Lost in Translation with Tutmanik and Sirene (BBB August 2017)

Bread Baking Babes August 2017 summary: тутманик с Готово Тесто (Tootmanik s Gotovo Testo – Tutmanik with Ready-made Dough); attempting the impossible; experiment with wild yeast; over-rising; hazards of adjusting the recipe too much; fun with shaping; a Bread Baking Babes project;

Bulgarian Cheese Bread (BBB) Bread Baking Babes (BBB) August 2017: Tootmanik

F is for Fail. Although, perhaps this is a Conditional Pass….

тутманик с Готово Тесто (Tutmanik s Gotovo Testo): Depending on which Bulgarian words follow it, the meaning in Google Translate for “Tutmanik” is alternately “Tartman”, “Tutankhaman” or “Toutman” (whatever that is!)
Сирене (Sirene): Google Translate seems to have less difficulty with this and simply suggests “cheese”

A few years ago when I was wandering around the world in my other life as a strategy consultant, the team and I kept getting taken out for Italian food. […] In Bulgaria, much to our delight, we were taken out for Bulgarian food and it was memorably delicious. Especially the bread. Cheese, bakey yum yums. Need I say more.
– Jane Mason, The Book of Buns

Well. What can I say (aside from “Fail”) about the Bulgarian Cheese bread I made by not quite following Jane Mason’s instructions?

Except that… it smells good….

Here’s how this month’s BBB bread making went:

BBB Tootmanik s Gotovo Testo diary:

17 July 2017, 15:59 Wow!! The photos that Tanna showed us look amazing. No wonder she wants to try this! I love all the Google images! I’m excited!

The book of buns – told you I really love this book. This is the recipe that begs me to bake it #1: Tootmanik’s Gotovo Testo Bulgaria […] Double it, half it, reshape it. Let’s see just how wild this one can go.
-Tanna, message to BBBabes

7 August 2017, 13:00 Ha. Tanna did say to see how wild this one can go. So… now that I have this wild starter that’s actually working, how I can use it instead of yeast in this bread?

Okay wild yeast experts… now that I have this starter that’s actually working, any ideas on how I can use it instead of yeast in this bread?
-me, message to the BBBabes

I’ve done a brief search and this is what I’ve come up with so far:

One of the questions I get asked most often is how to take a bread recipe and substitute sourdough starter for baker’s yeast. The short answer, in my humble opinion, is: you can’t.
-Susan, Wild Yeast, Going Wild
i) Pick the recipe you would like to bake, note the amount 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% 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 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, p101-102
“[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 […]
– Clotilde, Chocolate & Zucchini, Tips and Tricks: Converting Yeast-Based Recipes To Use A Sourdough Starter

AAaaaugggggggggggggggggghhhhhhhhhhh!! Clotilde’s formula is making my brain hurt!

But Jane Mason’s looks relatively straightforward. So, let’s see now… the BBB recipe calls for “2 grams instant yeast, 1 1/8 teaspoons; 9 grams/0.3 oz fresh yeast”, so that would mean using 18gm of natural starter. (I was going to use the clever yeast measurement converter program that my sister put together, but how handy that Jane Mason made that an unnecessary step.)

8 August 2017, 18:48 Cathy sent the following in response to my questions to the BBBabes:

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

Before seeing Cathy’s solution, yesterday morning I decided to make naan with the Mason starter. At first I used Mason’s formula. But I didn’t like that it created a very stiff starter, so I added more water to make it equal parts of water and flour. Because I like the starter in the fridge to be made with whole wheat flour, here is my revision for making Tootmanik s Gotovo Testo with natural yeast instead of commercial yeast:

18 grams liquid levain (wheat)
140 grams whole wheat flour
140 grams warm water
242 grams of the above starter
338 grams AP flour
23 grams (1/3 cup) instant powdered skim milk
138 grams water, warm to room temp
9 grams salt, 2 1/4 teaspoons
100 grams butter, 6 1/2 tablespoons
The evening before baking Tootmanik s Gotovo Testo, mix together the starter ingredients. Remove 56 grams and stir it into the jar of starter in the fridge. Cover the bowl (now containing 242 grams) with a plate and leave on the counter (or in the oven with only the light turned on) overnight.
The next morning, remove 242 grams of the starter and put it into a large mixing bowl.
Mix together all the dough ingredients. Proceed as per the rest of the BBB recipe after “Pop the dough back in the bowl, cover and allow to rest for 2 hours.”

Or is this faulty thinking?

(Alas, the naan didn’t turn out quite as brilliantly as I had hoped but I’m pretty sure it was because we didn’t let the dough rise enough. I mixed the final dough just a little late… next time, I’ll have to remember to plan ahead and refresh the starter the night before, instead of the morning before.)

9 August 2017, 14:20 Hmmmm, I should probably pay attention to the following, shouldn’t I?

I usually take a small amount of active starter (mine is 100% hydration) that is really bubbly, and feed it with 20 to 30% or so of flour and water at the same hydration percentage that the original recipe calls for. I let that sit for about 5 hours, and then add the rest of the flour and water (and salt), mix, and then let it rise until doubled or tripled, sometimes with stretches and folds if it’s high hydration. After shaping, it either is left out to rise or put in the fridge for cold fermentation. Elizabeth, since you don’t like the sour taste, I’d skip the cold fermentation.
-Karen K, in message to the BBBabes

13 August 2017, 10:07 I made naan again two nights ago and they worked out brilliantly when I built up the wild starter the night before! I shall forge ahead confidently with my formula to make Bulgarian buns with wild starter!

I think I might still let the shaped buns rise in the fridge overnight though. It seems like warmth is the primary cause of the sourness in the first July trials with wild yeast bread at our house.

In re “9 grams salt, 2 1/4 teaspoons” in the BBB recipe: The volume and weight measures aren’t making sense to me here, unless Mason is using Kosher salt.

As far as I know, 1 tsp salt = 6gm, so 9 grams of salt would only be one and a half teaspoons OR 2.25 tsp = 13.5gm. The weight measurement is making sense to me. But the volume is not. That would come out to a baker’s percentage of 3%, ie: too salty – especially considering that feta is quite salty as well. (please see Salt is salt, right?)

10:16 I pulled a small amount of the starter out of the fridge and mixed in equal parts (by weight) of water and flour.

16:17 We rode our bikes to the grocery store that sells Macedonian feta and woohoooooo! They had Bulgarian feta! So we got a little of both to do a taste test. The Bulgarian feta (sheep’s and cow’s milk) is a tiny bit more expensive and has a slightly sharper flavour than the Macedonian. We love both of them!

But silly me. I stupidly didn’t remember to check to see how much I needed. We were so worried about having too much feta lying around in the fridge that we hardly got any. There’s only about 60gm of the Bulgarian feta and around 80gm of Macedonian.

I am planning to make just half a recipe of the buns but even so I’ll need 125gm feta. Duh….

What to do. What to do. Should I make two versions? So we’ll really be able to do a taste test? Or should I just mix the two fetas together to make the buns more truly Canadian by making them multicultural?

18:08 Oh oh! Nothing is happening with the starter. It’s looking quite solid, with only a few tiny bubbles on the side.

I did warm up the water this morning and checked it against the back of my wrist. But now I’m worried. Have my wrists become inured to extreme temperatures? Was the water too hot? Did I kill the starter?

I think I’m going to add a little bit more starter to the stuff on the counter.

Fingers crossed that it’s really bubbly tomorrow morning.

14 August 2017, 06:27 It is! It IS! (Why did I doubt it?) There are bubbles galore. Yay! Perhaps we will be having Bulgarian/Macedonian buns today after all.

07:43 Because I’m an expert, I didn’t even read the instructions for mixing the dough.

Put the flour into a bowl and make a well. Sprinkle the yeast in the well and pour on the milk. Close the well by flicking flour on the surface of the milk and allow to rest for 1 hour.
Add the salt and gather everything into a ball in the bowl. Turn it out on the counter and knead for 10 minutes. Add the butter and knead for another 10 minutes. Pop the dough back in the bowl, cover and allow to rest for 2 hours.
-BBB August 2017 recipe

Instead, I boiled water and added it to the cold butter to melt it. Then I added flax seed and wheat germ from the freezer (hey! since when are flax seed and wheat germ included in this recipe?!), as well as milk powder and all-purpose flour from the cupboard to bring the temperature down to a safe one for the starter. Then I mixed in the starter. No sprinkling of yeast or “flicking flour onto the surface of the milk” for me!

I’m now giving the dough the Chad-Robertson-Rest-Period before adding the salt. The salt that I measured on my brilliant little scale that is sensitive to 0.1 grams.

That’s right, the brilliant little scale that I thought was broken because it strangely blacks out the moment that anything is put on the scale. But it turns out that a few seconds later, it is perfectly happy to light up again, remembering what it has measured, and continuing without blacking out again until it is manually turned off.

See? I’ve finally learned to be patient, just as Jane Mason said.

13:41 The dough is looking fine. It’s beautifully smooth and silky. But. It’s also looking like it’s not planning on budging any time too soon.

16:49 Did I say that I had learned to be patient? :stomp:

Oh dear. The dough is not rising very quickly. At all.

I mixed the dough this morning, kneaded and stretched and folded. It was looking fine – beautifully smooth and silky. But. When I looked at it around 1pm, it was also looking like it was not planning on budging any time too soon. Did I say that I was going to be patient?

Pop the dough back in the bowl, cover and allow to rest for 2 hours.
BBB August 2017 recipe

Does this mean that the dough has risen to about double at that point? (I hate it when people give times only in the instructions.)

The dough looks pretty good but it’s pretty much the same size as it was when I mixed it.

18:08 My dough came close to double. Close to double but not quite.
-Tanna, message to BBBabes

Okay. I’ll hold off shaping until the dough comes closer to doubling. Ha. My dough is very far from having doubled. I wonder if I should use the “finger press” test on it.

T is becoming more and more pessimistic about these buns. I’ve had to resort to making nan-e Barbari with commercial yeast for tonight’s dinner so we’ll have some bread at least.

I thought I was going to be mixing Tartine bread today but had trouble with the float test. First, the levain sank. Then a little bit later, it floated but immediately sank so I thought it wasn’t quite ready. I checked again a little later and it sank immediately. Clearly, I missed the window. So I stirred in more flour and water and will try again tomorrow. Sigh…. I’m remembering why I accidentally on purpose murdered our last pet.

Baking with a natural starter sure is extreme. It has its highs and lows and nothing really in between.

18:35 I forgot. I’m supposed to be patient. I WILL wait until the dough doubles. If it moves at all….

23:36 Feeling low… very low now…

Nothing. No motion at all. If it looks the same tomorrow morning, I guess I’ll have to start over. We’ll make flat bread out of the failed dough. Or something.

overrisen dough 15 August 2017, 07:00 No movement. At all. It looks exactly the same as it did late last night.

Hmmm, it looks like Susan was right when she decreed, “you can’t”…. :lalala:

I haven’t decided what to do yet. Am I really going to start over completely? Or should I try to rescue it?

08:30 We talked about it and decided that because it smells fine, I should add some yeast and a little water. So I rehydrated 1/2 teaspoon yeast in a sploosh of water and threw it into the bowl.

Bulgarian Cheese Bread dough Hmm… maybe that’s too much of a sploosh. I dumped in some all-purpose too and squidged it all around until there was dough again.

11:27 Augh!!! No motion. At all! Waaaaahhhhhhhhhh!

11:48 Patience Shmatience… still nothing. Not even remotely. :stomp:

Tartine Bread I’m so cranky that I can’t even celebrate the amazing ears on one of the Tartine loaves I baked this morning. Proving (no pun intended) that there’s nothing wrong with our Jane Mason starter.

I don’t know WHAT I did wrong with the Bulgarian bun dough. I don’t think I added too much salt… there’s not THAT much butter in the dough….

13:11 I decided to add more flour and gently stretch and fold, in an attempt to turn the somewhat moussey mass back into bread dough.

Bulgarian Cheese Bread (BBB) 15:28 I’m not quite sure if I’ve made a huge mistake to go ahead and shape this. The dough feels more like biscuit dough than bread dough. I fear it has seriously over-risen and won’t really rise much when baked.

I hope it’s not a waste of the really gorgeous Bulgarian feta we bought. And it really does have a lemony flavour!

Sirene is a Feta style brined cheese made in South-Eastern Europe, […] also known as “white brine sirene” or Bulgarian Feta. […] It has a slightly grainy texture with a fresh lemony taste.
– cheese.com, Sirene

As I shaped, using the method outlined in Ralitsa Marinova’s Video, I decided against adding the egg to the filling. It seemed like a) too much work, b) it’s too hot and humid for eggs, and c) I’d have to divide the egg in half (see option a)).

I might brush the top with milk or yoghurt. Then again, I might not. It all depends if it looks like the buns have even vaguely risen.

Bulgarian Cheese Bread (BBB) 17:18 I chose milk, just in case the wild starter would make the buns taste sour. It’s now been in the oven for about 30 minutes and has the faintest tinge of gold on top. I’m relieved that the buns smell good.

I’ll give it 15 more minutes (I turned the heat down to 350F) and hope that they get a little more colour.

Rats!!! I completely forgot that I was going to use the stainless steel mixing bowl to act as a steam chamber. Although, I suspect it wouldn’t have made a whit of difference. The dough had zero structure. It seems unlikely that it could have risen any more than it did.

17:45 At least there’s a little more colour. And it smells good…. But talk about doorstop!

You should see the disapproving look on T’s face (maybe you shouldn’t). What a mercy that the Tartine bread turned out so beautifully!

Bulgarian Cheese Bread (BBB)

When we were serving dinner (to be eaten with Tartine bread), I pulled one of the Bulgarian buns away from the heavy block. We tasted it. It was surprisingly good. But the texture was all wrong. It was more like a biscuit than bread, because the gluten strands had broken. There was no elasticity.

Bulgarian feta is spectacularly good. But as good as it is, I have to be honest. I don’t think I’ll be attempting this recipe again. I think I’d rather just have butter buns with the lovely Bulgarian cheese on the side.

Here is the BBB August 2017 Bulgarian Buns recipe we were given.

BBB Tootmanik s Gotovo Testo
based on a recipe in “The Book of Buns” by Jane Mason

There’s really no point in outlining the steps I took to create my somewhat disastrous result that is doubtless far from being even remotely close to real Tootmanik s Gotovo Testo. Please see the actual BBB recipe.


Here is what some others do to make Bulgarian buns:

Since ancient times, Bulgarians have generally had immense respect for bread and dough. It is always resent at the table. Moreover, throughout Bulgaria, you can witness this with many quotations and proverbs that praise bread. For example: “If you have bread, you have everything” or “No one is bigger than bread.” […] Mesenitza is simply a bread stuffed with cheese, this famous sirenje (or sirene) that is used in a multitude of Bulgarian recipes and that can easily be replaced with Greek feta. This bread is also called tutmanik and it is a very popular bread in Bulgaria. Every region, every village and even every family may have different recipes and even names for it.
For the filling
1 egg
8 tablespoons butter, soft
4 oz Bulgarian yogurt, beaten
13 oz sirene (or feta), crumbled
Beat the egg and mix with yogurt and sirene.
    Divide the dough into several balls of equal weight. Roll each ball to a thickness of about 1/2 inch. Smear butter and filling on the surface of each piece of dough. Roll the dough onto itself to obtain a cylinder. Shape each cylinder into a snail-shaped roll and place them on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper […] next to each other by spacing them slightly to form a large bun. […] Let rise again for 15 minutes. […] Coat the bread with the egg yolk and milk mixture. Bake [at 350F] for about 20 to 25 minutes or until the bread is golden.
– Vera Abitbol, 196 flavors, Mesenitza (Tutmanik) – Traditional Bulgarian Recipe
Tutmanik or Mesenitza is a well known and popular Bulgarian cheese bread baked especially with Feta cheese. Every village, every region and even every family have their own way of preparing this cheese bread and also the name get changes depending upon how they are prepared. […] If you are googling for Tutmanik you may also notice that some of the Tutmanik recipes calls for quick bread preparation with baking powder and baking soda. But trust me yeasted dough Tutmanik is something to give a try as this bread smells insanely good while baking.
– Priya, Priya’s Versatile Recipes, Tutmanik/Mesenitza/Bulgarian Cheese Bread
Pour the dough onto a flat floured surface and knead. Roll rectangular crust – about 2 cm thick (mine has got approximately 40×40 cm) Spread 1/3 of butter all over the crust and sprinkle with 1/3 of shredded cheese. Fold crust as an envelope. Turn folded crust seam side down.
Roll to the initial crust size, spread the second 1/3 of the butter and the second 1/3 of the shredded cheese. Fold again as an envelope. Turn again folded crust seam side down, roll initial size, spread with the last part of the butter and sprinkle with the last part of the cheese.
Fold again as an envelope. The crust is thick and almost square shaped.
Without rolling the crust, place the folded crust seam side down into a suitable baking pan, previously lined with baking paper or oil well and sprinkled with flour.
Cut the folded crust into triangles […]
Lightly press with a rolling-pin’s end in the middle of each triangle – to let dough layers open better.
– Angel, Angel Loves Cooking, Tutmanik aka Multi-layer Bread with Feta Cheese


Thank you, Tanna!

Bread Baking Babes Bread Baking Babes August 2017

Tanna is our host for August 2017’s Bread Baking Babes‘ project. She wrote:

I believe we are imprinted to be attracted to little things, babies perhaps being a prime example; it’s probably why our species survived in the first place. We’re attracted to and attach to the small and helpless. Is a bun, a small bread, helpless? I don’t really know. I do know I’m really attracted to small breads these days and this particular one I’ve found so many connecting shaping methods that I’m helpless to not bake it.
– Tanna

We know you’ll want to use actually follow the real recipe and make Bulgarian Buns too! To receive a Baking Buddy Badge to display on your site: make the buns in the next couple of weeks and post about them (we love to see how your bread turns out AND hear what you think about it – what you didn’t like and/or what you liked) before the 29 August 2017. If you do not have a blog, no problem; you can also post your picture(s) to Flickr (or any other photo sharing site) and record your thoughts about the bread there. Please remember to email the Kitchen of the Month to say that your post is up.

Please note that it’s not enough to post about your bread in the Facebook group. Because of the ephemeral nature of Facebook’s posts, your FB post may be lost in the shuffle. Please make sure to directly contact the kitchen of the month if you want to be included in the BBBuddy roundup.


For complete details about this month’s recipe, the BBB and how to become a BBBuddy, please read:

Please take a look at the other BBBabes’ August 2017 bread.