Too much sourdough starter. Starter bubbling away in jars on the counter top. Starter patiently waiting its turn in the refrigerator. Even after turning cups of the stuff into beautiful loaves of homemade bread, there’s always more, casting an accusing eye and asking, “What are you going to do with me – and when am I getting fed?!”
If you are a sourdough bread baker, it’s sure to happen to you sooner or later – an excess of sourdough starter. We all want to keep our starter alive, and a well-loved starter is almost part of the family. It’s not quite on the same level as Fido or Kitty, but roughly on par with the goldfish or the African violet that once belonged to Mom. Keeping the starter alive means feeding it, and feeding it leads to too much starter. It seems so wasteful to throw some of it out. But what to do with it all? Luckily we don’t have to toss part of our starter just to keep the rest alive. There are many uses for excess starter that don’t involve baking another artisan loaf of bread. We can:
• Add starter to quick breads and other products leavened by baking powder or baking soda.
• Add starter to straight yeast dough, giving the resulting bread more flavor and keeping it fresh for a longer time.
• Use starter as a flavoring agent, not a leavening agent, in cookies, crackers, and pizza.
• Share the love. Gift a cup of ripe starter along with feeding directions to your friends.
• Dry it for future use, or to give as a holiday gift.
Up to 1 cup of starter can be added to any standard (2 cups of flour) muffin or quick bread recipe. Sourdough starter adds a tangy flavor that might otherwise be added by buttermilk or yogurt. The starter can be ripe, but it doesn’t have to be, making this a good use for a refrigerated starter that you are trying to coax back into life. If you prefer a less acid flavor, replace the baking soda in your recipe with twice the amount of baking powder when adding sourdough starter.
• Try this recent Sourdough Oatmeal Muffins recipe from the Real Food Blog.
• Sourdough starter makes everyday Banana Bread extraordinary in this recipe from my Seed to Pantry blog.
• And this sweet Sourdough Cornbread from The Gingered Whisk looks delicious.
• Adding a cup of starter made this the best steamed New England Brown Bread I have ever made. And it’s 100% whole grains too.
Sourdough has been used to leaven pancakes for centuries. But sourdough starter can also be added to crumpets, English muffins, and other griddle breads as a flavoring agent while giving a little leavening “boost.”
Some of my fondest childhood memories are when we had breakfast for dinner. We still follow this tradition with savory Cheddar Pancakes. Impress your friends with this tasty Sourdough Crumpets recipe from King Arthur Flour.
• Add 1/2 to 1 cup of sourdough starter to your favorite pizza crust recipe. If making a large batch you can add more than 1 cup of starter but reduce the amount of yeast slightly.
• Homemade crackers are soooo much better than the packaged kind. Try my favorite Sourdough Herb Crackers.
• Even cookies get in on the sourdough act with this Peanut Butter Cookies recipe from Sourdoughs International.
• Every year over the holidays I make a big batch of Sourdough Pfefferneusse cookies to give as gifts. One year I forgot, and I heard about it later!
Homemade starter can be dried just like commercial starter. Lisa Rayner, author of Wild Bread, recommends the following process:
1. Spread a very thin layer of active starter on parchment paper.
2. Let dry in an undisturbed location for 2 to 7 days, depending on the humidity in your area.
3. Crumble the dried starter and place in a freezer bag.
4. Store the dried starter in the freezer.
5. Combine starter with flour and water to reactivate the starter, and then follow your regular feeding process until bubbly.
Drying starter seems like a good idea to keep a back-up supply of your family sourdough starter on hand.
Do you have any special recipes or tips for using your excess starter? Share them with us!