Sunday, March 24, 2013

Converting a normal bread recipe to sourdough

First stage, to write out a recipe based on the
original hot cross bun recipe, yet incorporates sourdough
I almost never have commercial yeast in my house any more  I much prefer to make and eat bread with sourdough.  This is mostly because I'm lazy.

Lazy because commercial yeast acts really quickly and you have precise timing for each stage - sourdough is less fussy and gives you an hour or two leeway.

I also really enjoy the flavour of sourdough.  I can make it strongly sour (making a stiff sponge) or mild and lofty (a runny sponge started several days before baking day).  With sourdough you are the master.

Been hankering for a sourdough hot cross bun recipe but I haven't found one yet that captures that certain I don't know what, I remember from my youth.   The Vegan Sourdough Hot Cross Bun Recipe I posted earlier is very good, but I'm looking for something a bit more old fashioned and full of eggs.  So instead of working from a sourdough recipe, I decided to start with a recipe I know and love, and transform it into sourdough.
highly amusing bread book

The recipe I'm starting with is from my most favourite bread book ever:  Homemade Bread by the Food Editors of Farm Journal.  Now, I don't recommend this book to everyone.  In fact, I think most people would be offended by it's attitude towards woman.  But I find it a funny attempt to counter the feminist movement.  I laugh at descriptions how on election night, a woman should be in the kitchen baking Election Night Bread (be careful how you spell that folks) to serve to her husband and his friends from work as they gather around the television watching the polls.
I have Baking with Sourdough
on my kindle

The other reference I'm using to convert this modern recipe is Baking with Sourdough (Storey's Country Wisdom Bulletin) by Sara Pitzer.  It's an excellent reference for beginners and experienced sourdough lovers alike. I find myself referencing it time and again.  I highly recommend it.

Sara writes:

"To adapt a yeast recipe, begin with a small amount of starter, about 1/4 cup... Mix the starter with some flour and some of the liquid from the basic recipe you want to convert.  Figure that 1/4 cup starter has replaced about 1/4 cup flour and slightly less than 1/4 cup liquid in the recipe.... "  She goes on to describes the method of making a sponge, mixing some of the flour and liquid with the starter and letting it sit 4 (for mild flavour) to 24 (for strong flavour) hours.  Then proceed with the regular process, being careful to get the right texture of the dough (it helps to have made the recipe using commercial yeast before hand so you know what the desired texture and consistency of the dough should be) and allowing for longer time rising the dough.  Sara finishes up saying, "If it 'thinks good,' try it." which is exactly what I plan to do.

A few things to note (and Sara's book goes into more detail about this) is that you can control how strong a flavour your sourdough starter gives your bread.  You are not at the mercy of your starter.

One way to control the flavour, making it more mild, is to create a runny sponge a few days before hand.  I usually keep my starter extra-thick and then create a runny sponge from it (using by volume 1 part starter, 1 part flour, and 2 parts water).  Feed it at least once a day for at least 2 days, twice for a more mild texture, don't worry if you make too much, the extra sponge can become sourdough crackers or bread.  By having the sponge runny and at room temperature for a few days before baking day helps make the bread more lofty and less sour.

UPDATE: I just tried my buns and they are officially delicious.  Be posting both recipes very soon.


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