Adventures in Sourdough – Running out of yeast – Sourdough in a Bread Machine

We usually buy a pound of yeast at Costco and it lasts us many, many months. So I was a bit surprised when, a month and a half into the lock down, my husband asked me when I was going to buy some yeast. He figured we had a little less than a month left. So I went shopping – and couldn’t find any.

Now, it’s possible I could have driven somewhere to get some, but my 86-year-old father just spent the better part of February in the hospital and I’m trying to avoid doing anything that might send him back there, so my options have been limited to places from which Instacart delivers, none of which have yeast in stock. I’ve tried very hard not to move all of my purchases to Amazon, so I never even thought of looking there. I buy plenty from them and would like other retailers to stay in business, too.

So I started researching sourdough bread again.

We’ve continued making a starter-based bread in our bread machine ever since I converted our recipe to use it, but our current recipe includes yeast. For the interested, this is what we’ve been doing for the past five years or so:

177 grams warm water
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/2 teaspoon table salt
335 grams flour (up to 80 grams of which is graham flour)
120 grams of graham-flour starter
1 teaspoon active dry yeast

Run the 1.5 pound white cycle with dark crust.

Our starter is always fed with equal amounts of water and graham flour. We keep it in the fridge and use half of it on average every other day.

So in preparation to switching to a no-added-yeast recipe, I watched a bunch of videos online. This was less than helpful, as I was left with the impression this couldn’t possibly work in a bread machine because you have to let the dough rise longer between kneading.

But I decided to experiment, and have been more successful than I dared dream. I worked at having an alive sponge before running the cycle, and for the first couple of attempts, I turned the bread machine off for an hour or two before the bake cycle started and then ran a bake-only cycle. When the bread seemed to do fine with that, I didn’t bother and have been pleasantly surprised at my success. This is what I do now:

The night before combine:

60g starter
30 g graham flour
30 g water

Cover and let sit overnight.

The next morning add:

60 g graham flour
60 g warm water

Stir, cover, and mark the container with the level of the mixture.

When the mixture has nearly doubled, put the following in the bread machine:

2 Tablespoons vegetable oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
117 grams water
All of the re-activated starter (120 grams)
275 grams flour (up to 60 grams graham flour)

Run the 1.5 pound white cycle with dark crust.

And that’s it!

If you use a bread machine, you’ll recognize that the order of ingredients matters and you may notice I’ve made a few adjustments from the original recipe. My machine calls for wet items and salt on the bottom, flour, then dry yeast. When we first started adding sourdough starter to our machine, when my husband made the bread, it came out beautifully but when I made it, it fell. We knew the falling was due to the bread rising too quickly and then falling, but it wasn’t until we realized that I put the starter under the flour and he put the starter over the flour that we settled on the method we’ve used for the past five years. Now that I don’t have any added yeast, I’ve found that putting the starter under the flour works quite well. (I’ll admit I’m a little unsure we needed a whole teaspoon of yeast after all, now that I’ve got this working!)

Oh, and yesterday I found yeast on Ebay.