The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Can you dry sourdough starter to preserve it?

Futterbudget's picture

Can you dry sourdough starter to preserve it?

I have a wonderful sourdough starter that I got from a friend, and I'd like to know if it's possible to dry some of it so I don't loose it if I forget to feed it.  If so, then how should I reconstitute it?

JessicaT's picture

Eric does a wonderful job of explaining how to dry starter and how to reconstitute it. 

Yumarama's picture

Drying starter is an excellent way to assure you have a back up in the event of a small disaster - and accidentally losing your starter happens to even the most seasoned baker, whether absent mindedly baking it or someone else tossing out "that jar of smelly goo in the back of the fridge". 

Drying starter is as simple as spreading a thin layer on some parchment and allowing it to air dry. This could take a day or three depending on the humidity in your house. 

If your starter is stiff, i.e. 50-60% hydration, you'll want to take some and get it to 100% hydration, maybe even a little wetter; you want it liquid enough to spread thinly. First, feed some "extra" and let it get active and start expanding but not fully to the point it collapses. Basically, the same point it would be best to use in dough, you want it at it's most robust since the yeasties are about to go through some rather tough process. 

Once drey, it will come up in sheets and large flakes which you can crunch up into small granules. Some people might put it in a blender or coffee grinder but that adds an amount of heat and really isn't too necessary. If you want it in smaller bits, put your large flakes between a couple of sheets of parchment and get the rolling pin working on it to crunch it down.

Place your starter flake in a Ziplock type freezer bag (they're thicker than their sandwich cousins) making sure to suck all the extra air out, You can even double bag it if you want. Then label, date and store it away in the cool, dark corner of a cupboard or even in your freezer.

Reconstituting it later on means taking a teaspoon of your flakes and adding a tablespoon or two of water and letting it sit until the flakes soften and begin to dissolve. Give it a stir - it doesn't have to be 100% dissolved - then add a couple tablespoons of flour. This will start to behave like a rather weak starter but after a few feeds, it should be back to full force.

For lots of other people's views on how to do this, pop "drying starter" into the search box on the left column. 

A Hamelman BREAD baking group


Futterbudget's picture

for all the great information!  I'm so glad it's possible.