You’ve tried your hand at baking a few loaves. Now try mixing things up.

By Chris Malloy
April 17, 2020
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You have a sourdough starter. It bubbles and grows and powers your breads, giving them levity and a nice mellow tang. Maybe you’ve baked a few loaves. Maybe you’ve baked a few dozen. You’re ready to mix things up, to think beyond the loaf. Well, the possibilities are many.  Here are five great uses for starter discard (the starter portion you remove before feeding) or for calling on your starter at peak performance.

Savory Pancakes

One of the criticisms of sourdough starters is that they’re wasteful. Before feeding your starter, you throw most away. But you don’t have to discard your discard. Instead, pour it into a hot pan with roughly a tablespoon of olive oil sizzling at medium heat. Spread that starter thin, so it takes the shape of a disc. Add some salt and pepper, garlic powder, and whatever additional flavorings you’re feeling. Fennel seeds. Oregano. Or maybe even a spice blend like garam masala.

After three to five minutes on each side, you’ll have a really nice—and very tangy—savory pancake. Hot and doughy out of the pan, it makes a hearty snack, especially after a dunking in chile oil, labneh, pesto, or whatever leftover sauces you have waiting in the fridge.

Waffles

Using starter in waffles can give them deeper nuance and finer texture. The added flavor notes also seem to open a wider door to other grains. Try using, say, 50 percent spelt flour and 50 percent white flour rather than strictly white. There’s room to experiment here.

When making sourdough waffles, let the batter sit overnight so it’s ready for the iron when you wake up in the morning. Unless you have a wildly productive starter, you’ll probably still want to include a small amount of baking powder in the batter, that way you get a fluffy waffle.

Pizza

You can use your sourdough bread dough recipe to make the base of a pizza or two. Instead of shaping it into a loaf, stretch it thin on an oiled sheet pan. When making pizza from a sourdough starter, you’ll want to factor in the starter’s tang. With too many tomatoes, which are also tangy, the collected tang can be a bit overpowering. The solution? Go light on the red sauce. This is also a sterling occasion to break out the cheese and bake a white pie.

Cinnamon Rolls

Think the sour nature of your starter will be too much for sweets? Think again. It fits right into the assertive flavor mixture of baked preparations like cinnamon rolls, right alongside raisins, warm spices, and the creamy sweetness of icing. Using some starter to trigger all or part of the rise of cinnamon rolls can give them more complexity.

Pretzels

Sourdough pretzels are something that you’ve probably eaten from the grocery store snack bag. Sometimes, they’re insanely crunchy. You can make the soft pretzel version at home using your starter rather than packaged yeast to spark the modest rise. Brush the tops of your dough rods or twists with butter. Sprinkle seeds, salt, and spices if you want. And just as with sourdough bread, they’re best still warm from the oven.