Understanding the Difference Between Sourdough Discard vs Starter

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Sourdough baking has surged in popularity, bringing with it a wealth of terminology and techniques that can be confusing for beginners. One common point of confusion is the difference between a sourdough discard vs starter and sourdough discard. This article will break down these concepts and explain how each can be used effectively in your baking.

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sourdough discard vs sourdough starter

What is a Sourdough Starter?

A sourdough starter is a mixture of flour and water that has been fermented by wild yeasts and bacteria. This fermentation process produces lactic acid, which gives sourdough its characteristic tangy flavor, and carbon dioxide, which helps the bread rise.

A sourdough starter can be obtained through purchasing a dehydrated or discarded portion of starter and reviving it, or creating your own from scratch.

Check out our step-by-step guide on How To Make A Sourdough Starter From Scratch

Active Starter vs. Sourdough Discard

  • Active Starter: An active starter is a mature, bubbly mixture that has been recently fed and is ready to use in bread baking. It is full of active yeast and bacteria, which can leaven bread dough and give it the desired rise and flavor.
  • Sourdough Discard: Sourdough discard is the portion of the starter that is removed during feeding. When maintaining a starter, you need to feed it regularly to keep the yeast and bacteria healthy. This process involves discarding a portion of the starter to make room for fresh flour and water. Discard is less active because it hasn’t been recently fed and doesn’t have the same leavening power as an active starter.
sourdough discard vs starter

Using Sourdough Discard as a Starter

While sourdough discard is less active than a freshly fed starter, it can be revived through regular feedings. Here’s how you can turn your discard into an active starter:

  1. Feed Regularly: Start feeding your discard with equal parts flour and water by weight. For example, if you have 50 grams of discard, feed it with 50 grams of flour and 50 grams of water.
  2. Maintain a Schedule: Feed your discard every 12 hours, keeping it at room temperature. Over time, the yeast and bacteria will become more active.
  3. Monitor Activity: After a few days of regular feedings, you should notice the discard becoming bubbly and doubling in size within a few hours of feeding. At this point, it can be considered an active starter ready for baking.

Check out The Best Way To Maintain A Sourdough Starter

active sourdough starter vs discard

What Can Sourdough Discard Be Used For?

Sourdough discard doesn’t need to go to waste. Here are some creative ways to use it:

  • Starting a New Starter: Share your discard with friends and family to help them start their own sourdough journey. They can feed the discard to create their own active starter using the method mentioned above.
  • Turning Into Active Starter: As mentioned, regular feedings can turn your discard back into a fully active starter.
  • Discard Recipes: There are many delicious recipes specifically designed for sourdough discard. These recipes take advantage of the flavor and acidity of the discard without relying on its leavening power. Examples include pancakes, waffles, cookies, and biscuits.
difference between sourdough starter and discard

The Role of Sourdough Discard in Recipes

What Sourdough Discard Does

  • Flavor: Sourdough discard adds a unique tangy flavor to recipes due to its acidity.
  • Texture: It can improve the texture of baked goods, adding moisture and a slight chewiness.
  • Nutritional Value: The fermentation process can enhance the nutritional profile of the discard, providing beneficial bacteria.

What Sourdough Discard Does Not Do

  • Leavening: Since sourdough discard is not as active as a fed starter, it doesn’t provide significant leavening. Recipes using discard often rely on other leavening agents like baking powder, baking soda or even commercially purchased yeasts.

Extended Fermentation Benefits

Allowing recipes using sourdough discard to ferment for an extended period can enhance the final product in several ways. These benefits are also achieved when using active starter in recipes. This long-fermentation process can be found in our sourdough cinnamon rolls as well as some sweet bread and muffins!

  • Flavor Development: Longer fermentation allows the flavors to develop more fully, creating a richer and more complex taste.
  • Digestibility: The fermentation process breaks down gluten and other proteins, making the final product easier to digest.
  • Texture: Extended fermentation can improve the texture of the baked goods, making them more tender and moist.

Whether you’re reviving discard into an active starter or using it in creative recipes, each component has its own unique benefits that can enhance your baking experience.

Hey Beautiful! I’m Tara, garden enthusiasts, keeper of chickens, herbal homesteader and stay at home mom of 3 tiny humans and a sourdough starter named Ma. I love teaching others how to live a self-sufficient and sustainable life through homesteading, scratch cooking, and remembering to live barefoot, wild and free!

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