The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

How to substitute yeast for sourdough?

rts306's picture

How to substitute yeast for sourdough?

Yes, this is not a typo...I know, I know....most people want to substitute sourdough for yeast in recipes but I have tried several times in the past and I have failed to continue a sourdough for long so I gave up.  I have many recipes that use do I convert these to dry yeast or instant yeast?  Possible?  Thanks for any help!

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

But why not try a "poolish" or "pre-fermented"  recipe first.  Letting half the basic dough (equal weights of flour and water) sit overnight (8-16 hrs at 22°C) with a pinch of yeast will add flavor too, not a sourdough but a big improvement over just mixing up the dough with yeast.

You can still use the same ingredients in the recipes.   Just add the sourdough amount as water and flour to the amounts in the recipes.  You may have to increase the liquids just a little for a yeasted dough while sourdoughs start out stiffer and thin as they progress thru fermentation.  Doughs made with packaged yeast should start out softer in consistancy.


rts306's picture

Mini, thank you for your reply.  I was able to bake a few loaves using the 'poolish' or 'prefermented dough' and love them, too.  But sometimes, I would encounter recipes using sourdough and would like to try them but have no idea on how to bake these, using yeast instead of sourdough.

As an example, this recipe (I cut and paste from another post)

Five-Grain Levain

Liquid Levain build:

8 oz bread flour (all purpose flour in the mid 11% protein range)

10 oz water

1.6 oz mature culture liquid (Hamelman uses a liquid culture of 125% hydration)


2.9 oz cracked rye (I have also substituted cracked wheat)

2.9 oz flaxseeds

2.5 oz sunflower seeds

2.5 oz oats

13 oz boiling water

.2 oz salt

Final Dough:

1 lb high-gluten flour

8 oz whole wheat flour

8.4 oz water

.6 oz salt

.1 oz (1 tsp) instant yeast (I omit this when retarding dough overnight)

1 lb, 8 oz soaker (all of above)

1 lb, 2 oz liquid levain (all less 3T)

TOTAL FINAL DOUGH: 4 lb., 11.1 oz

1. Liquid levain: Make the final build 12 to 16 hrs before the final mix and let stand in covered container at about 70 degrees.

2. Soaker: Pour boiling water over the grain blend and salt, mix thoroughly, and cover with plastic to prevent evaporation. Make the soaker as the same time as the final build of the levain and let stand at room temperature. If grains that don't require a hot soaker are used (eg, rye chops in lieu of cracked rye) a cold soaker can be made. In that case, the grains in the soaker will absorb less water, and it's likely that slightly less water will be needed in the final dough.

3. Mixing: All add the ingredients to the mixing bowl. In a spiral mixer, mix on first speed for 3 minutes, adjusting the hydration as necessary. Mix on second speed for 3 to 3-1/2 minutes. The dough should have a moderate gluten development. Desired dough temperature: 76 degrees. [NOTE: It's been a while since I made this recipe, so I can't recall exactly how long I kneaded the dough. Generally, I have to knead longer than Hamelman suggests to get to the desired level of gluten devleopment. Since dsnyder made this bread so successfully recently, perhaps he can suggest some mixing times.]

4. Bulk Fermentation: 1 to 1-1/2 hrs. [I do 2 hrs with 1 fold and omit the yeast (see final fermentation below)

5. Folding: If the bulk fermentation will last 1-1/2 hrs, fold after 45 minutes. [I always fold]

6. Dividing and shaping: Divide the dough into 1.5 lb pieces; shape round or oblong. Can also be made into rolls.

7. Final fermentation: Approximately 1 hour at 76 degrees. [The dough can be retarded for several hours or overnight, which case the bulk fermentation should be 2 hrs with 1 fold, and the yeast left out of the mix.]

8. Baking: With normal steam, 460 for 40 to 45 minutes. There is a great deal of water retention in this bread, so be sure to bake thoroughly.

 WHAT DO I SUBSTITUTE for the 1.6 oz of mature liquid culture?  Is this recipe too complicated to use as an example?  I just bought three bread baking books and a lot of the recipes use sourdough or culture......I would like to try some of them but am this point, I can not maintain a culture (irregular work hours) .... failed miserably a few times before and gave up.



Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

you could leave it out or using 125% hydration as your key, convert (I first changed 1.6 oz  into 45 grams) and came out with 0.88 oz water and 0.71 oz flour which you can add to the recipe.  (25g H2O and 20g flour)  

wally's picture

I'm piggybacking on what Mini said above.  Many sourdough levains are at something around a 100% hydration (so equal weight flour and water).  A poolish preferment is generally at 100% hydration, so just substitute a poolish for the sourdough.

Of course, you're not going to get a sour tang doing this, but poolish produces a wonderful nutty flavor that is hard to beat.

For a recipe such as the one you listed above, all that is required in the way of yeast for your poolish is a pinch of instant dry yeast (also marketed as 'bread machine yeast'.  A pinch will go a long way!

Only thing to watch out for is not allowing the poolish to over-ripen (you can tell if this has happened when you see a high water mark in its container from which it's collapsed).  If this happens, pitch the poolish and start over.  But generally, if you mix your poolish between 10 - 18 hours before your final dough mix, and keep it at a reasonable temp (70 - 76 F) it won't cause you any problems.


Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

"I am a novice and if possible can I begin my starter with regular AP flour instead of rye?"

I was under the impression you didn't like sourdough starter.  Does that mean you want to start up a starter?

Or does it mean in reference to the above recipe, you want to substitute wheat for rye?

You can substitute anything your heart desires!  It's your bread!


Breadandwine's picture

I've been a baker for 36 years - and I've been teaching breadmaking for the past 17 years. I've been down the sourdough route, but, for various reasons, I no longer use it.

I've got a method of making bread which satisfies me and gives me a really good-tasting result every time.

I use a hydration of 70% which gives me a fairly sticky dough. I knead it for between 10-20 seconds every 10-15 minutes until it's no longer sticky; then I leave it for a couple of hours before baking.

But I go by feel. If the dough isn't sticky enough, I simply add another splash of water a little at a time until it feels right.

I use organic wholemeal bread flour with a little white added to give it a bit of a lift. My usual mix is 600g of wholemeal to 100g of white. (I made a batch using 950g of wholemeal recently and I still just added the 100g of white.)

I tend not to convert sourdough recipes. If I come across a recipe I like the sound of - say walnut and onion - I'll note the quantities used and just apply them to my basic recipe, adding walnut oil or herbs as I feel like it.

Here's my blog with the method - you'll see I also use the cloche method, which enables the bread to rise that much more:

Cheers, Paul


rts306's picture

Thank you, everyone! .... now I have ideas ...  will try some recipes and let you all know if I will succeed.  Thanks again!