As I am testing recipes, I can find myself with several buckets going at once. I have a family of four and we just can’t always use up all that dough in a timely fashion. I just opened a bucket of dough that had been untouched for several days, well more than several and it was gray, leathery and had some liquid on it (pictures below). It had a strong “sourdough” smell to it, since it had been fermenting for a very long time. For those of us who like that kind of character in our bread, it was very exciting. BUT, there wasn’t that much dough left and if I were to peel back the leathery bits to get to the creamy dough beneath, I wouldn’t even have enough dough for a full loaf. The best thing to do with this older dough is to incorporate it into a new batch. It jump starts the flavor in your new dough, without having to wait days for the fermentation. It is like having a sourdough starter, that you never had to feed. Although in the dough I will show you, I am using the full amount of Red Star Platinum yeast.
Yes, you can use activated sourdough starter in our recipes. My own sourdough starter, after I activate it from the fridge, is about half water and half flour (you can find recipes for naturally-fermented sourdough starter all over the web, and one of our future books may have a recipe of our own). I’ve found that about 1 1/2 cups of activated sourdough starter works well in our full-batch recipes, which make 4 to 5 pounds of dough. This means that you need to decrease the water in the recipes by 3/4 cup, and the flour by 3/4 cup. At the end, you’ll probably need to adjust water and flour to create a dough that looks and feels just like what you get with our yeast-based recipes.
So, having done this, do you need to use commercial yeast in addition? I found that I still needed some yeast in the recipe, though I could use a lower dose, which I’ve posted about before in the context of our yeast-risen recipes. That seems like a good compromise. I did experiment with zero-yeast versions, but I found them a bit temperamental– didn’t store terribly well so we decided not to put that in our books… yet!
More in The New Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day, and our other books.