Many bakers know that the secret to naturally leavened bread is a strong, active sourdough starter.
But sourdough starters can seem fickle at times.
Experts recommend feeding a starter twice daily. And at each feeding, you hold onto 1/2 cup of your original starter, discard the rest, and then add its same weight in water and flour.
With this schedule, you’d be discarding almost a cup of sourdough starter daily. While a cup might not seem like a lot on the surface, it can quickly add up. And if you don’t bake often, that discard will end up in the trash.
Do you really need to waste so much starter every day?
Well, that depends on a few factors.
How Often Do You Bake?
I don’t run a bakery at my house, and my family is fairly small. Even though I bake regularly, I couldn’t possibly use a cup of sourdough discard on a daily basis.
However, to minimize waste, I keep much smaller amounts of my sourdough discard. Instead of 1/2 a cup twice daily, I only feed my starter 1/4 cup daily. This ensures I have a constant supply of sourdough starter when I need it, but it is also means my sourdough starter is slower and less active as a result.
If you reduce your feedings to daily 1/4 cup amounts and it still feels like you’re baking too much, you can further reduce your feedings to weekly if you keep your starter in the fridge rather than on the countertop.
What Do You Want to Make?
Sourdough starters require regular feedings to stay active. If you don’t discard the excess, eventually you’ll have more starter than your feedings can sustain. After a few days, your daily 1/4 cup flour and water won’t be enough to feed your entire jar of starter, and your starter will be slow and sluggish, not much better than discard itself.
But that’s not necessarily a bad thing, depending on what you want to bake with it.
Although you will definitely need an active, well-maintained starter for certain artisan-style sourdough recipes, you can still make tasty bread with a sluggish, slow starter.
In fact, many of my favorite sourdough bread recipes use discard for flavoring to give bread that classic tang. To get a better rise in the oven, these recipes combine sourdough discard with commercial yeast. No need to worry about timing your baking with your starter feedings.
7 Sourdough Discard Bread Recipes
If you have a new starter or if you struggle to maintain your current starter, I recommend these sourdough recipes. These recipes make beautiful bread with a combination of discard and commercial yeast, making them a great option for beginning bakers.
7 Sourdough Discard Recipes That Aren’t Bread
I love bread. I absolutely love it. And I definitely make a lot of it because of how much I love it.
But even I get a little bored with the same recipes day in and day out. If you want to use up your sourdough discard and minimize waste, give these fun recipes a try.
My Secret for Baking With a Slow Starter
Sourdough discard recipes are a great way to bake with a slow and sluggish starter. You don’t have to worry about timing, and you can still enjoy that sourdough tang.
But what if you want to make naturally leavened artisan bread? Should you still discard your starter daily?
Let me tell you my little secret: No. You don’t have to discard your starter daily.
In case you didn’t see my White, Wheat, and Rye Artisan Sourdough Bread Recipe, you may want to check it out. In that particular recipe, I make a levain with my starter the night before I mix my bread.
To make the levain in that recipe, I take 3/4 of a teaspoon of my starter and combine it with 1/4 cup flour and 1/4 cup water and set it aside. This essentially mimics feeding an active starter, as you’re giving a small amount of starter a large amount of food.
By the time morning rolls around and I’m ready to mix my dough, I have an active, bubbly starter that’s ready to go. I’ve successfully used this technique with multiple artisan bread recipes and my bread has still risen beautifully.
Do You Have Suggestions?
You don’t have to waste flour on a daily basis if you want to maintain a sourdough starter. By adjusting how much you feed your starter and by choosing recipes that rely on discard, you don’t have to throw your discard in the trash every day.
But I realize that my recipe list is still somewhat small and limited. Do you have a favorite sourdough discard recipe that you don’t see here? Feel free to submit a recipe of your own and I’ll share it on my site! Or tell me about what you do with your starter discard in the comments below.
What am I missing here? If you only keep 1/2 cup of starter before each feeding and add 1/2 cup water and 1/2 cup flour… how will ai ever have 2 cups of starter for a loaf of bread? I will have tons of discard, but how do I build up to 2 1/2 cups of starter so I can use 2 cups and still have starter left to feed?
Okay, so there’s a few things to this question: First, 2 cups for a loaf of bread is a LOT of starter. I’ve only ever needed about 1 cup discard (not active starter) to make my more popular sourdough discard loaf. Most of my sandwich bread loaves only need about 1/2 cup starter (fed or unfed or discard), and most of my artisan loaves only need about a teaspoon of active starter to make a levain. However, my older pain de campagne recipe does use about 1 1/3 cup starter, so I can see that being a requirement for some recipe out there online.
That said, if you want a lot of active starter, you’ll just need to feed it more than you discard to build it up. In my article, I talk about how I don’t discard any of my starter. I just keep adding to it 1/4 cup flour and 1/4 cup water every day. No discard. Then every few days I bake about 1 cup’s worth of starter and repeat. By the day I bake, my starter isn’t as active as it is the first day after a feeding, but it still gets the job done.
In your case, you’ll probably want to bump up the amount of starter you feed it each day so the amount of food that goes in is enough to sustain the starter that’s already there. For example, let’s say you have your 1/2 cup starter. On the first day, you feed it 1/2 cup flour and 1/2 cup water. You now have 1 cup starter total now – it should get nice and bubbly thanks to your feeding. Now you have a choice: you can either discard some of it and keep feeding the same amounts you always do and you’re left with the same amount of starter you always have. Or you can keep all of it to build it up.
However, 1 cup of starter needs more food and water to sustain itself than 1/2 cup starter needs. If your goal is to build an active, bubbly starter, you’ll need to feed it even more the next day to keep it as bubbly as when it was just 1/2 cup. So, maybe on day 2, you feed your starter 1 cup flour and 1 cup water, you now have 2 cups starter. By day 3, you feed your starter 2 cups flour and 2 cups water, and now you have 4 cups of starter to work with – which is more than you need to make your bread.
And just for a little extra clarity: sourdough discard is sourdough starter that just hasn’t been fed enough. Discard and regular starter both have the same yeasts for baking bread. If you feel generous, you could even give your discard away to friends, tell them to feed it, and it would work just as well as your original starter. I hope that helps.
Thank you SO much for all this clarity! I appreciate so much all the time you took to help me understand!
You are so welcome! I’m sorry my response was just so long. If you have any other questions, just let me know. I love helping 🙂
I have a suggestion. If you already have a healthy and active starter, you don’t need to keep and feed it’s actual weight. I’ve been making bread with gifted starter since May 2020 and at first was overwhelmed with feedings and discard. And knowing the weight of the starter to add as much flour and water… Then I found a post on “Bake with Jack” that changed my game, the scrapings method!
I keep 30 to 50 grams of 100% hydration starter in the back of my fridge all the time, then pull it out every week or two, feed it exactly the amount of flour and water needed for my recipe (if 150 grams starter required, 75 grams flour, 75 grams water), let it become active 8 to 12 hours (depending on kitchen temp), use the 150 grams, and back the jar goes into the fridge with the 30 to 50 grams remaining. I’ve used this method to make up to 400 grams of starter (albeit has to be in 2 jars)! Works great for me!
This is an absolutely fantastic method! Thank you so much for this pointer. I really appreciate the advice.