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How to Adapt Any Recipe to Become a Sourdough Recipe

Once you get your sourdough starter alive and bubbly and you have mastered that great sourdough loaf recipe, you may want to branch out and try your hand at other sourdough baked goods.

Most of us have recipes passed down in our family that we love. It might be Nana’s banana bread or Uncle Joe’s sandwich bread. If this sounds like you then you might want to continue making these baked goods, but with the use of your sourdough culture for the health and money-saving benefits.

You can adapt recipes, with a bit of trial and error, to use your sourdough starter. First, though, you need to determine if your recipe is one calling for yeast, like a bread loaf, or a quick bread (like pancakes) calling for baking soda or baking powder.

Adapting Yeast Recipes to Sourdough

Theoretically speaking, if you know what the hydration level of your sourdough starter is you should be able to easily adapt a yeast bread recipe to use sourdough.

The other thing to consider in the recipe you wish to adapt is the amount of yeast. The rising power of one packet of yeast is about equivalent to one cup of sourdough starter, depending on the health of your starter.

Knowing these two factors you can approximate a substitution of one cup of sourdough starter for one packet of commercial yeast. You would then lower the flour and water according to your hydration levels, being sure to measure it again by weight.

Once you have your sourdough mixed together and flour and water adaptations accounted for, you must also account for the longer rise time needed for sourdough. This isn’t as complicated as it may seem, as you will simply allow for a 4-hour (or more) rise time instead of the instant yeast rise time that is usually around 2 hours.

Adapting Quick Bread Recipes

Quick bread recipes are slightly trickier in that most of them were created with the quick leavening of baking soda or baking powder in mind. So perhaps a little background on each is in order.

Baking soda, or the chemical compound sodium bicarbonate, is an alkaline substance that is used in baking quick breads. This alkaline powder reacts with the acidic element in a recipe (i.e., buttermilk, vinegar, etc.) to create gases that create the rise in a pancake, biscuit, or loaf of zucchini bread.

Baking powder contains both an acid and alkaline component which is why you can make pancakes or biscuits with milk (not acidic) as the liquid and still have the gases creating a rising power.

If you are interested in using sourdough in such recipes you may do so in a few ways.

Use your sourdough to add a tang to quick breads. If you are only interested in adding the tang of sourdough to your pancakes or biscuits then you could substitute one cup of sourdough starter for the equivalent amounts of flour and water, by weight. This gets a little tricky when you have a recipe that contains a very small amount of milk to begin with because you are substituting water for something that contains fats, proteins, and carbohydrates (milk).

Also keep in mind that your sourdough starter will act as an acidic element to a recipe. So if you are using a recipe that calls for buttermilk you may be able to use regular milk instead since your sourdough will provide the acidic element for baking soda to react with.

Use your sourdough starter to create longer-soaked (fermented) quick bread. This can be done very similarly to the method of substituting sourdough for yeast above. Simply replace your water and flour by weight with your 100% hydration starter.

So if you wanted to make something like these sourdough cheddar biscuits you would replace flour and liquid with your sourdough starter, along with the baking soda and baking powder (which you will use less of than in most recipes), then allow the culture to raise the biscuits for 4+ hours, 

For a thinner battered quick bread such as pancakes you can actually use straight-up sourdough starter without any additional flour or water. You may want to alter the hydration level of your sourdough to produce a thinner of thicker pancake as desired, but no long soaking time is needed since you aren’t using any additional flour.

As with other elements of sourdough baking, you will want to play with recipes in order to achieve your desired results. With these tidbits in mind, though, you should be able to manipulate any of your favorite recipes to utilize sourdough. 

Plate of banana bread slices with cup of coffee

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