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  • Michele Genest

Sourdough Boot Camp Day Nine

Updated: May 21, 2020

Fig, Anise, Hazelnut and Gorgonzola Sourdough Bread, and marking the rise and fall

Fig, Anise, Hazelnut and Gorgonzola Sourdough toast for breakfast tomorrow

Hello everyone. I hope you’re coping well with home schooling, the emotional toll of world events, and the ups and downs of social distancing and self-isolating.

I hope bootcamp is helping and not hindering your feeling of well-being.

I confess to some anxiety over the past couple of days about finding recipes for sourdough starter discard that don’t rely on commercial yeast. Because commercial yeast is probably not going to be available anytime soon.

I’ve decided that from now until Days Eleven to Fourteen, when our starters are up to speed and able to raise a loaf on their own, we’re only going to use baking soda or baking powder to augment leavening power in recipes using our discard, not yeast.

So I’ve been adapting some of the existing recipes in my bootcamp repertoire.

It’s interesting—there’s a ton of information available about how to adapt a quick bread recipe to one using active sourdough starter or commercial yeast, but not so much about how to do it the other way round---adapt a yeast bread recipe into a quick bread recipe.

But I did find some good tips on yeast substitutes here.

For today's project I adapted the Fig, Anise, Hazelnut and Gorgonzola Sourdough Bread in The Boreal Gourmet by halving the recipe and substituting 1 tsp baking powder for 1 tsp commercial yeast.

This is how that bread turned out.

Apricot, Anise, Walnut and Blue Cheese Sourdough Quick Bread

It is a dense, flavourful bread that toasts well and doesn’t crumble under the pressure of a bread knife. The anise, the dried fruit and the sharp and pungent flavour of the cheese work beautifully together. And the walnuts add a lovely oily crunch. (As you'll see below I used apricots, walnuts and blue cheese in this version.) I loved it immediately.

But I wasn’t happy with the rise.

So I went on a hunt for a quick bread recipe that looked like it would adapt well to the addition of sourdough starter discard, and found one in good old Joy of Cooking; an old-fashioned, straightforward recipe for nut and olive quick bread.

I got the rise.

But not the flavour, and not the texture.

Contrast and compare:

Fig, Anise, Hazelnut and Gorgonzola Sourdough Bread, version one on the left, two on the right

I had just finished typing out the recipe for the Joy of Cooking adaptation when I went downstairs to sample the breads together. (I know, it's so hard, this job!)

Verdict: the first adaptation, a straight switch of baking powder for yeast in the original Boreal Gourmet recipe, teaspoon for teaspoon, wins the day.

The texture is better, the cheesy tang is more pronounced, it slices beautifully and as I said, it’s really great toasted. The second version is still good, but the texture is dry and crumbly and you can't really taste the cheese. (Let me stress that this is not the fault of the original recipe, but the adaptation.)

I’m both chagrined and gratified. Gratified to learn that you can substitute baking powder for yeast and still get a good result. Chagrined the Joy adaptation didn't really work.

And that is the end of this loooong story. Recipe below.

Today, as usual, feed your starter twice, once in the morning, once in the evening.

Remove all but 100g starter (just over 1/2 cup) from your container and store the discard in the fridge.

Transfer your 100g starter to a clean container and add:

100g flour (just over 1/2 cup)

120 g warm water (1/2 cup)

Onto the bread!

Ready to knead

Fig, Anise, Hazelnut and Gorgonzola Sourdough Quick Bread

[A multiple adaptation, from The Boreal Gourmet, one-time blogger Bread Baby, and Nancy Silverton]

*Note that I used dried apricots instead of figs, walnuts instead of hazelnuts, and blue cheese instead of Gorgonzola. In other words, feel free to substitute with what you have in the pantry.


150 g (1 cup) all-purpose flour

150 g (1 cup) semolina flour *or all-purpose

1 tsp baking powder

1 tsp salt

1 Tbsp anise seeds

85 g (¾ cup) chopped walnuts *or hazelnuts, cashews, pecans, almonds…

100 g (¾ cup) dried cranberries *or chopped figs, dates, apricots…

1 Tbsp olive oil

125 g (½ cups) sourdough starter discard

¾ cup 2% milk

100 g (¾ cup) crumbled blue cheese *or Stilton, or Gorgonzola


  1. Preheat oven to 350F (180C) and grease a 9 x 5 or 8 x 4 loaf tin; whatever size you might have. ( A smaller tin will result in more rise)

  2. In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together flours, baking powder, salt and anise seed.

  3. Add nuts and dried fruits and toss together.

  4. In another bowl, whisk together sourdough starter discard, milk and olive oil.

  5. Stir wet ingredients into dry ingredients until thoroughly combined and all the flour is hydrated.

  6. The dough will be quite stiff, though still elastic, and you’ll be able to knead it.

  7. Transfer the dough to a floured counter and knead briefly into a ball.

  8. Pat the ball into a 8-inch disc and scatter half the crumbled cheese over top.

  9. Form the dough like an envelope by folding the far edge towards you and the near edge away from you. Tuck in the ends and seal all the seams.

  10. Turn the dough over so the seam side is down, form into a ball and then into a disk. Scatter the remaining cheese over top and repeat the folding, sealing all the seams.

  11. Place the dough seam-side down in your prepared pan. Press gently into the corners of the pan.

  12. Bake for 40 to 45 minutes, until a tester inserted in the centre comes out clean.

  13. Cool on a rack for 10 minutes in the pan, remove from pan and cool to room temperature before slicing.

Makes one loaf.

Scattered with cheese

Getting folded

Marking the Rise and Fall of your Starter

Day Eight Sourdough Starter, about 6 hours after the morning feeding

By today, Day Nine, your starter will likely be active enough that it’s rising and falling somewhat consistently in the hours after each feeding.

You can’t track what happens during the night (I hope you're sleeping well), but you can during the day, just to get a sense of what schedule your starter is on.

Since Day Seven, I’ve been marking the level of the starter just after the morning feeding, and checking it now and then to see if it has risen. I’ve found it typically rises by about ½-inch in my wide-mouthed 750 ml container, about six hours after feeding.

To mark the level of your starter, write the day and the time of feeding on a piece of tape and draw a line along the top of the tape. Align that line with the level of your starter. And then watch to see what happens.

This is another step in getting to know how your starter operates—at its highest level, it’s at its most potent, important information later, when deciding when a starter is ready to be turned into dough.

Idea: have toasted fig etc bread for breakfast tomorrow, just plain with melted butter, or spread with tart marmalade.

I’m not sure what we’re doing tomorrow, but it will probably involve apples or pears, flour, brown sugar, and possibly cinnamon.

Enjoy your breakfast!

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