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  • Michele Genest

Sourdough Bootcamp Day Six

Updated: May 21, 2020

Sourdough Buttermilk Cheese Scones, feeding twice daily, and some reassurances

Sourdough Buttermilk Cheese Scones

Hey bootcampers! I see many of you tackled the popovers, well done! Some of you ate your popovers with Shakshuka, others with roasted pork and gravy, still others with butter and jam. Very cool.

Today’s baking project is cheese scones, using the same basic recipe as the berry scones of Day Four, with cheese instead of berries, a totally different taste experience. Some of you have already gone there, and added herbs such as rosemary or lavender. Great!

There have been lots of questions about what your starter should be doing, and whether it looks okay or not. I’ll do my best to answer some of those questions below, and provide some helpful links.

But first, today’s feeding.

On Day Six we begin feeding the starter twice a day, about every 12 hours. It makes sense to feed the starter when you get up and before you go to bed, more or less.

From now on.every day we’re going to remove all but 80 g (about ½ cup) of starter, and put that 80 g in a clean container. (*More on the starter you’ve removed in a sec.)

So, step one is to remove all of your starter but 80 g (about 1/2 cup) and put your 80 g in a clean container (the clean container is to minimize the chance of contamination in these early days).

To that 80 g starter, add

80 to 100 g warm water (1/3 cup to 1/3 cup plus 2 Tbsp)

80 g flour (about ½ cup)

Mix together thoroughly so all the flour is hydrated, cover and return starter to the warm spot.

You will now be removing from 200 to 300 g (about 1 to 11/2 cups) from your starter every 12 hours—that is, at each feeding. Your may not able to bake with that starter each time you remove it, especially after the night feeding.

That’s okay.

Make scones with the starter you remove today after the first feeding.

Store any removed starter you can't use today in the fridge until you can use it.

Put the removed starter in a clean container and label it with the date and time; if you add more removed starter to that container, add that date and time to the container as well. Use the starter within 3 to 4 days of the first date on the container.

Bring the starter to room temperature before baking with it.

Note: this starter will not have leavening power on its own, at this point, so aim to use it in recipes that rely on another leavener like baking soda, baking powder or yeast (or, in the case of popovers, steam).

Onto the scones!

Sourdough Buttermilk Cheese Scones

[Adapted from The Boreal Gourmet cookbook]

Sourdough Buttermilk Cheese Scones--save some of the grated cheese to sprinkle on top


200 g (about 1 cup) sourdough starter

1 cup buttermilk or yogurt (not Greek---you need a more liquid yogurt; if you only have Greek, use ¾ cup yogurt and ¼ cup milk)

175 g (about 1 cup) all purpose flour

1 large egg, beaten

3 Tbsp melted butter, cooled

3 Tbsp sugar

1 tsp salt

2 tsp baking powder

1 tsp baking soda

additional 250 to 325 g (1½ to 2 cups) all purpose flour

1½ cups grated Parmesan cheese

1 cup grated old Cheddar cheese

Optional additions:

2 tsp dried herbs such as rosemary or oregano, or

1½ tsp cumin seed, or

1 tsp toasted, crushed juniper berries, or

½ cup minced green onion or chives


  1. Preheat oven to 375F (190C). Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.

  2. In a medium-sized bowl, stir the starter and the buttermilk or yogurt together until combined. Stir in the first 175 g (1 cup) flour.

  3. Whisk together the cooled melted butter and egg, and add to the dough.

  4. In a separate bowl, whisk together sugar, salt, baking soda and baking powder. Stir into the dough—you will probably notice some leavening action as the baking soda reacts with the buttermilk or yogurt.

  5. Stir in 250 g flour (1½ cups), reserving the final 75 g (½ cup)—you may not need it, especially if you used yogurt rather than buttermilk.

  6. The flour should be fully hydrated, and the dough cohesive and elastic and still somewhat sticky, clinging to the spoon but easy to remove with a floured hand.

  7. Add more flour only if the dough seems too wet and sticky.

  8. Stir in cheeses. Reserve 2 Tbsp or so of cheese to sprinkle on top--Cheddar or Parmesan or both.

  9. To make the classic wedge-shaped scones, divide the dough in two with a spatula or dough scraper. With floured hands, gather one half and place it on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Shape into a circle about 8 inches in diameter. With a floured knife, cut into 8 even sized wedges. Repeat with remaining dough.

  10. For large drop scones, scoop half-cup portions of dough and drop onto the baking sheet about 2 inches apart. For small drop scones (handy for hikes or mid-afternoon snacks), drop dough from a dessert spoon, leaving about 1 inch of space between. (Sometimes I mix it up and make a combination of wedges, large drop scones and small drop scones.)

  11. Bake small scones for 15 minutes, large drop scones for 20 minutes, and wedges for 25 minutes.

Makes 16 wedge scones, 15 large drop scones and about 30 small drop scones.

Some Notes, Reassurances and Helpful Links

It takes time and several feedings for the culture of wild yeast and bacteria that makes a successful starter to establish itself, and it can be worrying on the way. It's normal to be worried; this is all new learning.

Between Day One and Day Three, your starter may bubble up and then subside—this is normal, and simply means that the initial bacterial and yeast activity has subsided. In fact, in the first couple of days that activity we’re seeing is mostly bacterial.

Sometimes on or after Day Three the liquid in the starter separates and comes to the top. This is normal, and an indication that the starter needs feeding. Sometimes the liquid is grayish, this too is normal. Simply stir the liquid back into the starter, then proceed with the day's feeding and starter-removing activity.

Sourdough starter Day Three, before feeding; see liquid on top

While it’s developing, the starter can go through several changes in aroma, as mentioned on Day Three. This too is normal. The aromas have been described variously as eggs, old socks, cheese, nail polish, alcohol, yogurt etc.

Here’s a brief explanation of what those smells indicate, adapted from StackExchange.

"...alcohol smell indicates the presence of yeasts, the most common agents responsible for the alcoholic fermentation.

vinegar smell is associated with acetic acid, which is the subproduct of the fermentation of glucose by bacteria of the (acetic acid) family..."

And from Bread Matters:

"Under certain conditions, the lactic acid bacteria in the sourdough produce copious amounts of acetic acid which gives the familiar vinegar smell.

Another couple of chemical steps and this can turn into acetone. It can be a bit alarming to sniff your sourdough and get the aroma of nail varnish remover, but it is nothing to worry about. As soon as you dilute the sourdough by refreshing it with flour and water, the smell goes"

As we learned on Day Three, a cheesy or yogurt-y smell is a by-product of lactobacterii; this smell also dissipates as the feedings continue and the correct colony of yeast and bacteria is established.

Soon after we start feeding twice daily the action in your starter should become more pronounced, and the starter will probably rise and fall during the day between feedings.

If your starter seems sluggish, try putting it in the oven with the oven light on. Caveat!*

*New information! Many of you have written in that the oven temperature can get up to 115F with the light on and the door closed overnight. That's too warm. Starter is happiest at temperatures from 75F to 90F.

The best approach is to turn the oven light on from 30 to 60 minutes, and then turn it off and keep the oven door closed to create a warm (75 to 90F) but not too warm environment.

Put a sticky note on the oven door to remind yourself your starter is in there.

Some useful links:

In closing, enjoy your baking today, don't forget to feed the starter tonight and tomorrow morning, and get ready to make sourdough pizza tomorrow, with whatever toppings you like on your pizza---pesto, caramelized onions, sauteed peppers, your favourite sausage, roasted cauliflower, pears and brie----the list is endless. You know best!

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