Just had an email from Jeff, a recent student, saying that his breadmaking had really come on since doing the course. Feedback like that always cheers me up greatly but this time I also felt a pang of guilt. Why? because I said I’d covert his favourite recipe to sourdough and several weeks later it still wasn’t finished.

Basically converting yeasted to sourdough simply means deducting equal weights of flour and water such that the combined weight of the deduction equals around 30% of the remaining flour in the dough. The weight of the deduction becomes the weight of the starter in the new formula. Gorrit?

Simple example. You have a yeasted bread formula:

Flour: 575g

Water: 375g

Salt: 10g

+ some yeast which we will ignore

Total: 960g

Subtract 75g from the flour weight and 75g from the water = 150g. Your new formula becomes:

Flour: 500g – 100%

Water: 300g – 60%

Starter: 150g – 30%

Salt: 10g – 2.0%

Total: 960g

Notes: This is bakers’ percentage where the other ingredients are percentages of the flour weight which is always 100%. This assumes starter at 100% hydration (equal weights of flour and water). The percentage of starter in a bread formula can be what you want it to be – around 30% is what I consider “normal”. Obviously you have to diddle about a bit to work out how much flour and water will make up 30% of the remaining flour weight. Making yourself a spreadsheet calculator is a big help.

Jeff’s formula wasn’t so straightforward:

Strong Bread Flour: 100g

Wholemeal Wheat: 200g

Rye: 200g

Water: 320g

Salt: 11g

Mixed Seed: 100g

Complicating factors: I think the seed was Jeff’s addition to the original recipe. They were added unsoaked, so the seed was drawing water out of the recipe which made it under-hydrated. Most of the white flour had to be removed for the starter which I think unbalanced the formula – even though it was returned to the dough as fermented flour.

My first attempt was not good because I tried to stick as closely as possible to the original and, despite adding additional water as I went along, it came out too dry and dense.

For the second go I soaked the seed in advance and increased the water too much.

Finally yesterday, spurred on by Jeff’s email, I produced something I was happy with and retitled it Torth Baradwys (he’ll know why):

Strong Bread Flour: 102g – 26.5%

Wholemeal Wheat: 146g – 36.7%

Rye: 146g – 36.7%

Water: 269g – 70.0%

Starter: 105g – 27.3%

Salt: 7g – 1.8%

Soaker Water: 87g – 22.6%

Seed: 87g – 22.6%

The seed (poppy, golden linseed, sunflower, pumpkin, sesame) is soaked in boiling water and cooled.

Usual method: short kneads; ferment 4 hours with folds at the end of each hour (3); shape, prove 3 1/2 hours. Bake 50 minutes at 210C.

Also yesterday, a beautifully unruly Pane Pugliese:

And finally, for those people who still think “artisan” bread has to be full of large holes, a side-by-side comparison:

Both are “correct” for the type of bread.