Is a no-discard sourdough starter possible?
Hi, I like a lot of people have officially run out of yeast with no chances of finding any in the shops anytime soon. So I’m giving sourdough a try. However, all the discard makes me uneasy. I just couldn’t be throwing away that much flour! This will probably be a one time thing for me so I wondered if the only reason for discard was so you don’t end up with tons of starter. Is it possible to just make a starter in a smaller quantity. Like 30g flour to 30g water and just add that amount so you don’t end up with too much?
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I’ve done various no-waste starter maintenance schedules to good effect (by which I mean I made some tasty loaves that rose well!), even though professional bread people might absolutely judge me for them. 1) I’ve baked with week old, refrigerated starter. Take out what I need, feed, stick it right back in the fridge. I usually do a pre-ferment type thing where I mix my starter with some portion of dough before making my final dough, so I consider that “refreshing” my starter. In my experience a week without feeding is the absolute limit. 2) I’ve scaled down my starter so there’s only ~2tbsp of starter left after I’ve taken out what I need, and waited a few days to feed what’s left. This allows me to bake with a 3-5 day old starter instead of a full week old. Just don’t forget to feed that little bit a few days later! 3) Scale down your starter to no more than half a cup (mine is ~1/3c) , take out a portion and use it to build a fresh levain for your bake. Depending on how much you have left and when you’re going to bake again, you may be able to take out more for another bake without feeding. If not, there should be little left you can feed and leave for a week again. I’ve been doing #3 lately, but it takes some more time to do a levain build, and some feel for how to scale your starter. The difference between 1 and 3 is I would use a lot more starter for 1, enough for ~20% of my final dough, but for #3 I may use a tbsp or 2. Hope this helps!
The good news is: You can put sourdough discard toward a ton of other recipes (not just bread), which I personally find to be a fun challenge in the kitchen. Any recipe that calls for flour and water (or another liquid) is a candidate for using up your discard. Think: waffles, pancakes, cakes, crackers, cookies.
You just have to do a bit of math to figure out the swap. Take this waffle recipe as an example: https://food52.com/recipes/52761-hannah-kirshner-s-best-ever-vegan-waffles. Sourdough starter is half yeast, half water, by weight. This recipe calls for 1 cup (128 grams) of flour and 1/2 cup (114 grams) of water. So in theory, you could use 114 grams of sourdough discard, then adjust the amount of flour to 71 grams (about 1/2 cup) and the amount of water to 57 grams (1/4 cup).
Hope that helps and happy sourdough-ing!