The Fresh Loaf

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Using stiff sourdough discard

Patti Y's picture
Patti Y

Using stiff sourdough discard

I am working on a NMNF starter, but currently I have discard of 62.5% hydration to use. I want to make a loaf of bread, but I don't know where to begin. I want to use as much discard as I can. The discard has been refrigerated for about 3 days. 

If I have a 8stiff sourdough discard at 62.5% hydration, how do I use it in a recipe that doesn't specify starter hydration?

1. Do I assume the recipe means to use 100% hydration since it didn't specify?

If that is the case, I think I would take the 195g of discard (120g rye flour and 75g water) and add water to make it 100%. 120 - 75 = 45 so I would add 45g of water to the refrigerated starter. This would give me 240g of starter. The recipe may call for more or for less than that amount. 

2. If I have extra after taking it to 100%, what do I do with the extra starter not needed for the recipe? Trash it? If I add it back to the other 62.5% starter in my refrigerator, that changes it from 62.5% to higher hydration so I shouldn't do that.

3. Do I have to feed it 3 times and let it double 3 times before using it? Or can I add yeast to the recipe and use the discard only for flavor?

4. How do I know my starter has the right kind of beasties in it? This worries me more than anything.

5. My rye starter is just a ball of dough and has been for a week. It has never grown at all. It never rises. No bubbles. I divide it every day and feed it. Kept 74-78°F.  I remove 100g starter dough and feed it 60g rye flour and 50g water every day. I have no idea if it is doing its job or not. 

This is such a headache...learning how to make sourdough starter for my diabetic husband.  I may tell him he is just going to have to give up bread, since I am so frustrated with creating the starter and using the starter discard. I spend all my time reading posts and not baking anything or reading bread books. He may be buying sourdough from the store even though I know it is not very good.   I have a headache and my eyes are crossing......

Abe's picture
Abe (not verified)

Then make a yeasted loaf replacing some of the flour and water with the discard. If you're working on a rye starter then keep the starter percentage relatively low otherwise the dough will behave differently. 

If the weather is cool and you're building a starter from scratch then you might be running into two issues. The starter isn't warm enough which will slow it down. It's low hydration which will slow it down even more. Keeping your starter at 78°F and liquid will speed things up. Once your starter is ready then you can turn it into a low hydration nmnf starter. 

So what you can do is take some of your starter and turn it into 100% hydration. Then carry on from there. For example...

  • 42g starter (16g water + 26g flour)

Then give it a feed like so....

  • 52g water
  • 42g flour

Now you have 136g starter at 100% hydration. Keep it warm and do not feed it again till you see activity. Until then just give it a stir every 12 hours. Enjoy the break, put your feet up and uncross your eyes :) Once it wakes up then resume feeds. In the beginning you don't wish to overwhelm the little critters so discard half (68g) and top back up with  34g water + 34g flour. Its a good idea to weigh the jar as starters lose weight as they ferment. This way you know how much you are left with. 

Keep the feeds every 24 hours from activation. Then once your starter grows in strength and is quicker you can switch to bigger feeds more often. But cross that bridge when you come to it. No hurry. 

When you've cultivated the yeasts and bacteria you can think about turning it back into a NMNF starter. 

As for the discard.... How much do you have and what does it smell like? 

Patti Y's picture
Patti Y

I worry about getting the wrong kind of wee beasties. I already did that with my KAF starter.

I think the cold temps are a huge problem. My options:

1. Kept in oven with lights on. Overnight- 68-72°F, too cold with door cracked open. Closed doors = 80-85° with doors closed. Too hot.     Daytime- 68-75°F with doors open and  84-90°F with doors closed. Neither works.

2. Proofing/Warming drawer- 82-90°F with drawer closed and less if left open. But, we keep shutting it accidently,, plus it uses a lot of electricity since it is 30" wide. 

3. Instant Pot- Yogurt button. 81°F or higher without the lid. Plus, it can only stay on 30 min.

4. Electric heating pads- turn off on their own because of safety. 

5. Looks like I need a foldable proofing box.

Hydration- I thought the hydration % had to be kept track of. I didn't realize it changed so quickly with just one feed. I keep and feed 100 grams.

I think I have figured out the math formula so I can use it for any amount.

Water weight divided by flour weight x 100 = hydration %.   So, hydration % x flour weight = water weight.

Since I don't want to keep the starter at 62.5%, I can just take any amount of starter to make easier math. 

As you suggested, I can keep 42g of starter. Since hydration is the % of liquid in starter, and the flour is 100%, 42g of starter times 62.5 % will equal the flour in grams.

        42 x  62.5 % = 26.25 rounded to 25g flour.       42g starter - 26g flour = 16g water.

Or I could choose 42g starter, and subtract 62.5% to get the amount of water in grams.

       42 - 62.5% = 15.75 g rounded to 16g water. 42g starter  - 16g water  = 26 g flour. 

Then I take the 42g of starter and feed that SAME amount of flour, 42g of flour. So now I have 26g flour from starter + 42g of new flour = 68 g flour. Then I make the water equal the same. 68g total - 16 g water from starter = 52g of new water to make it 100% hydration. 68g each of water & flour.

Why was I making this so hard? No wonder my eyes were crossed. Geez! I thought it was some complex calculation. Ok, at this point, the wee beasties (if I have any) are smarter than I am. But, I might be gaining on them! Maybe...


Starter starting tomorrow: keep 42g of starter and feed 52g water and 42g rye flour. 

Keep it at 78°F. Stir after 12 hours.  Do NOT feed it until I see some activity. When I see activity, discard some and keep 68g of starter. Feed it 34g water and 34 g rye flour every 24 hours. Am I still stirring after 12 hours?

When it grows faster than normal (24 hrs) then feed more often and feed "bigger feeds" Does "bigger feeds" mean keep only 68g starter, but feed more water and flour than the 68g I have been feeding it?  For example, keep 68g starter, but feed 88g flour and 88g water. (Any number larger 68.) 

Grows in strength- does that mean it is growing faster so I am feeding it more often? If it doubles in 12 hours, instead of 24 hours, it is gaining strength so I feed it 2 times a day. If it doubles in 6 hours, it is getting a lot stronger, so I should be feeding 3 times a day or 4 times. Is this how I know it is ready to turn to NMNF starter? I assume it will take 2-3 weeks.


Discard- it has no smell at all. No weird streaks of color. Should I check for slime? The discard I kept has been refrigerated for 48 hours after removing it from the starter. Another bowl is 24 hours old. Neither has been fed since I removed them from the starter.

If it is usable:

1. Do I use it straight from the refrigerator but add yeast?

2. Do I let it come to room temperature before using and add yeast?

3. Do I feed it, then I don't need yeast in the recipe? Is it considered sourdough yet? How many times do I feed it before using it?

4. If I feed it 3 times, can I still use yeast in the recipe? Does the yeast change anything about the sourdough recipe? Other than rising more? I am trying to make sourdough because of the lower GI response. I don't know if adding yeast changes that or not. 

Thank you for helping. 

Postal Grunt's picture
Postal Grunt

One tip I've used for tracking a rye starter's progress is to dust the surface of the starter with some flour. If you see cracks in the layer of flour on your starter, you'll know that there's some fermentation going on. If it's really active, you should be able to hear it make noises like a bowl of Rice Krispies cereal.


Patti Y's picture
Patti Y

I could only hope mine gets that active. That is a good trick to use. I will try that tomorrow. Does it matter what kind of flour...bread, rye, or AP? Thanks. 

Postal Grunt's picture
Postal Grunt

What really matters is to get the flour thick enough so that any moisture coming from your starter doesn't dampen it enough as to be indistinguishable. I admit that's a live and learn situation when you're dealing with a 100% hydration starter. At your previous 62.5%, that probably won't be a problem.

Keeping it warm is a bigger problem. The suggestion of 78F is right on the money. I didn't worry about a closed oven door when reviving some dried starter recently. As long as I was awake and at home, the oven light was on. I just went about my business and the revival worked well enough that the new starter was up and running well enough to thrive in a 68F average indoor temperature after five days.

BTW, if you already have an active white flour starter,  you can always use a bit of that to get your rye starter going. I suggest that you use progressively more rye in comparison to AP in your refreshments over a four refreshment schedule. That should work a lot faster than trying to cultivate a new starter in a relatively cool environment.

dabrownman's picture

levain.  your discard after 2 days in the fridge is my levain.  I would just use all of it to make a loaf of bread at 75$ hydration overall and not have a care in the world or worry about ti one bit,  Wee Beasties are too stupid to even spell Wee much less Beasties - so no worries.  I retard my built levain for 2 days on purpose often enough so your discard is perfect levain for me

Patti Y's picture
Patti Y

I am feeding my discard now so I can bake with it. I wasn't sure whether to use it straight from the fridge or not. 

Thank you.