What is sourdough discard? Sourdough discard and starter terminology can be tricky to navigate. After teaching a recent HomeKeeper Class on sourdough I realized that sourdough discard can be a little confusing. Perhaps you are also wondering, “What is Sourdough Discard?”.
Sourdough discard describes sourdough starter is that unfed and no longer active. It has risen and fallen over the past 12-24 hours and is no longer usable for giving rise to bread.
Does Sourdough Discard Need Discarded?
No! Absolutely not. Contrary to how it may sound, you do not need to dispose of your sourdough discard. You may, however, find it beneficial to remove your inactive starter (AKA discard) from your sourdough starter culture. Let me explain.
Sourdough Starter Culture
To make sourdough bread, you need a culture of wild yeast (AKA starter). In order to keep the yeast alive and healthy they need to be fed regularly. How regularly depends on the temperature they are being kept at, along with some other factors. Most people feed their starters every 12-24 hours if kept at room temperature.
As you feed your yeast flour and water, the amount of starter culture you has will continue to increase exponentially. In order to avoid excessive and unnecessary amounts of starter culture you must remove the unwanted extra from time to time. You can do this two ways: by using the sourdough starter in a recipe, or by removing inactive starter (AKA discard) before the next feeding.
What To Do With Sourdough Discard
There are many different methods and philosophies that individuals use when maintaining their starters. It depends as much on the individual’s personality as it does on how often they bake sourdough items. How you choose to maintain your starter may dictate how much discard you create, or what you choose to do with it. I’m going to present you with four options for discard.
Four options for sourdough discard: Use It. Store It. Dump It. Revive it.
Sourdough discard can be used in a large array of recipes. Just because it no longer has the active yeast to create rise in bread, does not mean that it is useless. The fermentation process has been completed, and the grains now possess the benefits that fermentation supplies. It’s still flour and water, just fermented. So think of it that way. What “non-bread” recipes you know that call for flour and liquid (milk, water, etc.) It’s probable there is a sourdough alternative recipe that uses discard as a substitute for the dry flour and added liquid. Think pancakes, waffles, tortillas, crackers, etc.
If you’re looking for ideas, I have a Pintrest board completely dedicated to sourdough recipes that specifically use discard.
If you’re wondering more about how to determine if a recipe needs active starter or can use sourdough discard, check out my post in an upcoming pose called
If you don’t have an immediate use for your excess sourdough starter discard, you can transfer it to the fridge for storage. Since the cooler temperatures in the fridge slow down the yeast activity, discard in the fridge will not continue to develop its sour flavor profile nearly as quickly. It can still be pulled out for use in recipes or used to start another sourdough starter culture (more on that in a little bit).
I personally hate the idea of regularly dumping discard. It seems like such a waste. But there have been times where dumping seems like the best option.
If I know I won’t be baking sourdough bread for a while, maybe due to a busy season of life or travel. Then I may choose to not keep my excess discard in the fridge. In that case it may be wisest to feed just a small jar of starter to tuck away in the fridge, and dump the rest.
If I have let my starter culture volume grow too much, and I need to dramatically pair back the culture, I will dump. I keep just a spoonful of starter culture, move it to a new jar, and completely “start over” with feeding and building my starter culture.
If my starter is neglected (because…well…life), it can sometimes turn to a much more sour flavor that I don’t prefer. Rather than feeding it again and agin to bring it back around (which you can do), I dump the lot and start over with some frozen starter that I keep on hand for just such occasions.
Whatever the reason may be for you, know that it’s ok. It’s ok to dump some sourdough discard from time to time.
Can I Make Sourdough Discard Active Again?
To make sourdough discard active again you will need to feed it. The little yeast inside need a meal of flour and water to reactivate and produce the carbon dioxide gas necessary to create rise in your sourdough breads, rolls, etc.
It doesn’t matter if your discard is from a feeding 12-24 hour ago that has been sitting on the counter, or has been stored in the fridge all week. As long as some of the wild yeast inside the fermented mixture are still alive, you can regrow their populations again.
Depending on how far past active your sourdough discard is, it may take several feedings to increase the yeast population in your starter to a place where you can achieve a doubling rise and have the potency to create rise in baking as well. To revive your discard, consider feeding it every 12 hours (morning and evening) for a couple days to give it an extra boost, then you can transition to a 24 hour “starter maintenance” routine or move it back to fridge storage if you’d like.
I hope this makes sourdough discard a little less confusing for you. Even if it doesn’t, keep going, keep trying, and don’t be afraid of failure.
You can also head over to my upcoming post called Sourdough Starter Not Rising? to find more information about the science behind sourdough, and how it all works. I always find that when I understand what happening “beneath the surface”, I am able to be more successful in my cooking.