Food and Drink

The easiest thing to do with sourdough starter: Make addictive crackers that taste like Cheez-Its

Sourdough can stress you out. You pull it out, feed it, then start contemplating the multi-step bread making process involved. It bubbles up and deflates on the counter. The whole thing is too much.

Recently, I came across a vintage copy of Alaska sourdough history, “Alaska Sourdough” by Ruth Allman. It reminded me baking with unfed or “scratch” sourdough as a flavor, rather than a leavening agent, was really common in Alaska. The starter brings a tang and depth to everything from brownies to cinnamon rolls, but maybe the easiest and most brilliant scratch sourdough recipe is crackers.

The sourdough cracker is so addictively delicious — like a lighter Cheez-It without cheese. There’s a reason fancy places like Patagonia Provisions are making these.

You can make them for pennies. They require only flour, unfed starter, salt and fat. Trick them out with any herb sprinkle you want. I use melted salted butter, though you can substitute olive oil or vegan butter and they’ll work fine. You can use everything bagel spice or rosemary salt for a gourmet vibe. You can roll them extra thin for flat bread, breaking it after baking, or cut them with a pizza cutter for proper crackers. They keep in an airtight container for about a week, but in my house they never last that long.

Scratch sourdough crackers

Makes about 50 crackers


1 cup unfed sourdough starter


1 cup white flour, white whole wheat flour or a combination of white and whole wheat flour

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1/4 cup salted butter, melted

2 tablespoons dried herbs (optional)

To finish: Olive oil. Flaky kosher or sea salt or a flavored salt of your choice.

Method: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Mix all the ingredients, except the olive oil and flaky salt, in a bowl with a wooden spoon until they form a slightly sticky dough. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. Separate dough into two balls, and shape each into a flat rectangle. Roll out on a floured piece of parchment paper to a little thinner than 1/8 inch. Brush with olive oil, and sprinkle with flaky salt. With a pizza cutter, cut into 1 1/2 inch squares and pierce each square with a fork — this keeps them from bubbling. Remove the ragged edges; you can re-roll them out. Lift parchment with the crackers on it onto a baking sheet. Bake for 20 minutes, turning the sheet halfway through. Repeat with the second ball. Let them cool all the way before eating.

[Make friends with everything-spice pretzel knots and smoked salmon schmear]

[Roasted potatoes with a toasty Parmesan crust make for an affordable, irresistible snack]

[Blueberries are popping out along Anchorage-area trails. Use them in these pancakes.]

Julia O'Malley

Anchorage-based Julia O'Malley is a former ADN reporter, columnist and editor. She received a James Beard national food writing award in 2018, and a collection of her work, "The Whale and the Cupcake: Stories of Subsistence, Longing, and Community in Alaska," was published in 2019. She's currently writer in residence at the Anchorage Museum.