How to Stop Wasting Flour

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.

 

View this post on Instagram

Sourdough banana bread ☺

A post shared by @ awesomesauceeats on

 

On that note, here’s my favorite banana bread recipe…

  • ½ 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.

* = https://www.seriouseats.com/2016/09/how-to-rapidly-ripen-a-banana-without-baking.html

 

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.

A white bread with mahleb

dsc00601

I made another loaf of bread – a white bread from Beth Hensperger’s “Bread Made Easy” book. And it was the prettiest loaf I have ever made. I fiddled with Ms. Hensperger’s recipe a little by throwing in some mahleb. Mahleb is the pit of the sour cherry. Once crushed, it’s often thrown in to Greek breads (things I learn from our very own Asano-mama). Anyway, I finally bought a small jar of mahleb from Penzeys in December and decided “what the heck – let’s throw it in.” Now, I don’t know if mahleb is easily obtained at a store in ground form. Penzeys leaves their product in the pit form. After some googling, the recommendation is to crush only as necessary and to store the mahleb in the freezer, because, like nuts, it can go rancid. Mahleb is pretty easy to crush with a mortar and pestle, so it’s not particularly inconvenient.

It was a fun experiment. However, since I’ve never made this particular white bread before, I had nothing to compare my results with. This is a repeat occurrence in my life – experimenting without a controlled result.

Adapted from the milk bread master recipe in Bread Made Easy by Beth Hensperger.

one standard size bread loaf pan
3 to 3.5 cups of all-purpose or bread flour
1 Tbsp sugar (I always cook with cane sugar these days)
1 tsp instant yeast
1 tsp salt
1 cup warm milk
1/8 cup boiling water
1 1/2 Tbsp of mild olive oil (this is the same as 4 1/2 tsp)
1 1/2 tsp crushed mahleb (if you can’t find it, skip it)
1 egg mixed with 1Tbsp milk for glaze (optional – I didn’t bother with it)

Start by mixing 2 cups of flour with the sugar, yeast and salt in a large bowl. In a smaller bowl, mix the milk, boiling water and the oil (this should not be above 125F – it should feel hot to the touch… then again if you’re me and you forgot to warm the milk before mixing all of the wet ingredients, do your best to warm the mixture as best as possible and don’t worry that you’ve ruined it).

Make a well in the middle of the dry ingredients, and start incorporating the wet ingredients. Once this is well mixed, add the remaining flour until it becomes a stiff, shaggy dough that is clearing the sides of the mixing bowl. Move the dough onto a clean counter, and knead for 5-8 minutes, adding flour only as needed to stop the dough from sticking to everything.

Let this rise until double in bulk in a greased container. If your kitchen is cold like mine is (hello! I live in New England and it’s winter here!), don’t worry if the dough takes more than 2 hours to rise. Yeast loves temperatures at around 80F – any hotter and you risk killing your yeast, but any colder and the yeast just takes longer to do its stuff.

Grease your bread loaf pan. When the dough is ready, turn it out onto the counter. The dough will softly deflate, don’t worry about punch your dough down. Cut the dough into half. With each half, roll the dough with your palms until you have a log about 10 inches long. Wrap the dough logs around each other for a twisted effect. Place this in your pan and left rise until double in bulk (the dough will probably rise to about an inch or so over the pan rim).

Bake at 375F for about 40 minutes. You want a nice brown color to the crust and it should sound hollow if you knock on it. Remove the loaf carefully from the bread pan when done, and let the loaf cool on a wire rack.

~ Mikan

dsc00590