The ONLY Sourdough Recipe You Need + How to Use Starter vs. Discard

Last Updated on October 10, 2023 by Gabby Hatten

Who would’ve thought sourdough would be such a buzz word in 2023!? Honestly, it’s got a cult following these days.. and for good reason! If you’ve been seeing all this talk about starter and discard but don’t know what it means or where to start, you’re in the right place (:

First, What IS Sourdough Starter?

Sourdough starter is a live culture of wild yeast and lactic acid bacteria that is used as a leavening agent in bread baking. It is made by mixing flour and water and allowing it to ferment over a period of time. During fermentation, the naturally present yeasts and bacteria in the environment and on the grains begin to multiply and feed on the carbohydrates in the flour, creating carbon dioxide gas and organic acids.

The starter serves as a natural leavening agent, providing the rise and flavor in sourdough bread. It is called a “starter” because it acts as the initial culture that kick-starts the fermentation process. Once the starter is established, it can be continuously fed with fresh flour and water to keep it active and ready for baking.

Sourdough starter has a distinct tangy flavor and a complex aroma, which sets it apart from bread made with commercial yeast. It also has several benefits compared to bread made with commercial yeast, including improved digestibility, enhanced nutrient availability, and extended shelf life.

Maintaining a sourdough starter requires regular feeding and care to keep it healthy and active. It can be a rewarding and fascinating process, as each starter develops its own unique flavor profile over time based on the local environment and feeding routine.

Next, What IS Discard?

Sourdough discard refers to a portion of sourdough starter that is removed or “discarded” during the process of maintaining and feeding the starter. When you feed your sourdough starter, you typically discard a portion of the mature starter before refreshing it with fresh flour and water. This discard is not used in the current feeding but can still be utilized in various recipes instead of being wasted.

Sourdough discard is still rich in wild yeast and lactic acid bacteria, although it may not be as active as the refreshed starter. It can be repurposed in a variety of ways, offering a unique flavor and texture to the final products.

Some common uses for sourdough discard include:

  1. Recipes: Sourdough discard can be incorporated into a wide range of recipes, such as pancakes, waffles, muffins, biscuits, crackers, breadsticks, and even cakes. The discard adds depth of flavor and a subtle tanginess to these baked goods.
  2. Flavor enhancer: Sourdough discard can be added to doughs or batters that utilize commercial yeast to enhance the flavor profile. It can be used in bread, pizza dough, or any other yeast-based recipe to impart a hint of sourdough’s distinct taste.
  3. Starter rescue: If you accidentally neglect or forget to feed your sourdough starter, you can revive it by using the discard. By refreshing the discard with fresh flour and water, you can revive the dormant yeast and bacteria, restoring the starter’s activity.
  4. Composting: If you don’t have an immediate use for the discard, it can be composted. The natural fermentation process of the discard can contribute beneficial microorganisms to your compost pile, enriching the soil.

Sourdough discard provides an opportunity to minimize waste and explore creative possibilities. It allows you to embrace the sustainability aspect of sourdough baking by making the most of every bit of your starter.

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Supplies

All you need is two mason jars, measuring cups**, flour, and water!

If you want to splurge, below are all the tools I personally use (:

*Note: If you are in a drier climate, you’re going to want to do more of a 1:1 ratio, One cup flour, one cup water. I am in a humid climate therefore what works best for me is slightly less water to flour ratio.

**If you have a kitchen scale- use it! Measuring in grams verses using measuring cups is preferred.

Sourdough Starter

Prep Time 10 minutes

Equipment

  • 2 mason jars

Ingredients

  • 1 cup all purpose flour unbleached
  • 3/4 cup water

Instructions

  • add the water and flour to a clean, dry mason jar.
  • stir with a rubber spoon/spatula for roughly 3 minutes
  • you should have a wet, sticky dough when done, think thick pancake batter!
  • mark your jar with an expo marker or rubber bands you can properly monitor the rise.
  • leave in a cabinet or store on your counter.
  • When it comes to feeding when not using, you're going to need to discard so you have room to feed and let it grow! This is where your second mason jar comes in (: pour half of the starter into the second jar and keep that jar in your fridge. Voila! You've started your discard jar (:

Notes

IF USING A KITCHEN SCALE: starting measurements should be 25 grams water 25 grams flour. This will eliminate the need to discard the first few times since starting with a smaller amount. Do not save discard until it’s been 10 days- there is bad bacteria going on.
Ready to Bake? Starter should be at minimum doubling within 4-6 hours, multiple days in a row. Based on personal experience, I recommend waiting a solid month.

Author Profile

Gabby Hatten
Gabby Hatten
Hello there, I'm Gabby! I am a mother of three, married to my wonderful husband Marco, and I have a deep passion for simple living, vintage homes, and cooking everything from scratch! Although I grew up in Las Vegas, my husband's military service brought us to the east coast, where we have now made coastal North Carolina our home. While I didn't grow up on a farm, I have always been fascinated by that lifestyle and have dedicated my adult life to learning and embracing those skills, which I am excited to share with all of you!

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