Trilogy part III: The Sourdough Ultimatum

July 19th, 2011 | Posted by greg in Daily life... | Recipes

So you’ve got sourdough?

For the purist, die-hard sourdough bakers out there, you may just follow the below guideline without the suspiciously dangerous 2 grams of industrial yeast… simply using the sourdough you’ve prepared in part II of the trilogy.

For everyone else, you may chose to bake  with a little extra fresh yeast with your sourdough, and when I mean little, I really mean little. Using yeast isn’t criminal, it’s a natural cultivated living organism that happens to be the cousin of wild yeasts. Indeed, commercial yeast, poetically known as Saccharomyces cerevisiae, and the yeast found in sourdough Saccharomyces exiguus and its buddy Lactobacillus sanfranciscensis, are closely related.

If you were telling me about adding enzymes obtained from genetically modified corn, then I would have a problem. The reason why we use a little yeast is to adapt to the delicate local palate of Hong Kong. We use yeast to decrease the last fermentation time and thus the acidity. We get just the right balance in texture, crust and acidity we need for our 3 Michelin star French restaurant, Caprice.

From the sourdough you have nurtured, and based on 1kg of T65 flour (…or in plain English: bread flour) you will need:

  •  40% sourdough
  • 80% hydration (that would be water)
  • 2 to 2.5 % salt (I like sea salt)
  • ~0.3% fresh yeast (optional for the purist)

Knead all of this and store it for 18 hours in the fridge. The next day, leave it at room temperature for 3 long hours to allow the dough coming back to room temperature; shaping that fragile dough cold will tear and break its texture.

Scale, pre-shape if needed, shape and proof at room temperature for another good 3 hours or more depending on the room temperature.

Score, bake & eat!


We base most of our breads on this sourdough. For example for our grain loaf, we would mix rye, whole wheat, the grain mix and sourdough to obtain the balance we’re looking for.

The method we use is easy to operate in a very large operation like ours. Once you introduced a sourdough cycle in your operation, it just works naturally and the quality speaks for itself… and you’re not likely to go back to direct baking method anytime soon! We are currently testing other sourdough methods including one based on a blend of specific cultivated microorganism, it’s looking very interesting actually… keep posted!

Honestly, handling sourdough isn’t rocket science. It’s just beautiful!

Happy baking! :)

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21 Responses

  • I’ll definitely give this a try. My bread with sourdough run too sour. Wd love to see whether your formula will give me a surprise.

  • When it goes too sour, try refreshing more often. Maybe it helps… I hope you’ll be successful in your baking adventures! :)

  • I want to eat all them ….. By the way, when is Zimmers wedding?

  • When he comes back, let’s do it again… We’ll just pretend… ;)

  • Thomas Weber says:

    Your starter is 100% hydration and when you add 40% of it to your 80% hydration dough this gives a very wet dough overall. It would be fun to watch a video how you handle such wet dough in a commercial environment, if this is not a secret……

    Attached a 75% (overall) 1/2 baguette 36 hours retarded in the fridge.


    • Wow! Nice baking you’ve got there!
      Good idea regarding the video, I will try to do that when I am back in HK. You’re right, our dough is very wet and even after 18 hours in the fridge it still very sticky. Every piece of bread is shaped by hand as machine could not handle such hydration – and we’re glad it is so! :)

  • Carl says:

    Hello Gregoire,
    I heard your interview on Stir the Pots website! Excellent interview!  I hope you can share some of your experience and maybe pictures from your trip to Switzerland!  I would love to hear how you make and bake rye breads.  Do you have a recipe for creating a rye sourdough?


  • Carl says:

    Whoops.  I read your intro. So, I guess recipes are not allowed here.  Oh well.

  • Spencer says:

    Hi Gregoire,
    Those rolls in the bread basket look wonderful!  It makes me want to take one or two, slice it in half, add a slice of ham and cheese and eat away!


  • Pingback: The legend: Apricot Pecan Sourdough

  • Carolyn says:

    Hi Gregoire,
    I’m coming very late to the party! I could look at your bread for hours. It’s beautiful. Your youtube vids and blog entries embody everything I love about sourdough: deliciousness, warmth, and timelessness. My starter seems very healthy, and I’ve studied and tried many ideas to improve lightness of crumb and light, crunchy crust. I’ve had quite positive reviews, but now my quest has led me to your recipe. I always feed my starter equal weights flour and water to the weight of the mother. I’ve mixed the ingredients you’ve listed, based on 500 g bread flour. It’s very very wet. I’m just wondering if you actually add much flour in the kneading process. Do you? Thank you! PS If you ever offered classes, I’d be in in a flash.

  • James Jacobs says:

    Hi Gregoire

    So I have just started on your sourdough method. I am a chef on a yacht and have time and resources to play with!

    I have a couple of questions regarding your technique. I have already fermented my grapes and now mixed equal parts by weight to the strained fermented juice. I have just left it on my water bath at 27c , to be checked on in 12 hours from now. In your article you say that for 1kg starter you will feed it 500g water and 500g flour every 8 hours for the next 24 hours so 3 times.

    First question, when feeding each time do you remove any of the starter. in other recipes I have seen people discard all but say 500g of starter and then add 500g flour and 500g water.

    Once the 3 feeds have been completed and 8 hours has passed we are ready to bake – correct?

    Next question – you feed 3 times per day, but do you make a new dough 3 times per day also? Or do you discard some dough on the 2nd and 3rd feed? For a small operation like mine I plan to bake just 1 x per day. Say

    500g flour
    200g sourdough
    400g water
    12.5g salt
    1.5g fresh yeast

    In this instance I can probably only feed 2 x per day. If using 200g sourdough for the baking how much should I feed the starter and should I discard some? Otherwise my starter is going to keep getting bigger!

    Any help would be greatly appreciated.

    • greg says:

      Hello James, and truly sorry about my late reply here!

      Refreshing every 8 hours to start is to build a strong culture and powerful starter. Once passed the first 24hrs, you can refresh once a day (the more you feed, the stronger it gets). You will obtain a nice acidity and proper fermentation power. In the refreshing process, discarding the dough is purely for not ending up with a huge amount of starter. It’s possible to do the math backward from the 200g you need daily for example, then you just work out how much flour and water you need to refresh to obtain enough starter for baking and the portion to be refreshed for the day after.

      For the actual bread, you can do it without yeast, then you will obtain a more acidic flavor. Also, the water level might need to be adjusted depending on the absorption level of the flour. For small batch, I suggest to knead the dough in the evening, shape it into a floured rattan basket and proof it overnight at 12C. (I used to keep it in the white wine fridge :)) The bread will develop an amazing caramelized crust and great flavors.

      Happy baking!!

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