The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Revived my neglected starter!

seki's picture

Revived my neglected starter!

Due to various reasons, one of which is a bit of laziness, my 100% SD starter lived for ~5 months in the fridge, un-touched. Now that I have the time to start baking again, I pulled it out fearing the worst. There was hooch, a bit of mold, and all of it that I could see had turned a bizzare gray color. Not a good sign! I assumed it was a bit beyond help, but decided to try and revive it just for kicks. Several days later, and it's happy and healthy once again! I thought my experience might be a little help to other neglectful SD parents, so here's a little recap of how things went:


Day 0:

First things first, I poured off the hooch, and scraped the horribly gray-colored starter off the top, leaving about 15g behind. It smelled horribly, and I didn't dare venture a taste. First feeding: 1:2:2. I decided to do a larger feeding since I had reduced the starter so much. I figured I would know within the first day or two whether or not I would be starting a new starter from scratch.


Day 1:

Bubbles! 24 hours later and the starter had quite a few tiny bubbles, though it definitely still smelled a bit off. It has risen to about 1.5x and had a reasonable amount of bubbles. I gave it another 1:2:2 feeding, hoping to dilute the last of the nasty beasties while the yeast took over.


Day 2:

I again waited 24 hours checked on the starter. This time, it looked like a reasonable healthy starter and had actually doubled. It hadn't quite peaked, but was starting to have a little off smell, so I decided to feed again. In the past, when I wanted to strengthen the yeasty portion of the starter, I had used smaller feedings on a more frequent schedule. Since it was still a bit sluggish, and still a little "off", I started a 1:1:1 12 hour regimen.


Day 3-4:

After 4 1:1:1 feedings 12 hours apart, the starter had begun peaking and falling before the 12 hours had elapsed. The "off" smell was now gone. Time to try a bigger feeding. I switched back to 1:2:2, but kept the 12 hour schedule.


Day 5:

The starter was now peaking at about 8 hours with a 1:2:2 feeding, smelled and looked great. Time to make some bread! I made a batch of white SD with a little (10%) whole rye. The dough flattened out a bit more than I was used to, but the crumb was nice and light. Taste was spot on. I would have included pics, but it had been awhile since I had some home-made SD. Needless to say, it didn't last long.


I'm now feeding at 1:3:3, and it is already peaking before 12h. Back in business! I'm not saying my results are normal, but just thought I'd alleviate some fears people have about missing a feeding or two on their refrigerated starters. And for those of you who are neglectful enough to let your starter get in as shameful condition as mine was, hope is not all lost! In retrospect, the smaller feedings helped much more than the first, larger feedings, so you may opt for going that route from the get-go.

Postal Grunt's picture
Postal Grunt

Now's the time to consider drying and saving a portion of your starter for a Plan B should this happen again and you're not able to revive your pet. The dried starter is also handy to give to family and friends when they start hinting around that they'd like you to bake more for them.

seki's picture

That's a good idea! I toyed around with the thought of drying some before, but never got around to it.

Frequent Flyer's picture
Frequent Flyer

...good to know since I happen to know someone with a terribly neglected, forgotten and forsaken starter.  I'll start reviving it right away.  :)

hanseata's picture

My starter sprouted its first delicate yeast cells (out of flour and water, no juice) 9 years ago. During its early years, when I baked only once a week, I just cut off some of the risen dough as mother starter; when I baked more often, I fed it (according to Reinhart's "Whole Grain Breads" instructions).

I have to confess I am a very bad mother to my starter, I don't hold its hands, don't change its diapers - and don't feed it every four hours. The poor neglected thing stays in its yogurt bowl in the fridge until it's used up (except for the portion necessary for a new mother starter).

Since I bake semi-professionally, selling my breads to a local store, one 396 g portion of mother starter lasts for about 1 - 2 weeks. And if the last bit of it is less active, the fermentation of the new starter will just take some hours longer. Since I know that, I start with it a day earlier and let it rise overnight on the counter.

During all those years I only once had mold on the surface, but by taking it off the rest was salvageable.

Some of the sourdough starter discussions in TFL remind me of nothing so much as the anxious (and zealous) debates I had with other mothers when I had my first child ...