Sourdough diaries continued!

By Anne Lise Tan

Hello everyone and Happy Easter*! If you remember my sourdough post from a few months ago, I started growing and maintaining my sourdough starter, Cricket, at the start of my second university year in London and am happy to report that I have made many successful loaves and sourdough derivatives since then!

An often forgotten part of sourdough baking is what to do with the sourdough ‘discard’ that is left after feeding your sourdough starter. For those unfamiliar with the science of sourdough, I will not bore you with the details, but just know that whenever we ‘feed’ a starter, we are adding more flour and water to the starter. But because we cannot keep adding flour and water indefinitely, we have to remove some of the starter to maintain the correct ratios and ensure our starter does not overflow out of its container 🙂 This is known as the ‘discard’ and actually has many uses since it is essentially just a combination of fermented flour and water.

In the spirit of Easter, I made this gorgeous upside-down blood orange cake that I have had my eye on for a while. It is the cover image of one of my favourite baker’s, Claire Saffitz’s, cookbook ‘Dessert Person’. (Google a picture of her book to see what I mean!) I had picked up some fresh blood oranges and lemons from a fruit stall outside Hampstead Heath in North London and got to work! The original cake itself is an olive-oil cake, lightened with semolina (ground corn flour). Instead of semolina, I used ground almonds and also added 200g of my sourdough discard to the batter. The beauty of baking with sourdough discard is that it can be added to almost any baking recipe (cakes, muffins are best!), and with a bit of baking math, you can produce a wonderful baked good that has a lovely chew and subtle tang.

An upside-down olive oil blood orange cake

This cake featured in our Easter Sunday dinner feast and was served with a dollop of creamy yogurt and blood orange zest.

Upside-down blood orange cake for our flat’s Easter Sunday dessert

I was really on a cake-baking kick that week because I made two more cakes (loaf cakes this time) with my sourdough discard. The first was a preserved lemon cake with an olive oil lemon icing that went down very well with my citrus-loving flatmates. Preserved lemons are a really unique ingredient that I have only discovered since living in London and they are traditionally a Moroccan condiment, where whole lemons are salt-preserved. This leaves a very tender, concentrated and pickle-y profile which is commonly used in savoury cooking but can also boost the lemony profile of sweet things in an unexpected way! This cake was tender and I also picked the most sunny day to have a little photoshoot with my cake and the sun was really making this cake look extra pretty.

Preserved lemons and a preserved lemon cake

The second cake I made was a rhubarb cake, inspired by one of my favourite bakers of all time, Claire Saffitz. I was gifted her cookbook last year for my birthday, and I am slowly making my through all her recipes, because they are just so good. This cake had both fresh and cooked rhubarb in the batter, which made it extra moist along with the sourdough discard. It did not need any icing and had a sprinkling of brown sugar on top to give an extra crunch and sweetness. Rhubarb is in season during the spring and summer and is such a fun vegetable to work with in baked goods. I think my flatmate just bought some more rhubarb and might make a bread pudding this week too, so excited for that!

Rhubarb loaf cake with some strawberry jam

The last thing I made with my sourdough discard recently were these English muffins from the King Arthur baking website. These were so easy to put together and relied on yeast to leaven the dough. They also do not require an oven and can be cooked in a skillet on the stove, making it extra easy and convenient if you do not have oven. Fresh muffins are always the best served with some jam and butter for breakfast!

Sourdough discard english muffins 

I hope you have enjoyed this little article about my bakes using sourdough discard and a sprinkling of spring vibes from London! I’m in the midst of my exam term, so baking has been put on hold for the time being, but I cannot wait to get back into it!

*Note: For those unfamiliar with Easter, the Easter season lasts for 40 days.

Posted by Chayo, HomSkil Editor 1, 30 April 2023

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