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Replacing sourdough in recipes

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eb16's picture
eb16

Replacing sourdough in recipes

Hi, I have been put off trying to make a sourdough starter because it seems like way too much effort for someone who makes on average 1 loaf per week.


I usually make breads with pre-ferments (I mean pate fermente, biga or poolish) but there seem to a lot more recipes for sourdough. So I'm wondering if there is a way to replace the sourdough part with a pre-ferment? I understand that the bread wouldn't be the same, of course... but if there was a way of using the recipes that would be great.


Also if you have (or know a source of) good and interesting recipes for bread with pre-ferments, please share.


Thanks for your help!

Ford's picture
Ford

"So I'm wondering if there is a way to replace the sourdough part with a pre-ferment?"


Why not?  Sourdough starter is just a pate fermente, a biga, or a poolish  in which the "wild yeast" replaces the commercial yeast.  Of course it also contains the lacto bacteria to give the bread its unique flavor.  Just adjust the flour and liquid accordingly.


I found that once I started making sourdough I really did not want to go back to my commercial yeast recipes for my daily bread.  Perhaps, you might find the same is true for you.  I usually bake three loaves at a time every three weeks.  I have one that I cut daily and the others are in the freezer for the time that the first one is gone.  Of course, there are some recipes that I follow using the commercial yeast.


Ford

eb16's picture
eb16

Are there any tricks to successfully replace the sourdough culture with a yeasted pre-ferment?


Another question...the recipes I use have the pre-ferment and then yeast as well, so what do I do about that? Replace sourdough with another type of starter and then add yeast to the final dough as well?


Thanks again for your advice, I know I'm asking more and more questions :)


My problem is that I have been using Hamelman's book for a while and like a couple of recipes but there aren't many recipes for pre-ferment breads with interesting grains and seeds and such.


I might give the sourdough culturing a go... even though I have a personal problem with freezing bread so I'd still be making my one loaf a week.

grimeswh's picture
grimeswh

Hmmmm.... I'm not a baker and I didn't go to culinary school so forgive me for not knowing some terms. I looked up Biga Bread on Wikipedia and it seems to me that the fermentation process is basically the same as a sourdough starter except you only "ferment" a biga start the one time and you have to add yeast to it. With a sourdough start you don't have to add any yeast to the start once you get it going because it makes it's "own yeast" or in other words it uses wild yeast from the environment. That goes for making bread, muffins, pizza crust, or what ever you want to use the dough for. You don't have to any yeast at all to sourdough because it's self rising.


When "feeding" a sourdough start you only "have" to feed it once every 1-2 weeks so the yeast doesn't die on you. If you start out with 2 cups of starter (which is roughly about 1 loaf) and you double it that, that means you have 4 cups of "starter" right. That means you can make one loaf and still have enough starter to save to double for the next time you want make another loaf. If you only do that once per week you only have to make one loaf of bread per week. If you do that once in 2 weeks you only have to make 1 loaf every 2 weeks and so on. Or if you don't want to bake bread for a month take a 1/4-cup starter through out the rest or use it. Then feed the 1/4-cup of starter you have left once a week or so for 3-4 weeks and you'll have enough starter for about 1 loaf then. In my opinion sourdough is cheaper than yeast breads because you don't have to buy any yeast. Plus the yeast that's in sourdough regenerates itself while rising the dough so you have less of a chance of the yeast "running out" and having flat bread. Not only that I prefer the taste of sourdough over yeast breads. In general if you don't like the "sour" taste or texture of sourdough bread you can always adjust the sugar level and flour (or raise time) to your liking.


Hopefully I didn't bore you with all that ha, ha. Hope that helps =D

grimeswh's picture
grimeswh

Oh!! I almost forgot you can also dry a sourdough start and freeze it to keep for months at a time or send it in the mail to friends. Hope that helps =D Good luck =D

eb16's picture
eb16

I will definitely have to try making a culture. In my book (Hamelman) it says you're supposed to feed the culture daily. Is that only the beginning? I suppose I'll look into it and find out... but please share your tips!


Back to my question, is it correct to assume that a recipe with a sourdough starter would need both a yeasted starter + yeast in the final dough if I was to replace it?


 


 

grimeswh's picture
grimeswh

For the question do you have to add yeast to the final dough no because sourdough makes it's own yeast.


Hope that helps =D

proth5's picture
proth5

Others have given more simplistic answers and you may want to stop there because this one is going to be long and address many points.


If you are baking one loaf of bread a week, it will take some dedication on your part to maintain a sourdough starter.  Although it can be kept alive in the cold of the refrigerator and fed less than once or twice a day, you will still need to bring it into the warmth of your kitchen counter and feed it regularly for a couple of days before it will have enough strength to reasonably raise your bread.


Do this once a week and you are nearly at the point of keeping it out and feeding it daily.


Keep too small an amount of starter and it will never really develop optimum flavor.  Keep too much (and that is easy to do if you are baking one loaf a week) and that's a lot of flour that is fed and then discarded.


You need to decide if the whole operation is worth your time and expense. It might be.


Sourdough does not exactly "make its own" yeast from the environment.  It essentially transforms the flour and water you add into an environment where the yeast that occurs naturally in the grains can flourish by acheiving a natural balance of yeast and bacteria. It starts out with any number of different kinds of bacteria and eventually settles down to a small collection of the ones that exist best with the available yeast(s).  When available food is gone - be it food for commercial yeast or food "wild" yeast the yeast stop their good office of raising dough.


However, you can make lovely breads with commercial yeast. And so let us suppose you have decided to do this.


Let us say you are looking at a recipe that is written for pure sourdough - or levain.  This will pre ferment a certain percentage of the total flour at a certain hydration.


You can do the same, except add a small amount (pinch) of commercial yeast to a the same weight of flour (plus a small amount of additional flour to make up for the amount of flour that was in the "seed" used in the levain - if you want to be absolutely precise) and the same weight of water (plus a small amount of additional water to make up for the amount of water that was in the seed used in the levain - again, if you want to be absolutely precise).


In theory, you could allow your bread to be raised by nothing else but the yeast in the pre ferment. It will raise slowly, but it will happen.  But let us say you want the bread to behave more like a conventional commercially yeasted loaf.


When you mix the final dough, you would add yeast at  about 1% of the total weight of the flour - if it is fresh yeast or .33% of the total weight of the flour if it is instant yeast.  This will give you a more conventional rise time.  Of course you can modify the amount of yeast in the final dough to be greater or less depending on how you want your dough to act and you finished loaf to taste.


There are a couple of reasons for using pre ferments, but with commercial yeast, the most common for the home baker is taste.  By using a pre ferment you get some of the same benefits as a long, cool fermentation for the entire dough without actually having to find the cool place to store the entire batch of dough overnight (or longer).  In terms of flavor, though, once you load up a loaf with a lot of flavorful ingredients (nuts/seeds/ etc) the relative value of a commercially yeasted pre ferment diminishes (although, yes, yes, I know, it does not go away entirely...) so many authors will omit pre ferments from the more "interesting" recipes as an un-needed step (especially for a busy baker).


You can easily create your own formulas that use pre ferments by taking a "straight dough" formula and thinking in terms of the percentage of flour that you wish to preferment and the hydration of the pre ferment.  Then simply subtract the weight of the flour in the preferment from total flour and the weight of water from the total weight of the water.  Easy as pie.   If you are using Mr Hamelman's book, I know he has included a section on Baker's math - study that and you can write your own recipes...


Happy Baking!

eb16's picture
eb16

...much appreciated! You confirmed some of my concerns regarding sourdough...mainly the fact that you must throw away so much flour, that just feels wrong. And that it isn't so simple.

Now you're making me wonder whether I would get more flavoursome bread by not adding yeast to the final dough, only the preferment, and letting the dough ferment for a longer period of time (somewhere cool, I suppose)?


The problem for me is again the frequency of baking - you can't truly experiment when you bake once a week or so. (I mean I could but who wants to eat the same bread every week for a month? :)

Faith in Virginia's picture
Faith in Virginia

This is the way I look at it. One loaf a week person.


I built and keept my starter and fed it twice a day for a month or so to build and establish my starter.  So now I have active and happy starters.


What I do now is keep the starters in the fridge and feed once a week.  I feed my starters a bit different than most but I like my results.  I keep 120 grams of starter and I pull it from the fridge. I add 80 grams water and flower and give it time to fully devlope 8 to 12 hours depending. then I take 40 grams starter flour and water and put it back in the fridge for a week. That leaves you with 240 grams of active and ready to go starter and the 240 grams is more than enough to make dough of an kind.  Perfect for any bread, pizza dough, english muffins you name it.


So I think keeping a sourdough starter even if you only make a loaf a week is not difficult and well worth the effort. And by using what most will toss away will keep you from feeling wastfull.


But that is just my opinion.


 

placebo's picture
placebo

Like Faith, I keep my starters in the refrigerator and feed them once a week. Faith didn't say this explicitly, but an important point is that you don't have to maintain a lot of starter. By keeping only a small amount of starter, you don't have to use a lot of flour to feed it, and the discarded portion is small. If a recipe requires more starter than you have, just feed it a few times without discarding to build up to the amount you need.


The discarded portion, moreover, doesn't have to be flushed down the sink, even if you aren't planning to bake sourdough bread. You can use it to make sourdough pancakes, waffles, etc. It's pretty easy to minimize or eliminate the wasting of flour. I don't see it as a compelling reason to avoid sourdough.

proth5's picture
proth5

Or maybe two.


I think that there is some importance in terms of flavor development in the levain to keeping more than a very small amount.  I have considered this quietly for some years, but have hesitated to bring it up until the reports of dmsynder's classes at SFBI.  'Nuff said on that.


And yes, there is plenty of stuff to do with the discard - waffles, muffins, etc.  But when one is dealing with a small amount of bread consumption anyway, eventually there are just too many waffles, muffins, etc.  If you have many hungry mouths to feed, you are right - but this is not everyone's situation. I bring this up because I'm a grownup and don't need people's approval, but sometimes I allow myself a little sigh when I hear about being able to use all of the discard. Some of us just can't. (Let it go, proth5.  Let it go.)


I like sourdough baking.  I've done it for many years.  I have a treasured starter. I have precious formulas.  But it isn't for everyone.  Doesn't mean you can't make really great bread.


Again, 'nuff said.

proth5's picture
proth5

once a week (more than one loaf, but only once a week) and I wrote my reply from that perspective.


I am somewhat of a perfectionist and am unhappy with how my levain performs if it is not fed every day.  So to me, the whole routine is worth it.  It takes about 5 mins to actually feed the levain.  The way I see it, I feed the cat every day and he does nothing.  Is it a waste to feed him?  No, because I have undertaken to care for a cat and that is what is required.  At least the levain raises bread.


Others disagree.  There is no one true way.  The routine you use will depend a lot on you.  However, just throwing your levain in the fridge and feeding it once every two weeks is not a path that I, pesonally would advocate.


I baked exclusively with levain for a number of years, but I am rediscovering the joys of commercial yeast.  Great bread does not require levain.


Yes, you could bake bread using only the yeast in the pre ferment.  There may be tradeoffs in terms of how the dough handles, but people who have done this assure me that bread done that way tastes great. I would allow the final dough to ferment at room temperature (or warmer) rather than at cool temperature if I followed that path.


I am currently working with breads with a very low percentge of commercial yeast (although more than just what is in the pre ferment) and my "bread testers" are really liking the results.  You may wish to try that.


And I do experiment even though I only bake once a week.  Although some people call me obsessed...


Hope this helps.


Happy Baking!

eb16's picture
eb16

proth5, what would the fermentation time be like without yeast added to the final dough? If it takes 2 hours with yeast, how long do you think it might be without it? (With just the yeasted preferment, at room temperature.) I mean just for a general idea - double the time, all day...?

proth5's picture
proth5

reliaibly because I have never done a bread with only the yeast from a commercially yeasted preferment.  Ive only heard others talk about it and they did not give me exact times.


But I can give an educated guess that if you had a fully ripe commercially yeasted preferment at the same % of flour pre fermented as a sourdough formula, it would take about the same time to rise as the sourdough.  You might get an indication of the timings on this from the excellent book that you have.


So an educated guess - at 78-80F about double.  My bread with very low additional commercial yeast gets about 2 hours, then a fold and then 2  more hours of bulk ferment before I consider it done, so you might theorize from there.


Hope this helps.

Rick D's picture
Rick D

I bake once a week with my Levain that is kept in fridge and it works quite well. I take it out of fridge and feed it for 2-3 feedings (1-2 days), until it is ready, generally bake 2-3 loaves or more from what I have, and discard nothing. It helps that my 8 year old daughter has taken a keen interest in baking with me, so she usually does a loaf as well. Works quite well and my starter is doing fine.


I also occasionally use a biga preferment and commercial yeast. Also satisfied with that method.


Experiment, do what comes naturally!


--Rick

eb16's picture
eb16

For now I will keep using commercial yeast ... don't think I can be bothered with sourdough at the moment. Maybe one day :)


I am definitely going to try using less yeast or just the preferment as proth5 suggests - that sounds like the way to go.