What to do with leftover sourdough starter

Being obsessively thrifty, I have traditionally not had leftover sourdough starter after making a recipe. I keep around 150 g of 60% starter (for no good reason, I have several of them) in the refrigerator and when I get ready for a bake I add whatever additional amount of flour and water is required to make the quantity I need, plus a little bit for insurance, then let it sit a day or so till good and bubbly, then make my bread and put the remainder back in the starter jar for the next batch. Everything gets used, now or later.

But that’s stupid. First of all you don’t need that much starter to get a fresh batch going (many recipes will tell you to start with a spoonful or so) and second a starter used after a single refresh is never going to be as strong as one that’s kept lively through regular feeding. So, with a bit more baking time recently, I’ve been refreshing my starter more frequently without making bread which means I have leftovers. These I transfer to a 1-liter plastic container (the kind your takeout hot-and-sour soup comes in) and when it’s full, deal with it. Here are some options:

  • Turn starter into a holiday gift. Package an 8 oz jar with our Kettle Bread recipe inside a cast iron Dutch oven; add a sack of stone ground flour if you like.
  • Make a recipe like sourdough onion rings, sourdough English muffins or sourdough waffles* that uses large amounts of starter for flavor, not leavening. Or do your own experiments with a batter/base/dough made with a ratio of 1 part starter, 2 parts water, 3 parts flour and salt as needed.
  • Dry it. Spread some starter on a piece of parchment paper and dry it in a dehydrator or just leave it out on a counter (if you’re not afraid of introducing new wild yeasts) till dry and flaky. Transfer to a Ziploc bag then store as you would yeast packets, in the refrigerator or freezer. Reconstitute by adding flour and water in your original proportions (60%, 100% or whatever) then refresh several times until lively. I haven’t actually tried this, by the way, but no reason it shouldn’t work.
  • And here’s one thing NOT to do: pour it down the drain. It’s very likely to turn into library paste and bring a visit from the plumber.

Many of these ideas are from this old thread on The Fresh Loaf which has even more; check it out.

  • When making this or any KAF sourdough recipe, remember that they use a starter at 100% hydration and ours is 60%. So you need to do a bit of simple math to adjust the flour/water ratio.
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4 Responses to What to do with leftover sourdough starter

  1. I’m confused. Isn’t the unised starter that you put back in the fridge the “leftover” starter. Why would you need to find a use for it? (other than your next loaf of bread) I just keep mine going. And going. And going. For years now. What did I miss?

    • Sorry. I see I used “leftover” in multiple ways, pretty sloppy of me. Now edited. What I am trying to talk about is the amount of starter after you put aside what you will need to make the next batch. If you refresh your starter just to keep it fresh, and don’t make bread right away, then that extra starter is going to start to add up unless you throw it away which I refuse to do.

  2. Amy says:

    You could do what I do with my leftover milk kefir grains and put a sign up on the Honest Weight Co-op bulleting board offering to give or sell it. I’ll bet people would love to have some.

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