Sourdough is having a renaissance. It’s difficult to find a food magazine or blog without a feature on sourdough breads, bakeries and recipes.
I hopped on the sourdough starter bandwagon before I knew there was one. It was day 4 of lockdown in Rome. Francesco and I were craving pizza but we couldn’t find brewer’s yeast in our local supermarkets. Little did I know that within a few days of lockdown Italian kitchens would be cranking out more bread, focaccia and pizza than our local bakeries.
Later that day, I was lamenting to Kathy – dear friend and baker extraordinaire – about my quest for brewer’s yeast. Kathy casually said “just make a sourdough starter”. Enter my crunched up “are you crazy?!” expression. I had to admit that making a sourdough starter had been on my baking/cooking to do list for some time. No time like the present. Kathy and I mixed our starters. Flour, water and wait. Daily check-ins. I was reluctant to name my lievito madre until I knew she had a good chance of survival. Fast forward to starter attempt number 4.
Was something on fire? Francesco called me frantically from our kitchen. I entered the room to find #4 bursting out of her Ball canning jar, the jar that held mom’s plum jam last year. I had smuggled it in from Boston. I like to think that #4 was happy because it was the jar from Mom. Food is love.
I snapped a photo to send to Natalia, another sourdough starter friend. Natalia instructed me to get baking! It was time to make my first sourdough bread. And so the adventure began. There’s something super satisfying about feeding Delilah (I finally had the guts to name her), watching her bubble up, and settle down. She gives so much for so little. While nurturing a healthy starter, my daily schedule included discarding about half of her, topping her up with 75g of flour and 75g of water, stir, rest. Just like throwing away artichoke leaves breaks my heart, so does disposing sourdough discard. Thus began my daily sourdough recipe searches and a list of my favorite uses.
There are endless ways to use sourdough starter discard. Delilah happily lives in our refrigerator now. I feed her once a week before making pizza, bread or baked goods. That being said, a person can only eat so many pancakes. Don’t fret if you’re not in the mood to do anything with the discard. You can:
- Freeze it for up to a year in small ready to use portions.
- Refrigerate it for up to 3 months which allows you to add discard on a daily or weekly basis depending on your feeding schedule. Save it until you have the amount needed for your favorite recipes.
Here are some of my favorite recipes and uses for sourdough starter discard.
Pizza is a weekly ritual in our home. There are endless recipes online for sourdough pizza dough. All you need is sourdough discard, flour, dry yeast, water and salt and a bit of love. I add dry yeast ONLY when I forget to allow sufficient time for Delilah to work her magic.
This may be my favorite use of sourdough discard. Sourdough starter, butter, flour, herbs, salt and olive oil and voila, homemade crispy crackers.
Scallion or Za’atar pancakes
The quickest and easiest use of sourdough discard. Mix sourdough starter discard, salt, scallions, sesame seeds. The consistency should be a bit thinner than pancake batter. Add sesame oil to skillet, pour in batter, flip and you’ve got scallion pancakes. I love za’atar and often use it instead of scallions. Add a dollop of yogurt on top or dip them in soy sauce.
This American misses pancakes. Sourdough pancakes are soft and fluffy with a bit of tang which I love, love, love. The perfect flavor and texture for pure maple syrup and savory butter. Drool.
Pastella – Batter for fried food
Add flour, water, or nothing if your sourdough starter discard is a thick batter. Add whichever spices you like to complement the food you are frying. Right before frying, mix in a bit of baking powder. I use it to batter and deep fried cod fillets, zucchini flowers and sage leaves.
Sourdough starter discard, kosher salt, water, flour, EVOO and time is all that’s needed to make a delicious focaccia. Make it your own by adding tomatoes, herbs, cheese or whatever ingredients that you love.
I crave Mom’s beef stew with onions, carrots, pearl onion and beans in the winter. Dumplings complete the dish; the perfect vehicle to sop up the savory stew juice. I make mine with flour, sourdough discard, salt, olive oil, baking powder, milk and pepper. They are the ultimate comfort food.
Who doesn’t love a good English muffin? Homemade sourdough English muffins are heavenly. The tangy and chewy rounds are some of the best that I’ve ever eaten and a delightful alternative to add to my bread rotation.
Why not add it to your compost pile? A sourdough starter is basically starch. Micro organisms in your compost bin will love it. The starter disappears within a few days in most composting system.
The gift that keeps giving
Gift some of your sourdough starter discard to a friend who wants to create and maintain their own starter. If a friend takes it home and feeds it regularly, it will be ready to use much sooner than if she/he were to make one from scratch. Satisfaction guaranteed.