When to Use Your Sourdough Starter

Whenever you use a recipe that lists sourdough starter as one of the ingredients, you will usually find it says one of two things:

  1. Sourdough starter - Fed and active (usually for bread or anything that requires a substantial ‘rise’)

  2. Sourdough discard - (usually for pancakes, cookies, pastry- those things that require flour but not necessarily a ‘rise’)

Let’s start with fed and active... what does this mean?

When you feed your starter it will immediately start to ‘eat’ the food and begin to bubble and grow in volume, eventually reaching a peak before starting to sink back down. Fed and active usually refers to this peak.

The time scale of this will vary from starter to starter, but after a few feedings, you will start to see a pattern and determine approximately when this peak occurs. Try and time your feed into your baking schedule for optimal results.

For example, we would feed our starter last thing at night before bed and it will usually be ideal for baking with first thing in the morning.

Having said all of this, we find that using your starter an hour or so either side of the ‘peak’ really doesn’t have any detrimental effect.

What about sourdough discard...

Sourdough discard is the ‘unfed’ portion of starter that you remove to make room for a fresh feed. You can choose to just throw this away or you can use it in many recipes that ask for sourdough discard.

You can use sourdough discard the same day or alternatively, save it up and store it in the fridge (we wouldn’t recommend for longer than 3/4 days) for a big baking session.

The beauty of using sourdough discard is that you still get some flavour, it usually prolongs the life of your bakes and we find it always adds a lightness to recipes.