These scratch sourdough brownies bring the tang

A number of recipes for chocolate baked goods in Alaska’s historic cookbooks use sourdough discard. That sour tang seems to give sweet chocolate the perfect bite. This recipe uses a little salt in the pan to help elevate the sourness, and instant coffee (I use a Starbucks Via packet) to round out the chocolate flavor. Leftover coffee is also a common ingredient in historic Alaska cake recipes, so it’s a nod to that tradition as well.

Those of us who got sourdough starter in a fit of pandemic nesting last spring but never had the time or patience to be part of the bread-baking craze may find this recipe just the thing. Or, maybe you’re a total sourdough expert by now, having gotten into the bread-baking habit, but you’re looking for something to do with your discard. You’ll be into this as well. These brownies are a great way to bake with sourdough without much fuss.

For those using a long-dormant starter from the fridge, you’ll need to feed it, set it on the counter, and wait about 36 hours, until it has bubbled and then settled down some. It should smell sour but not foul. If your starter smells funny, like feet or alcohol or acetone, find new stuff. Often a bakery will give you a little bit, free of charge.

If you have a pretty active starter, just use discard from bread-baking or some unfed starter. You can mix in nuts, dried cherries, or any kind of chips, like white chocolate, butterscotch, or milk chocolate, depending on your imagination. I prefer dark chocolate. If you like your brownies more fudgy than cake-like, leave out one egg. The hardest thing about this recipe is waiting until the brownies cool to slice them. If you cut them too soon, they will crumble all down the front of your shirt, unless, of course, you lean over the pan while you’re eating them like a professional.

(Make Beau Schooler’s sourdough bread)

Scratch sourdough brownies


  • 6 ounces (roughly 1 cup) semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 2 ounces (roughly 1/3 cup) dark chocolate chips to stir into the batter
  • ¾ cup (1½ sticks) unsalted butter, plus more for the pan
  • 1¼ cups sugar
  • 1 cup unfed sourdough starter or sourdough discard
  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • 1½ teaspoons instant coffee or instant espresso powder
  • ¼ teaspoon sea salt, plus more for the pan


Preheat the oven to 350° F. Butter a 13×9-inch pan, and sprinkle the bottom with a healthy pinch of sea salt.

Slice the butter into a bowl, add semi-sweet chocolate chips and microwave in 20-second bursts, stirring after each, until the chocolate is melted and the mixture is smooth. (Or melt butter and chocolate together in a double boiler.)

Stir together the chocolate mixture, sugar, starter, eggs, coffee powder, and salt. Mix until smooth. Gently stir in dark chocolate chips (or nuts or dried fruit). Bake for 25 to 28 minutes. Cool completely before cutting.

(This recipe appeared in Edible Alaska magazine, Subscribe!)