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Wherefore do ye spend money for that which is not bread? And your labour for that which satisfieth not? Hearken diligently unto me, and eat ye that which is good, and let your soul delight itself in fatness.

— Isaiah 55:2 KJV

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Converting Yeasted Recipes To Sourdough

Once we have a new tool, we look for all sorts of ways to use it. So, many new sourdough converts want to convert their old yeast based recipes to sourdough. I've seen two ways to do this. Both work quite well, but they are very different. The first technique is stolen from Joan Ross' web page, who stole it from Sourdough Jack, who used to sell his own sourdough culture.

Sourdough Jack's Technique To Convert Your Recipes to Sourdough

This basic method (with some of my (Joan's) changes) comes from Sourdough Jack's Cookery (1959) and is a reliable technique that will turn your favorite bread recipe (buns, breads etc.) into a very good sourdough one. You must have a good reliable starter. Try your favorite one loaf recipe such as white, anadama, oatmeal or any yeast white flour bread recipe (or buns and rolls ). All come out very well.

1. Place one cup of your favorite active sourdough starter in a large bowl with about 2/3 of the total flour called for in your recipe. Add all the milk or water to make a stirable thick batter. You don't want a dough but a batter.

2. Cover the bowl and set aside the mixture in a warm place for 14 to 16 hours. The longer it stands, the more sour it gets. This sponge mixture will get bubbly and light.

3. Now add all the additional ingredients (such as salt, sugaroil, eggs etc.) called for in your recipe except the remaining flour. Do not include any yeast or baking soda- omit them! Please trust your starter. If the starter is bubbly and active, the recipe will turn out OK.

4.Add the remaining flour, mix and knead well by hand, adding additional flour only if needed to make a soft pliable non-sticky dough. The dough will be smooth and elastic but just a bit softer than your typical yeast dough recipes.

5. Let the dough rest 10 minutes, covered.

6. Form your dough into a loaf (or loaves) and place dough in the pan(s) or make loaves the way your recipe instructs.

7. Let the dough rise, to the tops of the pan(s) or until light and puffy in a warm place. Patience - this takes much longer than standard yeast dough recipes!

8. Bake and cool as your recipe instructs. Your bread should have a nice soft interior, a good chewy crust and that special sourdough taste.


Mike's Simplistic Conversion Technique
A cup of active sourdough starter has about the same rise potential as a package of yeast. So, substitute a cup of starter for each package of yeast and then subtract about 1/2 cup of water and 3/4 cup of flour from the recipe to compensate for the water and flour in the starter.

If you weigh your ingredients, a cup of starter weighs about 260 grams.  If you feed your starter with equal weights of flour and water, you should use 260 grams of starter for each packet (about 7 grams) of yeast, and cut 130 grams each of flour and water from the recipe.

You'll probably want to play with the ratio between the flour and water, and adjust the amount of riser to get the results you want, but this rule of thumb is a good starting point.

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