The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Hello! (just waiting for my starter to come back from the near-dead)

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MHynes's picture
MHynes

Hello! (just waiting for my starter to come back from the near-dead)

Hello! I'm an advanced beginner baker that has been privileged to have a potato flake starter that is about 35 yrs old with me. I was gifted part of it some years ago by a person who has kept it alive for most of those 35 years. Have been baking a number of white bread recipes just to test and learn but always come back to the original. However, recently we've been travelling and I brought it with me (since we wouldn't be home for a few weeks). It had to sit in my car (and then hotel room) for a couple of days. Then most of it fell out because the canister fell over and the lid fell off.  I saved what I could and when we got to our destination (2-3 days later), I fed it. I thought it looked ok, but now I wonder if I was just careless and didn't notice... the other day (not quite a week later) I got it out of the fridge to make bread and noticed it was Quite liquidy. Just out of curiosity I tried making some dough with it. Not even a hint of rise. Uh oh. i tried to feed it last night. Woke up this morning, maybe two bubbles. Also uh oh. I was about to give up and throw it out when I started reading here and thought, maybe, just maybe ... so I've fed it Again today and did get a few more bubbles. Not a lot. I'm wondering if that is just the material I put in from Today doing its own thing, but I guess we'll find out. So now I'm perusing recipes for yeast breads while I hope my starter springs to life. (Don't you know that I had promised some gift loaves to people for next week. THey were so excited to know I brought my starter with me. Oh dear... ) 

 

 

dabrownman's picture
dabrownman

is that they are quick to come back to life and nearly impossible to kill.  You can do a biga with a pinch if yeast and large amount of flour with equal weight of water, keep it going as you use some of it.  The older it gets the tastier it will be.  It won't ever be your potato starter though.

When you get it going you want to dry some of it and freeze some of it just in case this happens again ....and it will.

Happy Baking.  .

Syd-a's picture
Syd-a

Hi again.

You mentioned the drying and freezing of a starter and as I was wondering the optimum way of doing this? I might be out of action for some time soon and do not want to have to make a new starter, I want this one to survive.

Thanks

Andy

dabrownman's picture
dabrownman

up to bread dough hydration say 75%.  Just put it in a small Tupperware say 50 g and freeze it with the date taped on the lid.   You can also dry it by spreading it on piece of parchment and letting it air dry.  Fold it up and put it in a glass jar in a cool dry cupboard,  That way you have 2 of them and no worries.

I don't know how long you are going to be gone but most 60% hydration starters that are fed a lot of flour to get there and allowed to rise 25%or refrigerating can easily last 6 - 8 weeks in the fridge too., 

Syd-a's picture
Syd-a

Thanks once again dabrownman. As I am probably going to be out of baking action for a good few months at least,  long term storage in the freezer is the best option. Would a dried (2 day) and then sealed (plastic bag) survive in a cupboard and then be ok to reconstitute after a few months too? 

That way I can have a starter in deep freeze and then one that can be sent to me when the time comes in the post.

Thanks for the help once again

Andy

dabrownman's picture
dabrownman

That way I can take it with me all over the world, its not a liquid and the airport cops don't care if it is dry - not they ever notice it anyway,  It isn't illegal to travel with it either so no worries.  Just take it with you and leave a dried and a frozen one behind.No reason to have it sent to you, 

MHynes's picture
MHynes

Hi. What a good idea about the freezing of starter. If I can get this back to life I will. Right now, it smells heavily of alcohol. It has never smelled like that before when it was healthy. Hmm. 

 

dabrownman's picture
dabrownman

and I am sre you can get it back to good health.  I don't know how nany times I have tried to kill mine since 1973 but  after the 25 time - no worries now :-)  Smelling of alcohol is good I think since that is what yeast make,

hanseata's picture
hanseata

I would call that the last resort. In my experience, too many yeast cells die, when the starter is frozen for a longer time. I recommend drying. Much easier to keep, too.

Smear your starter over a piece of parchment paper or a cutting board and wait until it has completely dried, after a few days. Then scrape it off into a container with lid or ziplock bag. You can store it in the fridge or even at room temperature.

To revive it, add the same amount of water (by weight), let it soak, and, after a few hours, feed it.

Starters are very resilient creatures. Even if it smells like booze, and you have hooch on top, you can still scrape the top layer off, and take some of the healthier looking parts below, feed it, and, most likely, have it going again.

And, if you have such a down-trodden, neglected or abused starter, don't assume: "Viel hilft viel" (much helps much) as we Germans say. After you fed it, don't give it another bite, until it starts showing activity, even if you have to wait much longer than normally. If you stuff it with more flour before it had even time to digest the first meal, you have to wait even longer.

Happy baking,

Karin

 

Syd-a's picture
Syd-a

Thanks Karin

That is reassuring and I will give it a try now and start a drying process tomorrow. One more feed and another bread and then I will let the starter go to sleep for a while as needed.

Thanks again for your help

Alll the best

Andy

MHynes's picture
MHynes

Thank you for the encouragement! I pulled some out into another bowl and fed it a bit of flour/water.  Right now I have both containers of it showing tiny bubbles. It's my own starter chemistry experiment, ha ha. In the mean time I've got a ball of raisin walnut yeast bread rising in a bowl. Have never tried this before. Need to do some more research on that whole "windowpane effect". But isn't; the internet (and this site) grand for such study. :) 

Many thanks for the advice on freezing/drying starters!

MHynes's picture
MHynes

Cue the Easter or Frankenstein music (whichever is your preference) - my starter LIVES. Yay.

Also, I plan to try the drying advice because we are getting on a plane on Wed. One question to hanseata - when you say "equal weight water", do you mean equal in weight to the dried flakey starter smear? (Boy that sounds tasty, doesn't it.) Then do I feed it the normal amount that I feed it (which is actually quite a substantial amount of stuff)?  

THANKS! I'm thrilled to think that I can take this starter with me so easily. (I have been thinking about what kind of container would be safe in checked baggage for a couple of days now...)