During the worst of our lockdown here in Melbourne, I think EVERYONE rushed to the supermarket to buy bread flour (amongst other things of course… toilet paper?). I remember visiting the shops to find empty shelves in the flour aisle, save for a few broken bags here and there that nobody wanted.
I can only imagine (and also, judging by the number of Instagram stories and Facebook posts) that most people started making their own sourdough bread. It’s almost the perfect lockdown companion – it’s a pet that you need to feed, it’s a physical task that you have to do, it’s a project that you get to see complete. I made more sourdough bread in the past six months than I have in the past four years. It was definitely a great lockdown activity.
I’ve been making sourdough for a few years now, and my starter below is nearly 4 years old – it’s grown up so fast! I’ve seen it through the bad times where I left it too long in the fridge and it smelt really, really sour – to the good times where one teaspoon of this magical gloop was enough to make a 200g flour/water mix double in size in less than 12 hours.
One thing that everyone who makes sourdough has and/or will struggle with is the excess ‘waste’ that happens when you need to discard and re-feed your starter to keep it alive. My starter became so active to the point where I had to feed it every day. During summer, it was almost twice a day.
I wasn’t about to bake one whole loaf of bread a day – so I did a bit of research and looked for different methods to use sourdough starter discard that didn’t involve throwing it in the bin.
My favorite method is the one I am about to show you below, which makes a small, crumpet style bread pattie that I like to call ‘Pan Bread’. It’s super easy, super versatile and doesn’t take long at all.
To make my sourdough discard Pan Bread, you’ll need:
200g sourdough starter
1/4 tsp Bi-Carb Soda
good pinch of salt flakes
16cm shallow, non stick frying pan
It’s so easy – you literally add the salt and bi-carb soda to the sourdough mixture. The salt adds flavour, which the starter lacks. The bi-carb soda reacts with the acidity in the sourdough to give you instant rise. Mix this up well with a spatula. You can also beat it with the spatula at a good speed to develop some of the gluten.
Leave it for about a minute or two. Use your spatula gently scrape away the top layer to reveal a beautiful webbing of trapped bubbles. When it looks like the above, you know it’s ready.
Pour the starter into your pan. The pan should be on the lowest and smallest flame possible. At home, we have a wok burner with an inner ring that is about 4cm in diameter. It’s a tiny, tiny flame but it is perfect for this application. I set the timer for 20 minutes and walk away.
You’ll start to see the pan bread rise and get all bubbly underneath the gleaming, glossy surface.
The pan bread will start to form bubbles at the surface, much like a crumpet. It’s almost ready to be flipped when the holes in the centre stay open. This means the mix has cooked through and is no longer gloopy.
It’s now ready to be flipped. As you can see, the bottom has taken on a lovely dark, crusty appearance. When you run your fingernail over the top, you get a rough, raspy sound. It’s very crispy at this stage.
Leave it overturned for 5 minutes to cook the other side.
It should look like this. I don’t recommend eating it straight away. Due to the nature of the mix and how much more wet and undeveloped it is, it really does need to cool completely before you slice it open, otherwise it’s quite sticky. This all changes when it cools down.
I usually eat it by cutting it in half to make 2 slices, and using the same 16cm frying pan, I fry an egg or two and sandwich it in the middle with some ham and cheese. Using the same frying pan to cook the egg means that the egg fits perfectly in the sandwich – egg in every mouthful.
Do try it!