Why It Works
- Whisking in milk thins out the batter to a crepe-like consistency and promotes browning.
- Instant dashi provides a hit of smoky umami flavor that balances the starter's sour flavor.
- Cooking the pancakes in a thin carbon steel skillet or crepe pan results in crispy edges with a tender interior.
- Rotating the pan occasionally ensures even browning.
One of the trickiest parts of maintaining a sourdough starter is figuring out what to do with all that extra unused starter that accumulates as you feed your culture. Sure, you could be reckless and throw it out (it's called "discard," after all). But why not use your starter to make some other delicious carby concoction? Many sourdough-discard recipes fall into two camps: pancakes and crackers. In contrast to the painstaking process of baking a proper loaf, these discard recipes are meant to be quick, simple, and satisfying. Since you’re not relying on slow leavening, the starter is primarily there for its distinctive sour flavor.
Here’s one more idea to add to your sourdough-discard recipe card file: a funky take on thin, savory scallion pancakes that requires just a few staple ingredients. These pancakes are crepe-like, crispy on the edges and tender toward the center. They're great for wraps, as a side for roast chicken, or just as a quick snack.
To keep the pancakes thin but lacy (and slightly crisp on the edges), I whisk in some milk to thin out the starter, forming the base of a batter. Milk provides subtle sweetness, and the milk solids allow for enhanced browning due to caramelization of the milk sugars. A healthy dose of instant dashi powder evokes flavors of Japanese okonomiyaki—complementing the sourness of the starter with smoky and subtle seafood notes.* The best part? This recipe uses just one bowl and one pan, embodying the ethos of a quick, efficient discard recipe.
*Say all you want about the perils of MSG and processed ingredients, but I love “Hondashi” and find it to be a powerful tool in the kitchen. And so does Sho, apparently. Plus, Ajinomoto, the company behind “Hondashi” is arguably the world’s leading authority on all things related to umami. What other company in the world is chock full of scientists and engineers who have dedicated their lives to pushing the limits of savory flavor?
- 3/4 cup (6 1/2 ounces; 185g) sourdough starter discard
- 1/2 cup (120ml) milk
- 2 teaspoons (6g) instant dashi, such as Hondashi
- 1/2 teaspoon (2g) kosher salt
- 4 scallions (2 ounces; 60g), thinly sliced
- Vegetable oil, for cooking
In a medium bowl, whisk starter, milk, dashi, and salt until very smooth, about 1 minute. Gently stir in scallions until just combined. Let mixture sit for 10 minutes.
In a 10-inch carbon steel skillet or crepe pan (a nonstick skillet will work too, but the pancakes won't crisp as well), heat 1 teaspoon (5 ml) oil over medium-high heat until shimmering. Holding pan off heat, pour 1/4 cup batter into pan and tilt pan in circular motion to distribute batter evenly, filling in any empty spots. Return pan to heat and cook, rotating pan occasionally to ensure even browning, until well browned on first side, 2 to 3 minutes. Using spatula, flip pancake and cook until second side is browned and pancake is cooked through, 30 to 60 seconds longer. Transfer pancake to cutting board or wire rack to cool.
Repeat Step 2 with remaining batter. Serve.
10-inch carbon steel skillet or crepe pan (a nonstick skillet will work too, but the pancakes won't crisp as well)
Make-Ahead and Storage
These pancakes are best served and eaten immediately.