Another Twice as Tasty sourdough giveaway is winding down; there are just a few days left to get your starter. This month, I delivered jars of bubbly starter to local bakers and shipped dehydrated starter as far away as Slovenia. People have been sharing their creations of longtime and new Twice as Tasty recipes, including this month’s cracker, cookie, and ciabatta recipes and variations. I’m excited to see what everyone makes in the coming months.
For some of you, just remembering your starter may be the biggest challenge as the year takes off. Sourdough baking should fit into your lifestyle and let you build a habit of using your starter often enough to keep it lively. It may take a few attempts, and I’m always happy to resend starter if you need a fresh try. But a sourdough culture is more resilient than you think. So as life distracts you from baking, you have several options to bring your starter back to life.
Waking Up Starter
As I shared on Instagram this month, a starter that’s migrated to the back of your fridge may look ugly but still be revivable. My forlorn batch of starter sat in the fridge for more than 2 years before I attempted to wake it up. I spent about week reviving it from concrete stage; through glue, cake, and weak stage, to a bubbly jar tested with Sourdough Pancakes and, by day 8, a lovely loaf of Sourdough Cabin Bread. The photo here shows the progress (left to right, top to bottom). You can see my notes on the entire process, and how I might have sped it up, on Instagram.
Although this starter revived well, I don’t recommend letting yours sit so long. If I’m traveling, my starter might sit in the fridge for several weeks, until it develops hooch, and still revive quite easily. The experts at the Sourdough Library recommend feeding a fully developed starter at least every 2 months to keep its microorganisms alive. After that, it’s likely new microorganisms in the added flour and water are doing most of the work, and they may not behave or taste the same.
If you know you’re not going to be baking for more than 2 months, you can dehydrate your starter. This also makes it easy to share—and possible for me to send my starter all over the world every January. Most recipients report waking up their dried starter in just a couple of days, even after it’s been stored for more than a year.
I’ve used two quite similar techniques to dry starter:
- Dehydrator method. Feed your starter and let it start to bubble. Cut parchment paper into sheets that fit your food dehydrator’s trays. Use a spatula to spread the starter as thinly as possible on the parchment. Dry it on your dehydrator’s lowest setting (preferably below 100°F) for several hours or overnight, until it is brittle and peels easily off the parchment. Break or crush it into chips, transfer it to a glass jar with an airtight lid (like I recommend for pickles), and store it in a cool, dark place.
- Open-air method. Feed your starter like you would for dehydrating, but cut the parchment to fit baking sheets. Secure parchment to a baking sheet with binder clips so that it stays in place, and then spread on the starter as thinly as possible. Let it sit in a warm room until completely dry; this may take several days in a humid house. When brittle, crush and store it as outlined above.
I recommend using a food dehydrator if you own one that has a setting well below 130°F (the temperature at which the yeast will die). The dehydrator method requires less monitoring, has less risk of picking up household dust, and is the method I use for my annual giveaways. But if you don’t have a dehydrator, the open-air method will serve.
Twice as Tasty
If you haven’t fully explored the blog, be sure to check out the plethora of sourdough recipes and technique posts in the index—along with some of my favorite ways to use sourdough and other ferments.
If you find yourself looking at a neglected jar of ugly sourdough starter, I’m always happy to take a look and give my recommendation on whether you should wake it up or start with a new batch. If sharing a photo on Instagram, tag @twiceastastyblog and #forlornsourdough. On Facebook, join the Twice as Tasty Community and share your photo in the group to be sure I see it. Happy baking!
Like what you’ve learned but don’t have a sourdough starter? Now’s your chance! The 4th Annual Sourdough Giveaway runs through January 31, 2021. Learn how to get your free sourdough starter here.