What to do with leftover sourdough starter?

 

Starting the year with healthy and nutritious bread is a great way to improve your diet. In the same vein, minimising food waste should be another goal high on the list of food-related ambitions. 22.4% of all bread  (equating to 660,000t or £640 million of bread) is thrown away in UK homes every year. Bread is in the top three foods that Britons are throwing away uneaten, with potatoes and milk also making the shameful top three. Here are some tips to reduce bread waste, from storing bread in an ideal environment to using stale pieces of bread and ideas for leftover sourdough starter.

Rye sourdough starter
Rye sourdough starter

Tips for storing bread

Use a bread bin for storing bread to allow it to breathe and stay moist while shielding it from the worst of the dry air. Storing bread in plastic doesn’t let moisture escape so iwill get mushy. You can counteract this somewhat by wrapping the bread in a clean kitchen towel before putting it in a plastic bag as the fabric will absorb moisture. Don’t store bread in the fridge as it goes stale much faster. However, the freezer is a good option to go for if you’d like to keep your bread fresh for more than a few days.

Tips for using stale bread

I’m proud to report that I waste 0% of the bread I bake. Yes, we eat a lot of the tasty home-baked breads as long as they are fresh but, once a little bit stale, a splash of water and a hot oven can revive most breads to a deliciously soft state. Even really stale bread can be turned into breadcrumbs, croutons or pangrattato, used in salads such as fattoush or turned into bread dumplings or bread and butter pudding. There’s an assumption that stale bread means that it’s fit for the bin. But in actual fact stale bread is a versatile ingredient and there are many delicious recipes stale bread can be used in.

Another great way to use stale rye bread is adding some of it to your new bread dough. Old stale rye bread pieces add fantastic flavour to new loaves of bread. How to achieve this?

  • You can either keep old pieces of dried out bread. When ready to bake, soak  the stale bread in water and blend before using the ‘bread puree’ for new bread dough.
  • Alternatively, if you have a grain mill at home, cut rye bread into cubes and leave them to dry out. Put them through the mill and let the crumbs dry out again. Just before baking, combine some of the crumbs with hot water which gives a wonderfully fragrant old bread soaker to add to your new dough.

Tips for leftover sourdough starter

After this long preamble, what I’ve come to talk about specifically here is the topic of leftover sourdough starter.

There are too many recipes which frustratingly encourage people to chuck leftover sourdough starter. Why should one toss a perfectly good portion of starter? Firstly, it’s perfectly possible to produce a sensible amount of starter to begin with, without having to discard mixture along the way. Secondly, there are many good ways to use any excess starter you might have, so don’t just put it in the bin. There’s never a reason to waste and discard accumulations of old but functioning sourdough.

Leftover sourdough starter ideas

  1. Initiate your next production sourdough…
    Here is one recipe that requires a good amount of sourdough starter (100g) and I’ve added another (new) recipe below using 140g starter. Please note: A fluffy loaf of sourdough bread is best baked with a refreshed, active starter to provide fermentation and leavening power. There are other recipes, however, that do well with discarded starter.
  2. Pass it on…
    Give the gift of good bread to your friends and family!
  3. Use it as a natural bread improver…
    A small amount (up to 10% of the total dough weight) of old starter will improve any bread in terms of flavour, especially yeast breads that don’t involve any sponge, sourdough or long fermentation. Just mix the old starter in with all the other ingredients and enjoy an improvement to the dough structure, flavour and quality that comes from its rich store of organic acids.
  4. Improve the flavour of quick breads and bakes…
    Use leftover sourdough starter to improve the flavour of pancakes, muffins or crackers .

Leftover sourdough bread recipe

This is a new sourdough recipe I put together with the purpose of using some spare starter I had. Due to the large amount of sourdough starter used, it’s a very vigorous dough so will prove more quickly than other recipes using only a fraction of the starter.

White rye sourdough bread
White rye sourdough bread

Ingredients

For the sourdough

  • 140g leftover/spare sourdough starter
  • 200g light/white rye flour
  • 200g water

For the main dough

  • 50g piece of stale rye bread (+hot water to soak)
  • 280g light/white rye flour
  • 220g strong white bread flour
  • 305g water
  • 15g salt

How to make bread with spare sourdough starter

Day 1

  1. Combine the sourdough starter, rye flour and water in a medium bowl, cover and leave to rest at room temperature for about 16 hours until ripe and bubbly.

Day 2

  1. An hour before you start making the dough, take a small bowl to soak the piece of stale rye bread in water. Make sure all of the old bread is covered. Leave to soak.
  2. Drain all the water from the bowl, then puree the bread until completely lump free.
  3. In a large bowl, combine the sourdough mixture from day 1 (all of it) with the main dough ingredients, including the pureed old bread.
  4. Form a dough and knead for a good 10 minutes. The dough will be quite soft, so you may want to knead it in a stand mixer.
  5. Place back in the bowl if you had taken the dough out onto your work surface and cover. Rest for about an hour at room temperature. You should see a good rise from the bread in that time.
  6. Oil a large bread baking tin and fill the punched down dough into the form.
  7. Dust with flour, cover with a polythene bag and prove for a few hours at room temperature until fully proved (e.g. if it filled your tin by half, it should now come almost to the top).
  8. Preheat your oven to 230°C in time for baking, then bake for 10 minutes at 230°C and a further 40 minutes at 190°C.
  9. Cool on a wire rack.

Amaranth bread recipe

 

I’ve finally got hold of amaranth! After putting down my thoughts on healthy bread last week, I wanted to dedicate this week’s post to another health-related topic and highlight the benefits of the nutritious amaranth plant, its seeds and flour. The amaranth plant, also known as ‘Love-Lies-Bleeding’ due to its brightly coloured flowery head, produces seeds packed full of protein and nutrients. Amaranth seeds contain even more protein than oats and are brimming with iron, calcium, vitamin B, magnesium and zinc. This is therefore another healthy bread recipe for the start of the year; my amaranth bread recipe based on long fermentation, enhanced in its nutritional value by added pumpkin seeds and walnuts.

Amaranth bread
Amaranth bread

Baking with amaranth flour and seeds

Amaranth is a member of the Chenopodiaceae family of plants which means it’s a relative of beets, spinach and quinoa. For this reason, some of its nutritional characteristics are more related to these vegetables than cereal grain foods, which are members of an entirely different plant family.

Amaranth flour recipes

Both amaranth seeds and flour can be used for baking. Due to its mild flavour amaranth flour produces relatively plain breads and I’ve enhanced my amaranth bread recipe with both pumpkin seeds and walnuts. If you fancy a quicker recipe, try these crackers for a healthy snack. I’ve seen the amaranth flavour described as ‘lightly reminiscent of corn with grassy tones’ which I think is pretty much spot on.

Amaranth Seed recipes

Amaranth is quite versatile and can be simmered like other grains. It has a porridge-like texture and goes well with curry dishes. If you are growing the plant, you can even use the green leaves as an addition to your curry or salad. I’ve also used amaranth to prepare healthy salads and it works well. Alternatively, you can make a dessert by using amaranth seeds to prepare a fruity amaranth pudding.

Where to buy amaranth?

I got the amaranth flour and seeds from BuyWholefoodsOnline.co.uk, which has proven to be a brilliant source for high quality whole foods difficult to find elsewhere.

The individual products sourced were:

Amaranth bread recipe

My amaranth bread recipe includes 20% amaranth flour (based on overall flour content) and an additional portion of amaranth porridge made from amaranth seeds and water. It is therefore not a pure amaranth flour bread recipe, but using around 20% amaranth flour in a loaf of bread will provide a good texture and the amaranth taste will come through nicely.

Amaranth sourdough bread
Amaranth sourdough bread

Amaranth bread ingredients

Sourdough

Seed and Nut Soaker

  • 50g chopped walnuts
  • 50g chopped pumpkin seeds
  • 80g water

Amaranth Seed Porridge

  • 80g amaranth seeds
  • 160g water

Main dough

  • 450g strong white bread flour
  • 110g amaranth flour
  • 325g water
  • 12g salt

Dusting

Some extra flour (I use rice flour)

How to make amaranth bread

Day 1

  1. Combine the sourdough ingredients in a medium bowl, cover and set aside at room temperature for 16 – 24 hours.
  2. Dry-roast the chopped walnuts and pumpkin seeds until fragrant, then add 80g of boiling water to soak. Cover and set aside at room temperature for 16 – 24 hours.

Day 2

  1. Toast the amaranth seeds in a small pan until they become aromatic and light brown. Add the water and bring to a low simmer. The amaranth should soften in about 15 minutes and the water should evaporate by then. If it dries before the seeds are ready, add more water as needed. Remove from the heat to cool when done.
  2. In a large bowl, combine 150g of the refreshed sourdough starter (the rest should be set aside for your next bake), the amaranth seed porridge and the main dough ingredients to form a dough.
  3. Knead for at least 10 minutes until you have formed an elastic and smooth dough.
  4. Add the seed and nut soaker from day 1 and kneed for a further few minutes. The dough will be slightly sticky, so work with your dough scraper to help things along.
  5. Place back into the bowl, cover and leave to rest for about an hour or two at room temperature until you can see the dough has risen slightly.
  6. Deflate the dough and give it another quick knead on your work surface.
  7. Shape into a loaf, cover with flour in a flour bath and place into a lightly floured proving basket.
  8. Cover with a polythene bag to protect the moisture and prove at room temperature. In my wintery Edinburgh kitchen, this process takes a good 6 or 7 hours. However, if your kitchen is warmer, the process may be much shorter.
  9. Preheat the oven to 220°C and preheat your baking dome or Dutch oven at the same time.
  10. Turn out the loaf onto the baking dome or Dutch oven (or otherwise a baking stone or baking tray lined with baking paper).
  11. Score the top with a pattern of your choice. Use a scoring knife for best results.
  12. Bake at 220°C for 10 minutes and at 200°C for a further 40 minutes.
  13. Take off the lid of your baking dome or Dutch oven for the last 10 minutes if using to firm up the crust.
  14. Cool on a wire rack.
  15. Enjoy an amazing loaf of amaranth sourdough bread 🙂
Amaranth bread recipe
Amaranth bread loaf

If you’d like to make this amaranth bread recipe without the use of pumpkin seeds and walnuts, you can simply omit the seed and nut soaker ingredients as well as step 4 above.