With a wonderfully soft and tender crumb, these sourdough pancakes make a lovely companion to lazy Saturday mornings, especially when you pair them with pats of salted butter, a drizzle of maple syrup, and a mug of strong tea.
Since I started baking sourdough bread nearly a decade ago, I’ve always needed a use for my leftover, discarded starter. And these pancakes, sweetened by the slightest trace of honey, are such a perfect use for it. I've meddled and toiled with this recipe over the years, making small adjustments here or there: leaving out the honey, beating in whole eggs, soaking the batter overnight.
And I finally have a version I'm really happy with: Marvelously rich with the flavor of whole grain flour, but tender, too, with a soft light texture.
Pancakes Are Great for Spent Starter
To maintain a lively and active starter for sourdough bread baking, you must feed it a slurry of water and flour. This carbohydrate-rich slurry nourishes and provides food for the bacteria that give good bread its characteristic tartness and it also feeds the yeast that give the bread a lofty rise. Bread needs lively and active yeast to give it a wonderful rise an airy crumb. And recently fed, bubbly starter does just that.
But, maintaining sourdough is all about timing. Once you feed your starter, and it bubbles up and doubles, those lively yeast will exhaust their food source and the starter will fall. This spent starter won’t make for good bread, but it’s perfect for making sourdough pancakes.
How to Make Tender Sourdough Pancakes
Tender pancakes achieve their loft through leavening. When you make pancakes the leavening comes from the natural chemical reaction between acidic and alkaline ingredients.
Thanks to all its friendly lactobacillus bacteria, spent sourdough starter is very acidic (that’s what makes it wonderfully tart!). When you combine the sourdough starter with baking soda, which is very alkaline, the pancake batter will bubble up beautifully - and a bubbly batter makes for airier pancakes with a tender crumb.
But that’s not all you need to make fluffy pancakes. Whipped egg whites will lighten your pancakes when you gently fold them into the batter, and also give the batter enough structure to hold the air that will make your pancakes light and fluffy instead of dense or chewy.
Use a Whole Grain Flour
When baking and cooking for my family, I like to keep our grains (mostly!) whole. Not only do whole grains offer the clear benefit of higher dietary fiber, vitamins, and minerals (when properly prepared), but they also offer incredible, complex, and rich flavor.
The problem is that many whole wheat flours are very high in protein and are flecked with dark bits of bran. That makes for great bread, but not so great pancakes.
So, instead of opting for plain whole wheat flour; make your pancakes from white or ivory wheat. These flours are still 100% whole grain, but they’re made from softer wheat with a lower protein and a much lighter color. That means lighter, softer pancakes that are still a whole grain.
I actually tried this yesterday and my kids so love it so much! I can't wait to try this another time. Thanks a lot for posting!
Hi there! I love your site. I have been making the pancakes for over a year. I think the recipe has changed recently? I can't do milk and am wondering if there is anyway I can get the older version?
Lisa Douglass says
I am wondering the same thing! I loved the old recipe. It has been a long time since I have made them though so I can't remember the original version.
Loved this recipe, thanks. Wondering can I use refrigerated starter or only room temp starter?
You can use refrigerated starter.
Hi, these look fantastic! I use almost solely sprouted flours, but can't seem to have luck feeding a sourdough starter with them. Do you have any advice?
I don't recommend sprouted flours for sourdough starter - though you can bake sourdough bread with sprouted flours. Sprouted flours are higher in most vitamins than regular or whole grain flour, and then that usually means that your starter needs to be fed more frequently (oddly). Also, in sprouted flours, some of the complex starches have already been broken down so it's harder to proof. I use bread flour in my starter and then I typically use a 100% whole grain flour in my sourdoughs. I use sprouted flours for quick breads, pastries and cookies.
Thanks so much for the response! Not to pester, but if you were to bake sourdough with sprouted flour (not the starter, just the additional flour!) would you compensate in any way?
After mixing my starter and flour together, I have a ball of dough...that looks better than the ball I've got going for your (no-knead) sourdough bread...is this what I'm supposed to have at this step or should it be more batter-like?
It should be thin like pancake batter. What hydration is your starter.
I have made these twice. They are very good. But. Mine have a almost bitter taste. Would this mean that my starter was not right
I have to count carbs because of blood sugar issues, any idea what the fermenting process does to the carbs? I would think it would lower it somewhat but am not finding any answers online.
Hungry Gopher says
Wow.. This looks fantastic! I'll have to make this for my husband for his birthday breakfast. I already have sourdough starter in my fridge that my husband made from the method his mother has been practicing for years.
Thanks for pointing out the value of good grains. I think we tend to quickly make a villain out of just one ingredient. Like you pointed out, it's a lot more complex than that I believe.
I have a Korean cooking blog with step-by-step tutorial videos, focused on healthy and simple recipes. And fermentation has been a big part of my life since fermented food is a big part of Korean cuisine. I just recently found out about your blog. What an inspiration!
Thanks for the great content!