How To Make Sourdough Bread from Discard (unfed starter)

Imagine this scene…

You’re 8 years old and you are just coming off the school bus.  You walk up your front yard pathway, tired from the long day of learning and playing.

You open the door and the smell that wafts towards you is alluring…calming…enveloping…

As you walk towards the kitchen, you see your mom with a big smile, pulling a fresh loaf of crusty, homemade bread from the oven.

” Hey sweetie…how was your day? Sit down and I’ll put some butter on a slice of warm bread for you!  Then you can go outside and play with the dog for a while”.

How did that make you feel?

Even if this was the farthest thing from your childhood – and I’m thinking it probably is for most of us – doesn’t it just make you breathe deeper? Put a smile on your face? Long for more simple times?

Well, I could be wrong but I really think this is the reason people are baking bread now.

We are going through some uncertain times and all we want is to know that everything will be okay…just like you may have felt when you came home from school when you were 8 years old.

Re-visiting nostalgia, whether this was your reality or not, makes us feel comfortable and safe. We are all dreaming of a time, consciously or unconsciously, that was simple and “kind” and “unpretentious” and “safe”. Our world, the one we knew before this virus hit us, was feeling very “unsafe” to many of us and this time of mindful confinement, as I like to call it, has made us recall memories of better times. And one of those nostalgic memories, whenever you grew up with its or not, was freshly baked goodies and the associated smells that came with them. It conjures up an image of someone taking the time to mix together ingredients that would create a product that would fill your tummy and wake up your feel-good endorphins.

So, that was a long winded intro to tell y’all that baking bread is the feel good activity many of us have taken up in order to bring some happiness (and semblance) into this new normal we are currently living in.

The only downside is, for many people that have been messaging me, this calming act of bread baking has been anything but calming…creating unwanted stress to many.

“Why is this not working?”

“I have been babysitting this starter for a week and noting is happening…arghhh!”

“I want to bake easy bread but I can’t find the right ingredients”

The last thing we want in our lives right now is unwanted stress so I’m here to help!!

I have been baking bread (and all things baked) for over 2 decades and even I mess up! I want you all to know it’s not always as easy as everyone is making it out to be. If we want the feel good endorphins to fill our bodies, then the first thing you have to do is LET IT GO! Your first (or even 5th) loaf will not be perfect and that’s okay. It may not have the perfect crumb (more on that later), it may not be as fluffy as you’d like, it may not be crazy crispy like you keep seeing. Don’t stress. Toast it up or make it into croutons or breadcrumbs …and try again. I’m sure Michaelangelo’s first painting wasn’t perfect either!

I played around with a bread recipe until I came up with a recipe that should work for anyone. I used part bread flour and part all purpose (I even used 100% all purpose flour and it was still good!!), and I used sourdough discard instead of proper starter (in case we have some fails going on out there!!). I want to make all of you wanna-be bread bakers feel better about yourself!

This recipe is great because:

  1. It uses discard so you get the tang (and gut goodness) of sourdough while using up some discard.
  2. It adds a pinch of real yeast to act as a safety measure, ensuring you get that rise (yes, it’s a bit of a cheat but that’s okay!)
  3. I introduce you to Ken Forkish’s method (called the pincer method..you can see his youtube video here) …I’ll explain a bit more in a minute.
  4. I’ve added some cocoa and pecans to add in a sweetness that marries with the tang of the discard beautifully.
  5. This dough is a wetter dough which encourages an open dumb (those beautiful holes you see in sourdough).
  6. And a cool trick you need to do when you put your bread in the oven that you may not have known about!!

This photo below is what the dough looks like when you mix everything together in the first step…it’s doesn’t have to look perfect. It just needs to come together because you’ll be mixing it again a few more times before it “sleeps” overnight.

How To Make Sourdough Bread from Discard (unfed starter

This is what it looks like after it’s beauty rest! Remember, practice makes perfect and you may have to do this a few times to see what a perfectly proofed dough looks like (it’s all about the spring back of the dough when you poke it gently … if it springs back right away, it needs more proofing, if the dent remains, it should be ready (it should also have doubled in size).

How To Make Sourdough Bread from Discard (unfed starter)

TIP: Once your bread is ready for the oven, remember you want a piping hot oven as well as a piping hot vessel (in this case, our cast iron pot). When the dough is placed in the hot pot, it creates a boost in the leavening but if you want an even bigger boost, you need to mimic the humidity boost of a professional oven so throw a couple of ice cubes in the bottom of your oven to help create that environment!

How To Make Sourdough Bread from Discard (unfed starter

A beautiful crusty loaf every time! Remember that the best part about a sourdough loaf is that crispy, almost burnt crust! Leave it in the oven until it is golden like this!!!

How To Make Sourdough Bread from Discard (unfed starter

Once it’s baked, you must leave it for about 30 minutes (I know, I know! So hard, right??). That way, it will be easier to cut. My culinary instructor told us, years ago, that if you eat piping hot bread, the gluten will bother your gut more than if you wait for it to cool (I’m not sure how true that is…I think he was just tying to scare us into waiting for the loaves to cool!!).

How To Make Sourdough Bread from Discard (unfed starter

Let me just leave you with the Kevin Forkish Method that I talked about before:

When you are using this method, you use wet hands instead of flour (when you have a wetter dough, you don’t want to keep incorporating flour as this might harden the dough). Wet your hands and gently scrape the dough from the sides of the bowl and then pull from the sides and fold over. Keep re-wetting your hands and fold over each side (all four sides) and then pinch the dough right in the middle between your thumb and forefinger…then do it three more times so your dough looks like it’s been cut into 4 pieces like this below:

how to make sourdough bread with discard

Then you grab the end and fold over again on all 4 sides. You are basically kneading to activate the gluten which is what gives the bread “strength” but with wet hands instead of floured hands!

So now that you are in the know about making a perfectly imperfect loaf of bread (at least the first time), let’s get at it, shall we??

Cocoa Chocolate Chip Sourdough Bread (Using Unfed/Discard Starter)

Ingredients

  • 80 grams discard (unfed/spent starter) (must be at room temp)
  • 1/2 tsp dry yeast
  • 370 grams warm water (85-95ºF)
  • 2 tbsp granulated sugar
  • 200 grams bread flour
  • 260 grams all-purpose flour
  • 10 grams cocoa powder
  • 5 grams salt
  • 50 grams chocolate chips
  • 50 grams chopped pecans

Instructions

  1. {timing: first night at 6pm} If you have some discard in your fridge, take it out to come to room temperature; if you don't have any discard and you want to feed you starter, take out 80 grams and feed remaining starter (if you want to use it for something)...Stir together the unfed starter, yeast, sugar and water in a bowl, distributing the mixture while mixing together; add both flours, salt and cocoa powder, mixing well, cover the bowl with a kitchen towel or plastic wrap and let sit for one hour.

  2. {timing: first night 7pm} Add the chocolate chips and salt to the dough mixture in the bowl. Combine the dough using a wet hand and folding the dough over from the bottom to top and "pinching" the dough (the Ken Forkish method I talked about above)....

  3. {timing: first night 8pm} Repeat the above method, cover and rest for another hour

  4. {timing: first night 9pm} Depending on the temperature of your kitchen your dough should have doubled in size (warmer kitchen would take less time and a cooler one, more time); give the dough one more turn and pinch, cover and either leave on the counter for 8-10 hours (or 15-20 hours in your fridge).

  5. [timing: next morning 7am} Transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface (the dough will relax when you take it out of the bowl). Taking one section of dough at at time, fold the sections over the rest of the dough until you have a  tight ball shape. Then tighten the dough by pulling it towards you by cupping the dough with both your hands. Place a piece of parchment onto your work surface and gently transfer the dough to the paper and gently place into another similar sized bowl to your baking pot. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside for another 2 hours or until it is doubled again. 

  6. {timing: next day- bake 9am}  This recipe uses a dutch oven for baking. Preheat your oven to 500ºF with a rack in the center of the oven. Put the dutch oven with the lid on the rack while the oven preheats. Once the oven has reached temperature, take the dough out of the refrigerator and invert it onto a piece of parchment paper, leaving enough paper on either side to be able to lift it. Take the ends of the parchment paper and carefully lift and transfer the dough to the dutch oven. Cover the dutch oven and place it back in the oven. Lower the temperature to 475ºF and bake, covered for 30 minutes then uncover and bake for another 15 minutes, and then lift the bread out of the pot and bake on the oven rack for another 10 minutes (check the bottom for too much browning in case your oven runs hot). When done, tilt the bread out of the dutch oven and let it cool on a rack for at least 20 minutes before slicing.

 How To Make Sourdough Bread from Discard (unfed starter

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