Do you love sourdough bread but always feel guilty when you’re throwing away unwanted starter? Well, probably everybody does. Discarding the start is important, without doing so we’d end up with more waste, or a lot of bread to make! The good thing is you don’t have to throw away your discard every time. Here are many ways to use a leftover sourdough starter and links to the best discard recipes.
A sourdough starter is a culture of natural yeast and bacteria that need to be supplied with sufficient food to continue growing. Without enough fresh flour, the bacteria will become dormant and the starter won’t be effective as a levain. As the starter gets larger it needs larger feeds of fresh flour.
Without removing some of the existing starter when feeding, the amount of fresh flour added would have to increase in line with the size of the starter. By discarding the starter instead we keep the amount of flour required down and actually prevent waste. In a mature sourdough, we can use the discard to make sourdough bread, it is a sourdough starter after all! But in a new starter, or if we’re not feeling bread today but want to use the discard for something, these tips will give you some ideas.
There are various ways of how you can avoid wasting your sourdough:
Using your sourdough discard for pancakes is a popular way to use unwanted discard. Simply whip it together with some milk, baking powder, flour, butter, and a couple of eggs to a light batter. The addition of sourdough to your regular batter will take your pancakes to a new level! Similar to pancakes, you can also use your discard to make waffles or crepes.
Sourdough discard is great for any kind of bread, especially flatbread! It adds an extra dimension of flavour, yet combined with yeast a much shorter rise! If you’re following a recipe, reduce the amount of water and flour to make way for the discard. Though you can just add it in and continue making your usual recipe. You might want to lower the amount of yeast used depending on how much and how active your starter is. Then just add the discard when you’re combining the flour and water ingredients.
To make it develop more sourdough flavour, you can leave it on your countertop to ferment for a few hours. You can make your sourdough discard flatbread into:
Wouldn’t you like your homemade pasta to have a light acidic kick? Well adding the unwanted sourdough starter to fresh pasta dough will do just this! Just add 50 grams of starter per 100 grams of flour and an egg and use a little less water. Easy and delicious!
Just like with other baked goods that have flour and water, sourdough discard can be added to cakes and muffins. The discard will still give a new flavour profile but small amounts won’t overpower your recipe. Just be accurate with the measurement of the discard that you’re going to include.
A cup of discard can be swapped for 1/2 cup of water or milk and 1/2 cup of flour. Keep the ratio accurate so it won’t alter your goods that much.
Making a frying batter out of the sourdough discard is also a good way to use it up. It’ll make your batter more interesting and adding spices will also make it more vibrant!
You can make a sourdough discard batter for frying fish, vegetables, or anything you have in mind. Simply add either water or flour to make your discard batter similar to the thickness and consistency of your usual frying batter.
A sourdough starter discard can also be used as a thickener for sauces. It will add a new level of flavour and you can determine the thickness of your sauce. If you don’t want your discard to be too overpowering, you can add a sweetener like sugar, honey, or molasses to it.
Your discard will work well as a thickener in sauces like:
Popovers are like Yorkshire puddings, and they’re great with added sourdough starter! Simply add the discard right to the batter, and you’ll see how well it expands during rising time. It will also give your popovers a nice spongy texture.
Popovers have an airy and hollow inside which you can fill with almost anything. This would be a perfect pair with a gravy that you also made with your discard! See a cheesy sourdough popover recipe
Your sourdough discard can be used to make a new starter! Once you’ve put your discard in a separate bowl, you can feed it to make a new starter or levain. Add an exciting flour like rye or spelt to make an alternative starter. Perfect for making Pain de Campagne!
A sourdough discard can also become flour again. Once you’ve taken it out of the mother starter, you can dry it out. One method of doing this is spreading your discard into a thin layer, lining it up on sheet trays, and letting it sit at room temperature.
It will completely dry out in a few days, which you can then grind into flour again afterwards. Your newly reground flour can now be used as a flavour enhancer for different recipes, or keep it in storage in case your original starter dies! See: How to keep a sourdough starter long term
As your excess sourdough starter is made up of microbes, they’re going to boost up the microbes in your compost pile. The compost would be extra healthy as they’re going to get extra nutrients from them. Your garden will love it! Just add your discard into your heap, and it will decompose in a few days.
Say hello to a brighter skin because of your sourdough discard! Most skincare products today consist of good bacteria and probiotics. As a sourdough starter is rich in good bacteria and it produces antioxidants, researchers found that it can be used as a skincare product. You can mix it with honey or yoghurt, and use it as a facial or body mask.
You may not be able to use your sourdough discard for your sourdough recipe anymore. But there are still a bunch of ways on how you can still utilize them. May it be for cooking, baking, and even for your home needs. So don’t throw away your sourdough discard yet, as you may be able to use it for something else!
Hi, I’m Gareth Busby, a baker, bread baking coach and college lecturer. I’m here to help you make better bread and learn about the baking industry.
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