The Fresh Loaf

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Discard sourdough starter?

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NillaFish's picture
NillaFish

Discard sourdough starter?

Hello. Yes, I am one of those people who hates waste. So I was just wondering if you have any ideas on how to use discard sourdough starter. By the way, what is the difference between discard and fed starter? Is it just the flavor? Or does the discard not leaven as well as the fed?

 

Thanks! 

OldWoodenSpoon's picture
OldWoodenSpoon

in a wide variety of ways.  It is also a topic of common discussion over the years here on TFL, making site search yor friend.  I typed use discard starter into the search bar, and if you click on the link you will find what I found.  You can get the same thing by typing something similar into that search box found at the top of every page on TFL. 

I myself prefer to save up my discards and periodically turn them into the most delicious sourdough pancakes, or waffles if I have a large quantity collected.  I have also, from time to time, made sourdough flour tortillas out of my accumulated discards, or even sourdough blueberry (or other berry) muffins. There are many other uses too, and this search may well lead you to ones you favor.  You will no doubt get many direct suggestions here in this thread as well.

The difference between discard and fed starter depends somewhat on time, and of course on timing.  Most of us, or at least I myself, divide  "stock" starter into two parts when I feed.  The largest part goes into the "discard" collection, and the balance gets fed.  That makes "fed" starter the survivor, and the "discard" part the expendable portion, but at the time of division they are otherwise identical.  If you feed your starter first and then separate out some for stock and the balance to "discard", then they are alike for a period of time.  The fed starter goes on to mature and enter another cycle of feeding/division.  The discards go into their receptacle and into the refrigerator where they slowly consume the remaining food available and generate acidity, and a certain amount of hooch on the surface.  This matter of timing causes an ever widening gap of difference between the fed starter growing along and the discard slowly deteriorating.  In my house we find that the pancakes and waffles are best when the discard is pretty old and acidic.  They get a really wonderful sour tang when that is the case.

Now that I have written this I find myself hoping someone comes along quickly with a more clear explanation for you!
Best of Luck
OldWoodenSpoon

edit:  Oh yes, you can also use your discards to immediately bake some bread!  Search for the 123 formula for how to calculate the amount of flour, water and salt you need to use up a known quantity of "discard" starter.

RobynNZ's picture
RobynNZ

Although an old post Paul (rainbowz on TFL) provides a clear and amusing explanation regarding the need to discard starter on his blog. 

There is a group of bakers contributing to a fun website called Sourdough Surprises, they have come up with all manner of ideas for using starter discard. 

I have seen the process of  refreshing the starter being compared to cleaning out the birdcage, ie  providing fresh food to the 'bugs' and diluting their by-products. 

Many people keep their starter in the fridge, without feeding, removing some a day or two prior to baking to give it a few feeds in a warm environment to 'reactivate' the yeast. This is one way of limiting the amount of discard. If you search the archives here you will find many, many examples of how people look after their starters. Also you do not need to keep a large starter (if you follow the link at the bottom of  Paul's post he provides some suggestions for quantities which is helpful). With some experimentation you'll figure out  a method that works in your conditions and matches your baking schedule. Meantime take a look through the archives on TFL and see what works for other people.

 Be prepared for multi answers, we all have different ideas and ways of working with our starters!

Cheers, Robyn

 

ichadwick's picture
ichadwick

I used some excess levain with a poolish in a bread with commercial yeast. Adding it to commercial yeast bread was an idea I read about in Peter Reinhart's Artisan Breads Every Day. I didn't follow his recipe - instead I added it to a poolish I had already made, and then into the dough. Really like the result. Flavour was great. Added just that little extra punch.

Poolish was 190g each flour/water (the final dough is 390g flour). I added about 150-200g starter. Had to guess a bit on the resulting hydration, so I held back a bit of water in the final dough. Might have over estimated the hydration, but the bread was pretty good. 

Antilope's picture
Antilope

I add 200 gm of starter to 500 gm of flour, along with instant yeast, using the starter as a pate fermentee (old dough) to add flavor to the French bread. With the short proof times, it doesn't develop sour (which I don't want in the French bread), but it adds a fuller flavor.

NillaFish's picture
NillaFish

Thanks to all of you! You are all really helpful. Now, I'm just going to go on ahead and experiment... :)

dabrownman's picture
dabrownman

in the fridge as long as you bake from it often enough ( I bake once a week from mine), never feed it and never have any waste at all.  Others just make an extra 10 g of levain when they make one for a bread and put that in the fridge for the next bake a week later.  Some others just save some of the dough from today's bake (old dough) and refrigerate the held back dough for making the next bread - Very famous SF bakeries do this every day without refrigerating since they bake every day.  I too hate waste and it turns out there are a lot of ways to reduce SD waste to zero.

Happy Baking

polish bread baker's picture
polish bread baker

To save sourdough material (i.e., flour) and to avoid the pressure of baking every week, I freeze my leftover sour after using the majority of it to make "today's" bread.  When I first start preparing the starter, I try to judge how much I will need for the bread of today, and how much I want to save by freezing.  Then, I adjust the quantity of flour I add to each stage, so that the total meets my needs.  I use 4-or 8-ounce Mason jars to store the frozen product, depositing 2-to 4-ounces of sour in each jar.  As a result, my discards are just the bowl scrapings, and the frozen sour defrosts in a future day.  I've used this "trick" for about a year, with good results; but note that I use sourdough for heavier breads, like rye and pumpernickel.  I haven't tried lighter breads, but why not?

NillaFish's picture
NillaFish

Never thought of that! Good idea- I should try that. 

Capn Dub's picture
Capn Dub

Use it to make pancakes.  KA has a recipe on their site.

I used some a few days ago to make English muffins.  I froze them, and I take a couple out to thaw for breakfast.  Here's a link to my earlier post, with a picture, which has a link to the KA recipe. 

ElPanadero's picture
ElPanadero

Personally I don't really like all of the confusion created by what I believe is just semantics, for what is really a very simple concept.  People seem to present the feeding of sourdough starters with all sorts of mystery and  hocus pocus and present it as if discarding significant quantities of starter was a planned part of the maintenance regime.  I think that's silly and I think much of what is stated is just semantics.

Take dabrownman's statement above :

"I bake once a week from mine, never feed it and never have any waste at all"

This can not be literally true.  If you never fed your starter you would have run out of it long ago.  This is semantics.  At some point, you are adding flour and water to your starter and retaining some portion of it for next week's baking.  The point at which you do that is largely irrelevent and what you choose to call it also largely irrelevent.

The method you mentioned where SF bakers hold back a piece of dough is a case in point.  Are they "feeding"?  Yes of course.  The pieces of dough held back go into the doughs the next day (which of course is adding more flour and water to them) so they are fed, and a portion held back for the next day.  It's the same process whatever we call it, whatever point we choose to conduct it.

Recipes and methods are myriad, some using small quantities of starter to build poolishes or leavens or preferments (call them what you will) overnight or for long periods, others calling for quantities of active starter straight into the recipe.  In the end it is all the same thing.  For everyone, there exists a quantity of active starter (in whatever form, liquid starter, bits of dough etc) which is being kept.  The starter is used in the baking of breads.  a portion of it is fed flour and water, kept and subsequently used for baking at a later time.  Rinse repeat.

The issue or concept of "discards" is in all honesty a bit of a misnomer.   Why do I say this?  Because in simple terms, you only discard starter if you have chosen to keep too large a quantity of it in the first place.  I really believe it is that simple.

Let me simplify this with an example.

Think about the milk in your fridge.  You buy say a 4 pint carton of milk every so often, knowing it will last so many days, you use it and then you go buy some more.  You kind of know how much you generally use and buy accordingly.  Just occasionally, we find we haven't used as much milk as we would normally use and what we have goes off, and so we discard it and go buy some fresh but for the most part, we know what quantity we will use from period to period and we buy only what we need.  Anything we discard therefore is (should be) small and infrequent.

Now, could you imagine going to the shops and buying 3 times the quantity of milk you normally buy to keep in the fridge?  Why would you do that?  It would make no sense at all.  The extra milk will not get used, it will go past it's 'Use By Date' and then you would discard it.   What a waste! 

It's the same with our starter.  We should only keep that quantity of it which we know we will use on a regular basis.  Then we will use a quantity of it to bake with, maybe over a few days, then refresh the rest, discarding nothing at all, just adding flour and water to what we have left because what we have left is the right quantity to now keep without needing to discard.  If it wasn't, if we had too much after refreshing and needed to discard, then just like the milk scenario, it means we would have been keeping too much quantity of it in the first place.

Now, before anyone jumps on me,  I will concede that baking schedules might vary and estimating just how little starter to keep could, at times, result in us slightly overestimating or underestimating at times, but really we shouldn't be too off the mark.   And yes I will also concede that at times we will go for periods without baking any bread (say during a vacation) and your starter may then need feeding without you doing any baking in which case yes on that specific occasion you will discard the extra which you're not going to use.

Overall however, we shouldn't be planning to fail !   It's makes no sense at all to actually plan to maintain huge quantities of starter that we are unlikely to use up and thus force ourselves to discard large quantities of it when we come to feeding it.  There really is no need at all for any major discard that I can see.

The only real exception I can envisage is someone who hardly ever bakes but still wants the comfort factor of having some starter in the fridge "just in case".   So they will be feeding and discarding to have that luxury.  For me this feels similar to someone who has say 2 cars but hardly ever drives the 2nd one but keeps it just in case there is a need.  They therefore have to foot the expense of insurance and road tax for that "just in case" comfort which seems a bit of a waste. 

Don't get me wrong, when I first started out I used to try keeping way too much starter on a "just in case" basis and thereby forced myself to discard and thus waste lots of flour, but now I see how simple it actually is and how with a little planning you can build up a larger quantity of starter for a specific bake the night before.  Hence I plan to only ever maintain about 50g of starter in the fridge, a tiny amount really, but there will be no need for any discard.

Hope at least some of this make sense :-)

EP

NillaFish's picture
NillaFish

Then I sat down and sorted out my thoughts. Thanks for this concept- I wonder why I didn't think of it before.You can always build up your starter when you need it... hmm... I see it now! 

chris319's picture
chris319

S.F. bakers don't "feed" their mother sponge in the sense the word is used here. They replenish it. They use a portion of the sponge to make that day's bread and then replenish it, making more sponge for the next day's bake. This is similar to what I do. My starter is kept at room temperature in a glass peanut-butter jar and is stirred every day. When I bake I measure out some starter from the jar and add it to the recipe. I then replenish the starter by adding more flour and water and mixing well. The old starter inoculates the new flour and it's ready to go again in 24 hours. So far it's worked great with no refrigeration, no mold and no discards. Once in a while I add too much new flour and water and it overflows the peanut-butter jar; that's the only time I discard any (by wiping it off the kitchen counter). Over the holidays I went for about a week and a half without baking (out of town) and the starter began to get a little thick. I added a small quantity of water and stirred -- problem solved.

Note also that S.F. bakers discard nothing. Flour costs money and they're not in business to throw money in the garbage can. It's one thing for the Sunday baker at home to discard a cup of starter, quite another to discard half a 50-pound sack of flour.

All this black magic and hocus pocus is nonsense.

NillaFish's picture
NillaFish

that you put it that way. I guess I just got confused, being a beginner SD baker. Thanks for your input! 

ElPanadero's picture
ElPanadero

I think we seem to in agreement here, i.e. in that no discard is really needed if you only keep that quantity of starter you need for regular baking.  But at the same time you demonstrated precisely the kind of semantics I was talking about when you said SF bakers don't "feed" but "replenish" and "mother sponge" rather than starter.  It's all a nonsense.  Of course they are feeding it and of course it is a starter, a mix fundamentally of flour and water to which more flour and water is regularly added.  It's a simple exponential growth of a yeast.  All you have to do is determine how many loaves you're likely to bake each week and maintain a small quantity of starter to match both that quantity AND the amount of building time you are prepared to put up with for those loaves.  The combination of these two things determines how small a quanitity you need to maintain without the need for any substantial discarding.  Simples !  :-)

chris319's picture
chris319

"Mother sponge" or "sponge" was the term used by San Francisco bakeries of yore for their firm starter. This is well documented.

As I illustrated, you don't necessarily need to keep just a small amount of starter on hand. I keep a peanut-butter jar full of liquid starter, enough for several loaves and it works just great -- room temperature, no mold, stir every day.

"Replenish" is the more precise word because they were replacing a used-up portion, the very meaning of the word "replenish". They didn't have someone discarding a portion and adding more flour every few hours as amateur bakers do,without using some of it up. Look up the meaning of the word "replenish" and you'll see that it's not "all nonsense". Also look up the manufacturing process used by the S.F. bakeries, documented right here on TFL.

ElPanadero's picture
ElPanadero

I appreciate the feedback.  Don't get me wrong here, when I say "it's all nonsense" I'm referring only to the fact that the artisan baking world seems somewhat obsessed with creating a myriad of names for the same things which just serves to confuse people especially when they are starting out.  I have no beef what we call the ferment of flour and water, call it starter, sponge, grandmother, mother, I don't really care, I just wish we could have more consistency of usage.   Equally, I'm not saying we should keep a small quantity of starter, I'm saying we should keep only that which we need for regular baking needs to avoid the need for any discard.  For yourself that's a peanut butter jar full, for me (and I'm still refining this) it is less than 50g unless I plan to do a lot of experimenting with different breads.  The optimum amount will be different for each of us and will be based on how many loaves we want to bake and how much time we have available to prepare them in advance. 

Take your peanut butter jar.  Let's say it's enough to make 5 loaves each requiring 150g of . . . sponge :-) So 750g being held in the jar.  You could, if you so chose (and if you had the time), decide to keep just 250g in the jar instead.  Then when you wanted to bake a loaf, you would take say 50g of it the night before you want to bake and add 50g flour and 50g water to it to make 150g of active . .  sponge ready for baking the next day.  You still have 200g left in the jar ready to do the same for the remaining 4 loaves.

The end result is effectively the same, each loaf gets 150g of active sponge.  In one scenario you prepare 750g of it ready to use throughout the week and in the other scenario you only maintain 250g but plan ahead and build the 150g required for each loaf overnight.  The only real difference is the amount of time you have available to do such pre-builds.  Both are quite valid approaches and both should not require any discard at all so long as you have guesstimated accurately how many loaves you will bake during the week.

Anyway, I was just trying to make that simple point really as the thread to me, seemed to be asking what to do with all the discard as if people were planning to have a maintenance and feeding regime that would produce lots of discard (maybe I misunderstood the OP?).  My view is that discards ought not to be necessary.  I hope you won't take my post the wrong way, and if I have inadvertently offended then I do apologise.

ATB

EP

chris319's picture
chris319

... as distinguished from a liquid starter.

As noted previously, bakeries can't afford to throw flour away. In my experience, liquid starter will last for quite a while between bakes, no discarding necessary. Bakeries remake their sponges every day because of their daily bake schedules.

ElPanadero's picture
ElPanadero

Agreed. In many ways it's much easier for bakeries as they bake every day to a standard pattern.  The quantities are huge too.  In the bakeries I have worked with I've had my arms up to the elbow in starter when it was my turn to have the "pleasure" of manually replenishing them at the end of the day! 

ATB

NillaFish's picture
NillaFish

that this hasn't occurred to me before. I just saw it as discard & feed, not replenish. Thanks for both of your inputs- very helpful!