Last year we tackled sourdough on the blog with a post all about how to make and take care of a starter, as well as a basic sourdough loaf. Now the thing about sourdough starter is that you have to deal with something called discard. Basically, in order for a wild yeast starter to stay active and at peak leavening capability, it needs to be fed consistently. Since I don’t bake with my starter all the time, it is usually being stored in the fridge, which slows it down and requires less frequent feedings. However, when I am ready to bake with it, there is a 2-4 four day process of feeding it several times a day to get it back to being active enough to leaven loaves of bread. Each of those feedings requires me to dump off a portion so I don’t end up with a gallon of starter. That is why you dump part of it. Not because there is anything wrong with it, but because if you didn’t, then you’d quickly have way more starter than you could ever need. But, instead of just throwing away the discard, it can be added to other baked goods. While it will need help with leaven, it will still impart that wonderfully tangy sourdough flavor.
I’ve used discard in biscuits, pasta dough and crackers. Cornbread seemed like a no-brainer next step, especially since I make it fairly frequently once the evenings start to get cold. Nothing like a bowl of chili or stew with some warm cornbread right out of the oven! I grew up in the South and cornbread there was more like corn cake. So sweet and usually made out of a Jiffy cornbread mix. Nothing wrong with that, except if you grew up in our healthy house! While my mom did add a little sweetness to her recipe, she was all about the whole grain, scratch made version. I’ve taken that recipe (which is the one I still use to this day) and adapted it for sourdough discard.
I’ll let you in on a little secret I discovered this summer. I was traveling a lot and wasn’t quite sure what to do with all my starters. So I added my usual amount of water and then enough flour until they were a thick paste consistency, almost like putty. Then I covered and put them in the fridge. And didn’t deal with them for a month. No stirring, no feeding. I was able to come home, dump half, feed 3 times a day (with that first feeding more water to get back to normal consistency) and within 4 days they were active enough to bake bread with. I am partial to glass jars with locking glass lids and rubber seal. I put the lid on, but I don’t ever clamp and lock the lid down. I let it breathe just that little bit.
The cornbread recipe calls for 100% hydration sourdough starter discard. This means that the starter has been fed with equal amounts (by weight) of water and flour. It should be the consistency of pancake batter. Check out the sourdough post link mentioned above for more detailed instructions on sourdough starters.
Now what is cornbread without cornmeal? I love using the grain mill attachment for freshly ground cornmeal. It really heightens the flavor of the corn and allows you to control the coarseness. I prefer setting it on the finest grind for cornmeal and cornbread.
Cornbread is not at all complicated to make. In fact, it was sometimes my responsibility to make as a kid. We always had beans, cornbread and salad EVERY Monday night. So if an 11 year old can do it, it really isn’t that hard.
First the wet ingredients get mixed together. Then you add the dry.
Now my mom used cake pans to bake the cornbread in, but an 8 x 8 inch baking pan is what I use nowadays. This lovely one was provided by Emile Henry and my cornbread baked up quite nicely in it. I also appreciate that it is quite deep and could easily be used for a casserole or lasagna dish as well.
Since cornmeal has a pretty strong flavor, the sourdough discard adds a background note of subtle tanginess, which brings that extra something to the bread. Let us know if you have any questions or comments or more suggestions on how to use up that sourdough starter discard. Happy baking!
Sourdough Discard Cornbread
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Bake Time: 25 minutes
113 g. (1 cup) whole wheat flour OR 120 g. (1 cup) all-purpose flour
159 g. (1 cup) cornmeal
8 g. (2 tsp.) baking powder
3 g. (3/4 tsp.) kosher salt
184 g. (3/4 cup) whole or 2% milk, room temperature
180 g. (1 cup) 100% hydration sourdough starter discard
58 g. (4 Tbsp.) unsalted butter, melted
2 large eggs, room temperature
42 g. (2 Tbsp.) honey
Preheat oven to 425º F. Grease an 8 x 8 inch baking dish.
In a medium bowl whisk together the flour, cornmeal, baking powder and salt.
Set up the Ankarsrum mixer with the plastic whipping bowl and the single wire whisks. Whisk together the milk, starter discard, butter, eggs and honey on medium-low speed (2 o’clock) until thoroughly incorporated.
Add the dry ingredients and mix on lowest speed (12 o’clock) just until combined. Pour batter into prepared pan and bake for 25 minutes, until golden brown around the edges and a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.
Let cool 5-10 minutes before serving.
Yield: 9 large or 12 medium servings