converting recipe for wild yeast to one with domestic yeast (and vice versa)

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summary: yeast equivalents; pre-ferment for olive bread; converting recipe calling for wild yeast into one using commercial yeast and vice versa;

I’m starting to leaf through my bread making cookbooks to see how one converts recipes made with commercial yeast into recipes made with a wild yeast starter.

wild olive bread As I am reading, it has also occurred to me that people might want to try making the wild bread with olives but don’t want to have to go through the sometimes heart-rending but thoroughly rewarding process of capturing their own yeast. Not to mention that they might want to have olive bread TOMORROW rather than in 6 to 18 days….

There are two ways that this can be achieved:

  • Simply scatter olives over any plain bread dough at the time of shaping and form the dough into a ball.
  • Make a yeasted starter and add it to the dough instead of the wild yeast starter

In the sourdough section of Artisan Baking Across America, Maggie Glezer wrote the following:

    Any sourdough-based recipe can be converted into a yeast-based recipe. The bread will not have the complex flavor […] of a true sourdough, but it will still be a very fine loaf.
    To convert a recipe from sourdough to commercial yeast, you will just use a small amount of yeast in the levain and omit the sourdough starter. […] Dissolve ¼ teaspoon yeast in ¼ cup warm water and use 2 tablespoons of the yeasted water per cup (150 grams, 5.3 ounces) flour. […] Be sure to reduce the water measure in the levain by the same amount as the added yeasted water.
    Let the levain, which is now technically a pre-ferment, ferment for 2 to 3 hours, or until it has risen to about half again its original volume, then refrigerate it overnight until ready to use. Let it come to room temperature before adding it to the final dough. Continue with the recipe as directed – there is no need to add more yeast.
-Maggie Glezer, “unraveling sourdough”, Artisan Baking Across America, p.94

So, to translate this to be specifically for the olive bread, (note that I haven’t actually tried this but it SHOULD work…) here’s the method:

Pre-Ferment for Olive Bread
based on instructions in Artisan Baking Across America by Maggie Glezer

wild yeast starter . yeasted starter . bread

yeasted starter
yeasted water

  • ¼ tsp active dry yeast
  • ¼ c warm water*


  • 2 Tbsp yeasted water (from above)
  • 2 Tbsp water
  • ⅔ c unbleached all-purpose flour


  1. On the evening before baking: In a small bowl, stir yeast into water until the mixture looks like very thin cream.
  2. Put the flour and plain water into a medium sized bowl. Addonly 2Tbsp yeasted water. Stir with a wooden spoon until most of the lumps are gone and the flour looks to be encorporated. Cover and leave on the counter at cool room temperature overnight. (Put it in the fridge if your kitchen is above 25C overnight.)
  3. Baking Day Morning Proceed to the bread section of the Wild Bread with Olives bread recipe. If the starter has been refrigerated, take it out and allow it to return to room temperature before proceeding.

*Tap water is fine to use – just make sure that it has stood for at least 12 hours so that the chlorine has dissipated. However, one should never use water from the hot water tap. Heat some cold water (use a kettle or microwave) and add hot water to cold and use the baby bottle on your wrist method to check that it is not too hot to kill yeast. Yeast starts to die at 120F (48.9C) The yeast will still work if the water is cooler – it just takes a little longer.

Okay, now that going from wild yeast to yeast is solved, does anyone know how I go about converting a recipe that calls for yeast to one that incorporates wild yeast? :lalala:

edit September 2017: I finally succeeded this summer with wild yeast and found the following about how to convert recipes to use wild yeast instead of commercial yeast:

i) Pick the recipe you would like to bake, note the amount [by weight] of fresh yeast that is called for and double it to get the amount of [natural starter] you need. Weigh this out in a bowl.
ii) Take 25% [by weight] of the flour that is called for in the recipe and put that in the bowl too.
iii) Take half as much water as you took of flour and put that in the bowl. […] Mush it all together with your hands, cover it and leave it overnight or all day on the counter. Write down how much [by weight] flour and water you used because you will need to subtract that from the total amount called for in the recipe and use the balance the next day.
-Jane Mason, All You Knead is Bread, p48
2+1/2 tsp (one package) [7 grams] active dry yeast = 18 gm cake fresh yeast
– Carol Field, “The Italian Baker”
To convert recipes calling for fresh compressed yeast to instant yeast; Use 0.32 times the weight; or, for 1 packed tablespoon (21 grams) fresh yeast, use 2 teaspoons [6.4gm] instant yeast.
-Rose Levy Beranbaum, “The Bread Bible”, p.562
[B]read dough is made by combining 1 measure of 100% starter (= a starter that’s fed an equal weight of flour and water at every meal), 2 measures of water, and 3 measures of flour — all measures understood in weight. […] When I want to convert a recipe that uses commercial yeast, I aim for that same starter ratio: I add up the total weight of water (and any other liquids) and flour (or flours) in the dough, and estimate that I’ll need 1/6 of that weight in 100% starter to leaven that amount of dough. (Any ingredient that is neither liquid nor flour, such as nuts or seeds or fat or sugar, is neglected here.) […]
– Clotilde, Chocolate & Zucchini, Tips and Tricks: Converting Yeast-Based Recipes To Use A Sourdough Starter
I usually use about 25% of the total flour weight for the starter when I’m converting a recipe to sourdough. Some people use 20%. […] However, what I’ve been doing recently that seems to bring good results is to feed my starter so that it’s fresh, then I incorporate 125 grams of the starter into the final dough and let the dough rest for 5 hours before the shaping and final proof. This method has worked well for me.
– Cathy, in message to BBBabes in August 2017

(Using Jane Mason’s formula above, I have successfully converted our plain naan recipe from one using commercial yeast into one that is raised with wheat levain that took just 5 days to create. I have great hopes that more bread recipes – calling for commercial yeast and converted to using wild yeast – will follow.) -ejm, 13 September 2017

2 responses to “converting recipe for wild yeast to one with domestic yeast (and vice versa)

  1. Paz

    Yum! That’s all I can say. ;-)

    World Bread Day is coming soon. I’ll be posting the info on my blog soon. I hope you’ll be able to bake more different types of bread.


  2. ejm Post author

    That really does say it all, Paz!

    Yes, I heard that World Bread Day 2007 is approaching and I too am looking forward to it. The only difficulty will be deciding what bread to bake!


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