Sourdough discard recipes perfected in your own oven? What a sensory revelation!
Our guide to sourdough discard features over 10 of the most popular recipes for those who love making fresh homemade bread.
This article is an excellent resource for sourdough bread beginners. It describes what a sourdough starter is and why using sourdough discard is so popular in a bakers kitchen. We also list the best sourdough cookbooks and essential tools you’ll need to make professional sourdough baked goods.
Start your sourdough journey now and you’ll never purchase another loaf of bread at the grocery store again!
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Fall in Love with Sourdough Bread
I’ve been obsessed with baking since I was just a little kid. My parents often tell a hilarious story about when I was just 5 years old. They woke up one morning to find me on the kitchen floor grinning while my face was covered in crumbs!
In our house in Markham, near Toronto, I’d stand on a stool and watch with fascination as my mother would make pancakes, French Toast, muffins, cookies, cupcakes, Meringue Pie, gourmet crackers, Chocolate Babka, Angel Food Cake, Cheesy Pull-Apart Bread and our families famous Nuts & Bolts recipe.
My parents new I was a bit of an odd ball when I saved up my allowance and made my first purchase, a Black & Decker Bread Maker. By my early teens I was baking fresh bread and cinnamon rolls each morning at our cottage in Muskoka. I’d even sell my popular baked goods to neighbours in Ontario cottage country. The word got around fast!
In university I spent one summer working as a baker at a summer resort. I’d wake up at the crack of dawn to prepare bread loaves, cookies and cakes to be enjoyed by over 1,000 guests and staff.
My expertise in bread making was always limited to the use of commercial yeast. In March, 2020 when the whole world became obsessed with Quarantine Baking, I decided to roll up my sleeves and perfect the art of sourdough bread.
I moved back to my parents house in Oakville and spent 6 weeks feeding a sourdough starter, using the daily discard in over 20 recipes. My goal was to create a resource featuring the best sourdough discard recipes. And now here we are!
What is Sourdough?
Sourdough bread is made by the fermentation of dough using naturally occurring lactobacilli and yeast. Sourdough bread has a more sour taste and better keeping qualities than breads made with baker’s yeast, due to the lactic acid produced by the lactobacilli.
Lactic acid bacteria can be found in several other fermented foods, including yogurt, kefir, pickles, sauerkraut and kimchi.
Benefits of Sourdough Bread
There are many benefits to making sourdough bread products at home.
- Add up the cost of ingredients required to make sourdough bread at home and it’s significantly cheaper than buying a loaf.
- Sourdough bread takes longer to go stale than a commercial loaf, usually lasting up to 6 days.
- The only ingredients in sourdough baked goods are flour, water and natural yeast. You avoid consuming the fat, sugar and chemical stabilizers that are added to commercial bread products by making sourdough bread at home. Commercial additives are used to help extend shelf life at grocery stores.
- Sourdough bread is also considered nutritious because it is naturally produced and includes healthy bacteria and yeast that help maintain a healthy gut.
- Some research shows sourdough bread is easier to digest and less likely to spike your blood sugar.
- Sourdough’s longer fermentation time helps improve the flavour and texture of whole grain bread.
How To Make Sourdough Starter
The first step in baking sourdough bread is making a homemade sourdough starter.
Store bought bread is produced using commercial yeast like Fleischmann’s, which has been developed over the years to reduce rising time and speed up the baking process.
It is very easy to cultivate natural yeast, which lives on tiny wheat granules in flour as well as the skins of organic fruits and vegetables.
Sourdough starter is simply prepared by mixing unbleached flour (typically a mix of All Purpose, Whole Wheat or Rye) with warm water.
You need to feed the sourdough starter once or twice a day for 5-7 days before the yeast has grown enough to be able to produce a fully leavened sourdough bread loaf.
It takes time for a sourdough starter to strengthen enough, to contain enough yeast, to bake with. Baking with an immature starter will result in dense bread, or even bread that does not rise at all.
Sourdough starter needs plenty of care and attention in the early stages. Pretend it’s your new pet!
To strengthen the healthy microbes, a combination of flour and warm water must be fed for up to a week, before it’s yeasty enough for bread baking.
Watch the video below to learn how quick and easy it is to make sourdough starter at home.
What is Sourdough Discard?
Once you’ve successfully made a healthy and active sourdough starter the process is cyclical: wild yeasts and lactic acid bacteria feed on the sugars in the flour. The natural output from the process create lots of bubbles in the starter, which is how bakers know it’s healthy.
At the end of this natural cycle the starter needs to be refreshed, or fed with additional flour and water to sustain its new, happy microbial population.
Most recipes for sourdough starter instruct bakers to throw out half of the starter mixture at least once during the initial process. The primary reason home recipes for starter call for some of it to be discarded is because as the starter is fed with new flour and warm water to keep it alive and active, it continues to grow and expand to a far greater quantity than is practical, especially for home baking.
Think of sourdough discard as the portion of your sourdough starter that you get rid of when you do each feeding. The reason bakers do this is because every time you feed your starter you must give it enough flour and water so that it is sufficiently fed. If you were to feed your entire starter every feeding, then your starter would get bigger and bigger and you would need to feed it a larger quantity every time.
Best Ways To Use Sourdough Discard
- The most popular way to use sourdough discard is to incorporate it into recipes. We’ve included over 10 delicious sourdough discard recipes for you to try at home!
- Gardners often add sourdough discard to their compost pile.
- If you have family or friends who love baking, add some of your starter to a cute vintage mason jar and offer it as a DIY gift. This will save them the time of having to create their own active starter, which takes 5-7 days.
- If you’re planning to take a break from bread baking or are going on a long vacation you can dry your sourdough starter.
Best Sourdough Cookbooks
Have you officially joined the sourdough cult? If you’re looking to invest in a sourdough cookbook here are a list of the best sellers:
- Flour Water Salt Yeast by Ken Forkish: The most famous sourdough baker from Portland details his personal love affair with naturally leavened dough and includes detailed recipes for bread, focaccia and pizza.
- Tartine Bread by Chad Robertson: The most famous sourdough baker from San Francisco celebrates the art of natural bread in this best selling book.
- Artisan Bread Made Simple by Emilie Raffa: This professionally trained chef and avid home baker offers a step-by-step guide for sourdough beginners featuring over 60 unique recipes.
- The Sourdough School by Vanessa Kimbell: This author is an educator at heart, having taught countless students how to make healthy and natural bread at home. Includes helpful step-by-step photography.
- Bread by Jeffrey Hamelman: First published in 2004, Bread received the Julia Child Award for best first book and became an instant classic in bakers kitchens. This sourdough encyclopedia features 140 detailed, step by step recipes.
Best Sourdough Bread Tools
If it’s your first foray into sourdough bread making here are some essential tools you’ll need to purchase before you get started:
- Dutch Oven: In order to achieve the desired “pro baker quality” crust on your sourdough loaf it has to be baked inside a Dutch Oven. The most popular brands includes Le Creuset, Lodge, Staub and Emile Henry. You can also purchase niche products such as Bread Cloche or Baguette Baker.
- Canning Jars: Use Weck Canning Jars to store your sourdough starter and discard. Ensure the vessel is clean and transparent so you can easily see how much it has grown each day.
- Bakers Scale: Purchase an affordable bakers scale so you can easily measure the weight of your water and flour.
- Parchment Paper: You’ll need sturdy parchment paper to line the bottom of sourdough bread loves in your Dutch Oven.
- Banneton Baskets: Ensure you have two circular Banneton Baskets for the leavening of your loaves. We suggest purchasing this sourdough bakers kit, which includes Banneton Baskets as well as a scraper and bread lame to decorate the top of your loaves.
- Instant Thermometer: Ensure you have a reliable professional thermometer to measure the temperature of your water, levain and dough.
Best Sourdough Discard Recipes
At this point you should have a fully stocked kitchen and have created a healthy and active sourdough starter. Your next step is to create a list of the sourdough discard recipes you’d like to try to bake at home.
We’ve tested over 20 sourdough discard recipes to create this list of delicious ideas. We suggest making a note of what discard recipes you’d like to try so you have them handy. We store ours under a magnet on the front of the fridge.
Whenever I know I want to bake a homemade sourdough loaf, I check my freezer and pantry to see if I’m running low on muffins, crackers, pizza dough, pie crust, bagels or naan.
Take the opportunity to replenish the baked goods in your freezer and cupboards whenever you are going to be feeding your starter before baking fresh bread.
English Muffins are a classic British bread recipe, which is cut into discs, rolled in cornmeal and cooked on a griddle over the stove.
You can make plain English Muffins or add fresh herbs, shredded cheese and crumbled bacon. My dad’s favourite breakfast is a toasted English Muffin slathered in peanut butter and jam. You can also top this sourdough discard recipe with soft butter or ricotta cheese drizzled with honey.
This English Muffin Sourdough discard recipe can be stored in the freezer for up to a month. Simply defrost and thaw in the microwave in the morning and toast in the oven for a quick and easy breakfast.
Sourdough Waffles can be enjoyed as a sweet or savoury dish. We prepared this Sourdough Discard recipe two ways to show how versatile they can be.
The sweet version (right) was prepared with the basic batter recipe and topped with vanilla pudding and a kiwi citrus fruit salad.
For the savoury version (left) we added onion powder, Dijon mustard and shredded cheddar cheese to the batter. The waffles were then topped with Korean Gochujan Chicken, sour cream, chives, chopped pickles and crunchy chicken skins.
Sourdough Discard Pancakes
Sourdough Discard Pancakes use the same recipe as waffles but instead of using a waffle iron you pour the batter over a flat griddle or non-stick pan.
Feel free to get creative with your pancakes, adding pureed banana, oats, yogurt, or fresh berries to the batter before sizzling in butter.
We’re obsessed with muffins and you should be too! Muffins are a great on-the-go-snack and healthy and nutritious breakfast.
Of all our favourite sourdough discard recipes, muffins are the most versatile and freeze well so yo can enjoy them for weeks or even months.
Find inspiration in your muffin making by reviewing our popular recipes for Cheddar Apple Muffins, Banana Oat Chocolate Chip Muffins, Lemon Blueberry Muffins, Mincemeat Muffins, Blueberry Banana Bran Muffins, Pumpkin Spice Muffins and Jalapeno Cheddar Muffins.
Sourdough baking techniques don’t just have to be used on Canadian, American and European recipes. We love making traditional Indian flatbread at home, which always beats the commercially produced naan in the supermarket.
Have fun playing with whole wheat and all purpose flour to find the perfect crunchy and chewy texture. We like to use ghee when frying this sourdough discard recipe. You could also use butter or a neutral vegetable oil like canola.
Of all the sourdough discard recipes, homemade gourmet crackers are by far the most popular. This sourdough cracker recipe uses up a lot of discard so you can save on waste. It’s also really quick and easy to make, from start to finish it takes less than an hour!
Homemade crackers are fun to bake as you can get creative and prepare your own signature flavour. We’ve used dried rosemary from the garden and Kosher salt. You can add any of your favourite dried herbs or even a dash of spicy cayenne pepper or garlic powder and onion salt.
You’ll save a lot of money at the grocery store by making your own crackers at home! Store in an air tight container for up to 3 months. Ours are usually gone after hosting a cheese and charcuterie party in a matter of hours! Wrap them up in a bow and these homemade crackers also make a lovely housewarming gift or treat for Mother’s Day or Christmas.
Take a trip to Italy in the comfort of your kitchen by preparing homemade sourdough focaccia for your family.
Get creative with this Sourdough Discard Focaccia by adding your favourite toppings. In the focaccia pictured above we added olive oil, salt, minced garlic and cherry tomatoes. You can also add cracked pepper, sun-dried tomatoes, crumbled feta cheese or your favourite olives.
We suggest making this sourdough discard recipe when you are going to a potluck party or having a large group over for dinner. It tastes best a day or two after it’s made so best to not let it go stale.
One of my Quarantine Cooking goals was to master the art of homemade pizza. I had made pizza at home before using grocery store pizza dough and a homemade recipe using commercial yeast. The pizza’s never came out of the oven tasting restaurant quality so I was always disappointed.
This sourdough discard pizza dough recipe wowed my family and ensured I’d be making it for many years to come. The sourdough offers a nice tangy flavour and the crust is perfectly crunchy on the outside and chewy on the inside.
We suggest baking the pizza in a cast iron skillet or pizza pan for best results.
There’s no better mid-day snack than a flaky and buttery biscuit enjoyed during High Tea.
Like muffins, tea biscuits or scones can be a fun way to get creative in the kitchen. Add your favourite flavours such as herbs or cheese for a savoury treat. Our savoury biscuits pictured above were prepared with caramelized onions and fresh chives.
You can also make sweet sourdough discard biscuits by adding additional sugar and dried fruits like raisins or currants.
Of all the sourdough discard recipes in this list, these easy homemade bagels forever changed our lives! My dad is obsessed with bagels and after biting into these warm and chewy ones he declared they were the best he has ever tasted!
I honestly never realized how easy it is to make bagels at home. Letting the dough rise, then boiling them in honey water, dipping them in toppings and baking in the oven…it’s a fun process!
We made Everything Bagels by dipping them in a mixture of poppy seeds, sesame seeds, onion powder, garlic powder, caraway seeds and salt and pepper.
Making the perfect pastry is hard. I’ve always preferred baking leavened products like muffins, cookies and bread because they are a bit more forgiving.
So I was pleasantly surprised when I nervously attempted to roll out this sourdough discard recipe for flaky pie crust. The key to making flaky pie crust is to keep all of the ingredients and utensils as cold as possible, especially the butter and shortening.
Pie pastry pros always note that “less is more.” You want to handle and touch the dough as little as possible. The goal is to ensure small pieces of fat remain solid in the dough. Once the cold fat in the pastry bakes in the oven it melts and the evaporation of water from the butter or shortening creates the desired flakey layers. The science is similar to the flaky layers you see in a French croissant.
I was really skeptical that wet sourdough discard would work in a pie crust as the typical ingredients are flour, cold water, salt, sugar and fat such as butter or vegetable shortening.
I can confirm this sourdough discard pie crust recipe works perfectly if you follow the instructions step-by-step.
There’s obviously no better sourdough discard recipe out there to test the strength of your starter than preparing a rustic Country Loaf.
This sourdough discard recipe produces a fine loaf with a crunchy exterior and chewy and tangy interior. Be sure to use a Dutch Oven when baking to ensure you achieve the desired crust texture. You’ll never buy a store bought loaf of bread again!
Make sure to let your loaf rest once out of the oven, at least 20 minutes. Then using a bread knife, cut yourself a slice and slather with soft butter. We also like to enjoy Sourdough Country Loaf dipped in olive oil and balsamic vinegar, or toasted in a panini grill as a decadent grilled cheese sandwich.
If you’re looking for a fun sourdough discard recipe to make with kids, try making this hands on Cinnamon Raisin Bread.
The recipe requires you to roll out the dough like cinnamon buns or a jelly roll. You then coat the rectangular dough with a mixture of raisins, cinnamon and sugar. Your children will be fighting over who gets to roll up the dough into a log before sliding into a loaf pan and baking in the oven.
Once out of the oven kids love to watch as you cut that first slice, revealing a secret interior swirled with dried fruit and sweet spice. We love to slather this sourdough discard recipe with butter, ricotta or honey!
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