If, like us, you bake a lot of bread using a natural starter — it’s coming back into vogue these days — you probably wonder what to do with the leftover starter. It’s a shame to throw it away; after all, it’s perfectly good, but there’s really not enough to make more bread, so out it goes. But not anymore. We fretted about the starter issue, and even though it’s only a cup a week going out the door, we really didn’t like the idea of throwing food away.
Then, one fine day, we came across a recipe for sourdough pancakes in Cooking with Italian Grandmothers by Jessica Theroux. Hey, we thought, those Italian grandmothers have been making naturally leavened bread for longer than we’ve been alive. They’re probably onto something, so we tried it. Now, every week, on baking day, we have pancakes for breakfast — sourdough pancakes. A tasty breakfast and no more wasted starter. Of course, we’ve modified the original.
Makes about 20 three-inch cakes, enough for a filling breakfast for two.
- 1 cup thick but pourable starter (this is just about the amount we have left)
- 1 Tbs local honey
- 1 egg
- 1 cup buttermilk
- 1 cup whole wheat flour
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1/4 tsp baking powder
- 1/4 tsp baking soda
Ingredient discussion: Honey: did you know that most supermarket honey really isn’t (try looking up fake honey in supermarkets, you’ll see)? It’s high fructose corn syrup and coloring. So, find a local honey supplier. The one that we found lets us bring in our own jars and sells his honey by the pound. A quart runs us about $10. Buttermilk: it doesn’t really have to be buttermilk, but we always have some in the fridge (we make that about every two weeks), so in it goes. Egg, only free range will do. Everything else: take the quantities listed as approximate; we make the pancakes while we’re splitting and feeding the starter and we never really measure any of these. You can, of course, but as long as you are close….
Save your starter. As you split, feed, and use your starter, save the leftovers. We just scoop the extra into a 4-cup measuring cup. When you’ve accumulated all the leftover starter, move to the next step.
Add honey. Add about 1 Tbs of honey to the starter. Stir it in. If you don’t stir it in now, you’ll end up with honey lumps in the batter. Honey lumps aren’t dangerous, of course, but they can stick to the griddle when you’re making the cakes.
Add everything else. Add the egg. Add the buttermilk (or milk). Toss in a bit of salt so your pancakes won’t taste like wallpaper paste. Put in the baking soda, and the baking powder. Add the flour.
And stir. Stir until everything is combined. Don’t worry about pancake instructions that say “Stir until the dry ingredients are moistened.” For leavened pancakes, it won’t matter. Just make sure you have a pancake-batter-like consistency. Add more buttermilk, if need be, or more flour.
Cover and refrigerate. We use those little shower cap thingies that were popular with our grandparents. They were smart. Use something reusable, and don’t waste. Probably like the grandmothers from whom this recipe springs.
Baking day (per tradition):
Remove from the fridge. When you uncover the batter, the top layer may have discolored. That’s oxidation — food rust. It won’t hurt you, so gently stir it back in.
Heat the griddle. On medium heat, let the griddle come up to temperature. You want it hot, so hot that a water drop skitters across the griddle.
Wipe with a bit of grease. No sticking for these pancakes, at least if you grease the griddle a bit.
Cook the pancakes. Scoop a heaping tablespoon of batter onto the griddle. And another. And another. Fit a few on (we can get four, each about 3 inches in diameter) and let cook for about 2-3 minutes. Then flip, and cook the same amount of time on the other side.
Serve hot with maple syrup. Real maple, no substitutes allowed. We will let you get away with peach preserves, too. Or raspberry. We normally just stand at the counter, cooking pancakes, eating pancakes, cooking pancakes, eating pancakes, until they’re gone.
We always make these sourdough pancakes with leftover starter, therefore, we give this recipe five stars – count ’em, five!