These sourdough discard oatmeal cookies have a sweet rich buttery flavor with crispy edges and a soft center.
I LOVE cookies. They may be one of my favorite desserts. In the past, I have shared recipes for sourdough snickerdoodles, caramel stuffed peanut butter chocolate chip cookies, and fresh mint chocolate chip cookies.
Today I want to share an amazing recipe for sourdough oatmeal cookies. Make them even better by adding some chocolate chips, nuts, or dried fruit to these classic oatmeal cookies. Try one warm from the oven with a tall glass of ice-cold milk. These cookies are also a great way to use up some sourdough discard.
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What is sourdough discard?
Sourdough discard is the part of your sourdough starter that you usually throw away when you feed it. I feel guilty about throwing away food and am always looking for ways to reduce food waste.
Sourdough discard adds tons of incredible flavor to baked goods. The lactic acid bacteria found in sourdough discard adds flavor and tenderizes wheat proteins.
A fluffy loaf of sourdough bread needs well-fed, active starter that will impart flavor, fermentation, and leavening. But there are other recipes, that do well with unfed discarded starter. Waffles, pancakes, biscuits, crackers, pizza crust, and brownies are just a few examples.
Sourdough discard is not always strong enough to leaven baked goods on its own, so sourdough discard recipes usually need additional leavening in the form of baking soda, baking powder, or yeast. Most quick bread recipes can easily be turned into sourdough discard recipes.
Most sourdough starters are kept at 100% hydration meaning they are fed with equal amounts of water and flour. If you keep your starter at a different hydration level, you might need to adjust the flour our liquid amounts accordingly.
Sourdough discard is 50% water. Therefore, we need to reduce the amount of water in our cookies. Typically cookie dough is very dry, but there are a few places we can eliminate extra water.
Egg whites are 90% water. By eliminating them we are eliminating 144 grams of water.
Butter is 18% water. Browning the butter will cause the water to evaporate reducing the amount of water by 40 grams.
These two steps will allow us to add about 184 grams of water in the form of sourdough discard.
How to brown butter
Slice the butter into pieces and melt it in a light-colored skillet over medium heat stirring or whisking constantly. Once melted, the butter will begin to foam.
Continue stirring/whisking for about 5-7 minutes, the butter will become a deep amber color. Remove the browned butter from the heat, and pour it into a bowl. Allow the butter to cool for 30 minutes.
If you still have questions about how to brown butter, check out this video from America’s Test Kitchen.
Butter: I use unsalted butter. If you only have salted butter you will need to omit the salt. There is about 1/4 teaspoon of salt per stick of salted butter.
Old fashioned rolled oats: Don’t use quick oats or steel-cut oats. The texture won’t be correct and they absorb different amounts of water so your cookies may end up dry.
Flour: I use bread flour. The higher protein content will give you a chewier cookie.
Baking Soda: Baking soda helps to give the cookies just a little lift.
Salt: I prefer to bake with Kosher salt, Morton brand specifically. If you use Diamond Kosher salt it is less salty than Morton and you will need to double the amount.
Cinnamon: The combination of cinnamon and oats is classic. For an even spicier cookie add in a 1/4 teaspoon of nutmeg and ginger.
Brown Sugar and White Sugar: This recipe uses both types of sugar. The brown sugar adds moisture while the white sugar helps the cookie dough spread while it is baking.
Egg Yolks: Just the egg yolks are used to add fat and richness to the cookies. The egg whites are eliminated to account for the extra moisture from the sourdough discard.
Vanilla Extract: When baking I prefer pure vanilla extract rather than imitation.
Sourdough Discard: Don’t worry your cookies won’t be sour. This is plenty of sugar to eliminate the sourdough flavor.
Here you can let your imagination run while. Add 1 1/2 cups of your favorite mix-in or a combination of your favorites. The sky is the limit. Here are a couple ideas for mix-ins to get you started.
- Chocolate chips or other flavored chips like butterscotch, peanut butter, or caramel
- Nuts: Try walnuts cashews, pistachios, or any of your favorite nuts.
- Dried Fruit: Raisins are the classic choice, but you could also try craisins, coconut, chopped dried mango, pineapple, apple, or pretty much any other dried fruit.
- Candy: Try chopping up some Snickers or Heath bars or Reese’s Peanut Butter cups. M&Ms would also work really well.
Light-colored pan for browning the butter.
Kitchen scale: Kitchen scales make baking faster and neater. Accuracy matters in baking. Scales are more precise than measuring cups. Too much flour or not enough sugar can dramatically change a recipe. The most accurate way to bake is to measure your ingredients by weight rather than volume.
A kitchen scale also reduces the number of dishes you will need to wash because you are measuring each ingredient directly from the container into the mixing bowl without the use of measuring cups.
This scale from OXO is the one I use after it was recommended by Alton Brown. What makes this scale great is the display pulls out to make viewing measurements easier when using a large bowl.
Stand Mixer: I have a stand mixer from KitchenAid. My mom and brother bought it for me for my birthday almost 15 years ago. I use it weekly and it still works just like it did when it was brand new. It makes so many kitchen tasks easier and comes with a variety of attachments.Sign up for KitchenAid’s Newsletter to receive 10% off your next order!
Rubber spatula: For folding batters together, I prefer a stiffer spatula like this one from OXO. It fits comfortably in my hand, is dishwasher safe, and is heat-resistant up to 600 degrees Fahrenheit. Both the handle and head are silicone coated which makes it easy to clean and safe to use with my non-stick cookware and bakeware.
My secret for perfectly baked cookies is this AirBake cookie sheet. My cookies bake evenly every time I use these pans. AirBake cookie sheets have two aluminum layers with a layer of air in between them. The layer of air decreases the temperature of the top layer of metal, preventing the bottom of the cookie from browning too quickly. These pans are also really easy to clean. Just wipe them clean with a little soap and hot water. It is not recommended to fully submerge these pans in water or place them in a dishwasher.
Brown the Butter: Slice the butter into pieces and melt it in a light-colored skillet over medium heat stirring or whisking constantly. Once melted, the butter will begin to foam. Continue stirring/whisking for about 5-7 minutes, the butter will become a deep amber color. Remove the browned butter from the heat, and pour it into a bowl. Allow the butter to cool for 30 minutes.
Mix the Dry Ingredients: In a medium bowl, whisk together the oats, flour, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon. Set aside.
Mix the Wet Ingredients: In a large bowl add the browned butter, brown sugar, and sugar. Whisk until there are no lumps of brown sugar. Add the egg yolks and vanilla. Whisk together until smooth. Fold in the sourdough discard.
Combine the Dry and Wet Ingredients: Add the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients and mix until just combined.
Fold in mix-ins. Gently fold in any desired mix ins. See the list above for some ideas.
Refrigerate the Dough: Wrap the dough in wax paper and refrigerate for at least 2-3 hours.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Scoop 2 tablespoon-sized mounds of dough onto baking sheets about two inches apart.
Bake for 12 – 15 minutes or until the edges are lightly browned but the center is still soft. Allow the cookies to cool for at least 5 minutes before transferring them to a wire rack to cool completely.
Don’t forget to sample at least one deliciously gooey straight from the oven cookie for “quality control” of course.
Baking Tip: My mom’s trick for evenly baked cookies is to rotate the cookies while they bake. Place the first baking sheet of cookies on the lower rack of the oven and bake until they begin to spread out (usually the same amount of time it takes me to divvy out the dough on to the second baking sheet.) Move the first baking sheet of cookies to the top rack and rotate 180-degrees to finish baking and place the second baking sheet of cookies on the bottom rack. Continue this process until all of the cookies have been baked.
Frequently asked questions
Middle of the road old fashioned rolled oats will give you the best texture. They are thicker than quick oats but aren’t as crunchy as steel cut oats.
Over mixing or adding too much flour will create dry hard cookies. I recommend using a kitchen scale for the most accurate measurements.
- For the best results, I recommend using a kitchen scale to weigh your ingredients rather than the cup measurements. In baking accuracy matters. If you don’t have one this is my favorite kitchen scale, because the display pulls out making it easy to see even if you are using a large bowl.
- Allow the melted butter to cool slightly so that it doesn’t melt the sugar. Mixing the butter in when it is too hot can cause the cookies to become greasy.
- Use room temperature eggs and sourdough discard. Chilled eggs or sourdough discard may cause some of the butter to resolidify prematurely. To quickly bring the eggs to room temperature, place them in a bowl of warm water for 10-15 minutes.
- You must chill the dough for at least 2-3 hours before baking. Because we browned the butter the fats need to re-solidify. Chilling also allows the sugar to absorb more liquid further solidifying the dough. If the dough is baked without chilling it first, the cookies will spread while baking and become thin, hard, and crispy.
- Baking times for all recipes are only suggestions. The actual baking time will vary depending upon your oven. It is helpful to know your oven and worth purchasing an inexpensive oven thermometer. Oven temperatures can vary as much as 50 degrees plus or minus.
- Allow the cookies to cool for 5 minutes before transferring them to a wire rack. These cookies are so soft and gooey they may fall apart if you try to move them too soon.
Make-ahead, storing, and freezing instructions
Make-Ahead: You can mix up the cookie dough and chill it in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
Storing: Baked cookies can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 4 days.
Freezing Cookie Dough: Unbaked cookie dough balls can be frozen for up to 3 months.
After rolling the dough into balls place them on a parchment-lined baking sheet and freeze until solid. Once frozen, remove from the baking sheet and place in a zip-top bag. Label with the date and contents.
When you are ready to bake cookies, remove the cookie balls from the freezer, let them sit at room temperature while the oven preheats, and then bake. You may need to add a minute or two to the baking time.
Freezing Baked Cookies: Baked cookies can be frozen for up to 3 months.
Once the cookies have cooled completely, place them on a sheet pan and freeze until solid. Transfer the frozen cookies to an airtight container or zip-top bag. Label with the date and contents.
Thaw frozen cookies overnight in the refrigerator or on the counter.