If you make sourdough bread there will come a time when you have to throw away some of your sourdough starter. This is inevitable. If the refresh is fairly recent (less then 24 hours at room temperature and less than 3 days in the fridge) then I urge you to use it rather than put it in the bin. I include some ideas for you in this article.
However, if it has been some time since the last refresh and your sourdough has developed a hooch (liquid on the top) or has formed a crust or is smelling very acidic then it really is best in the bin.
One tip to avoid throwing away your starter at all
Throwing away your sourdough starter when you refresh it ready for a loaf is an expensive waste of good flour. The best way to avoid throwing any of it away is to keep a minimum of starter in the first place. Your starter can happily survive when it is as little as 30g.
You can keep your starter at room temperature and feed it daily, but unless you are making a daily loaf then you will end up with an excess. You can use that excess as described below. The best way to keep your starter if you only bake with it once or twice a week (or less) is in the fridge. The starter slows right down in the cool temperature of the fridge and will happily stay there waiting for you to be ready to bake again. My starter has sat for a month in the fridge without any problems.
So, if you only keep a small amount of it in the fridge you will have very little to discard. When you want to bake, bring the starter out of the fridge the day before and add twice its weight in flour and water and stir briskly*. Place an elastic band or mark the container at the level of the top of the starter. Leave it at room temperature for 6-8 hours and see if it has doubled or preferably trebled in volume. If it has, it is ready to use in your loaf. If it hasn’t, then discard half (use the discard as suggested below) and refresh twice the weight again in flour and water and repeat.
*It is handy to make a note of how much your container weighs then it is easy to calculate how much starter is in the container.
Ways to use your sourdough discard
Use it in a yeasted loaf
Most often I will put the discard into a yeasted loaf. The starter won’t help with the rising of the dough but it will add an extra dimension of flavour. You don’t have to be precise about the amount you put in, you can add as little or as much as you have and then adjust the water accordingly.
Fry it in a little butter
This is a great tip I got from a YouTube video I watched.
I had never thought about spooning it straight from the tub into a frying pan. It is delicious. I wouldn’t advise using a discard that is too fruity. For example, I wouldn’t use the discard straight from the fridge as that would be too acidic to be enjoyable. But I have been frying up any discard I have when I am refreshing the starter ready for a loaf.
To make these, put about 10g of butter in a pan over a gentle heat and spoon the discard into the foaming butter. Cook until the top is completely dry and the bubbles have burst. This will give it a light texture like a tangy pikelet. Flip it over and cook on the other side. It takes longer than you think to cook so have patience. It might take 10-15 minutes.
We have been enjoying ours with my ginger marmalade but you could add some grated cheese or bacon and enjoy it like you would a Staffordshire Oatcake or add toppings like you would an omelette. You could also add chopped herbs or some dried fruit or nuts in to the batter before spooning it in the frying pan.
Since sharing the above recipe with everyone that gets my newsletter Tony has got in touch to say that he has been experimenting with his discard, here is what he had to say:
[The suggestion for] sourdough waste has been a great stimulus to me for experimentation. Used as a batter for apple fritters, it’s great. What I really like is pouring it on a baking sheet and then popping in the roasting oven for 15-20 mins – sprinkle with a little salt and you have gorgeous marmite crackers for cheese. Thanks for the inspiration !
Fruit and Veg Fritters
The apple fritters that Tony mentions above sound amazing. Tony dips the apple in the sourdough discard and fries it in a bit of butter and sprinkles stevia (sugar substitute) over the top. You could use all sort of fruit and vegetables in this way.
Onion rings would be a great choice. Slice your onion in rounds or half rounds, dip into your sourdough discard and fry in a little oil or deep fry them. Alternatively, place them on a baking sheet, spray with a little vegetable or olive oil and bake at 200C, gas mark 6 until golden brown.
I haven’t actually tried this, but I don’t see why it wouldn’t work. In the same way that you might marinate chicken in buttermilk to tenderise it, you could coat the chicken in your sourdough discard. The chicken is tenderised by the acidity of the buttermilk so your discard should work in the same way. If you don’t have enough then you could try bulking it up by mixing it with yoghurt or buttermilk or thinning it with water.
Adding it to pancake/ waffle/ Yorkshire pudding batter
If I am making pancakes, waffles or Yorkshire puddings then I add a bit of my sourdough starter discard. It adds flavour and seems to lighten the batter.
My favourite pancake batter at the moment sounds as if it would never work but it makes beautifully light pancakes and this morning I added my discard to it and worked really well:
Mash two bananas (ripe or over-ripe ones work best). Beat in one egg. You can now use this as your pancake batter. Fry teaspoonfuls of it in a little butter. It is quite fragile, so flipping them over can be an art but they make deliciously light mini pancakes. This morning I added in my discard. I didn’t weigh it but I am guessing it was about 100g of starter. You can add however much you happen to have. This made the pancakes a little bit sturdier and easier to flip but they were still lovely and light.
Add it to your baking
If you are making a cake try adding your discard. It adds a lovely acidity and flavour boost. I made my usual chocolate brownies and adding the discard made them taste even more chocolatey, light textured and delicious than they usually do. I will definitely be adding it to more of my baking in the future.
Want to learn more about sourdough?
Join us for a fun, relaxing day of learning how to make sourdough bread at our lovely cookery school in Ironbridge, Shropshire
Other articles that might be of interest: When is my sourdough ready to use?