I recently took the leap into making sourdough bread; I took a 2-day class at The Pantry, a community kitchen just behind one of our favorite pizza places in Seattle, Delancey. The class taught us how to start a sourdough starter and care for it, then how to make and shape bread. I’ve been making bread every weekend since and tweaking what I do each time, trying to learn and optimize the process. I will let you know how the bread making is going in a future post, along with the trial and error of the adventure, but, today, it’s about all the starter that is tossed in the compost bin as part of taking care of your sourdough-baby. People have sourdough starters that they received (or started) years ago—they’ve moved them all over the world and cared for them for decades. The starter contributes yeast and lactobacilli (the rise and the sour, respectively) when you make bread, replacing commercial yeast. I have two starters bubbling away on my counter: the regular sourdough starter from the class at the Pantry and a rye starter that I made from scratch out of curiosity. They’re both 100% hydration, meaning that the amount of water equals the amount of flour. I use a 50/50 blend of organic bread flour and whole wheat flour for the regular starter with 150 g warm water; the rye starter is 100 g sprouted rye flour and 50 g bread flour with 150 g warm water. Each day (or two!) I feed the microbe monsters, keeping only 20 g or so of the 320 g starter each time and replace the discarded starter with fresh flour and water. I know it’s only flour, water, and microbes but, still, it feels so wasteful to toss all of that in the compost bin. So, I started transferring at least some of the discarded starter to jars in my fridge. Feeding these babies everyday uses up a decent amount of flour and generates more than I can realistically keep stored away in my fridge. I built up quite a stock of starter pretty quickly. Now, I have to figure out what to do with it! I did some research and found a few ideas that I’m testing out.
I’ve had great success making sourdough crackers; they’re delicious, easy, and taste a lot like Cheez-its—guess that’s science, kids! The bacteria, along with the natural yeast, just farting and puking away to make a fermented concoction that imparts a flavor that is mildly sour in the bread but amplified in the crackers when you’re using equal parts starter to flour.
1C Whole wheat flour
1C Discarded sourdough starter
1/4C Olive oil
1 tsp Salt
Pepper to taste
- Heat the oven to 350 °F.
- Mix all ingredients in a medium bowl—you can do this with a sturdy spatula, your hands, or a combination. The dough should be smooth but stiff.
- Cut the dough in half; use a rolling pin to roll one half of the dough out very thinly. It’s best to do this directly on the cookie sheet or on a Silpat mat.
- Sprinkle with salt and pepper; roll over the spices with a rolling pin a few times to press the spices into the dough.
- Use a pastry scraper to cut the dough—don’t use anything sharp on the cookie sheet or Silpat mat! The cut doesn’t have to be perfect or clean-through the dough; the dough will shrink a little as it bakes, separating the crackers.
- Transfer the Silpat mat to a cookie sheet and place in the pre-heated oven. Or, if you rolled the crackers on a cookie sheet, just place the sheet in the oven.
- Bake for 25 minutes. After they cool, if any are of the crackers are still connected, lightly break at the score line.
- Do your best not to eat them all at once!
- Play with the spices—I did some with ‘everything bagel’ spice sprinkled on them; those were a hit. Use whatever you like!
- Add seeds or finely chopped nuts.
- Use other flour in place of the wheat.