What to do with discarded (or “unfed”) sourdough starter

With so many people at home and bread hard to find in stores, a whole lot of people seem to have taken up baking. This is awesome! My friend Jen even live-streamed some bread-making to help folks get started.

The second-order effect, though, is that many stores are now out of yeast. One of my sisters was interested in making bread but couldn’t get yeast immediately, so I suggested the slower-but-more-accessible-when-there’s-been-run-on-yeast option: sourdough.

I’m not the only one thinking this way. I went to King Arthur Flour’s site to see if I could order some yeast for her, and even though they have no yeast for sale, their big homepage promo is for their excellent guide to making sourdough.

Their guide is the one I followed a few years ago when I made sourdough for the first time, and my sister and I are following it now to get our starter happy and thriving. (Well, sort of following it. Neither of us had whole-wheat flour on hand and I’m certainly not venturing out just for that. The all-purpose version seems to be doing just fine.)

However, part of building up a starter is throwing half of it away each day. That makes me feel wasteful (especially right now, when flour is not always easy to find in the stores) and silly, so I’ve collected a bunch of recipes that use the “unfed sourdough starter” (the part you are supposed to discard before feeding the starter fresh flour and water).

Not surprisingly, King Arthur Flour also has a bunch of these recipes (I tell you, they’re content-marketing geniuses). I’m pretty sure that’s where I originally got a lot of these recipes a few years ago. 😉

Here are some of my favorites:

If you’re looking for some ideas that aren’t recipes, I highly recommend this post from True Sourdough.

The other thing to keep in mind: assuming you’re feeding your starter with equal parts flour and water by weight (as most people do), you can use discarded starter in just about any recipe that calls for flour and water. You simply need to weigh out an appropriate amount of starter based on whichever ingredient weighs the least, and add extra of the other one to make up the rest.

So, for instance, if you have a recipe that calls for 1/2 cup water and 3 cups flour, you can add 236 grams of starter (which is about 4 ounces of water and 4 ounces—or a cup—of flour) plus 2 cups of flour.

If another recipe calls for a cup of flour and a cup of water, again, you’d add that same 236 grams of starter, but no extra flour, and a half-cup of water.

Of course, whatever you’re making will take on that sourdough tang, but in a lot of strongly flavored foods (like the gingerbread listed above), it comes through as more of a buttermilk tang than full-on sourdough.

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