I’ve been inspired by one of those YouTube videos showing bread making. It’s thoroughly fascinating to watch enormous amounts of dough being kneaded, flipped this way and that, rolled and unrolled, stretched and twisted, going for a ride on conveyor belts or twirling and swirling in gigantic vats. The one I’m taking about was from a bakery in Anchorage, Alaska, with
from the worktops. Completely enthralling.
This is a recipe using a sourdough starter but – unless you’re a sourdough fanatic – it’s easy to adopt it for commercial yeast. I’m convinced the taste isn’t affected – though I’ve yet to try both versions side by side, as there’s no other way of properly comparing the two. As much as sourdough bread is unparalleled in flavour, sweet dough or tea cakes just need to be airy and tasty. I have a strong suspicion that there’s a lot of snobbery going on in the sourdough world.
How to adopt this and other formulae for yeasted versions? Easy: starter is usually half liquid half flour so increase those ingredients amounts. My cherry bread calls for 150g of starter so you will need 75g more flour and 75g liquid – buttermilk in this instance, but water would be fine too. How much yeast? For sweet dough it will normally be about 10g fresh or a teaspoon of instant yeast per 250g of flour, increased for very rich dough like panettone.
Bread making is funny like that – complete black magic and hocus-pocus when uninitiated. But once you know your way around the starters, levains (and learn how to pronounce them) or ferments you find you can experiment, ad lib and succeed. Of course sometimes you will follow a ten times tried and twenty times tested recipe and it will result in a cannonball-textured pancake, but that’s precisely what makes it interesting…