A chum pointed me towards a recipe which uses up unfed sourdough mother - if you discard before you feed, then it does seem a terrible waste. And if you don't discard, it's nice to be able to use a bit up spontaneously, without having to decide the day before what you're going to make.
The recipe I looked at first is Sourdough Beer Pretzels, which looked brilliant. Reading through it, I saw the attribution for the original recipe, and followed the link through to King Arthur Flour. Delicious though the beer version sounds, I decided to go with the original for my first attempt at pretzels (why do I keep wanting to call them bagels?). I adapted the recipe a little to my own taste (find the original here):
3 cups strong white flour (Shipton Mill Baker's No. 1)
3/4 cup warm water
1/4 cup natural yogurt
1 cup sourdough mother (unfed)
1 tbsp olive oil
good pinch of salt
6g fresh yeast
wash made from 1 tbsp caster sugar dissolved in 2tbsp of warm water (I didn't use it all when it came to it)
Cornish sea salt to sprinkle over
I combined all the dough ingredients by hand in a bowl and worked the dough until silky. It was pretty sticky (perhaps I should have added a tiny bit less yogurt?). I left it, covered, in the bowl for 50 minutes or so, then turned it out and divided into a dozen pieces.
I rolled each piece into a long sausage (the target was about 18"), which wasn't as easy as you might think. I had many breakages and adhesions on the way. Finally I looped them around and tried to arrange in a pretzel shape, in some cases going for a poncy double twist. Once safely on the tray (I reckoned if I peeled them in the shape would be even more distressing that it already was) I brushed with the wash and sprinkled with salt. Way, way too much salt.
They then went straight into an oven at 180°C for 20 - 25 mins (top tray out at 20 mins, bottom one to the top for another few mins).
They smelled amazing when they came out, and I was willing them to cool so that I could try one. I wasn't disappointed - a beautiful chewy texture, wonderful flavour, delicious crust. Really, really good. Definitely going to try these again, not only because I clearly need the shaping practice, and I think there's room for a bunch of little modifications here and there. Next time I'll try my smoked sea salt on top.