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  • Michele Genest

Sourdough Boot Camp Day Eight

Updated: Oct 29, 2020

Sourdough Hamburger Buns or Sourdough Gingerbread--today's baking projects

Sourdough Hamburger Buns

Good afternoon, and welcome to Day Eight. At this point, some of you have named your starters or assigned them a gender to make them feel more welcome in your home, or possibly to make them seem more familiar and friendly towards you.

Can enough be said about the emotional roller coaster that is working with sourdough starter? I confess to a profound dislike for my Day Four starter because of its aroma, but today, on Day Five, I'm feeling quite fond of it, because it is beginning to smell and bubble the way it should.

As for my Day Eight starter, it's behaving so well I'm almost tempted to put it to the test and try to bake bread with it as the only leavener. But I will be patient.

This experience has reminded me that the earliest days of building a starter are the most worrying. Once the colony of yeasts and bacteria begins to stabilize everything gets much easier.

Today, as usual, feed the starter in the morning and in the evening.

If you would like to build up the volume of your starter a bit in order to have more starter for recipes, remove all but100g of starter (baking with or saving what you remove) and add 100g flour and 125 g warm water.

I've had good reports from the field about leaving the starter in the oven with the light on all night; just don't forget to leave a note on the oven door to remind yourself it's there.

We've got two baking options today, because one of them requires yeast--the hamburger buns--which is not so easy to find these days.

If any of you northerners don't have molasses, substitute birch syrup.

If you don't have all the ingredients for either recipe, you could always get them in today and bake tomorrow, giving yourself a baking break. Just feed the starter and store whatever you remove in the fridge.

Heads up that we'll be baking bread Fig, Anise, Hazelnut and Gorgonzola bread on Day Nine. Check the list of ingredients at the bottom of this post.

Bakers, to your stations.

Sourdough Hamburger Buns

Makes 16 standard-sized hamburger buns that freeze well and are a good size for a 4-oz patty. The buns are sturdy and hold up well to a fully-stacked burger with all the trimmings. If 16 buns seem like a lot, halve the recipe. Or share with your entire block!

With rising and refrigeration time the recipe will take about 4½ hours from start to finish.


2 tsp yeast

2 cups warm water (or substitute 2 cups warm milk if you don’t have instant milk powder)

250 g (1 cup) sourdough starter

750 g to 900 g (5 to 6 cups) all-purpose flour, divided

2 tsp salt

2 Tbsp honey or birch syrup

⅔ cup skim milk powder *See above; if you don’t have milk powder, substitute 2 cups milk for water

¼ cup grapeseed, canola, or sunflower oil

2 eggs, beaten

150 g (1 cup, about) semolina, wheat germ or wheat bran (if you don’t have any of these ingredients, use 75 g whole wheat flour and 75 g oats; or simply eliminate and use the greater amount of flour, above)


1 egg white, beaten with 1 tablespoon of water (egg white wash)

¼ cup sesame seeds


  1. Dissolve the yeast in warm water or milk until bubbly, about 5 minutes. Stir in the starter and 300g (2 cups) flour. Cover with a tea towel and allow the mixture to rise until doubled, about 1 hour.

  2. Whisk in honey, powdered milk if using, salt, oil, and eggs, and mix well.

  3. Add the bran or semolina and enough of the remaining flour to make a soft dough, making sure all the flour is fully hydrated.

  4. Transfer dough to a lightly floured counter and knead until smooth and elastic, about 8 to10 minutes, working in more flour as needed. Form into a ball.

  5. Coat the dough with oil, place in a clean bowl and cover with a tea towel. Allow to rise until doubled in size, about 1 hour.

  6. Transfer dough to a lightly floured counter and knead for 2 minutes. Divide dough in half with a floured knife or dough scraper.

  7. With floured hands, shape each half into a 12-inch (30-cm) log. With a floured knife, slice each log into 8 equal portions and again with lightly floured hands, shape into round balls.

  8. Line two baking pans with parchment paper and arrange 8 balls of dough evenly spaced on each sheet. Flatten balls slightly with the palm of your hand.

  9. Brush with egg wash and sprinkle with sesame seeds if desired; cover loosely but completely with plastic wrap or beeswax paper and refrigerate 2 hours.

  10. Preheat oven to 400F (200C). Remove dough from refrigerator and allow to stand at room temperature for 15 minutes.

  11. Bake the buns on the middle rack for 20 to 25 minutes, until golden brown.

Makes 16 buns.

Tonight's supper, starring homemade sourdough hamburger buns and all the usual trimmings.

Sourdough Gingerbread, a tiny bit sunk in the middle but flavour and texture are superb

Sourdough Gingerbread

[Adapted from Scotch and Scones]

150 g brown sugar (3/4 cup)

50 g granulated sugar (1/4 cup)

115 g unsalted butter at room temperature (4 oz)

3/4 cup fancy molasses or birch syrup

2 large eggs

250 g sourdough starter (1 cup)

1/2 tsp baking soda

150 g (1 cup) all-purpose flour

2 tsp ground cinnamon

11/2 tsp ground ginger

1/2 tsp ground cloves

1/2 tsp salt

1/4 cup heavy cream

1/4 cup boiling water


  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter a 9 x 9-inch pan or an 81/2 x 41/2 -inch loaf pan, line pan with parchment paper, and butter parchment paper.

  2. In a medium-sized bowl, cream butter and sugars together until light and fluffy. Beat in molasses. Beat in eggs, one at a time, until the batter is uniformly coloured.

  3. Whisk in the sourdough starter and the baking soda. *Adding the soda with the wet ingredients and mixing thoroughly helps to prevent the middle of the bread from sinking.

  4. In a small bowl, whisk together flour, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, and salt. Stir into wet ingredients until just combined.

  5. Beat in cream, then boiling water. Transfer batter to the prepared pan.

  6. Bake the cake until tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 40-50 minutes.

Cool gingerbread in pan for 15 minutes, then turn out onto a rack and cool completely.

Serve with whipped cream and lemon curd, if you have the time and energy to make it; this recipe from Epicurious is my favourite.

But the gingerbread is lovely all by itself. With maybe a bit of butter spread on the cut side(s).

Makes one dense and flavourful 9 x 9-inch cake or one 8 1/2 x 4 1/2-inch loaf.

Sourdough Gingerbread with lemon curd and whipped cream

Ingredient list for Day Nine's Fig, Anise, Hazelnut, and Gorgonzola Bread

I've included a few options, knowing that it can be difficult to find some ingredients

  • Yeast, if you can find it, baking powder if not

  • Semolina flour, but if you can't find it don't worry

  • Anise or fennel seeds (not star anise)

  • Hazelnuts, walnuts or cashews

  • Gorgonzola, blue or Stilton cheese (about 225 g)

  • Dried figs or dates (about 225 g)

  • Olive oil

  • 250 g (1 cup) sourdough starter

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