If we were to try to summarize the state of my sourdough starter Bartholomew, “criminal neglect” would be an accurate term to use. But recently my sourdough starter has been the happiest and liveliest it has ever been. And no, it’s not because I have taken on the mantle of pandemic sourdough baking. Rather, my mum has. And she has also taken to the task of keeping Bartholomew fed and watered with gusto.
I feel a bit jealous sometimes – a companion I created in eighth grade, living up life under someone else’s care and seeming all the more happier for it. But sometimes if you love someone, you’ve got to let them go.
And more than I am jealous, I am lazy so all in all it’s a relief. The situation has been rather convenient – upon spontaneously deciding I want to do a bit of sourdough baking, I can borrow some bright and bubbly starter. (This, as opposed to opening the jar for the first time in months to find a layer of sludge laying below an inch of alcohol, necessitating a week-long pampered revival before Bartholomew deigns to leaven even the smallest bun.)
While I don’t always love the taste of sourdough in sweets, I do love it in savoury applications, and particularly in those with cheese. This recipe makes a small batch of buttery buns spotted with pockets of melted cheese. It’s a cozy food for sure – the buns themselves are tucked snug in a loaf tin, and they eat best pulled apart while warm.
rosemary & gruyere sourdough brioche bun loaf
Adapted from Duchess at Home by Giselle Courteau; here I’ve made the loaves a bit bigger, partially whole wheat and converted to sourdough along with other minor changes. If you want more of a proper tall loaf than buns, a 1.5x recipe should be about right.
- 100g whole wheat flour
- 55g bread flour or all-purpose flour (you can approximate bread flour as 53g all-purpose
- + 2g wheat gluten)
- 3g kosher salt
- 40g bubbly and active sourdough starter at 100% hydration (if yours is the more somnolent sort, feed it the night before and let it sit out on the counter overnight)
- 25g whole milk
- 2 eggs
- 100g soft butter
- 1 1/2 tbsp finely chopped fresh rosemary
- 75g gruyere, cut into small cubes
- beaten egg for egg wash
Whisk together the flours, gluten (if using) and salt. Add the sourdough starter, milk and eggs and mix with a wooden spoon until a rough dough is formed. If you want to make the dough by hand, the slap and fold method is probably best.
Otherwise, use a stand mixer. With the dough hook, add a bit of the butter at a time, working in each addition until the dough is smooth. Continue until all the butter is incorporated. The dough will become softer and more elastic and smooth as more butter is incorporated. Knead the dough on a medium setting for another 10-15 minutes to develop the gluten. Add the rosemary and gruyere and knead until incorporated. Cover the dough with a damp kitchen towel and let rise until puffed. This will take a while depending on the vigour of your sourdough starter – it took mine around 6-8 hours.
Butter a loaf pan. Transfer the dough to a very lightly floured surface and divide into eight portions. Shape each into a ball, and tighten the surface tension by cupping your hand over each ball of dough and rotating your hand in small circles.
Arrange them balls of dough in the loaf pan – they’ll be barely touching. At this point it was evening for me so I put the dough, covered, in the fridge overnight.
Take out the dough the next day. Place a pan of hot water from the tap (ie not boiling water) in the oven along with the uncovered dough to make a bit of a warmer and humid environment for it to rise. Allow the dough to rise until puffed and the balls of dough have grown such that they’re touching all along the perimeter (about 6 hours for me).
Remove from the oven and cover while you preheat the oven to 425F. Brush the loaf with eggwash and sprinkle with a bit of coarse salt if you have any on hand.
Pop in the oven and turn the temperature down to 400F. Bake for around 15 minutes or until nicely browned. The buns are quite nice while they’re still warm.