Every time I make bread, I mix up some starter with flour and water and leave it overnight. This is my “levain” that I use to make bread the next morning. I take some of that levain for bread and then throw the rest away.
I hate throwing away perfectly good levain so sometimes I add it back to my starter in the jar, feeding it with a little more flour and water. I can’t do this indefinitely though, because the jar gets too full, so I’m back to the same problem, what do I with with leftover starter/levain?
I’ve tried making pancakes and english muffins, with mixed results, but then I tried a cracker recipe I found on King Arthur’s Flour website (a kick-ass website by the way – check it out!). The original cracker recipe can be found here, but here is my adapted version.
Sourdough Thyme and Parmesan Crackers.
110 grams all-purpose flour (about 1 sifted cup)
1/2 tsp salt
250 grams unfed discard starter or levain (about 1 cup)
60 grams melted butter
~1 tablespoon olive oil
~1 tablespoon dried thyme
Freshly grated pepper (sorry, I haven’t measured this – maybe 1/2-1 tsp?)
1+ cup grated fresh parmesan (I don’t measure this so I’m guessing a little)
(I sometimes also add a cut of finely grated cheddar.)
Olive oil for brushing
Coarse salt for sprinkling on top
- In a bowl, mix together the starter, salt, melted butter, olive oil, thyme, and parmesan.
- Stir in the flour, and knead the dough lightly on oiled countertop until blended. You should have a smooth, but not sticky dough. Adjust amount of flour depending on the humidity. I live in a very dry place, so this amount of flour works well for me.
- At this point you have a couple of options – you can leave the dough on the counter for a few hours, lightly covered with plastic, and let it rise a bit and then put it in the fridge overnight, or longer, until you’re ready to make your crackers. Or you can wrap it up and put it in the fridge right away. You can even roll out the dough and make your crackers immediately if you want to, although I prefer a minimum 24 hour ferment.
- When you’re ready to make your crackers, preheat your oven to 350°.
- Tear off a piece of parchment about the same size as a large cookie sheet.
- Lightly flour the parchment and your rolling pin. If needed, add a little more flour as you roll out the dough.
- Take about 100 grams of dough and roll it out until it is approximately 30cm square. These amounts and dimensions are very rough, mine is never a square, but I’m giving them to you so you realize how thin to roll it out. It’s VERY thin. Once you have the idea, you don’t have to weigh/measure. Turn over as necessary so you lightly flour underneath if it gets sticky. (This recipe makes approx 400 grams of dough so, that means 4 trays of crackers to bake).
- Brush the rolled out dough liberally with olive oil, then sprinkle with coarse salt. Note: Lately I’ve been grinding coarse salt into some olive oil and brushing the salty oil onto my crackers. It seems to salt them a little more evenly and help the salt to stick.
- Use a knife or a pizza cutter to cut the dough into strips, then across into squares, any size you want. I usually do about 2-3cm squares,
- Prick each cracker with a fork a couple of times. (I’m sometimes too lazy to do this and it doesn’t seem to make a bit difference).
- Now gently slide the parchment onto your cookie sheet. You don’t have to separate the crackers before they are cooked, they’ll shrink and pull apart all on their own.
- Bake for 14-15 minutes, but watch them carefully. The outside, and/or thinner crackers will brown faster, so you may have to pull some of them out earlier. *See photos below. They should be very lightly browned when they are ready.
- Let cool on a rack and try not to eat them all at one sitting.
This recipe is really just a guideline – experiment with different flavours, different herbs, cheeses, flours etc. Try long ferment 2-3 days. Try warm versus cool ferment. Try different types of olive oils etc. There are so many options!
Another levain note: If you aren’t making bread, I think you can probably make these with a cup of starter straight out your jar. I haven’t tried it but the original recipe says you can. Or you can make some levain the night before by adding 1T of starter to 125 grams of water and stir in 125 grams of flour. Cover with plastic, and leave on the counter over night. Voila, you have 250 grams of levain!
Here are a few photos of the process. Got any questions? Ask away!