Food Matters: Burned Out On Bread?

Amanda Rae
Food Matters


(Adapted from King Arthur Flour)

In a large glass or ceramic bowl combine 1 cup sourdough starter discard (unfed) + 2 Tbsp. sugar + 2 cups buttermilk (or 2 cups almond milk + 2 Tbsp. lemon juice) + 2 cups all-purpose flour. Cover and let rest at room temperature about 12 hours or overnight.

When ready to cook, add: 2 large eggs, whisked + 4 Tbsp. melted butter (or ¼ cup vegetable oil) + ¾ tsp. salt + 1 tsp. baking soda + 1 tsp. vanilla. Stir well to combine; mixture will bubble.

Pour batter onto preheated, greased waffle iron. Cook until browned, 3-4 minutes. Serve waffles immediately to ensure crispness. Or freeze for up to three months.

Flour, water and time are the only ingredients necessary to craft a from-scratch sourdough culture, used as a leavening agent in place of commercial yeast to bake crusty bread with the mild tang of fermentation.

The process does require patience. The starter culture must be “fed” with equal parts flour and lukewarm water on a regular, twice-daily schedule, allowing wild yeasts and lactic acid bacteria to gobble up sugar in the flour, producing carbon-dioxide gas (which makes dough rise) and developing that familiar sour flavor. After 8 to 10 days of care, the bubbly sourdough starter is typically robust enough to bake bread.

There’s no better time than lockdown to experiment with sourdough baking. Folks isolated at home — like, all of us — are available to tackle this endeavor. Cooking from scratch, including bread baking, is the most economical way to feed oneself on a budget. (Depending, of course, on whether you can find ingredients: The current crisis has led consumers to over-purchase staples, leading to a nationwide flour shortage. On Monday morning, City Market Aspen had only a few five-pound bags of Kroger brand all-purpose flour for $2.19; Clark’s Market had sold out of five-pound bags but bulk all-purpose flour is available for $0.69 cents per pound, including about seven 50-pound bags.)

Little wonder, then, that cooking websites and social media groups are seeing a surge in interest about sourdough baking. ( is a hub of straightforward information for those seeking guidance in getting started.)

Since the sourdough process requires adding equal parts flour and water to the same amount of starter culture for days on end, it’s wise to remove a portion of starter before feeding a reduced amount. While this sourdough “discard” lacks the strength to leaven bread, it should not go to waste. I’ve made pizza dough, biscuits, and crackers in the past few weeks, to moderate success.

The easiest recipe I’ve found is for a single scallion pancake on demand: simply mix chopped green onions and sesame seeds directly into sourdough discard, then pan fry in hot sesame oil. The scallion pancake is pungent, chewy if a bit dense, and tasty when dipped in ginger-spiked tamari or topped with kimchi.

After six weeks on my latest sourdough journey, I’ve realized I’d rather make these overnight waffles from sourdough discard than go forth and bake bread, anyway. (This batter works for pancakes, too, but they will be thin.) The waffles are best eaten immediately off the griddle (3 minutes or less) or frozen. Reheating waffles in a toaster oven will boost exterior crispness.