After a long summer snooze, my sourdough starter, Pepita, is back in action. A few weeks ago, I pulled her from the fridge, poured off the “hooch”, the layer of murky grey liquid that rises to the top of starters upon being neglected, and began the feeding process: discard nearly all of it, feed with equal parts flour and water, wait for it to double, then repeat.
Within a day, Pepita was back to her old self, as bubbly and vibrant as ever. I am always amazed by the resiliency of sourdough starters, how they can spring back to life from what appears a very unpromising state. Nothing about a hooch signals: “Everything is fine!”
I have yet to make a loaf of sourdough bread, but I have been keeping Pepita on my countertop with the intention of doing so soon. In the meantime, I’ve been using the discard to make these sourdough crackers, from Melina Hammer’s new book, A Year At Catbird Cottage.
If you are unfamiliar with Melina, she is a recipe developer, photographer, food stylist, and Food52 resident. She lives in the Hudson Valley, and she and her husband own the Catbird Cottage, a bed and breakfast run out of their home. Her cookbook is filled with recipes made with ingredients from her garden or foraged from the nearby woods and includes recipes for pickling, fermenting, preserving, and more.
What I love about these crackers is their simplicity. They’re essentially made with 4 ingredients — flour, water, salt, and butter — but they can be gussied up in countless ways by using various flours or by adding herbs or spices to the dough itself or by topping them with various seeds or seed mixes: sesame, everything bagel, dukkah.
I also love that they call for a lot of sourdough discard — 1 cup (200 grams) — which has drastically reduced how much discard I actually have to discard. And did I mention the flavor? I think Melina says it best: “The tang of the sourdough evokes a subtle, sharp cheesiness (in the best possible way).”
The dough, moreover, can be frozen! How nice would it be, come winter, the season of grazing boards and cheese plates, to pull out dough from the freezer and bake off thin and crispy, craggy-edged, seed-speckled crackers? I think these crackers would make a wonderful holiday gift, too.
PS: Three Seed Crackers (Raincoast Crisps Copycat Recipe)
3 Other Favorite Sourdough Discard Recipes
Also: If you’re interested in sourdough bread baking and aren’t sure where to begin, I have a free email course that demystifies the process. Sign up here: Sourdough Demystified.
Finally: If you need help maintaining your sourdough starter, I have a guide: How to Feed, Maintain, and Store a Sourdough Starter.
Melina Hammer’s A Year At Catbird Cottage
How to Make Sourdough Discard Crackers, Step by Step
Place 200 grams of sourdough discard in a large bowl.
Add 1/2 cup of rye flour, 1/2 cup of all-purpose flour, butter, and salt. (You can use any mix of flours you like.)
Mix until you have a cohesive dough ball.
Cut the dough in half and pat it into two rectangles.
Wrap each in plastic wrap and chill for 30 minutes or longer.
Unwrap and roll the portion out as thinly as possible on a lightly floured sheet of parchment paper. Use the plastic wrap, too, to prevent sticking.
It’s OK if the finished shape is amoeba-shaped.
The key is to roll the dough thin.
Cut into cracker shapes — squares, rectangles, whatever you like. Brush with olive oil.
Season as you wish: everything bagel seasoning, sesame seeds, or simply flaky sea salt.
Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until evenly golden — you do not want to underbake these.
Store them in an airtight vessel at room temperature for 1 week or freeze for longer storage.
Such a treat to have on hand! And so simple!
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These sourdough discard crackers are incredibly easy to make and are such a treat to have on hand.
This recipe is from Melina Hammer’s new book A Year at Catbird Cottage, which she adapted from King Arthur Flour. Melina’s recipe calls for 2 tablespoons of finely chopped rosemary, and King Arthur Flour’s recipe calls for 2 tablespoons of dried herbs, so feel free to add those if you have them.
Having made these several times now, I think there are two places where things can go wrong:
- Not rolling them out thinly enough.
- Not baking them long enough.
Once I made both mistakes, and the crackers were too thick and not crisp. That said, looking at the photos both on the KAF website and in Melina’s book, I think if you want to make them slightly thicker, though no thicker than 1/16-inch thick, you can as long as you bake them long enough — an even golden brown color is the visual cue you are looking for.
- If you don’t have rye flour, you can simply use all all-purpose flour or you can use any other flour you have on hand, such as spelt, or any variety of freshly milled flour, etc.
- If you don’t have a starter but want to make these, stir together 100 grams water with 100 grams flour in a small bowl the night before you want to bake these. Cover the bowl with a towel and let it rest at room temperature. Use the entire mix as your starter the following day.
- If you want help getting started with sourdough bread baking, I have a free email course: Sourdough Demystified.
- 1 cup (200 g) sourdough discard (unfed sourdough starter)
- 1/2 cup (56 g) rye flour, see notes
- 1/2 cup (56 g) all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon (3 g) kosher salt (or 1/2 teaspoon if you are sensitive to salt)
- 4 tablespoons (57g) unsalted butter, room temperature
- olive oil, for brushing
- flaky sea salt for sprinkling or sesame seeds or everything bagel seasoning
- Mix together the sourdough starter, flours, salt, and butter until you have a cohesive dough. It’s OK if it’s a little sticky. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface, divide into two portions, pat each into a rectangle, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes, or longer — I’ve done this 24 hours in advance — until the dough is firm.
- Preheat the oven to 350°F.
- Working with one piece of dough at a time, unwrap the plastic wrap and reserve it. Very lightly flour a piece of parchment, a rolling pin, and the top of the dough.
- Place the dough onto the floured parchment paper, and place the sheet of plastic wrap on top of the dough. Roll the dough as thinly as possible (see notes above), using your rolling pin to disperse it as evenly as possible over the parchment paper. It’s OK if the edges are ragged, but do try to make the dough as thin as possible — if it’s too thick, the crackers won’t be crisp.
- Transfer the dough-topped parchment sheet onto a baking sheet. Lightly brush with oil and then sprinkle the salt (and/or other toppings) over the top of the dough.
- Cut the dough as you wish. I like to do long strips, about 1.25 to 1.5 inches wide. I use my bench scraper, but a pizza wheel works well here, too.
- Bake the crackers for 20 to 25 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through, until they’re starting to brown around the edges. Depending on how thinly you’ve rolled them, they may be done closer to 25 minutes, so do check at the 20-minute mark.
- When fully browned, remove the crackers from the oven and place the pan on a rack to cool. I like to let the crackers cool completely on the sheet pan, which ensures they will be crisp ultimately.
- Repeat with the remaining portion of dough or keep it in the fridge or freezer until you are ready to use it.
- Store crackers in an airtight vessel at room temperature for up to a week. Freeze for longer storage.
- Prep Time: 40 minutes
- Cook Time: 25
- Category: Sourdough
- Method: Baking
- Cuisine: American
Keywords: sourdough, discard, crackers, rye, butter, sea salt