Sourdough vs Yeast | Can You Get Comparable Results?

Home 9 Principles of Baking 9 Sourdough vs Yeast | Can You Get Comparable Results?

If you are really into baking, then you most likely enjoy naturally leavened bread.

But not everyone wants to keep a starter and look after it. Although it is not that much effort. But still, yeast dough is just so easy and convenient in comparison.

I have baked and eaten countless different breads be it made with commercial yeast or sourdough starter, and I love them all. It would be hard to find a bread that I don’t like. If it is made correctly, it will most certainly be good.

Since my channel has become the home of comparison videos, I thought it would be interesting to try and make two breads using the same ingredients and methods. With the only difference being that one would be made with a yeast derived preferment and the other with a sourdough leaven.

If you love sourdough bread, you know why. It has a distinct taste; it is crusty and smells great. It is like bread on steroids. Everything about it is more intense in a good way.

But have you ever been in a situation where you tasted two breads of which the preparation methods only differ in what kind of leavening is used? Both fermented for the same amount of time and using the exact same quantities of ingredients. I have never tasted two breads like that side-by-side. Is it possible that the two breads could be extremely similar?

Of course, we know that a starter has bacteria that add a lot of flavour to the final loaf and the gluten of such a bread is broken down better and it is more easily digestible. But this time we are not concentrating on the heath benefits. This will be all about texture, smell, and taste.

The recipes.

I decided to make pain rustique which kind of resembles a giant ciabatta. The bread is made with a preferment which contains about 20% of the total flour. The hydration of the final dough is around 70%.

The preferment I used was biga at 50% hydration. I chose this because it is summer, and a low hydration preferment has a more controlled fermentation rate at higher temperatures.

To try and keep things equal I only used 0.1g of yeast in the yeasted dough. I did not add any more yeast to it when mixing the final dough. This ensures that the dough will ferment a lot more slowly to keep in tandem with the naturally leavened dough.

The yeast biga did ferment more rapidly than the sourdough leaven, but in the end both breads were ready withing 30 minutes of each other.

The ingredients.

For the yeast biga – 50g white bread flour, 25g water, 0.1g instant dry yeast.

For the sourdough biga – 47g white bread flour, 23g water, 5g sourdough starter. I subtracted the flour and water of the starter from the other ingredients to make things equal.

For the main dough – 180g white bread flour, 20g whole wheat flour, 162g water, 5g salt. Both breads had the same ingredients here.

The biga took around 12 hours. The bulk fermentation took 6 hours with a fold halfway through. Then final shaping and final proof of around 2 hours. The yeast dough was ready first.

Both were baked at 230C fan off for 20 minutes.

The results.

I think most people would expect there to be quite a big difference. And most would expect the sourdough bread to be way more flavourful and crustier and sour smelling. Me being one of those people since I had never tried this kind of comparison.

To my surprise the breads were very similar. Both were nice and crusty, both had similarly coloured exterior and the crumb looked identical too. The texture was the same on the outside and inside.

When it came to smell, the sourdough bread had that distinct smell of sourness, but the yeast dough did disappoint. It had a nice and intense wheat smell with a sour note too.

Chewing on them both I would say that the mouthfeel was identical. The sourdough had that slightly distinctive sour taste as with the smell. But the yeast dough had also developed a nicely intense flavour too.

I would say that if someone handed me a piece of that yeast dough bread and told me that it was naturally leavened, I would believe it. Comparing them side-by-side you can make out the difference, but on its own it would not be that easy to tell.

So, I guess you can get comparable results. A long fermentation is key to flavour development and even a yeast dough can taste like a good sourdough. Of course, taste is highly subjective.

Watch the video here

Understanding the principles of bread making will let you be in complete control every time you make bread. It will reduce the failure rate and turn you into an even more confident home baker.

I highly recommend you check out the Learning page where I have detailed, easy to understand explanations on each step of the bread baking process and the principles behind it.

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