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?

JessM13
  • Posted by: JessM13
  • April 16, 2020
  • 441 views
  • 6 Comments

6 Comments

Stephanie B. April 16, 2020
Yes, discard free starter is totally possible. And I don’t mean by thinking of ways to use it up when you really aren’t feeling it. In addition to the tips already posted, check out King Arthur flour’s post on Maura Brickman https://www.kingarthurflour.com/blog/2020/04/06/dont-be-a-bread-hostage and Breadtopia’s post on baking with old starter: https://breadtopia.com/challenging-sourdough-starter-convention/.

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!
 
Stephanie B. April 16, 2020
Sorry for 2 I meant I consider that preferment refreshing/livening up the starter I’ve removed to bake with, not what’s left, that has to be fed.
 
Jennifer W. April 16, 2020
Ive always been uncomfortable with that waste too, especially now that flour may not be available every shopping trip! I came across this "quarantiny starter" which uses only 1T of flour a day, a total of 3 cups throughout the process. Im currently on day 5 of mine! Maybe it will work for your needs...

https://wordloaf.substack.com/p/quarantinystarter-project-hq
 
Jennifer W. April 16, 2020
Ive always been uncomfortable with that waste too, especially now that flour may not be available every shopping trip! I came across this "quarantiny starter" which uses only 1T of flour a day, a total of 3 cups throughout the process. Im currently on day 5 of mine! Maybe it will work for your needs...

https://wordloaf.substack.com/p/quarantinystarter-project-hq
 
BakerBren April 16, 2020
What Emma said! And, the King Arthur Flour website has an entire recipe section devoted to sourdough discard. The best way to avoid discarding is by using it to bake. I maintain a 50g flour / 50g water / 50g culture starter in a pint jar and it's more than enough for my multiple bakes a week. So, you can definitely scale down. 30/30/30g is good, that would give you 60g to play with during a feeding span. Just always keep the amount you need to seed the next feeding. And, to answer your question about not discarding--you shouldn't just add fresh flour and water without removing/discarding because it won't maintain the balance of a healthy sourdough culture. Think of it as waste building up without being removed. Now think of that in terms of a kitty litter box never getting dumped and only having more kitty litter added. Yuck! That's how the yeast eventually feels.
 
Emma L. April 16, 2020
Hi! Totally get the discomfort with sourdough discard—it can feel wasteful—but it is an inevitable part of the sourdough process (unless you want to start a new starter every time you make a recipe with sourdough).

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!
 
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