Whether you've been making sourdough bread for a while, or you're new to building a sourdough starter, knowing how to add sourdough discard to any recipe is a really handy skill to have in your sourdough skill set.
Whether you're wanting to add discarded sourdough starter to your favorite quick breads or the banana bread recipe that was handed down from your grandmother, I'm going to show you the easiest way to do it.
Using a simple calculation is the best way to add discard to a recipe, however once you're more experienced, you might like to just follow your instincts. But the first time, I definitely recommend following this guide.
Of course, if you would prefer to skip the math and just use some tried and tested sourdough discard recipes, then you'll love this collection of 60+ sourdough discard recipes - all tested and loved in The Pantry Mama kitchen!
What Is Sourdough Discard?
Sourdough discard can be defined as the portion of unfed sourdough starter that you remove from the jar before adding fresh flour and water. This "leftover sourdough starter" is called discard because it can be discarded or thrown away.
But, if you'd prefer not to waste this liquid gold, then you can of course add it into many different things - from sourdough English muffins to sourdough zucchini bread or even sourdough onion rings - sourdough discard is super versatile! In fact many sourdough bakers use their discard more than their actual sourdough starter! Remember, you can't use your sourdough discard until your starter is at least 7 days old.
Sourdough discard is such a popular topic here that you might find these resources handy:
- How Long Does Sourdough Discard Last In the Fridge?
- Do You Have To Discard Your Starter Every Time You Feed It?
- Are Sourdough Discard Recipes Really Healthy?
So ... why add sourdough discard to other recipes?
Why Add Sourdough Discard To Non Sourdough Recipes?
There are many reasons to add sourdough discard to non sourdough recipes. These can include:
- adding more complex flavor to your baked goods
- reducing food waste by using up your discard in non traditional ways
- can be used as a thickener (in soups, gravies, sauces, curries etc)
- can be used as a binder (for breading chicken or making granola)
- discard from a mature sourdough starter can be used as a leavening agent in some cases
How To Add Discard To Practically Anything
If you're just starting out in adding discard to recipes then it's best to use baker's math to work it out accurately. This is why I recommend using a kitchen scale when making sourdough, rather than using volume measures. Volume measures are inaccurate and cannot be used for baker's percentages. But don't worry, the math is really easy for this!
When you want to add discard to a recipe, you should follow these steps:
- Weigh out how much discard you want to add to the recipe (no more than 200g).
- Divide the weight into 2. Subtract this amount of flour and water (or other liquid) from the recipe.
- Add the sourdough discard in place of these amounts of flour and water.
- Bake the recipe following the instructions. Treat sourdough starter as a liquid.
Make sure you write down your experiments, so if it's next level good, you'll know how to repeat it next time!
You might also be interested in how to convert a yeast recipe to a sourdough recipe.
Example Of Adding Sourdough Discard to Blueberry Muffins
Sometimes, seeing an example of calculations can help you to be able to understand it better, so here's the calculation above applied to this basic blueberry muffin recipe (the recipe is only for illustrative purposes - here's a tried and true sourdough blueberry muffin recipe if you want to try it)
50g Vegetable Oil
100g Caster Sugar
200g All Purpose Flour
12g Baking Powder
So if we take out the liquid and flour weights, we have 125g of milk and 200g of flour. These are what we will need to change in order to add in some sourdough discard. Let's say we have 100g of sourdough discard to use up.
Step 1 - Weigh out 100g of sourdough discard
Step 2 - Divide 100g into 2 = 50g (so we need to take out 50g of liquid and 50g of flour from the Blueberry Muffin recipe)
Step 3 - 125g Milk minus 50g = 75g Milk and 200g of flour minus 50g = 150g of flour so we would add in 100g of discard plus 75g milk and 150g of flour (as opposed to the original amounts in the recipe)
Step 4 - Bake the recipe following the instructions. Add the sourdough starter to the liquid ingredients in the muffin recipe.
What Liquids Can Sourdough Discard Replace?
When looking at a recipe, you would define liquids as water, milk, juice, tea, coffee etc.
Just remember that if you are taking out some juice or coffee in a recipe and replacing with a portion of sourdough discard, this will also reduce the flavor of the liquid, as there will not be as much added to the recipe.
Oils, butters, sour cream, yoghurt etc are not considered liquid that can be replaced by a portion of excess sourdough starter. This includes olive oil, coconut oil, vegetable oil and melted butter.
How To Use Sourdough Discard To Thicken Sauces & Curries etc
Sourdough discard can be used to easily thicken sauces, gravies, soups, curries, casseroles or pretty much anything where you would add flour or corn starch to thicken.
My sourdough starter jar is fed daily (often twice) so I always have extra sourdough starter to be used up. You don't necessarily have to measure when it comes to thickening sauces and gravies, you can add a few spoonfuls of discard (just like you would all purpose flour).
Using discard in this way comes with experience and experimentation - so don't be scared to add some to your next sauce!
You could also use this sourdough bechamel sauce recipe as a guide too.
What Can Go Wrong When Adding Discard to A Recipe?
While the maths and process for adding sourdough discard to any recipe is fairly simple, there are things that can go wrong. Baking is science after all ... and occasionally things don't go as we planned. Some of the things you'll need to keep an eye on when adding discard are:
- While discard is technically half water and half flour, it acts more like a liquid than a solid, so adding a portion of discard in place of some of the flour can cause what you're adding it to to be stickier or runnier than normal. This is where experience kicks in and you might need to tweak the amounts where necessary.
- Adding too much discard to a recipe can alter the flavor and taste of the baked goods - and often not in a good way. Too much discard or discard that is too old can make the end result too sour and at worst case inedible. Try to use "newer" discard to avoid the sour flavor, especially in sweet baking.
- In most cases, sourdough discard cannot be used to replace the leavening agent in your recipe. You will still need to add a leavening agent like baking powder, baking soda or instant yeast.
- Some recipes can be tricky to add discard to. For example, cookies don't necessarily have a liquid you can replace, so you will need experiment when adding discard as adding too much can change the flavor and texture of the final product - and in the case of cookies, discard can cause them to be cakey.
Extra Tips for Adding Sourdough Discard To Any Recipe
Whether you're an experienced sourdough baker or you're just starting your sourdough journey, these tips can help you avoid disaster when adding a portion of your starter to your favorite recipe:
- For most recipes, it's best if your sourdough starter is at room temperature. This will make it easier to combine with the other ingredients.
- When using whole wheat flour in your recipes, you may need to leave a little more liquid in to account for the higher absorption rate of whole grain flours.
- Try not to use a lot of discard in any one recipe. I would recommend no more than 200g in any one recipe. In general, 100g of discard is plenty - unless you're using a lot of flour (ie over 400g).
- Don't use discard that's been sitting in the fridge for a long time in your sweet baking. It will give your sweet baked goods an unpleasant flavor that's hard to cover with icing.
- You can of course use active sourdough starter in place of discard if you wish. Often active sourdough starter gives a better profile for sweet baked good because it's more milder tasting.
- Try to treat your sourdough discard as a liquid when adding it to recipes. For example when adding it to a muffin recipe, you would combine the starter with the other wet ingredients, before adding it to the dry ingredients and stirring. Recipes are written so that the order of adding and mixing ingredients gives you the best result. Messing with the process can sometimes have a detrimental effect to the end result.
Recipes To Be Made With Discard
If you're looking for some tried and tested recipes to add your discard to, why not try some of these easy sourdough recipes using discard:
- Sourdough Pancakes
- Sourdough Brownies
- Sourdough Cinnamon Rolls
- Sourdough Banana Bread
- Sourdough Pie Crust
Frequently Asked Questions
Absolutely you can! Active starter can be used in the same way as sourdough discard in sweet or savory baking. You can add active sourdough starter to any recipe you would add discard to following the same calculation.
Yes you can add sourdough discards from different days together in the same jar. You just need to make sure you stir it well and you don't leave it sitting in the fridge for too long. Sourdough discard should be used within two weeks. You can read more about how to store sourdough discard in the fridge here.
The short answer is yes you can, however the problem with using a boxed mix is you don't really know how much mix to take out - since the flour, sugar etc is all mixed together. In this case, I would add a small amount of sourdough discard (up to 75g) without removing anything from the recipe. Adding more than this could mess with the final result.
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