I think the reason I don’t make perfect sourdough boules is because I’m always too concerned about the amount of starter discard I have created. I’m so worried about using up this “waste” that I focus on recipes that use it up, instead of recipes for the bread itself. I’ve made pancakes, waffles, crackers, rolls and bread with the aging discard that lives in my fridge. It’s an opportunity for me to be creative and to use something up at the same time, which is one of my favorite things to do. I’m not sure what that says about me, but whatever.
Over the years, I’ve really honed my sourdough starter skills. I have a nice vibrant starter that, when fed, bubbles up so nicely that I myself puff up with pride. I knew it when it was just a weak little pup, I beam (and no, I haven’t named it). I feed it regularly, unlike the way I used to treat it in the past, neglectfully leaving it in the fridge for weeks. I store the discard from the sourdough process (that’s the part of the starter that you remove each time you feed it) in a separate container in the fridge. Soon it is so full that I have a quart of floury goo.
I don’t prefer making pancakes or waffles with the leftover starter. I’m just not a sourdough pancake person, and neither is my six-year old son (who is also the reason I make pancakes regularly). Crackers are a good way to use up sourdough starter, and this recipe from King Arthur in particular is a nice one. One of my favorite uses for these leftovers is this recipe for sourdough dinner rolls, which is both amazingly delicious and really easy. I have tweaked it a bit and will post about it at a later date.
My very favorite use of the weeks of starter that have been languishing in the fridge is actually for bread! Who knew? With a little bit of yeast you can turn all of that very flavorful fermented flour into two nice loaves of sandwich bread. The starter imparts the flavor of sourdough, but not the lift of a fed starter, of course, so you want to give it a bit of a boost with the yeast.
Sourdough Sandwich Bread (using your sourdough discard)
Yield: two standard loaves
Start with 3 to 4 cups of unfed starter you have stored in the fridge, if liquid has separated and formed on the top (known as hooch; oh, bakers are such a funny lot) you can pour it off
Add it to a large bowl with 1.5 cups of warm water in it
Sprinkle on 1 teaspoon of dry active yeast
Whisk a little and let sit for about five minutes for the yeast to activate. Mix in enough flour to make a very sticky dough, about 3 cups of all purpose flour. [Note: You will not think this bread will work. It’s so wet and sticky. Never mind. Soldier ahead.] Cover it with plastic wrap and put it in the fridge over night, for at least 12 hours, up to 18 hours. It should double in size.
Take it out and let it sit, covered, for about two hours. Add 1 cup of flour and stir with a scraper or spatula (so sticky!!) You will probably have to add another cup of flour. And two teaspoons of salt. When it’s somewhat manageable, cut it in half (I do this in the bowl) and quickly, deftly transfer it to a very well-oiled bread loaf pan. Shake it around a little so it settles. It’s very sticky, but still–don’t fret! Let it sit in a warm place, covered with more plastic wrap (which you may want to oil because it will stick when it rises). It will rise to just above the pan rim. When it’s almost there, turn on your oven to 450 degrees, and once the temperature has been reached, bake the two loaves for 30 minutes. They should reach an internal temperature of 205 degrees, or sound hollow with a nice crunchy golden exterior.
Those sesame seeds you see look very pretty, but they actually all fell off when I went to cut the bread. Seed at your own risk!
Note: You can also let the bread rise at room temperature for the first rise, it will take about 3 to 5 hours. Then shape it and let it rise to bake. You can also make additions when you cut the dough into two loaves; a good addition is walnut pieces and dried cranberries.
I’ve been seeing this making the rounds: Efficiency in the Kitchen to Reduce Food Waster from the NY Times. Right up my alley.
PSA: Local folks experiencing S.A.D. (and if you are not, I can’t understand you at all) go to Adam’s in Kingston before March 8th and check out their garden show. You can smell dirt! And see flowers!! And it’s cozy and humid in there. Ahhh.
It’s hard but I’m focusing on the garden right now. Hudson Valley Seed Library, anyone?