Sunday, June 10, 2012


I think I'm starting to get the hang of this sourdough thing. Making a loaf or two every week has helped, as did all the tips I got from people who have much more experience than I do! One thing I figured out early on is that I have to be patient – giving it more time really makes a big difference in the end product.

I also figured out some techniques to increase the sour flavor. The one I settled on was to use a little bit of rye flour in the starter. Some people also use citric acid, but to me that seems like cheating. I'm not sure why one added ingredient is legitimate in my mind and the other is cheating, but there you go. There are plenty of other things I want to try to improve the basic recipe, but I have to be patient and get some more ingredients. Luckily, I'm on break until September, so I have lots of time to play with it! I've put my updated recipe at the bottom of the post.

See those bubbles?  That's an active starter!
Now that I have the basics down, I thought I'd look around and see what else I can use my starter for, despite Randy's plaint of “Why does everything have to be sourdough?” I love sourdough and will make ALL THE THINGS  out of it!

Luckily for me (not so much for Randy), it appears that you can use sourdough starter in pretty much everything you bake. Some things are just variations of other recipes that I like – whole-grain sourdough bread and sourdough English muffins. Many of the other recipes I found made a lot of sense – things that regularly call for sour cream or buttermilk like pancakes or coffee cake.

One, though, made me scratch my head. Sourdough sugar cookies. Um...what? That just doesn't compute. However, there are dozens of recipes out there, so they must be decent. Of course I had to try it!

I figured it it was win-win – either I they would turn out delicious and I'd have a tasty treat...or they'd be unappetizing and I'd avoid stuffing my face with cookies.

I fed my starter – but only once instead of twice, since the rise wasn't as important (and the recipe called for baking powder and baking soda, and eggs which act as leaveners as well). It got nice and poofy – I've fed it a lot in the past couple of weeks as we are re-building our bread stock, so it's nice and active.

Many people talked about adding different ingredients into the base recipe (due to trying to make them edible, Randy would say), so I thought I'd experiment with several variations in the same batch. Some, I left plain, some I topped snickerdoodle style with cinnamon and sugar, and some I put dried cranberries in.

The dough was very soft and I worried that they would spread a lot, but they kept a very nice shape. They came out very light – the lightest cookies I've ever made. I was, at first, unimpressed with the flavor of the plain cookie; it wasn't bad, it was just a bit blah. These are not very sweet cookies. However, it left a pleasant, lingering taste in my mouth.

The cookies with added flavor were better. The snickerdoodle flavored variety tasted, well, like snickerdoodles, but with a lighter texture. The real winner, though, was the cranberry cookie. They tasted very similar to scones. If I make these again, I will add cranberries to the entire batch.
Look at that poofy texture!

Overall, I am calling this experiment a success. The biggest evidence of success was that Randy – who
didn't even want to try them – couldn't stop eating them.

RECIPE (Total Cost: $1.24)
½ cup butter, softened ($0.63)
1 cup white sugar ($0.26)
1 egg ($0.12)
1 cup sourdough starter
1 ¾ cups all-purpose flour ($0.14)
2 tsp baking powder ($0.01)
1 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla extract ($0.08)
¼ tsp baking soda (< $0.01)

*Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Lightly grease or line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

*In a large bowl, cream the butter with the sugar.
*Beat in the egg and sourdough starter.
*Stir in remaining ingredients and beat until smooth.
*Drop dough by teaspoonfuls onto prepared baking sheets
*Bake at 350 degrees for 10-12 minutes

To keep the starter alive, feed it every couple of weeks or so - remove one cup of starter and replace with 3/4 c flour* & 1/2 c water, mixing in.  (If it has separated, just stir it back together).

To make the bread:
1 cup starter
5 1/2 c flour
1 1/2 c water
1T salt
optional: 2T wheat bran (helps rise and be less dense)

The day before baking: Feed the starter at least twice, leaving it out on the counter. You want to get it super active; this helps it rise farther and faster. I was skeptical, but it makes quite a big difference.

The night before you bake the bread, combine starter, water, and 2 1/2 cups of the flour.  Mix until smooth, then cover and let sit out until the morning. Feed the remaining starter as described above and put it back in the fridge.

In the morning, add in the salt and remaining flour to make a dough.**
Let rest 10 minutes
Knead 10 minutes

Let rise until doubled.  This takes about 3 hours at my house, but yours is usually a bit warmer, so may take less time for you.
Shape into loaves and let rise until doubled again.  This takes about six hours for me, but again, may take less for you.  I usually start checking after three hours or so
Bake @ 400 for 55-60 minutes

*You get a better sour flavor if you replace 2T of the flour with rye flour, but it's completely optional.  Also, these measurements are customizable - if it gets stiffer than you want, up the water; if you seem to be losing starter, put more flour/water in.

**I've noticed that SD dough tends to be a bit wetter than other dough.  This is especially notable when kneading (it holds form and kneads well, but has a tendency towards getting sticky) and after the first rise, it'll need a dusting of flour.  I usually dust it lightly with flour AND grease the bowl lightly when it's rising to keep the sticking issues down.


  1. Those look a little less sweet than the standard cookie, which I would like.

    Hey, Randy needs to hold up his end of this blog! There haven't been ANY beer or wine posts!

    1. They aren't super sweet...more of a scone flavor than a cookie

  2. Interesting! I've been making Amish friendship bread like I'm getting ready for barn raising, which is kind of the same concept, and I've made it dairy free so I'm all proud of myself.
    My husband desperately wants me to make sour dough bread so he bought some special starter that needs more attention then a newborn! The directions call for feeding and removing part of it EVERY DAY. Whaaatt?! I have things to do! That don't include making bread daily! Needless to say it has yet to be made.

    1. The every day bit is temporary; the first week of my starter, I had to feed it daily. I also left it on the counter instead of in the fridge; this let it get established and build flavor. My directions said not to use any until at least the 4th day and preferably not until the 7th - you just toss the part you remove.

      After that first week, you cab store it in the fridge. It does best if you feed it once a week, but I recently went three weeks without feeding mine and it was still alive (although I did have to feed it several times the day before I made bread to fully wake it up.

  3. Now you went and made it feasible. I guess I gotta make some sourdough bread. I put my Amish starter in the freezer if I'm not going to make any for awhile. I feed it every 5 days when it's out so I just call it day one the day I take it out, and follow the normal schedule.

  4. Hello! We just came across your recipe for sourdough cookies and thought we would extend an invitation to join our monthly baking group. Sourdough Surprises is a group that focuses on fun and unique ways to use our sourdough starter and this month we are featuring cookies! We would love to have you stop by and link your recipe up! :)