For about two months, I had had my sourdough starter sitting on the kitchen counter covered with a kitchen towel. Last week, when I finally found time to look at it again, it looked like a dry cracker cookie.
I had no idea if I could still restore the starter or not, but I decided to give it a try.
I added some water to dilute the dried starter. When most of the starter had turned into a milk-like fluid, I removed the remaining pieces of dry dough and added just enough flour to get it back to the normal consistency of my starter (at 100% hydration, 50/50 full grain and all purpose flour). I then left the starter on the kitchen counter and waited. The next morning, the starter was full of life!
Just look at this before and after photo:
After a couple of days of daily feeding cycles, I finally had the time to try to bake something with the starter.
About two weeks ago, I visited Viipurilainen kotileipomo, a family run bakery in Lahti, about 100 kilometers from Vantaa where I live to meet with the bakers and see how they work on their full-grain rye bread (among other things). The four baking brothers I met that night where some of the friendliest people I have ever met, and their rye "limppu" is delicious! So, inspired by seeing them at work, although I didn't ask for their recipe, I decided to try my luck with creating my own version of this Finnish tradition called "ruislimppu."
At about the same time as I started reviving my old wheat starter, I created a 100% rye starter by mixing a handful of dark rye flour and some water. I didn't write down the exact measurements but it resulted in a rather wet and sticky dough to start with. I fed the starter daily, slowly increasing the mass of the dough, until it felt really sour and light. Ready for use. That was the night before the bake. Last week's Saturday.
On that night, I made the rye "limppu" dough by mixing the starter with about 1.5 kilograms of rye flour and 1 kilograms of water. As I don't know the amount of flour and water in the starter, I can't give exact figures. I will try to be more exact the next time I make this bread... I didn't knead the dough at this point, just mixed the ingredients to a consistent mass.
On Sunday morning, I mixed in the salt and did a very brief kneading for the dough. The dough was quite wet and it was practically impossible to knead, so I didn't spend much time on it. At the same time, I also prepared a batch of my favorite dough for two loaves of Basic Country Bread from Tartine Bread.
I was baking for most of the day, and here are the results. I'm pretty happy with them: even the rye limppu tastes right. The rye loaves could be a bit lighter (it's definitely denser and flatter than the one from Viipurilainen kotileipomo), but that's not necessarily a requirement: most of the time they look just like this when you buy them from Finnish grocery stores: dense and dark, but full of flavor (especially with a thick layer of real, creamy butter on top!).
Basic Country Bread: