Sourdough discard, also known as spent starter, is the discard from feeding an active sourdough starter. When maintaining a sourdough starter, you periodically “feed” it fresh flour and water, discarding a portion of the starter to keep the total amount under control. This discarded portion, which contains active yeast and bacteria cultures, can be used in recipes instead of being thrown out.
Can you freeze sourdough discard?
Yes, sourdough discard can be frozen to extend its shelf life. To freeze, place the discard into an airtight freezer bag or container, removing as much air as possible before sealing. It can be frozen for up to 3 months without loss of potency. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator before using.
How long does sourdough discard last in the fridge?
Properly stored, sourdough discard can last 1-2 weeks in the refrigerator. Keep it in an airtight container to prevent it from drying out. The fermentation will slow down at colder temperatures, extending its shelf life. The discard may begin to take on more sour, acidic notes the longer it is refrigerated.
What are signs discard has gone bad?
There are a few signs that indicate sourdough discard has spoiled and should be discarded:
- Pink, orange, blue, or green hues – This indicates overgrowth of undesirable bacteria.
- Rotten smell – Sourdough discard should smell pleasantly tangy or yeasty. Rancid odors mean it’s no longer good.
- Mold growth – You may see fuzzy mold growing on the surface or bottom of the container.
- Lack of rise – If the discard no longer has bubbles or rises, the yeast has died off.
How to store sourdough discard
Proper storage is important for extending the shelf life of sourdough discard. Here are some tips:
- Use airtight, non-reactive containers like glass or plastic. Avoid metal.
- Minimize oxygen exposure by sealing container well.
- Refrigerate discard immediately after collecting and feeding starter.
- Freeze for long term storage of up to 3 months.
- Always use clean utensils and containers to prevent contamination.
What to make with discard
Sourdough discard can be used in place of commercial yeast in many baked goods. Here are some ideas:
- Pancakes, waffles, or crepes
- Banana bread or other quick breads
- Pizza dough
- Bread or rolls
- Sourdough tortillas
You can replace up to half the flour in a recipe with discard. The percentage may vary based on the recipe. More discard will result in a more sour flavor.
How to use discard in dough
Here are some tips for incorporating discard into bread dough:
- Reduce the amount of yeast, since the discard provides leavening power
- Use discard in place of up to 50% of the flour
- Add any salt, sweeteners or other ingredients after combining the discard and flour
- Knead the dough well to distribute the discard evenly
- Allow for a longer first rise, as discard may react more slowly than yeast
The discard percentage can be adjusted based on the flavor desired in the end result. For best results, maintain the hydration level by replacing flour and water in equal amounts.
Does discard need to be fed before baking?
It is not necessary to feed sourdough discard before baking with it. Feeding adds more flour and water to increase yeast activity. Discard pulled straight from the refrigerator can be measured directly into recipes without needing a jump start.
However, if you want to wake up the yeast before baking, you can give the discard a quick feed. Mix in a small amount of flour and water, let sit briefly at room temperature before using. This kickstarts fermentation for better rise.
Does microwave kill discard yeast?
Microwaving discard will kill off the beneficial yeast and bacteria that provide leavening power and flavor. Heating to very high temperatures has a similar effect. For best results, always fold room temperature or warmed discard gently into the other ingredients.
Can discard be used twice?
Once sourdough discard has been used in baking, it cannot be rescued and reused. The yeast will have expended its leavening power in the initial recipe.
However, you can use the baked goods made with discard to create a new starter. Here’s how:
- Crumble some of the leftover baked discard item and add water to form thick batter.
- Cover and set aside for 5-7 days, stirring occasionally, until mixture bubbles and becomes sour.
- Discard half, add equal parts flour and water. Repeat every 12 hours to grow starter.
This captured yeast can be maintained as a sourdough starter to generate discard for future baking.
What is the nutritional value of discard?
Sourdough discard contains the same nutrients as the flour used to create it, though it will be lower in starch content. Typical all-purpose flour provides:
- Carbs: 22g per 1/4 cup discard
- Protein: 3g per 1/4 cup discard
- Fat: 0g
- Fiber: 1g per 1/4 cup discard
- Calories: 88 per 1/4 cup discard
Since discard has undergone fermentation, it contains fewer digestible carbs than regular flour. The bacteria produce acids that break down some of the carbohydrates. Using discard can add nutritional value to baked goods.
Does discard affect nutrition of baked goods?
Baked goods made with sourdough discard undergo similar fermentation and will see comparable nutritional improvements including:
- Increased protein availability due to the acids breaking down proteins.
- Lower glycemic index from easier to digest carbs.
- More B vitamins produced by bacteria.
- Increased mineral availability.
Sourdough baking also avoids the additives sometimes present in commercial yeast. So baked discard items can be an extra nutritious option.
Can you dehydrate discard?
Sourdough discard can be dehydrated into versatile discard flakes. To dehydrate, spread discard thinly onto a parchment lined baking sheet. Bake at 170°F for 6-8 hours, flipping halfway, until completely dried out. Break into flakes and store in an airtight container for up to 6 months.
Dehydrated discard can be:
- Rehydrated to use as a starter
- Added to bread doughs and batters
- Sprinkled on yogurt or oatmeal
- Processed into discard flour
Dehydrating makes discard easier to store long term and adds shelf stable leavening to recipes.
Does freezing change discard flavor?
Freezing sourdough discard preserves the yeast activity but stops fermentation, which will affect the flavor profile. Upon thawing, the discard may taste:
- Less sour – The lactic and acetic acids do not continue developing.
- Less complex – Nuanced flavors deteriorate over time.
- Yeastier – The yeast smell and taste becomes more pronounced.
For best flavor, use frozen discard within 1-2 months and give it time to reactivate at room temperature before baking. Feed with flour and water if needed.
Can you dry and grind discard?
Sourdough discard can be dehydrated and ground into a nutritious baking flour:
- Spread discard thin on a baking sheet and dry for 6-8 hours at 170°F.
- Process the dried discard in a blender or food processor to a fine powder.
- Sift if desired to remove any coarse bits.
- Store the discard flour in an airtight container for up to 6 months.
You can substitute up to 25% of regular flour with discard flour in recipes. It adds a boost of nutrients, fiber and flavor.
Does fermented discard have more health benefits?
There are potential health benefits associated with the lactic acid bacteria and wild yeasts in sourdough discard:
- Probiotics – Beneficial microbes may aid digestion.
- Vitamins – B vitamins are produced during fermentation.
- Minerals – The acids make nutrients more bioavailable.
- Prebiotics – Sourdough may feed good gut bacteria.
- Low glycemic – Fermentation breaks down sugars.
A more fermented, mature discard may offer more of these benefits. Allowing it to build acidity before using can boost the value.
Is discard good for gut health?
There are a few ways sourdough discard may contribute to gut health:
- Probiotics – The yeast and bacteria may survive digestion to benefit gut microbiota.
- Prebiotics – Fibers and acids serve as fuel for probiotics.
- Vitamins – B vitamins support a healthy gut.
- Enzymes -Aid digestion of foods.
More research is needed to fully validate these effects. But including discard may boost your overall nutrition and gut microbiome.
Can you add discard to smoothies?
Sourdough discard can be added to smoothies for a tangy boost of nutrition. Some ways to use it:
- Substitute up to 1/4 cup liquid with discard
- Blend in 2-3 tablespoons of discard yogurt
- Top with discard granola
- Sprinkle in discard flakes
- Make discard milk using discard, milk, salt and honey
The possibilities are endless for using discard to enhance smoothies with fiber, vitamins, and minerals. Play around with recipes to find your favorites.
With proper storage techniques, sourdough discard can retain its leavening power and texture for 1-2 weeks refrigerated or up to 3 months frozen. Signs that discard has spoiled include unpleasant odors, appearance of mold, or lack of rise. Sourdough discard can be used in virtually any baked good in place of commercial yeast. It also provides additional health benefits thanks to the fermentation byproducts. Get creative with your stale discard to make your baked goods more nutritious while reducing waste.