If you’ve hung around this site much, you probably know that I’ve got a thing for sourdough. Most often I use my sourdough starter to make bread — both crusty and soft — but I’ve been known to sneak it into things like chocolate cake and crackers. Repurposing “discard” (the portion of starter that is typically thrown away at each feeding) into something delicious is a challenge I really enjoy — not just because it reduces waste, but also because starter can add deeper flavor to so many baked goods! And pie crust is no exception.
Adding sourdough starter to pie dough is fairly straightforward. I’ve based this recipe on my go-to all-butter pie crust (which is in my book) by replacing all the liquid and part of the flour with ripe/discard starter. Since this recipe calls for a decent amount of starter, I usually save up a few days’ worth of discard in the fridge before making this crust. Since the starter isn’t for leavening, it doesn’t need to be at peak readiness as if you were mixing bread dough. As long as it still looks bubbly and isn’t overly soupy or acrid-smelling, it should work just fine. (I generally try to use my discard within 5-7 days.)
I’ve used sourdough pie crust for both sweet and savory pies and galettes. The starter adds a lovely depth of flavor. I don’t find it sour at all (though this will depend on the health/taste of your own starter!). It bakes up a little more tender than my regular pie dough, but is still plenty flaky as long as you handle it correctly (namely keep your ingredients cold and don’t overwork the dough!).
A few notes:
I keep a 100% hydration (equal parts flour and water) starter, which is what I use for this recipe. I’ve never had to add any extra liquid, but if you keep a stiffer starter (or live in a drier climate) you might need a touch of ice water or milk to help bind your dough together.
Make sure your starter is well-chilled before using it to make pie dough. I like to measure it out and refrigerate it for at least a couple hours before mixing.
In general, I like to keep my butter pieces fairly large when making pie dough, especially if I’m going for maximum flake. I find it’s especially helpful when making sourdough pie crust since you have to work the dough a little more than normal to incorporate the starter.
When you first add the starter to your dough it may seem like it won’t incorporate. Avoid the temptation to add liquid or knead — just fold the mixture over itself and it should eventually start coming together.
The folding in step 4 is optional, but I almost always do it for extra-flaky and easy-to-handle dough.
You can halve all the ingredients to make a single 9″ pie crust, but I always make a double batch to maximize my time in the kitchen. Pie dough freezes incredibly well, and having a couple batches in the freezer stash makes me feel like a baking ninja: I’m already halfway to an awesome galette or pie!
Have crust, make pie!
Once you’ve made this sourdough pie crust, use it your favorite sweet or savory pie or try it in one of these recipes:
250g flour (I typically use 125g all purpose and 125g whole grain such as spelt, whole wheat, einkorn, or rye)
1 1/2 tsp (6 grams) kosher salt (I use Diamond Crystal brand)
2 Tbsp (25 grams) granulated sugar
250g unsalted butter, cold and cut into 1/2″ cubes
250g ripe or discard 100% hydration sourdough starter, cold (see notes above)
In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, and sugar. Scatter the butter over the top. Use the pads of your fingers to flatten the butter pieces, tossing them with the flour mixture so each piece is coated on all sides. The butter pieces should remain fairly large, about the size of walnut halves. Work quickly so the butter remains cold.
Scrape the sourdough starter over the flour-butter mixture. Use a flexible spatula to fold and mash the starter into the flour-butter mixture. Once the starter is well dispersed, use your hands to continue folding the dough over itself, giving the bowl a quarter-turn between folds, until there aren’t any dusty bits of flour remaining on the bottom of the bowl and the dough just holds together when you squeeze a bit in your hand. (Depending on the consistency of your starter and the humidity of your environment, you may need to add a drizzle of cold water or milk to bring the dough together; but I usually don’t need any.) You should still see visible pieces of butter—this is a good thing! Fold the dough over itself several more times, giving the bowl a quarter turn after each fold, to make a cohesive but ragged mass.
If the dough is still cool to the touch at this point, continue on; if it feels at all soft or sticky, cover and refrigerate for 20-30 minutes before continuing.
Transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface. Using a floured rolling pin, roll the dough into a roughly 13-inch (33-cm) square. Brush off any extra flour and fold the dough into thirds like a letter. Fold into thirds again so you end up with a roughly 4.-inch (11-cm) square. Roll into a 3/4-inch (2-cm)-thick rectangle twice as long as it is wide and cut in half. Wrap each half and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, or up to 1 day. (The dough can also be frozen at this point and defrosted in the fridge overnight before using.)
Simple. Small-batch. Sourdough. Chocolate. Cake. That’s all there is to this recipe, but it seems to be everything we’re craving right now.
This is a riff on the chocolate cake that will be in my cookbook, scaled down and adapted to use sourdough discard, AKA the portion of starter that you normally discard every time you do a feeding. I usually collect all my discard in a container in the fridge and use it within a week or before it starts to develop an overly acidic smell / layer of liquid “hooch” on top.
For the best cake texture, I like to use discard that has fallen and no longer bubbly. The discard is just here for flavor and not leavening; and using a super active starter can make for a “bready” texture — not what we want here.
I frosted this cake with about a cup of silky fudge frosting I had left in the freezer, but you could certainly enjoy this plain, with a simple dusting of icing sugar, or maybe some whipped cream and berries. Whatever you pair it with, I hope you enjoy!
Sourdough Chocolate Cake
Makes one single-layer 8″ cake
57g (1/4 c) unsalted butter
28g (2 Tbsp) neutral vegetable oil
120g (1/2 c) 100% hydration ripe sourdough starter
1 tsp vanilla extract
63g (2/3 c) rye flour (all-purpose works too)
34g (1/3 c) Dutch-processed cocoa powder
160g (3/4 c) light brown sugar
1/2 tsp kosher salt
3/4 tsp baking soda
1 large egg, at room temperature
80g (1/3 c)sour cream, at room temperature
60g (1/4 c) hot coffee
Preheat the oven to 350°F with a rack in the middle. Grease an 8-inch round cake pan and line the bottom with parchment paper, then grease the pan again and dust with cocoa powder.
In a small saucepan, melt the butter over low heat. When the butter has melted, remove from the heat and whisk in the oil, starter, and vanilla. Allow to cool slightly while you prepare the rest of the ingredients.
Sift together the flour, cocoa powder, brown sugar, salt, and baking soda in a large bowl. Set aside.
Whisk the sour cream into the butter mixture, followed by the egg. Whisk the wet ingredients into the dry until combined. Add the hot coffee and whisk just until smooth.
Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 28-35 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the center comes out with just a few moist crumbs. Transfer to a wire rack to cool. Once the pan is cool enough to handle, run an offset spatula around the edges and turn the cake out to finish cooling completely.
Crackers are a popular food in our house. My kids love them. They’d probably eat crackers for dinner if they could (or anything else labelled “snacks” for that matter). So while everyone else is whipping out their royal icing and cookie stamps, here I am over here making sourdough crackers.
Don’t get me wrong — there will be plenty of cookies happening in our house too. But right now, I’m just having a little too much fun with crackers! They are actually quite fun to make with kids, too. The dough is easy to handle and roll, and my son never gets tired of adding “sprinkles” to things (even if they’re sesame seeds instead of sugar).
This sourdough cracker formula can be used to make either lavash crackers (a crisp flatbread) or grissini (thin, crunchy breadsticks). Leave them plain with just a sprinkling of flaky salt, or add seeds / spices to add texture and additional flavor! (Just be careful with dried herbs and spices as a tiny bit goes a long way.) You can even sprinkle on some grated cheese or knead some into the dough. My favorite cracker flavor combo is smoked paprika, garlic flakes, sesame seeds, poppy seeds, black pepper, and a little flaky salt. Yum!
These sourdough crackers are tasty on their own, but also make a great addition to a nosh or charcuterie plate. They keep well, so make a few batches now to have on hand for your holiday entertaining needs!
A couple of notes:
This is a flexible formula for sourdough crackers that you can easily scale depending on the amount of discard you have. I usually save discard in the fridge for a few days, then bake off a large batch. The easiest way to scale this recipe is as follows:
Weigh the amount of starter you have
Add half that weight in flour (so if you have 200 grams of starter, add 100 grams flour)
Figure out how much flour you have total, including the flour in your starter (100 grams from the starter + 100 grams added = 200 grams total flour)
Add 2% of the total flour weight in salt (2% of 200 = 4 g)
Add 10% of the total flour weight in olive oil (10% of 200 = 20g)
Add 10% of the total flour weight in honey (10% of 200 = 20g)
(I tried writing this out in baker’s percentages; but since there’s a bit of disparity over how to express starter in a formula, it ended up being more confusing than helpful. So there you go. Mathing for the day over.)
The baking temperatures and timing on these crackers are just a guideline and may vary considerably depending on your oven and how thinly you roll or cut your dough. If you like your lavash more like a flatbread (softer), pull it out sooner. If the edges are crisp but the middle needs more time, take out the sheet and carefully trim off the edges, then return the sheet to the oven finish crisping the rest. For grissini, you want more of a “low and slow” approach — you’re basically trying to dry the dough out without the breadsticks burning, so you need a lower temperature + longer bake. Experiment and find out what works best for your oven!
Assorted seeds (poppy, sesame), spices, and/or flaky salt for topping, if desired
Stir together the starter, oil, and honey until combined. Add the flour and salt and mix with a spatula until a rough dough forms. Knead for 3-5 minutes, or until the ingredients are well combined and the dough is smooth. It should be a medium-firm consistency and not sticky. (If it is sticky, add flour a tsp at a time until smooth, If it is dry, add water a tsp at a time until hydrated.) Transfer to an oiled container.
Ferment the dough at room temperature until it is doubled in size, about 3-4 hours. (Note: you can also refrigerate the dough for a few hours at this point if you aren’t ready to bake yet. Not sure how long it will hold, but I’ve held mine for about 8 hours and it probably could last longer. No need to bring to room temp before proceeding.)
For lavash crackers:
When the dough is nearly ready, preheat the oven to 400F (with a baking stone if you have one). Turn the dough onto a Silpat or piece of parchment paper cut to fit a baking sheet.
Roll the dough into a rectangle as thinly and evenly as possible. It should be almost paper thin. (Alternatively, you can divide the dough into portions and use a pasta machine to roll them out. I like to get them down to the 2nd-thinnest setting.)
Transfer the dough, still on the Silpat or parchment, to a baking sheet. Dock the surface all over with a fork to keep it from puffing in the oven. Mist with water and sprinkle seeds / spices / flaky salt if desired.
Bake for 10-15 minutes, rotating the sheet halfway through baking, until browned and crisp. Cool on a wire rack, then break into shards and serve. Keeps well in an airtight container or ziplock bag.
When the dough is nearly ready, preheat the oven to 325F and line a baking sheet with a Silpat or parchment paper. If you’d like to coat your grissini with seeds, place the seeds on a plate or small baking sheet.
On a nonstick mat or lightly floured surface, roll the dough into a rectangle between 1/8″ – 1/4″ thick. Cut dough into even strips into desired thickness (I like 1/8″ – 1/4″ inch). Roll them one by one in the bed of seeds, if desired, then transfer to the prepared sheet. If you like, you can hold one end of dough while twisting the other to get a corkscrew effect.
Bake until dry and crisp, about 30-40 minutes (but can vary wildly depending on the size of your grissini). Cool on a wire rack, then store in an airtight container or jar.