Millions of Americans have been home from work- either on paid leave, working from home, furloughed, or laid off- for about a month now, so how have they been spending their time? Baking bread!

Like, a lot of bread.

There has been some backlash online, much of it from boomers who just need something to complain about now that they can’t leave the house.  But one critique has some validity: the inherent wastefulness of raising a starter.

The basic recipe for a sourdough starter is to mix flour and water, let it ferment for a day, then discard half of it, then add more flour and water to “feed” the yeast, and repeat.  For instance, I used this recipe by King Arthur Flour, and- in hindsight, this could have been done intentionally to sell more flour- calls for 9-13 discardings over the course of 5-7 days, which translates to about a pound and a half of flour that you’re just throwing away.  Technically, the discarding can be replaced by adding larger and larger amounts of flour and water proportionate to the amount of starter per each feeding, but then you would end up with, like, 10 pounds of starter. So unless you’re planning to do some serious baking, you’re wasting flour either way.  

There’s something about cooking techniques that require having something sit for a long period of time that seems so alluring to American home cooks.  Like how letting a slab of meat sit in a crock pot for 10 hours (or everyone’s other new favorite quarantine cooking project, beans) is somehow seen as some great accomplishment. 

Many have developed recipes for using the discard, but I don’t really think the solution to wasteful baking should be more baking.  Grocery stores are running out of flour left and right, so let’s see if we can find some other equally impressive baking projects.

Cinnamon Rolls

Many have already turned to baking cinnamon rolls as an alternative for their baking projects.  And from the short wait time (~1 hour proofing period compared to… a week for a sourdough) to the fact that they’re just sweet enough to satisfy a sweet tooth but not as decadent as, say, a cake, there’s plenty of reasons why.  The biggest catch is just making sure they’re rolled tightly enough to not fall apart, but even if they aren’t they’ll still taste good, they just won’t be as Instagram worthy.  


If you’d rather not go too sweet, challah is another baking project with stunning visual appeal. Nothing about the dough itself is any more complicated than any other yeasted dough, the only special technique needed is the braiding.  And, unlike most sourdough recipes which call for a fancy enamel dutch oven, challah doesn’t require any kind of special pan to bake in, it just goes on a regular sheet pan.


While some of babka’s trendiness might have come and gone, I still think that if someone presented a homemade babka to me, I would be impressed.  And with good reason- the flaky layers and swirls are created by tightly rolling the dough, like with cinnamon rolls, but then braiding it together like with challah.  It’s the best of both worlds, and any home bakers with enough patience (and free time, which we’ve already established they already have) to tackle it are worthy of praise.

Quick Breads

Yes, I will admit that quick breads don’t have any of the sex appeal of a loaf of yeasted bread.  But when was the last time you had banana bread that wasn’t from a box? Plus, mastery of quickbreads can branch out to muffins, biscuits, scones, and cornbread.

Also, some grocery stores are reportedly also running out of active dry yeast, while baking soda/powder don’t seem to be quite as hard to come by.

Of course, that isn’t to say you can’t bake with starters at all.  But, you should consider maybe buying a starter from a local bakery, or asking someone you know who made their own starter for some of theirs.  Like me. Please. I have so much starter.

What is a sourdough starter? A miserable little pile of wet flour.

One thought on “Hobby Bakers are Throwing Away So, So Much Flour

  1. RJG says:

    *insert picture of Photoshopped flour graveyard here*

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