Have any of you mixed and cultivated your own sourdough starter–and then given it up? I have. Much as I loved baking bread it began to feel like a burden. I just couldn’t keep up. But what I didn’t consider was that sourdough starter didn’t require bread baking to be useful. There are all sorts of other baked goods you can make with it.

There’s also another option. If you haven’t cultivated starter, you need to know that it requires regular feeding with equal parts flour and water–but before you add the new you have to discard much of the old. The Friendship Bread Project, also known as Amish friendship bread, encourages people to share their discarded starter with friends–like a benign chain letter.

But what if on a given week you don’t have anyone to share it with and you don’t want to just throw it away? I did some research and found that there are lots of ways to use discarded starter: pancakes and waffles, cakes, quick breads, muffins, crackers, and crepes. Some you can use with just the weakened starter. For others, like the English muffins I tried that were an epic fail, I learned you need to feed first. My friend Joanne Sherif, who owns San Diego’s Cardamom Cafe & Bakery, has been using hers for cornbread and banana bread, which you can buy at the bakery.

Initially, when I decided to use up my discards before the weekly feeding, I had a limited range of options,  but only because of simple quantity–my first discards were limited to half a cup. When I fed the starter I added four ounces each of King Arthur white whole wheat flour and water. (And note, I add ingredients by weight, not volume.) Unless I need more starter for a big baking project, I’ll add two ounces of flour and water each in the future, let it sit on the counter for several hours until it bubbles up, then store it in the fridge. I put a line on the see-through container that shows the starting point so I can see how much it grows (I still find that hugely exciting). Because it’s being refrigerated I only need to feed it weekly. If left on the counter, it would need daily feeding. I don’t think I have enough interested friends to share discards from that or the time to use it up daily.

As I scoured online resources I came across a site I wasn’t familiar with but that I discovered, along with the ever-reliable King Arthur Flour, is hugely informative: Cultures for Health. The site has an entire section devoted to how to use discarded starter. And from there I found my recipe: Chocolate Sourdough Snack Cake.

Yes, I was lured by biscuits, including biscuits with cheddar cheese, and pretzels, and English muffins… but I didn’t have enough starter. Curious about a sourdough dessert, and honestly getting a little desperate, I clicked on desserts and found this cake. Bingo! It sounded divine–and only needed half cup of starter.

This recipe is super simple and yields a deep chocolate brownie-like consistency. It calls for baking in a cake pan, but I fiddled around with measurements and decided to use a loaf pan instead–and it worked just fine. I also didn’t have non-alkalized cocoa powder and worried that since the recipe called for baking soda there might be an issue. But no, it all turned out well. (I’ve since found–and ordered–natural cocoa powder for when this comes up again.)

I actually didn’t taste much of a sour/tangy flavor from the starter, but the cake benefitted in moistness and richness. And, oh, how wonderful it is with a cup of coffee or tea.

And, really, the point of this bake was to demonstrate to myself that I could relax a bit about having a starter again since the pressure is off to bake bread at a pace I can’t keep up with. In fact, the following week I did  bake crackers–something you could do for clients you’re making appetizers for if you’re catering a dinner party or event.

And, if anyone in San Diego would like my discards, let me know. I’m happy to share when I feed on Sundays.

Chocolate Sourdough Snack Cake
From Cultures for Health

Ingredients

1 cup unrefined cane sugar
1/2 cup butter or coconut oil
1 large egg
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 Tbsp. cold, strong coffee
1/2 cup fresh sourdough starter
1 cup flour
1/4 cup unsweetened, non-alkalized cocoa powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 cup chopped nuts or naturally sweetened mini chocolate chips

Instructions

1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
2. Line an 8-inch baking pan with parchment paper; lightly butter and set aside.
3. Mix unrefined sugar and butter together in a large bowl until sugar is thoroughly incorporated into butter. Beat in egg, vanilla, coffee, and sourdough starter.
4. In a separate bowl, stir together flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt.
5. Blend dry ingredients into wet ingredients just until batter is mixed through.
6. Fold in nuts and chocolate chips. Do not overmix.
7. Pour batter into prepared pan and bake 30 to 40 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
8. Cool on a rack and serve plain or frosted.

Do you keep a sourdough starter? What kinds of treats do you make with it?

Not an APPCA member? Now’s the perfect time to join! Go to personalchef.com to learn about all the benefits that come with membership.

And if you are a member and have a special talent to share on this blog, let us know so we can feature you!

Ideas for what to publish in à la minute can come from the least obvious situations. Back in January on the morning of the big Women’s March I met a number of friends in San Diego’s Little Italy to head to the Civic Center where the march was gathering. When I reached the parking lot pastry chef Joanne Sherif, who owns Cardamom Cafe & Bakery, was handing out the most stunning madeleines. Coated in sugar and grapefruit zest, you could almost eat the fragrance before taking a bite. And the bite! Crunchy from the sugar coating but with a bright citrus flavor in the subtly sweet chewy cookie. At that moment that’s all I wanted and I told her I needed her to teach me how to make them.

She did. And she added a chocolate version to the mix.

Now publishing recipes is all well and good but what you really get here is the benefit of Joanne’s expertise–her tricks and tips. When it comes to madeleines, which she considers more of a cake than a cookie but with a thick, cookie-like dough, Joanne’s firmest piece of advice is to refrigerate this dough for at least two hours before baking (and you can even refrigerate it overnight).

She has two reasons for insisting on this. The first is that you want the flour fully hydrated. The second is you want it completely chilled when it gets into the oven. Like bread baking, the steam for the cold moisture when it hits the heat will give it “oven spring.” In other words, it will help it puff up.

Another suggestion Joanne has, and this is for the chocolate madeleines, is to use a top grade cocoa. Joanne discovered Guittard’s Cocoa Rouge, which she adores. I found it on Amazon’s and Sur La Table’s websites, along with Guittard’s own site.

Finally, again for the chocolate madeleines, add a bit of espresso powder. This brings out the flavor of the chocolate.

Now if you aren’t a grapefruit fan, no worries. You can use any kind of citrus. The day I was with Joanne, she had blood oranges and the reds and oranges in the zest were striking. And assuming you have leftover citrus sugar, don’t toss it! Instead, says Joanne, use it to sweeten iced team, rim a cocktail glass, or add to a homemade salad dressing.

Finally, before you place the dough in the madeleine forms, brush a little butter inside the forms to make sure the cookies won’t stick. And don’t fuss over smoothing the top of the dough. Use your fingers to press the dough into the molds but as they bake, the top will smooth itself.

Chocolate Madeleines
From Joanne Sherif of Cardamom Café & Bakery
Yield: 2 to 3 dozen depending on mold size

Ingredients
4 eggs
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 teaspoons espresso powder
100 grams all-purpose flour
90 grams cocoa powder
pinch salt
185 grams plus 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted and cooled
¼ cup cocoa powder

Directions

  1. In a stand mixer, beat together eggs, sugar, vanilla, and espresso powder. Slowly add flour, cocoa powder, and salt. Mix and then slowly stream in 185 grams of melted butter. Mix until fully incorporated. Refrigerate dough at least two hours and up to overnight.
  2. Preheat oven to 350°. Remove the dough from the refrigerator. Melt a tablespoon of butter and brush the inside of the madeleine molds. Place about a tablespoon of the dough in each mold.
  3. Bake for 14 to 16 minutes, rotating the pan halfway for an even bake. To make sure they’re done, lightly tap the top. When it springs back, they’re fully baked.
  4. Remove the madeleines from the oven and let cool.
  5. In a medium-size bowl several madeleines. Place cocoa powder in a sifter and sift cocoa over madeleines. Remove and repeat with the next set of madeleines until all are topped with cocoa powder. Serve or place in a plastic bag. They’ll stay fresh for about 4 days.

Citrus Madeleines
From Joanne Sherif of Cardamom Café & Bakery
Yield: 2 to 3 dozen depending on mold size

Ingredients
2 eggs
2/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
½ teaspoon fresh lemon zest
pinch salt
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 ¼ sticks plus 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted and cooled
2 cups sugar
2 pieces of citrus, zested (lemon, lime, orange, or grapefruit all work)

Directions

  1. In a stand mixer, beat together eggs, sugar, vanilla, lemon zest, and salt. Slowly add flour and then butter. Mix until fully incorporated. Refrigerate dough at least two hours and up to overnight.
  2. Preheat oven to 350°. Remove the dough from the refrigerator. Melt a tablespoon of butter and brush the inside of the madeleine molds. Place about a tablespoon of the dough in each mold.
  3. Bake for 14 to 16 minutes, rotating the pan halfway for an even bake. To make sure they’re done, lightly tap the top. When it springs back, they’re fully baked.
  4. Remove the madeleines from the oven and let cool.
  5. In a medium-size bowl, mix together the sugar and citrus zest. Place several madeleines in the bowl and gently toss them in the sugar and zest mixture. Remove and repeat with the next set of madeleines until all are coasted in the sugar and zest mixture. Serve or place in a plastic bag. They’ll stay fresh for about 4 days.

Do you make desserts for clients? If so, what are your favorites to prepare?

Not an APPCA member? Now’s the perfect time to join! Go to personalchef.com to learn about all the benefits that come with membership.

And if you are a member and have a special talent to share on this blog, let us know so we can feature you!

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