I am always looking for something new to try with all the sourdough discard, so I was excited to find this recipe from King Arthur Baking. This recipe was easy, and my husband says it’s one of his favorite things I’ve ever made. So yes, the Delaney Test Kitchen was a success on this one. It does make a LOT of English Muffins though, so my recommendation is if you do not have a hungry teenage boy in your house, then you’ll want to freeze some for future breakfasts.
Or, this recipe can be easily halved: Halve all of the ingredients; for a slightly faster rise, use 2 teaspoons yeast, rather than 1 1/2 teaspoons.
One important note: you’ll cook these on a large electric griddle. Mine is the Presto Electric Griddle from Amazon, and it cooks very evenly.
Sourdough English Muffins
So if you are feeding your starter each day, then you are discarding quite a bit of starter each day. Especially if you have a couple of starters going like I do. It definitely seems wasteful, especially when you are working so hard to keep it alive. It turns out there are a ton of recipes out there with ideas of things to make with that discard.
So far, my favorite sourdough discard recipe is from Little Spoon Farms for Sourdough Discard Crackers. Even when I couldn’t get my sourdough bread to work, I could always make good crackers thanks to this recipe. Plus it is SUPER EASY!!
This recipe also offers some room for creativity in terms of seasoning. We prefer to use herbs de provence, but using everything but the bagel or Italian seasoning makes for yummy crackers as well.
Cracker Mixture Finished Crackers Yum!
So I strongly suggest getting a bit of sourdough starter to get started. As I mentioned in an earlier post, I got mine from the Georgia Sourdough Company, via a regular order from Garnish and Gather. Or if you know a crazy baker like me, we always have some starter to spare. So this post is NOT about getting your starter started, but keeping it alive. I’ve read some articles about this where the started has been passed along through the decades, so it can’t be too hard, right?
In the beginning I was afraid that keeping the starter alive would be very time consuming. Even though there are only two ingredients, there’s a bit of exacting measurements involved and it is a bit messy. But it has become very routine and much easier as time has gone on.
What is the Starter, exactly? The sourdough starter is a combination of flour, water, wild yeast and bacteria that is used to make bread rise when baking. And you want the starter to be “strong” and very active and fluffy at the top before making bread. Bread made this way is referred to as “naturally leavened”.
And why exactly do I need to “feed” it? Once the water and flour are initially combined, the wild yeast and bacteria that are found naturally on the flour and in the environment will start to multiply. As they multiply they "eat" the flour in the jar. So once they have “eaten” all of the flour available to them, they must be fed again to keep growing and multiplying.
So how do I feed it? Here you have two options – you can store your starter at room temperature, or you can store it in the fridge. I keep one of each, just to hedge my bets.
If you are storing the starter at room temperature:
A few tips I've learned along the way:
1. I have transitioned to using the wide mouth, 2 cup mason jars for my starters. They are the perfect size, easy to access with the wider mouth, and fit nicely in the fridge.
2. Once every two weeks or so I will transition my starters into clean mason jars, and put the old ones in the dishwasher. This is more about aesthetics than anything as the jars can get pretty messy.
3. After feeding the starters but before covering them, I wipe down the outside of the jar, as well as the inside of the jar to keep it tidy and so I can easily see how the starter is doing.
4. Once you are done feeding the starters, wash all spoons and the countertop immediately. If you let the starter dry on them, it gets like concrete. It’s just too hard to get it off once its dry, so take care of it asap.
5. One way to determine if your starter is ready is to do the float test. My starter did not pass the float test until I found a way to keep my starter warm, as I shared in a previous post. My house was just too chilly. The float test is easy - fill a jar or cup with room temperature water and gently add a tablespoon of the starter into the water. If it floats, you are ready to go. If not, then keep feeding it and trying to get it more active.
I learned that the missing link in my sourdough success was the temperature of my house. The starter needed it to be around 70 degrees Fahrenheit. Well, we keep our house at around 65 degrees Fahrenheit, and my hubby wouldn't be on board for heating the whole house just to make bread.
One alternative is to place the starter in the oven with the light on. While I found this to be very effective when letting yeast-based dough rise, it wasn't really feasible for ongoing sourdough starter care.
After some research I found the solution on Amazon (of course) in a product that is used to grow seedings, or to help ferment kombucha. It's the VivoSun Heat Mat. This has been a total game changer. Now my starters (I have three going now) are alive and bubbly.
I started another sourdough starter as insurance, and placed the jar adjacent to the jar with the mat wrapped around it. This turned out to be a very happy accident, and the glass acted as a conductor. Now this is the best jar of starter I've got going.
I also learned that by keeping my starter jars all touching, and in the corner of the kitchen with the coffee pot, that it created a nice and toasty environment. These happy starters ended up created the wonderfully successful sourdough that I'll share with you tomorrow. Yum!
Kris Delaney is a marketing executive, foodie, travel enthusiast, and book nerd based in Atlanta, GA.