Most of us don’t make bread daily but want to keep a sourdough starter. I saved the mature/to be discarded levain I didn’t need for baking or future feedings in a jar that lived in my freezer. I made many demasiado acidic breads just to claim victory over non-waste, but my palate never grew accustomed to loving the overly-acidic flavor. I experimented with adding the discard levain to pastries, quickbreads, and flatbreads (both leavened and not). My initial goal centered on not wasting the levain marked for discard, but also driven by creating more digestible pastries with another note on the palate.

When converting recipes to using a levain, I think about the components of a levain: starch and liquid. Take a favorite recipe and find the ingredients that have these two qualities. Obvious ingredients with liquid: milk, cream, water, lemon juice. Then there are the not so obvious: butter, maple syrup, fresh fruit, puree, vanilla extract.

Butter –> cook out water or replace with coconut oil
Maple syrup –> unrefined (dry) sugars like coconut or panela
Fresh fruit –> dry fruit, or partially dried fruit
Purees –> cook out some water
Vanilla extract –> vanilla powder, or omit

Record recipe changes. Make adjustments. Use water absorbing ingredients like flax or chia, coconut flour, or dried almond meal from making nut milks. Maybe bake at a higher temperature to set the structure, then lowering the temperature to cook the center through. Science is wonderful. Enjoy the process.

Change up intentionally slow mornings with sourdough waffles. (This recipe benefits from freshly/newly discarded levain rather than stored in freezer levain.) Serve with a homemade syrup and salted grass-fed butter. Syrup with a 2:1 sugar/water ratio has a similar body to maple syrup. It is possible to reset the nostalgia an Eggo holds in your memory even if this waffle doesn’t jump out of a toaster. La Verdad.

Find a framework of comfortability and evolve from there.



polenta cake with sourdough

Polenta cake, with sourdough

200g eggs
175g unrefined sugar
300g masa madre or discard levain (100% hydration)
150g polenta
8g baking powder
4g salt
170g olive oil

Beat eggs and sugar until pale and sugar is dissolved. Mix in discarded levain. Fold in dry ingredients. Fold in olive oil. Bake at 180ºC/350ºF for 35-40 minutes in a greased 8″ cake mold lined with parchment until center comes out clean.


scones and cookies with levain


Chocolate rosemary scones, with sourdough, dairy-free

150g masa madre or discard levain (100% hydration)
325g whole wheat flour
50g unrefined sugar
9g baking powder
2g baking soda
5g salt
50g eggs
200g coconut oil, chilled, cut in chunks
150g almond milk
11g rosemary
195g 72% chocolate pieces

Eating vegan? Replace eggs with flax eggs or chia seeds. Bake from frozen. Start baking at a high temp, finish lower. Your oven, your temp, your length of time. I prefer to start scone baking at around 204-218ºC/400-425ºF and finish at 180ºC/350ºF.



Cookie, with sourdough

100g masa madre or discard levain (100% hydration)
100g almond flour (dry from making nut milk)
85g whole wheat flour, fine
20g whole wheat flour, coarse
5g salt
3g baking soda
150g brown butter
175-200g unrefined sugar, fine
40g unrefined sugar, coarse
100g eggs
170g 70% chocolate pieces

Prepare dough with creaming method. Baking from frozen or chilled overnight will keep cookie from spreading. Home ovens sometimes have the option for convection. Start at a higher temp (190ºC/375ºF) and lower to finish (160ºC/325ºF). If the cookie spreads too much, increase dry ingredients or bake on parchment.



Banana bread, vegan with discarded levain

200g whole wheat flour
75g coconut sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp tumeric
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp salt
75g coconut or olive oil
3 overrripe bananas, 350-410g
60g discarded levain
60g non dairy milk, as needed*
1/2 cup chopped walnuts or Brazil nuts, for topping

Melt coconut oil. Mix in sugar, bananas, and discard starter. Mix dry ingredients. Mix wet into dry. Mix all together until just combined. Do not overmix. Bake in greased pan at 180ºC/350ºF until center is cooked through.

* whole wheat flour may require more liquid and depending the weight of bananas used, also may prefer more liquid.



Savory Pancakes, Korean inspired

230g discarded levain
1 large egg
2g baking soda (1/2 tsp)
pinch of sugar or 1 tsp honey or agave or maple syrup
pinch of salt
+/- 50g sparkling water*
1 tsp sesame or olive oil
ramps, green scallions, grated carrots or fermented grated carrots
olive oil or coconut oil for frying

Beat egg. Mix in discarded levain, salt, sugar, and baking soda. Mix in sparkling water and oil. For the amount of vegetables, add desired amount; for example 8 ramps with a tablespoon of fermented carrots or 6 scallions cut to 1″ pieces with one carrot, grated.

* If sparkling water isn’t in the pantry, add a pinch more baking soda and replace with filtered water. Total amount of water will depend on how much the gluten in the discarded levain has been “cut” or broken down. Test a small pancake before adjusting total amount of water.

Fry on non-stick skillet or cast iron with 1 tablespoon of oil on medium-high. Flip once. May need a touch more oil to finish cooking the other side if looking for super crispy edges. 

1/4 cup tamari sauce or soy sauce
2 Tbsp brown rice vinegar
1 tsp toasted sesame oil
1/2 tsp sesame seeds
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes, optional

Mix together and serve with savory pancake. Enjoy.