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.
6 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.
3 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.