How to Stop Wasting Flour (when making sourdoughs)
This is something that’s been bothering me since the beginning of quarantine when everyone couldn’t find yeast to buy and started their own sourdough projects. So much so that I felt a need to write about it. People are making a sizeable quantity of sourdough starter and then throwing away the discard because they’re following a recipe exactly. Or getting so overwhelmed by discard that they give up making sourdough completely.
So, there’s the obvious solution – googling recipes for sourdough discard. This is fine. This is great! I do it all the time. But there are still a couple of suggestions I have that further stretch your sourdough discard, and you’ll have no waste at all.
Suggestion #1 – Stop being pedantic
The world of sourdough is a lot more flexible than you realize. If you don’t want to do the experimentation, there’s a good chance someone has already done it for you and even documented it on the internet.
For example, I love the Foodgeek Youtube channel. He often posts experiments that I hadn’t realized I needed answers to.
Suggestion #2 – Make less starter
The recipe I was originally given makes 400g of starter, and the bread recipe needs 160g of starter. It’s a lot more starter than I need for one loaf of bread. So, if I’m going to make a loaf of bread, I only make 200g of starter. And that gives me 40g of starter to seed my next loaf. Realistically, I only make bread about once a month. I feed my starter every week and store in the fridge between feedings because that’s the flavor I like best. So, if I’m not planning to make bread, I only keep 100g of starter on hand. That’s 300g of flour and water that I am not wasting.
Another Youtube channel I like is Bake with Jack. Jack prefers to use the “scrapings” of his starter which would mean no discard at all. I don’t trust myself to do this but I’m also not making bread regularly enough for this method. But you do you.
Suggestion #3 – Freeze your discard
This has been game changing for me.
If I’m keeping 100g of starter on hand and only need 10g of starter for each feeding session, I still have 90g of starter that becomes the discard. Guess what? I freeze it. I have a spare jar where I’ve marked where 1 cup is. Every time I have discard, I’ll stir to knock out the extra air, and place it in my discard jar. This jar lives in the freezer. When I accumulate 1 cup of starter, I can then make my favorite sourdough banana bread recipe. It takes me about 4 weeks to build up 1 cup of discard. This way, I don’t get annoyed at feeding my sourdough starter. And I don’t get tired of making sourdough bread, or making any recipe using discard.
You don’t have to make banana bread. In general, the discard recipes I’ve seen use .5 cup, 1 cup, or 1.5 cups of discard. I say make markings for all three on your discard jar if the jar doesn’t come with its own volume markings, and then bake with the discard whenever you see fit. If you have a favorite recipe using discard, then just tailor your freezer storage around it.
And bonus, if anything should happen to your starter, you will always have a backup plan safely stored in the freezer.
On that note, here’s my favorite banana bread recipe…
- ¾ c sugar
- ½ c oil of choice (I use avocado oil for its mild flavor)
- 3 large ripe bananas (does not need to be fully ripe with a black peel, and you can even use under-ripe if needed)
- 1 egg
- 1 c sourdough starter (thawed if previously frozen)
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1½ c unbleached all purpose flour
- 1 tsp baking powder
- ½ tsp baking soda
- ½ tsp salt
- 6 Tbsp chopped walnuts
- 6 Tbsp chocolate chips, semi-sweet or dark
In a mixer, beat your egg and bananas. If your bananas were slightly under-ripe, let this sit for 30 minutes. Why? I learned from Stella Parks that there is an enzymatic reaction where egg yolks will convert starches into sugar thereby ripening your banana for you.* So I now like to make this my first step. You don’t have to use a mixer, you can do this by hand but I like how well the mixer mashes the bananas for me.
Preheat your oven to 350F. Prep a loaf pan. I will usually use a piece of parchment inside a 9×5 loaf pan. You could use butter or non-stick spray. You can probably use a slightly smaller loaf pan if that’s all you have.
In a separate bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.
Mix in the sugar and oil into the banana mixture. Then mix in the vanilla. Mix in half of the sourdough discard. When it’s mixed in, add the other half and mix.
Add your dry ingredients to the wet ingredients. When it’s almost combined, turn the mixer off and switch to a spoon/spatula. Add in the nuts and chocolate chips, and handmix until combined.
Bake this for about 60 minutes or until a cake tester/toothpick comes out clean. Let cool completely, and then serve.
Please note, this post is about sourdough discard from a starter that is past its infancy stage. I have not fermented my own starter completely from scratch. All the sourdough starters that I’ve worked with was discard from an existing starter, and I was just perpetuating it.
I hope you find this post to be helpful. Let me know what you think or if you have a favorite sourdough discard recipe that I should try out.