Understanding what to do with sourdough discard can elevate both your baking routine and reduce food waste. Discard isn’t as potent as your starter, but it gives a mild sour flavor and tender texture to baked goods. It can be incorporated into pancakes, waffles, crackers, and even cake recipes, providing a unique taste and extending the range of sourdough beyond bread. Seasoned bakers have come to treasure this byproduct for its versatility and flavor-enhancing properties.
- Defining what sourdough discard is and how to make it.
- What feeding a sourdough starter looks like and where the discard comes into play.
- Discard can be used in various recipes to add flavor and reduce waste.
- It is a valuable ingredient for both novice and experienced bakers.
This post is all about ‘what is sourdough discard’.
Table of Contents
What is Sourdough Discard?
Sourdough discard is a byproduct of maintaining a sourdough starter, which is a fermented mixture of flour and water that serves as the leavening agent in sourdough baking. As the sourdough starter is regularly fed with more flour and water to keep it active, the excess starter is removed before feeding to prevent the mixture from becoming too voluminous. Without removing part of the starter, it would become too big to maintain. It would require a lot of flour to feed it. The excess is discarded, and it contains a mix of wild yeast and lactic acid bacteria that have begun the fermentation process. Though it may seem like waste, sourdough discard is still full of potential and can be used in a variety of recipes.
Understanding Sourdough Discard
Sourdough discard is the portion of sourdough starter that is removed before feeding the remaining starter with fresh flour and water. This process is crucial to maintain the health and balance of the starter’s yeast and bacterial cultures. Typically, a starter should be fed regularly to keep it active, and the discard helps to manage the volume and concentration of the cultures.
Sourdough discard is not waste; it still contains active cultures and can be used in various recipes. Because these recipes are not reliant on the discard for leavening, the age of the discard is less critical, allowing the baker to store discard in the refrigerator for several days.
When handling sourdough discard, these key points should be remembered:
- Refreshment Cycle: A starter’s discard is a byproduct of its refreshment cycle, involving regular feeding intervals.
- Usefulness: While called discard, it remains a versatile ingredient.
- Storage: Sourdough discard can be kept in a refrigerator for short-term use or frozen for longer storage, typically in a sealed container.
Safety Note: The discard should be sniffed before use; a foul smell indicates it’s gone bad and should not be used. It’s often slightly sour or tangy in scent, which is normal.
Creating Sourdough Discard
So we’ve already discussed how bakers make/accumulate sourdough discard. What does the actual process look like though?
Let’s take a look at how to feed sourdough starter, how to create a stash of sourdough discard, and then how to properly store short-term and long-term.
Feeding Your Starter
A sourdough starter must be fed regularly to keep the yeast and bacteria active. When it’s kept out on the counter, it needs to be fed every single day. Since it’s fed every single day, before it’s fed a portion of it needs to be discarded. If it’s stored in the fridge, it only needs to be fed once a week. Therefore, there’s a lot less sourdough discard.
The feeding process involves mixing a specific ratio of starter, flour, and water. Here’s a simple breakdown:
- Initial Starter: This is the amount of mature starter you begin with, usually a small percentage of the total.
- Flour: A fresh supply of flour provides the necessary nutrients for the starter. You can use any type of flour that you want. I personally use all purpose flour to feed mine.
- Water: Water rehydrates the flour, allowing the yeast and bacteria to access its nutrients.
Typically, the feeding ratio to maintain a starter is 1:1:1 (starter to flour to water by weight). Yet, many bakers opt for ratios like 1:2:2 or 1:3:3 for a stronger starter. How much you feed your starter is entirely dependent upon you.
Below is an example of what the ratios look like for feeding:
Example Feeding Ratio Table
|Ratio (Starter: Flour)
After feeding, the mixture is left to ferment. As the activity of the bacteria and wild yeast increases, the volume of the starter grows and eventually surpasses the container’s capacity. Excess starter, which is not needed for the next feeding cycle, is removed, creating the sourdough discard. It still retains leavening qualities.
Tip for feedings: Always used filtered water. Never use water directly from the tap. Tap water has chlorine in it to kill harmful bacteria. However, chlorine isn’t selective in what types of bacteria it kills. It kills off all bacteria, including the ones needed to make sourdough.
[RELATED POST: What’s the Best Sourdough Starter Jar?]
Using Sourdough Discard
There are tons of recipes out there that use sourdough discard. So if you’re worried about what to do with it, don’t worry – it’ll be put to good use.
Below are some examples of different recipes you can try.
Recipes Using Sourdough Discard
Pancakes and Waffles: Sourdough discard can be added to pancake or waffle batter to give a slightly tangy taste and extra fluffiness.
Crackers: They can transform discard into crispy, savory snacks, often seasoned with herbs, salt, or cheese.
Pizza Dough: A bit of discard mixed into pizza dough can add depth of flavor and improve texture.
Banana Bread: For a twist on classic banana bread, include sourdough discard for a subtle sour note and a moister crumb.
Muffins: Substitute some of the liquid in muffin recipes with discard for a moist and tender treat.
How to Store Sourdough Discard
Short-Term Storage: Keep discard in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 week for frequent use.
Long-Term Storage: For less frequent baking, discard can be stored in the freezer. Place in a freezer-safe container or a sealable plastic bag, laying flat for easy thawing. Thaw in the refrigerator overnight when ready to use.
Benefits of Sourdough Discard
There are many benefits to using sourdough discard that you should definitely be aware of. Besides being able to use it for numerous recipes and a way to reduce waste, let’s examine the other benefits.
It’s a flavor enhancer which gives it a unique taste. Sourdough discard adds a tangy flavor to baked goods, which can be particularly appealing to those who enjoy a subtle sour note in their treats. There’s a tender texture to it. In recipes such as pancakes, waffles, or flatbreads, the discard can create a tender, fluffy texture that is both delightful and satisfying. It’s filled with prebiotics. While most of the probiotics in the discard do not survive the baking process, they become prebiotics. These indigestible fibers can help support good gut health. It is also easier to digest because of the fermentation process. Using sourdough discard aligns with zero waste practices by reducing food waste and encouraging resourcefulness in the kitchen. Incorporating discard in baking is a great opportunity for home bakers to learn more about fermentation and the science behind sourdough. It’s Cost-Effective! Since the discard is a byproduct of sourdough maintenance, utilizing it in recipes can save money on ingredients over time.
Not only that, whether you’re using sourdough starter or discard, there’s no need to buy breads with a long list of ingredients and no need to buy yeast. It gives you the ability to know exactly what’s in your bread and reduces the need to rely on processed goods.
Troubleshooting Common Issues
Every now and then, bakers face issues with sourdough. Here’s a list of what to look out for to keep your sourdough starter nice and healthy.
Does your starter smell offensively sour?
- Did you remember to feed your starter, and when was the last time it was fed? Examine the frequency of feeding. If it was not fed in a while, give it a feeding. If you are feeding it regularly, you may want to increase its feeding.
- Discard more before feeding to reduce acidity.
Is there any discoloration or pink/orange streaks?
- This could indicate contamination.
- If the starter shows any signs of mold, discard it and start afresh.
Is there a lack of bubbles or activity?
- Ensure the starter is kept at a consistent, warm temperature. With the exception of being in the fridge, cold equals mold.
- Stir it to evenly distribute yeast and bacteria.
- Try using warmer water for feeding.
Is the starter too runny or too thick after discarding?
- Consistency can be adjusted with the amount of flour and water used.
- To make a thicker starter, add more flour; conversely, add more water for a thinner consistency.
Discard seems wasteful. How can I use it?
- Utilize discard in recipes such as pancakes, waffles, or crackers.
- Share discard with friends or compost it.
My starter has a layer of liquid on top (Hooch)?
- Hooch is a sign of hunger. Simply stir it back in or pour it off before feeding.
- More frequent feedings can prevent hooch formation.
Maintaining a healthy sourdough starter involves recognizing and swiftly responding to these common issues. With attention and care, the discard can continue to be a useful byproduct of a thriving sourdough culture.
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are some straightforward answers to common questions about sourdough discard that sourdough bakers, both new and experienced, may have.
What’s the taste and texture difference when baking with sourdough discard?
Baking with sourdough discard imparts a slightly tangy flavor and can add a chewy texture to baked goods. Its acidity can also change the dough’s handling characteristics, influencing the final product.
Is it possible to purchase ready-made sourdough discard?
Purchasing ready-made sourdough discard is not common, as most bakers prefer to use discard from their own sourdough starters to ensure freshness and flavor that’s specific to their starter’s character.
Are there health benefits associated with using sourdough discard in cooking?
Using sourdough discard in cooking adds the benefits of fermented foods to your diet, such as probiotics which can aid in digestion. However, the discard itself is not a significant source of these benefits compared to active sourdough cultures.
How should sourdough discard be stored for future use?
Sourdough discard should be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator if it will be used within a few days. For longer storage, it can be frozen and then thawed when ready to use.
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This post is all about ‘what is sourdough discard’.