about 10 pikelets
One of my favorite childhood stories is Strega Nona by Tomie dePaola. In this story, a mischievous young boy uses an old witch’s magical pasta pot while she’s away, only to discover he doesn’t know how to turn it off when he wants it to stop magically making pasta. The enchanted pot makes so much pasta it consumes the witch’s house, the countryside, and eventually, the nearby town. Sometimes, I equate my sourdough starter with the witch’s pot: a bubbling, supernatural concoction continuously creating discard, leaving me with jars and jars in the refrigerator, on the verge of taking over anything in its path.
This recipe for sourdough starter discard pikelet, commonly eaten in Australia and the U.K., made with flour, egg, milk, and baking powder, is a griddle bread that will gladly take large sums of your sourdough starter and put them to good—and delicious—use. A pikelet diverges from a pancake in that it’s smaller, sturdier, and heavier—all-around a bit more robust than its more ethereal counterpart. They’re delicious in a completely different way from the American breakfast classic, and are usually topped with lemon curd, whipped cream, or any fruit preserve you have squirreled away. Adding a bit of starter discard brings a subtle sourness to this charming food.
Your sourdough starter should be ripe when used to make these pikelets. A ripe starter has fermented for some number of hours after you’ve given it a feeding (refreshment) and has a sour aroma with loose consistency. Alternatively, use sourdough starter discard that’s been kept in the fridge for up to a week—the goal here is to use starter that’s had time to ferment. This recipe easily doubles, the leftovers frozen (once cooled to room temperature, place the pikelets in a freezer bag and seal shut) and quickly reheated—I like to place them in my toaster and gently toast them until warmed through—during the week. Doubling also helps use more of your starter, which is quite helpful if it’s overtaken your fridge, threatening your city block (much like mine has), with no witches to help turn it off.
A little trick I’ve seen in a few recipes to avoid having the first pikelet come out less-than-stellar is to place a small pat of butter in your preheated pan before cooking the first pikelet, then wipe the pan mostly clean with a paper towel. Then, scoop in the batter and cook as usual. You only need to add this butter a single time and all of your pikelets will come out the same. —Maurizio Leo
(1 cup) all-purpose flour, plus more as needed
(1 tablespoon) granulated sugar
(1/2 teaspoon) fine sea salt
(1 1/2 teaspoons) baking powder
(3/4 cup) whole milk, plus more as needed
(about 1 medium) egg
(1/2 cup stirred down) ripe sourdough starter (or discard), 100% hydration
Whipped cream, lemon curd, fruit preserves, or preferred topping (optional)
In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, sea salt, and baking powder.
In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together the milk, egg, and sourdough starter until smooth.
Pour the wet ingredients into the bowl with the dry ingredients and whisk until the batter is smooth. The batter should not be runny like a pancake or crepe batter; but should be a thick consistency similar to honey that very slowly pours off a spoon. If the batter is too thin, whisk in more flour, one tablespoon at a time, to thicken; if the batter is too stiff, like a nut butter, add milk, one tablespoon at a time, to thin. (Depending on the consistency of your sourdough starter, you may need to add up to 1/3 cup, as necessary.)
Heat a well-seasoned cast iron or nonstick griddle or skillet over medium heat until a drop of water flicked over the surface evaporates quickly. Place the butter on the cooking surface, swirl it around to coat, and then wipe it mostly clean with a paper towel (similar to making pancakes, this will help ensure the first pikelet won’t stick). In 2-ounce or 1/4-cup portions (a cookie scoop or measuring cup both work here), pour one pikelet round onto the preheated cooking surface. Use the back of the scoop to help the batter spread into a round shape if necessary—there isn’t an exact width requirement, but the thicker the pikelet the longer the cook time. Let cook for about 3 minutes, until small bubbles form on the surface and the underside is browned. Then, flip the pikelet and cook for an additional 2 to 3 minutes until the second side is browned. Repeat with the rest of the batter (you can cook one at a time, or as many as comfortably fit in the griddle or skillet).
Transfer the pikelets onto a wire rack. They can be served immediately or left to cool and eaten at room temperature, served with a dollop of fresh whipped cream, lemon curd, or preserves. I like these pikelets served warm or at room temperature, if making a large batch you can keep them warm in a 350°F (175°C) oven or let them cool and serve at room temperature.
Maurizio is the software engineer-turned-baker behind the award-winning sourdough website, The Perfect Loaf. Since baking his first loaf of bread, he's been obsessed with adjusting the balance between yeast and bacteria, tinkering with dough strength and hydration, and exploring everything sourdough. His New York Times Bestselling sourdough cookbook, The Perfect Loaf, is now available.
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