The downside to having a sourdough starter is the feeding and disposing of excess starter. I find myself cringing every time we dispose of spent starter in the feeding process. Flour and water are not overly expensive. In theory. Still, the process seems unduly wasteful.
When we wrote Ideas in Food: Great Recipes And Why They Work, we created a number of recipes that ripped through excess sourdough starter: from sourdough spaetzle to sourdough waffles. That way, when there was lots on hand, it could be utilized and maximized.
The more I look into, tinker with, and explore sourdough, really the art of naturally leavened breads, the sour part is a hidden element. The more delicious products I have eaten recently focus on the leavening rather than the souring. The balance is shifting to having a starter full of life, packed with yeast, and light on lactic acid notes in the final product. The spent starter ends leaning heavily on the sour side. It captures the memory of what we think sourdough is. Its intense flavor is an incredible starting point for sourdough-centric ideas.
In my head the flavor of sourdough is framed by yeast, toast, and delicate acidic notes. As we revisited the idea, I thought of one of our go-to flavor canvases: cavatelli. The loose nature of the starter reminded me of the ricotta cavatelli base. In place of ricotta I would use starter. I kneaded together 300 grams of starter with 250 grams of AP flour. The dough just came together. Next time I may add a bit more starter. I vacuum sealed the ball of dough to expedite the hydration. After making the dough I hand rolled our cavatelli. The noodles have an excellent chew and a solid sour note to them.
In the next version of the cavatelli I will need to work in some toasted flour to capture the idea of the cooked bread. For now I am in a good place. I have a useful home for the excess starter. With useful comes the need for effort to continue the cycle. And in that I need to find a home for the volumes of cavatelli I will be producing.