Sharing our mistakes: Savory pumpkin bread using discarded sourdough starter

Sharing our Mistakes

At my most recent job, I worked for a professional social network for science, and one of the things that I learned that easily transferred into my kitchen was to share both successful AND failed experiments. Or else, how will others learn from your mistakes? Communicating failures propels everyone forward. 

 

For example, German baking soda is not the same as American baking powder, apparently:

 Example of a failed attempt: This is what my biscuits should have looked like...

Example of a failed attempt: This is what my biscuits should have looked like...

 
 ...And this is how they turned out. YUCK! I didn't realize that I was using German baking soda (it's strong!) instead of baking powder. I almost poisoned everyone, they were horrible. 

...And this is how they turned out. YUCK! I didn't realize that I was using German baking soda (it's strong!) instead of baking powder. I almost poisoned everyone, they were horrible. 

With that being said, we won't call the bread I made last night bread a failure. It just started off as one thing and evolved into a completely different monster. Kind of like Louie CK's masturbation monologue. 

Warning: Nerdy sourdough talk below. If you'd like to familiarize yourself with sourdough starter before proceeding, I highly recommend The Perfect Loaf's blog. 

My sourdough starter project took a year to complete. After beginning my starter in November of 2016, I finally baked my first successful loaf a few weeks ago, in November of 2017. There were many failed attempts. I admit, at times I got frustrated and just through the poor guy down the sink. Which is why I don't have any pets. BUT, the one thing that I attribute to finally keeping a beautiful bubbly starter was buying a digital scale (I did some research and found that this scale is the most bang for your buck). I also altered the hydration level to accommodate my environment: going from cold Berlin to humid South Florida, I went from 100% to 80% hydration. 

Maintaining a starter requires regular feedings of flour and water. In order to feed your starter, you need to discard most of it before you feed it. So, what does one do with all this discarded starter? Many recipes and blogs will tell you to hold onto it for sourdough pancakes, waffles, scones, etc. I've honestly not been able to find a solid recipe for a discarded sourdough loaf.

So, I've set out to create a recipe that will translate easily no matter what flours or hydration level you're using for your starter (WIP - this is not that recipe). However, when recipe testing last night, my dough was incredibly sour after bulk fermenting for two hours. I decided to tinker. I'm a serial tinkerer, and it's not always a bad thing. I added leftover canned pumpkin from thanksgiving, whole wheat flour, turmeric, cumin, honey, and smoked sea salt. I very gently mixed it in, the dough was barely combined. Some would say unmixed, I'll call it "marbled" hah. Since I probably destroyed any remaining air bubbles that would have resulted in a nice crumb in a boule, I put the dough in a loaf pan instead of a dutch oven. The result was surprisingly tasty: The bread was certainly as dense as I predicted, but it was also moist, crumbled nicely, and had a very subtle taste of pumpkin.

I rewrote the recipe below to erase my tinkering. But like I mentioned in the beginning of this post, we've got to start sharing the mistakes we make, because sometimes they end up becoming a lovely breakfast. 

 

Savory pumpkin loaf using discarded starter 

This is a no-knead, no punch down, minimal effort loaf

 Savory pumpkin bread with sourdough discard. Some would say unmixed, but I prefer "marbled" ;)

Savory pumpkin bread with sourdough discard. Some would say unmixed, but I prefer "marbled" ;)

My starter is half King Arthur Bread Flour, half Arrowhead Rye Flour at 80% hydration. Final dough is at 80% hydration too because I live in a very humid environment. This recipe uses active dry yeast in addition to the discarded starter, since my discard has been unfed and in the refrigerator for a few weeks now. Make sure to remove the discard from the fridge to bring to room temp before baking. 

350 g discarded starter (this is a lot and made a very sour loaf. Use less and adjust water/flour accordingly if you want something less sour) 
306 g bread flour
100 g whole wheat flour
200 g canned pumpkin purée
225 mL filtered water warmed 87˚F or 30.5˚C (adjust according to environment. If it's cold outside, increase temperature by a few degrees. Do not go higher than 110˚F or 44˚C or else yeast might not survive) 
5 g active dry yeast
5 g sugar
10 g salt
10 g honey
Pinch of each: Turmeric, cumin, nutmeg
On top of loaf: Kiawe smoked sea salt and roasted pumpkin seeds

Mix warm water, sugar, and active dry yeast. Cover and let rest for 15 minutes to activate. 

In the meantime, mix remaining ingredients except starter discard. Once yeast/water/sugar has become foamy at the top, add it to the dough along with the starter discard. Work the dough just until combined. Loosely place plastic wrap directly onto dough to prevent it from hardening, and place a kitchen towel on top of bowl. Let rest in a warm, dry spot for at least 2 hours. 

Preheat oven to 375˚F or 190˚C.

Dough should swell in size and look bubbly. Coat a loaf pan with olive oil to prevent dough from sticking. Pour dough into loaf pan and sprinkle with smoked sea salt and roasted pumpkin seeds (Optional: grated cheddar cheese). Bake for 30-45 minutes or until golden brown crust has formed on top.