full this time. Let rise again, until the pans are full.
Bake in a preheated hot oven (400°) for about 1 hour. When loaves slip from the sides of the pan the bread is done.
Remove from the oven and tip out on the board. Brush tops with melted butter. Slice very thin and try it with fresh sweet butter and homemade jam for a special treat.
If you like sourdough bread and rolls (always best when they're very fresh), you'll find this superior to the finest commercial French and Italian sourdough bread available. Making the starter takes time and patience, but remember that you only have to do this once. Put aside one-third of your starter dough after avery baking. Start again with Step Three when you want to make bread again. If you bake every week, the starter dough can be kept at room temperature. Otherwise, store it in your refrigerator and remove it a day before you want to use it.
NOTES : Genuine sourdough bread, leavened with a "sour starter," played an important role in the lives of the forefathers of most Scandinavian people. Days before the bread was made, flour and water were mixed together in a stone crock or jar, which was placed on the back of the wood- or coal-burning stove. On cold winter nights when fires got low, especially in the kitchen, my mother wrapped her woolen shawl around the crock. Every day for about ten days the mixture was inspected, and when it began to ferment, a small amount of the clear liquid which formed on the top was removed. This was combined with an identical quantity of flour and water (mixed together first in equal parts) and returned to the crock to make the "sour starter."
You can make a starter at room temperature in today's well-heated homes as well as over Grandmother's stove and with this recipe turn out sourdough which tastes just as good as hers.