A couple of weeks before the COVID-19 stuff became disruptive locally, a friend gave me some sourdough starter. I read up and bought flour (just in the nick of time) and messed around with it and managed to keep it alive, but I had no idea when I’d have enough time to babysit dough long enough to bake bread.
Then came shelter-in-place, and suddenly there was that time I was looking for. (Silver lining?)
I used the Beginner’s Sourdough Bread recipe from The Perfect Loaf but because I can’t not mess with things, I made it 75% whole grain (whole wheat and spelt). The crust was a little darker and more assertive than was optimal, but my family loved the flavor of the bread and ate it happily.
All was going along swimmingly until I realized that I was very quickly using up flour and that I had a major sourdough discard problem. My family loved the pancake recipe from The Perfect Loaf, but it calls for 1 1/2 cups additional flour and two eggs per batch, and flour and eggs have become very dear in these pandemic times. Plus, the sourdough discard was adding up faster than my family wanted to eat pancakes, so I needed another solution.
First, I decreased the size of my starter (named Jameson by my ten-year-old). Instead of 20g starter/100g flour/100g water each feeding, I’m doing 15g starter/20g flour/20g water, which gives me enough for a new levain when I want to bake bread and enough left over to replenish my starter.
Next, I created an offshoot test starter (Jameson, Jr.) to keep in the fridge. I’m new enough at this that I’m not entirely certain about my ability to remember to feed it once a week, so I didn’t want to commit my whole starter to fridge fermenting. Jameson, Jr., is the same size as its parent.
Now instead of using 100g of flour and producing 200g of discard per feeding, I’m only using 20g flour and producing 40g of discard, and one only needs fed once a week. This rate of increase is more easily managed, but I still had a quart container of discard in the fridge.
There are lots of ideas online for using sourdough discard, but none used enough and all wanted additional flour and/or eggs. With the empty grocery shelves in mind, I wanted a recipe that used only the discard (just flour and water, after all) and that didn’t use any eggs.
So I made up my own.
Using “Your Basic Chocolate Cupcake” from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World (by Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero) as my starting point, I devised a recipe that uses 2 cups of discard, no additional flour, no eggs, and any type of milk, so it’s easily vegan. And I make my starter with whole wheat flour, so they’re whole grain, too.
My three family members tested the results and gave the cupcakes six enthusiastic thumbs up. (I can’t eat gluten or dairy, so I rely on my family for reviews of my glutenous recipes. They don’t mind criticizing me, so I trust their opinions.)
The cupcakes didn’t crown as much as I’d have hoped, but it’s pretty typical, for vegan cupcakes in my experience. My spouse and both children agreed that the sweetness was just right, the texture was good (my daughter said it was a little firmer than a standard cupcake, but that wasn’t a negative), and the sourdough taste was subtle. My son said, “It tastes like a chocolate cupcake with just a hint of sourdough fruitiness.” Kid needs to start a food blog.
Having declared the experiment a success and noting the dearth of online recipes calling for a whole bunch of discard and no eggs, I decided to share the recipe here.
The amount of liquid you will need to add will vary based on the consistency of your discard. I needed about 1/4 cup of added liquid to get to the right cake-batter consistency. I used cow’s milk, but you could use any milk.
If you try it in your kitchen, let me know how it goes and any modifications that work better for you!
Egg-Free (Vegan-Optional) Sourdough Discard Chocolate Cupcakes
3/4 c granulated sugar
1/3 c oil (olive, canola, etc.)
1 t vanilla extract
1/3 c cocoa powder
3/4 t baking soda
3/4 t baking powder
1/4 t salt
2 c sourdough starter discard (mine was 50/50 flour/water)
up to 1/2 c milk of your choice
-Preheat oven to 350°F.
-Line muffin tin.
-Combine all ingredients except discard and milk and stir well.
-Add discard and stir well.
-If mixture is too thick, add milk of your choice a little at a time, stirring well after each addition, until the batter is the consistency of thick cake batter.
-Fill muffin cups about 3/4 full or more (whatever it takes to distribute the batter evenly among all 12 wells).
-Bake for 18-20 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the center of a cupcake comes out clean.
-Transfer to cooling rack and cool completely.
-Top with frosting, whipped cream, jelly/jam, or just eat straight-up.