They might be even better than the bread itself.

By Stacey Ballis
May 24, 2020
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If you are among the legions of Americans tending a new sourdough starter, you’ve learned that the act of feeding it requires you dump or “discard” a large percentage of the spent starter before feeding it again. This paste of flour and water still has the lovely flavor and acidity imparted by the natural yeasts and their activity, just not the oomph to leaven a loaf. But that doesn’t mean you should just throw it away. Instead, embrace it as a magical ingredient to bring exciting flavor to other recipes!

First, how to store your sourdough starter discard

I keep a container in my fridge specifically for discard, since it usually takes a few feedings to get enough discard to use in another recipe. Be sure it is labeled so that you neither mistake it for your active starter nor does anyone accidentally throw it away! When you add more discard to the tub, just give it a quick stir to make it a cohesive glop.

Recipes that use sourdough discards

There are a lot of recipes you can source that specifically call for sourdough discard. One of the best resources for these is the King Arthur website, which has a whole section of discard recipes to enjoy. And Bake From Scratch Magazine has been doing Instagram videos of some of their favorite discard recipes (full disclosure, a couple of them are mine!).

But wait: You can go far beyond these recipes on your own with a little common-sense math.

The important thing to know about your discard

Starters, traditionally, are 100% hydration, meaning that when you feed, you are feeding equal amounts by weight of water and flour. That means your discard is 50% flour and 50% water.

Using discard in a baking recipe means you will be replacing equal percentages of flour and liquid listed in the recipe, with discard. I know, MATH. But think about it this way: One cup of discard is ½ cup of water and ½ cup of flour. So if you remove ½ cup of water or other liquid like milk and ½ cup of flour from your recipe, and replace it with a cup of discard, you are still keeping all of your percentages the same!

But don't go overboard and swap out ALL of the flour or liquid with discard. I stick to usually between ½-1 cup of discard per recipe, as it's there for both flavor and waste reduction. Now, meet my three favorite places to use discard: pancakes, crackers, and English muffins.

Using discard to make pancakes

Love the tang of a pancake made with buttermilk but there’s no buttermilk in your fridge? Salvation is herediscard will definitely bring that delicious bit of sour to your recipe. Try this basic pancake recipe: Swap in one cup of starter, and reduce the milk to ½ cup and the flour to ½ cup. Voila!

Using discard to make crackers

Crackers may be the single easiest thing to bake when you have discard on hand. I love it for little cheese snack crackers, because the tang of the discard underscores the tang of the cheese for a little boost! Try this recipe for cheese crackers, using one cup of starter instead of ½ cup of the flour and the ½ cup of water.

Using discard to make English muffins

Homemade English muffins are a surprising treat; they are actually really easy to make and have become a favorite bake at my house. Use this recipe and swap in one cup of discard for ½ cup of the water and ½ cup of the flour. If you want to amp up the sourdough notes a little bit, try adding ¼ teaspoon of citric acid to the dry ingredients.