Save that sourdough! Cinnamon-Apple Flatbread

One of the most common queries we get via our Bakers’ Hotline is this:

“I hate discarding a cup of sourdough starter every time I feed it. Isn’t there something else I can do with it, besides just throw it away?”

Ah, we’re all thrifty New Englanders at heart, right? And I agree – it just feels wrong to throw flour (starter) in the trash bucket. Luckily, there’s plenty you can do with excess starter besides dump it. So here goes:

•First, be generous. Give a cup of starter to your neighbor to feed and cherish and make her/his own;
•Whip up a batch of overnight sourdough waffles or pancakes, best you’ve ever tasted;
•Celebrate a birthday with a lovely layered sourdough carrot cake;
•Pizza is always a plus; and sourdough pizza crust is yummy;
•Tea and Sourdough crumpets, anyone?

Really, you can use that sourdough in a whole variety of recipes. Think of it this way: sourdough starter is basically equal parts flour and water, by weight. So 1 cup of flour (4 1/4 ounces) + 1/2 cup water (4 ounces) = 1 cup starter. (No, I’m not arithmetic-challenged! We don’t quibble about the 1/4 ounce.)

Back to that about-to-be-discarded starter: do you have another bread recipe you’d like to make? Substitute 1 cup starter for 1/2 cup of the water and 1 cup of the flour. Keep in mind your loaf may be slightly tangier than usual. Most savory-type yeast loaves (rye, whole wheat, artisan breads of all kinds) will do great with this substitution.

Beware of substituting willy-nilly in recipes that are chemically leavened, e.g., anything using baking powder/baking soda. Why? Because the starter will throw off the acid balance these leaveners depend upon to work. However, if the recipe calls for buttermilk or yogurt (both acidic, like sourdough), you could try replacing 1/2 cup of the buttermilk and 1 cup of flour with 1 cup unfed sourdough starter.

So why even bother to feed sourdough, if you can just go ahead and use it unfed? First, to keep it alive. And second, without being fed, sourdough doesn’t have much leavening ability. It’s the feeding that gets the yeast going. Use unfed starter in a yeast bread recipe strictly for flavor (and to use up the starter); not for its leavening power.

OK, are we straight here? You don’t HAVE to throw away that cup of starter prior to feeding your sourdough.

But neither do you have to use unfed starter in the following recipe. Fed, unfed… both will work.

What will the difference be in the final product, you ask? The fed-starter crust will be slightly lighter-textured.

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We’re going to begin this recipe with sourdough starter.

I’d just fed this sourdough the night before, so it looks very happy. (I took the unfed starter and made overnight waffles.)

Happy, fed sourdough looks glossy and “full” and bubbly. It smells “wheaty,” and mildly of vinegar/alcohol.

Spoon 1 cup of fed sourdough starter into a mixing bowl. Or 1 cup of unfed sourdough. Don’t worry, there’s enough added yeast in this recipe to make up for any lost leavening power.

Not into sourdough? You can still make this flatbread. Simply substitute 1/2 cup King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour and 1/2 cup lukewarm water for the 1 cup of starter.

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Here’s the starter in the bowl.

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Add the following:

3/4 cup lukewarm water
2 teaspoons instant yeast
3 cups King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
2 tablespoons Baker’s Special Dry Milk or nonfat dry milk
3 tablespoons olive oil

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Mix till cohesive…

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..then knead till smooth.

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Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl or large measuring cup

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…and let it rise for 1 hour. It will have become puffy, but probably won’t have doubled.

Gently deflate the dough, and allow it to rise for another hour.

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The dough should have at least doubled in bulk, or come close to it. While the dough is rising, prepare the topping.

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Core 4 very large, firm, unpeeled apples (about 2 pounds). Cut each apple into 8 wedges; an apple corer/slicer works well here.

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Cut each of the wedges into 3 pieces; you’ll have 7 to 7 1/2 cups (about 27 ounces) of apple chunks.

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Two of my favorite apple ingredients: boiled cider, and grade B “cooking maple” maple syrup.

Boiled cider is a thick syrup boiled down from fresh apple cider. No extra sweetener is added – but none’s needed. Tasting intensely of apples, it’s the perfect final touch for any kind of apple dish.

Cooking maple is stronger and more assertively maple than pancake syrup. But actually, I prefer it to pancake syrup. Never mind the Grade A, “light amber” stuff; I want my maple syrup STRONG.

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Put the chunks in a shallow microwave-safe bowl, and drizzle with 1/4 cup boiled cider and 1/4 cup maple syrup. Don’t have boiled cider or maple syrup? Drizzle with 1/3 cup honey, 1/4 cup agave syrup, or the sweetener of your choice.

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Toss till the apples are coated with the syrup.

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Cover the bowl, and microwave the apples till they’ve softened, but still hold their shape. In our microwave here, that took about 9 minutes.

Can you do this on the stovetop? Sure. Cook gently till the apples are al dente – not crisp, but still able to hold their shape.

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Drain the apples, reserving the juice. Set them aside to cool while the dough is rising.

Lightly grease an 18” x 13” rimmed baking sheet (half-sheet pan), or two 9” x 13” pans.

Drizzle olive oil atop the spray; the spray keeps the bread from sticking, while the olive oil gives the bottom crust great crunch and flavor.

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Gently deflate the risen dough, and place it in the pan. (Or divide it in half, and put in the two smaller pans.)

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Pull and shape the dough into a rough rectangle. Pat and stretch it towards the edges of the pan.

The dough will shrink back; as soon as it does, cover it and walk away for 10 to 15 minutes.

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Return, and pat it towards the edges of the pan again. You may have to give it another rest; that’s OK. Your ultimate goal is to stretch the dough to cover the bottom of the pan, with perhaps just the very corners uncovered.

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Arrange the apple chunks atop the dough.

Mix 1/4 cup of the reserved syrup with 1/4 cup Baker’s Cinnamon Filling or 1/4 cup cinnamon-sugar. The Baker’s Cinnamon Filling will yield a richer, creamier topping.

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Drizzle the syrup over the apples.

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Try to drizzle as evenly as possible. I made kind of a puddle in the middle – the  hazards of trying to drizzle with one hand, and take an action photo with the other!

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Cover the bread, and let it rise for 1 hour, till it’s nice and puffy. See how the edges have started to puff up around the apples?

Towards the end of the rising time, preheat the oven to 425°F.

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Sprinkle 2 to 3 tablespoons white sparkling sugar over the apples.

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This flatbread is really looking good, isn’t it?

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Bake it for 25 to 30 minutes, till the crust is golden brown around the edges and feels set in the center.

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Remove the bread from the oven, and turn it out onto a rack.

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Serve warm.  Room temperature is fine, too.

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Here’s how sourdough helps with this bread’s texture – it’s truly lovely. Crisp on the outside, light and soft within.

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One more look… dig in!

I got so enthused with this crust, I decided to make pizza.

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Cabot chipotle cheddar…

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…sautéed mushrooms…

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…and pepperoni, layered on top before rising.

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Let the dough rise up around the toppings, just as it did around the apples.

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Bake till golden brown. The result is pizza with the toppings partially embedded in the dough; a stuffed pizza, of sorts.

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Party time! Seems like we always celebrate birthdays with pizza. Jim, our Web designer, got to wear the birthday hat and enjoy the first piece.

Read, rate, and review (please) our recipe for Cinnamon-Apple Flatbread.

New to sourdough? Find the help you need for all of your sourdough baking at our Sourdough Essentials page.

PJ Hamel
About

PJ Hamel grew up in New England, graduated from Brown University, and was a Maine journalist before joining King Arthur Flour in 1990. PJ bakes and writes from her home on Cape Cod, where she enjoys beach-walking, her husband, two dogs, and really good food!

comments

  1. Mattie

    I was thinking of substituting whole cranberry sauce with some sweetener (natural honey) simply because I want to experiment with the flavors and don’t have apples available. I am new to making my own starter (I started yesterday-no pun intended), and know I will not want to discard the take-away starter discard from each day.
    Am I setting myself up for a disaster or do you have any advice for this idea? Thanks-your site is extremely helpful!

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Hi Mattie, one of the concepts you’ll have to warm up to if you’re going to be a sourdough baker is that discard is a normal necessity. Every feeding must start by dividing the starter and getting rid of a substantial portion (usually about half of the starter). This is an essential step for a few reasons, including balancing out the levels of wild yeast and bacteria in your culture and making sure what’s left is getting an appropriate amount of fresh flour and water. If you never discarded, soon you would have such a large volume of starter, it would take over your kitchen! Think about discarding part of your starter like cleaning the fishbowl; it’s something you should do regularly to maintain a healthy environment. That being said, you’re welcome to line up our recipes that call for discard starter and bake your way through them. Your oven will get a serious workout! We think the cranberry sauce idea will turn out quite well; sweeten to taste and apply a thin layer before baking. Some fresh ricotta cheese spread on top could also be delicious. Happy baking! Kye@KAF

  2. Mary

    This was absolutely delicious. I used pecan oil instead of olive and used maple syrup and honey for sweetening. I had some apple cider so I reduced that and included that with the drippings and cinnamon. Will definitely make again and may try going the savory route as well.

    Reply
  3. Elissa Feldman

    Dear KA,
    I just made your Cinnamon Apple Flatbread, and it came out fabulous ! Thanks for a great blog with terrific instructions. You made it easy. Thanks, PJH and KA!

    Reply
  4. Diane

    What a disaster! Next time I will throw out that starter. If you don’t have the boiled cider dont think you can substitute the drippings from the apples or maybe it shouldn’t be drizzled on the dough until just before hitting the oven. The syrup/sugary liquid ran under my dough and proceeded to burn, filling my house with smoke. Even the smoke alarm went off. I’m so sad that I wasted my precious apples. I will stick to pies and cobbler.
    I’m sorry to hear this recipe didn’t work out for you. Next time you might want to try reducing apple juice to a syrup and using that in place of the boiled cider. Or, reduce the leftover juices from the apples to a syrup after cooking. Please call our Baker’s Hotline and we’ll be happy to help! ~Mel .

    Reply
  5. albaatros

    Hi. I am a recent sourdough baker. I guess you could say I’m “hooked”. So far I have made the sourdough baguettes (liked original better), rustic sourdough bread, sourdough chocolate cake (amazing, can’t say enough good about it), and, most recently, sourdough carrot cake (very good). Merlin’s magic sourdough bread is currently bubbling away on my countertop. I also feel it is a waste to throw out the cup of starter. So, now I am searching for ways to use that cup (unfed) in recipes. I purchased my starter from KA. It smells sour, but it does not have a strong sour flavor in bread. From what I can read, it seems that may be caused by using it at least once (usually more) times a week. I suppose that is a good thing because my family is not quick to accept new tastes. This way they can get used to the new flavors gradually. My starter is also very thick (not liquidy at all, more like a very soft, sticky dough). It works just fine in recipes with a little moisture adjustments. Just my experiences!

    Reply
  6. MGW960W

    It was after reading this post with all the comments, as well as the other sourdough posts on the KAF site, that I finally decided to take the plunge. A week ago I began creating the sourdough starter from Peter Reinhart’s The Bread Baker’s Apprentice, which begins with rye flour and pineapple juice. It’s a strange combination that Reinhart says helps inhibit “bad” microbes and encourage good ones – he credits the bakers from KAF for the information. In my fairly cool kitchen it took one day longer than he describes, but I now have a nice bubbly starter in the fridge. Thank you, PJ, for your laid back attitude toward sourdough and for the instructions on using the starter removed from the crock. Like so many, I couldn’t possibly throw away a cup of starter at every feeding and I couldn’t possibly feed it on the rigid schedule to which so many people adhere. This blog and the KAF products and people have made my retirement life a productive series of happy baking experiments. My family, neighbors, and I thank you.

    So glad we could help – and thank you for connecting here. Happy baking! PJH

    Reply
  7. Joe

    This cinnamon apple flatbread was wonderful – I have a neighbor who always wants apple pie for her birthday. I made this apple bread instead of pie. She looked a little disappointed when i presented it to her, but after eating the apple bread she requested that I make this for her every year. Congratulations on another good recipe.

    Reply
  8. GenPenrymuG

    Just want to say what a great blog you got here!
    I’ve been around for quite a lot of time, but finally decided to show my appreciation of your work!

    Thumbs up, and keep it going!

    Cheers
    Christian

    Reply
  9. larry

    It seems my starter is very, very thick. It doesn’t look like the pictures on your sourdough tips page. I’ve been feeding it with 1/2 c water to 1 c flour. Have I ruined my starter? Can I thin it without changing the acidity?

    Sure, Larry, no problem. Just feed it with equal parts, by volume, flour and water. Once may be all you need; if you want it thinner, do it again. Sourdough can vary wildly in consistency, but the standard I strive for is like a thick pancake batter – barely pourable, but definitely not as thick as dough. Good luck – PJH

    Reply
  10. Sarah @ Mum In Bloom

    I just noticed there’s no way to print this great recipe 🙁 I’m going to copy it and past it into Word then print it I think. Would be great if I didn’t have to though 🙂

    Recipe link’s at the end of the blog, Sarah. Next time, jst click on “printable versoin,” above the recipe photo. Here’s the link: Cinnamon Apple Flatbread. Enjoy- PJH

    Reply

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