The Fresh Loaf

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Starter Sacrilege!!

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srulybpsyd's picture
srulybpsyd

Starter Sacrilege!!

I'm a bit wary to broach the following topic as I'm well aware of the hallowed place that wild yeast starter holds in the hearts of many TFLers. But I'm a little curious so here goes:

I've seen discussions about converting dry yeast recipes into wild yeast recipes but what about the reverse? Say, for instance, I saw a yummy looking recipe for whole grain bread that calls for a small amount of starter to build a levain. If I don't have any starter (for whatever reason) is there a way to convert the recipe to use only dry yeast? Can I fake a wild yeast starter by making a poolish and then building that into the levain? If so, how much dry yeast would I use? Does it make a difference if the final dough calls for additional dry yeast (as the recipe I have in mind does)?

I know that many poeple will tell me to just make my own wild yeast starter, which I hope to do very soon. But I'm still kind of learning the ropes so I want to work with dry yeast for a bit before I jump to wild.

Thanks!

Sruly

DavidEF's picture
DavidEF

Sruly,

It should be no problem converting the recipe from SD to commercial yeast. Do just as you said and "fake a wild yeast starter by making a poolish and then building that into the levain" I think the easiest way would be that once the initial mix is done, treat it as if it IS a sourdough starter (sorta). There may be better methods from people who have done it before and/or know exactly how all that works. But, I would say that the amount of yeast you'd use is dependent upon how quickly you want it to be ready, among other factors. Commercially packaged yeast is much more effective at raising dough than SD starter, so everything will move more quickly. If you want it to be slower, use a tiny amount, like 1/8 tsp. Mix it up with flour and water that are in equal measure by weight, as most SD recipes expect the starter to be this way. Mix maybe a couple ounces each of flour and water with your yeast. When that rises to double, discard (or use some other way) all but a Tbsp, and add a couple ounces each of flour and water to that again. After that has risen to its highest point, use it in your levain and follow the recipe from there.

dabrownman's picture
dabrownman

flour and water in the SD levain and put a pinch of yeast in it, say a 1/16th of a tsp,  and let it sit on the counter for 24 hours to make the poolish.  The poolish will then be same amount as the original recipe's levain and non of the other amounts in the recipe have to change. Times most likely will be faster for ferment and proof with the poolish.

Happy baking

ElPanadero's picture
ElPanadero

"Say, for instance, I saw a yummy looking recipe for whole grain bread that calls for a small amount of starter to build a levain."

So, yes you can convert a recipe to use fresh or dried yeast instead of a sourdough starter but you're going to get something different from that "yummy looking recipe" you were drooling over. Yes both yeast and SD starter will raise bread, but the similarities end there.

This is similar to saying, I saw a yummy cake recipe requiring 50g sugar but as I don't have any sugar to hand, can I change that to say salt, as both are white crystaline structures? Well, yes you can but what you get in the final result will of course be different.
The idea of recipes calling for sourdough starters and pre-ferments is to create something with a specific flavour, typically something with a tangy/sour taste rather than a "standard" loaf you might get from a supermarket. This is not always the case of course but generally speaking the starter and preferment will give a specific taste to the bread. Replacing the recipe with yeast won't produce that same taste. You'll get something different, quite possible just as rewarding and tasty in its own right, but not the sour/tangy product the recipe was for.

Baguettes are a good example. I've just made 80% baguettes using a fresh yeast pre-ferment and a couple of weeks later I make 70-75% baguettes using sourdough starter. The end results were vastly different. The yeast baggies were tasty, very much like French baguettes you buy in the shops, but the crumb was tight ish. The sourdough baggies were really tangy and the crumb much more open. Both versions looked similar externally but they tasty radically different. So it just depends what you are wanting to create.

MonkeyDaddy's picture
MonkeyDaddy

and it was very similar to what dabrownman suggests above.  I mixed up a 100% slurry of flour/water and added a packet of yeast.  (This was 20+ years ago when I was just getting my feet wet and didn't know that a whole lot less yeast would have worked, and that those little packets are WAY more expensive than bulk yeast.)  I kept the mix in a warm dark place until it rose then fell again, then started feeding it on a regular schedule just like a genuine SD.  It had that alcoholic/yeasty/fermented smell pretty much right away, but the pungency you would usually associate with SD didn't start to manifest itself for a few weeks.  I kept that going for the summer after my freshman year in college, then had to abandon it when I went back to school in the fall.  

Those early loaves had a "sour" taste, but my inexperience with kneading, loaf formation, and baking techniques led to a lot of pale crusts and gummy crumbs.  Now that I'm having pretty consistent success I'd be interested to try that old experiment again just to test for flavor.  But I have a wonderful SD culture in the fridge that I've had for about a decade and it's hard enough to find time to bake as it is.  So experimentation of that nature may have to wait until retirement... or a Powerball win.  ;-)  If you give it a try, please post your results here - I'd be curious to see how it goes.

 

  --Mike

srulybpsyd's picture
srulybpsyd

Wow! Thanks for the input everyone! I knew that converting it would totally change the characteristics of the bread but I was just curious about whether it was possible and if so how? If I try it I'll let you know how it goes!

MonkeyDaddy's picture
MonkeyDaddy

Some threads on TFL seem to go on for years, others fizzle out after a few posts. But in case anybody's still keeping up with this one I thought I'd post a follow-up to my note above:

I got a copy of The Italian Baker, revised edition, by Carol Field as a gift recently and as fate would have it, I read through the section that relates to this thread about 3 days after I read the last post.  If you read page 72, it goes through a nicely written formula for making a biga from commercial yeast and treating it as a wild starter to create a more rustic taste.

 

  --Mike

The Yakima Kid's picture
The Yakima Kid

What happens is that even if you make a starter by using domestic yeast and flour and water slurry, over time the yeast character changes and wild yeasts also colonize the starter. I live in the SF Bay Area, and when I want to bake sourdough I use the lazy method of creating a starter - I began a thread on that here in this forum. Within a few weeks any starter here winds up with that distinctive SF Bay Area taste as it is colonized.

The Yakima Kid's picture
The Yakima Kid

If you use about 1/8 tsp of yeast and let a sponge, levain, etc. ferment on the counter overnight, you can get some slightly wild tasting bread. Add only the yeast, water, and flour. Adding sugar delays the autolysis process by providing the yeast with an easy food to ferment.

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

and 1/8 tsp to how much flour?  

The Yakima Kid's picture
The Yakima Kid

Assuming sea level and a clear day (the rate of rise depends on altitude and barometric pressure, among other things), and NOT a sweet dough (which has its own issues with inherent slow rising) and a warm room temperature above 75 degrees Fahrenheit (which I'm experiencing now), I'd add 1/8 tsp yeast to 11/2 cup flour, and to maximize sourness, I would add an equal amount of water if I intended to bake within 16 hours(assuming the recipe called for at least three cups of flour.). Since I regularly bake. I've gotten away with mixing, kneading, and rising an entire loaf overnight in warmer weather (80-85 degrees Fahrenheit) using 1/2 tsp to six to eight cups of flour. I use SAF yeast.

The wetter the preferment, the more rapidly it develops acetic acid, AKA vinegar, and the more sour the flavor. You can go up to as much water as you have flour in the preferment to maximize acetic acid. A preferment with twice as much flour by volume as water can be left for three to four days to ferment.

The 1/8 tsp should allow you to set up the preferment before going to bed, and have it ready to go after work the next day if you use only half the water from the recipe. Note that I do not use sugar in slow rise recipes, nor do I add things that could cause food poisoning - dairy products or eggs.  A wet preferment (adding all of the water for the recipe to half or less of the total recipe flour) will develop acetic acid more rapidly than a dry preferment. A dry preferment can be left out for several days to ripen before use.

If your kitchen is cooler, use 1/4 tsp to four cups if you are using instant yeast. I don't use active dry or compressed yeast, but I'd experiment by doubling it since it doesn't grow as rapidly.

There are several different names for preferments - levain, polish, and biga are the most commonly heard.

Yeast ferments four sugars - sucrose, fructose, glucose and maltose. Yeast uses the enzyme invertase to break sucrose into glucose and fructose and does not metabolize maltose until the supply of the other three sugars is exhausted. Fermenting maltose is dependent on having sufficient alpha-amylase and beta-amylase present in the flour to break down the starch chains into maltose. The reason that many traditional recipes used water from cooking potatoes is that the amylases act very efficiently on potato starches and this liberates a great deal of fermentable maltose.

The point of all of this, is that many of the flavor elements associated with sourdoughs are produced after the amylases have broken down the long chain starches into maltose and limit dextrins. These yeast byproducts also alter how the dough behaves, and this can be easily perceived by the hand, or handling properties of the dough in kneading, and by how slack or resilient the dough becomes.

I have a Home Economics degree and I am not afraid to use it. B^0

The Yakima Kid's picture
The Yakima Kid

Assuming sea level and a clear day (the rate of rise depends on altitude and barometric pressure, among other things), and NOT a sweet dough (which has its own issues with inherent slow rising) and a warm room temperature above 75 degrees Fahrenheit (which I'm experiencing now), I'd add 1/8 tsp yeast to 11/2 cup flour, and to maximize sourness, I would add an equal amount of water if I intended to bake within 16 hours(assuming the recipe called for at least three cups of flour.). Since I regularly bake. I've gotten away with mixing, kneading, and rising an entire loaf overnight in warmer weather (80-85 degrees Fahrenheit) using 1/2 tsp to six to eight cups of flour. I use SAF yeast.

The wetter the preferment, the more rapidly it develops acetic acid, AKA vinegar, and the more sour the flavor. You can go up to as much water as you have flour in the preferment to maximize acetic acid. A preferment with twice as much flour by volume as water can be left for three to four days to ferment.

The 1/8 tsp should allow you to set up the preferment before going to bed, and have it ready to go after work the next day if you use only half the water from the recipe. Note that I do not use sugar in slow rise recipes, nor do I add things that could cause food poisoning - dairy products or eggs.  A wet preferment (adding all of the water for the recipe to half or less of the total recipe flour) will develop acetic acid more rapidly than a dry preferment. A dry preferment can be left out for several days to ripen before use.

If your kitchen is cooler, use 1/4 tsp to four cups if you are using instant yeast. I don't use active dry or compressed yeast, but I'd experiment by doubling it since it doesn't grow as rapidly.

There are several different names for preferments - levain, polish, and biga are the most commonly heard.

Yeast ferments four sugars - sucrose, fructose, glucose and maltose. Yeast uses the enzyme invertase to break sucrose into glucose and fructose and does not metabolize maltose until the supply of the other three sugars is exhausted. Fermenting maltose is dependent on having sufficient alpha-amylase and beta-amylase present in the flour to break down the starch chains into maltose. The reason that many traditional recipes used water from cooking potatoes is that the amylases act very efficiently on potato starches and this liberates a great deal of fermentable maltose.

The point of all of this, is that many of the flavor elements associated with sourdoughs are produced after the amylases have broken down the long chain starches into maltose and limit dextrins. These yeast byproducts also alter how the dough behaves, and this can be easily perceived by the hand, or handling properties of the dough in kneading, and by how slack or resilient the dough becomes.

I have a Home Economics degree and I am not afraid to use it. B^0