The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Moving a starter 3,161 miles away

JMonkey's picture
JMonkey

Moving a starter 3,161 miles away

I think I've got a plan that will work, but wanted to run it by the gurus here before I act on it. I've come to love my 3 home-brewed starters very much (a whole wheat, a whole rye and a whole spelt), and would be really put out if I lost them in a cross-country move.

Here's the situation: I'm moving from Watertown, MA to Corvallis, OR on July 28. My wife will be flying out with our 3-year-old, but she'll be staying in a hotel until my father and I arrive sometime on Aug. 1 (probably very late) with the beds and the rest of our earthly belongings.

The plan:


  1. Go stiff: Give my wife a dry doughball of each of the three starters which she'll stick in the refrigerator at the hotel, if they have one, and will definitely go into the fridge sometime before Aug. 1 The downside is that the doughballs will go unfed at summer temperatures for many hours and potentially for several days.
  2. Go dry ... really dry: In the next week or so, I'll dry each of the starters by spreading some pretty wet stuff out on parchment paper and letting it sit out overnight. I'll then crush them up, put them in ziplocks and give some of each to both my wife and myself, in case the airlines lose our luggage (I'll be driving the truck with my dad).


Have I overlooked anything?
SDbaker's picture
SDbaker

JMonkey, consider sending an email to KA flour on the customer service site.  I've found them very responsive - and they mail starters all the time.  The one I am using was mailed from KA.  Rather high hydration starter, mabye Tablespoon or so in the bottom of a small plastic container.  Arrived and started right up.  (I asked if it could last a few days if I couldn't get my mail due to travel - they said no problem.  As it turned out, I didn't travel but it felt good knowing it was robust enought to handle it).  Could also go the dry route as a back up.

Good luck on the move!

SD Baker

leemid's picture
leemid

I would do both options. Having the backup of the dry is a good idea anyway. I don't expect you will have a proglem with the stiff ones lasting, though. I brought a 50% starter home to Sherwood Oregon from S. San Francisco in the car at pretty high temps and several days of travel due to business, then couldn't feed it for another three or four days after it finally found refrigeration. I would add a third level of insurance, paranoid that I am, and carry another set of stiffs with me in the moving vehicle on ice in a cooler. You can refresh the ice each day and keep them very coooool, dude.

BTW, we will all expect detailed analysis of the differences in bread baked with the same old starters in the new locale...

BAW (by another way), how many of us are in Oregon or the NW? It just occurred to me we should have a first annual TFL picnic, bread tasting and starter swapping event. There are certainly enough parks in the Willamette valley to make a scenic success out of such a brilliant idea...

That's my story,

Lee

Floydm's picture
Floydm

That would be fun.

Champoeg Park? Silver Falls? It depends on how many of us would be coming from the Southern part of the state and how many from the PDX area.

We should wait until JMonkey gets out here too.

JMonkey's picture
JMonkey

Sounds great to me. I'm thinking perhaps some Saturday in early September? By then, the weather should be reliably cool enough so that we'll actually want to be outdoors, and, from a personal, selfish standpoint, my family should be well enough ensconced in our new home to venture out beyond the confines of lovely Corvallis.

Floydm's picture
Floydm

Another one we could do sometime would be to get together at Bob's Red Mill. Get a tour and shop for grains... full-on bread nerdvana.

Paddyscake's picture
Paddyscake

would be a great place to meet..and we can have lunch too..great sandwiches, vegetarian or carnivorians..is that a word? Floyd, being fairly new to OR..I'd love to go on a tour of the Portland favs you've mentioned..St. Honore, Chinese bakeries? I still am lost in the big city...

Floydm's picture
Floydm

I don't know if anyone saw the NY Times piece this week on tearooms in Portland. That has to be like the sixth or seventh piece they've done on Portland this year. Hip, we are here.

A NY Times-style piece on Portland bakeries would feature:

   St. Honoré Boulangerie
   Ken's Artisan Bakery (and his pizza place)
   Pix Pâtisserie
   Apizza Scholls
   Voodoo Doughnuts
   Pearl Bakery

All of those places qualify as either "hip" or "chi chi".

Being neither hip nor chi chi myself, I don't find myself in any of those places very often. The places I do visit regularly and heartily recommend:

   Bihn Mihn Sandwiches - the best Bahn Mi around
   Mei Sum - Hong Kong Bakery
   German Bakery in Parkrose
   Pearl Bakery - kind of chi chi, I guess, but they were in the Pearl when it was still a slum and it is right next to Powell's and Powell's for nerds.

TRK's picture
TRK

JMonkey--

 

Enjoy Corvallis.  I lived there for 7 years, before moving to Monterey.  I would move back to Corvallis (or, better yet, Portland) in a heartbeat.  I wish I still lived there so I could go to your meet-up. 

merrybaker's picture
merrybaker

FWIW, I moved halfway across the country twice. (That is not the same as going all the way across the country once). My two starters were in small jars in a small styrofoam cooler. Every morning and every evening I put fresh ice (from motel ice machines) into heavy plastic zip-lock bags in the cooler. Every day the starter began a little colder than I wanted, and ended a little warmer than I wanted, so the average was fine. The starters seemed to understand that it was a stressful situation for all, and they did their part to remain happy and active. I wish I could say the same about my husband.

breadnerd's picture
breadnerd

I'm fairly sure I'm not the only one who's completely ignored their starter in the fridge for a few weeks and were able to revive it successfully.

 

I think feeding it well (and a stiff consistency is a good idea) and it should do fine even if ignored in a cooler for a few days.  

 

Good luck on your move! 

ehanner's picture
ehanner

Husbands like to be pampered too! Especially the older ones!

Eric

leemid's picture
leemid

Unless someone has an in there, which I don't, I will take the initiative and call them to see if we can book the place, see the mill, discuss flour, eat lunch, and share our love of bread, one with another.

I would like to meet, bringing samples or our best and eat sourdough, rye, whole wheat, spelt, whateverElseThereIs, cinnamon rolls/bread, pie, and anything else anyone wants to bring and boast about. Who's in with me?

Lee

Paddyscake's picture
Paddyscake

Would love to get together and have a bread meet. I don't know about tours, but they do have a very casual restaurant at the Mill Store. The mill, itself, isn't there, but down the road a bit.

Floydm's picture
Floydm

That would be fun. I'm in.

Combined, how many pounds of grain do you think we can walk out with? ;^)

(I mean purchase, not steal.)

leemid's picture
leemid

your intentions...

Lee

sphealey's picture
sphealey

Please post the day as soon as it is set - I will need time to get a reasonable airfare etc.

sPh

Rosalie's picture
Rosalie

It's a good idea to send it two ways, each one being a backup for the other.  You might even think of another way, like riding with you in a small cooler with fresh ice every motel stop.

I'm a little far to plan to join you at your picnic.  And with five cats it's hard to get away anyway.  But WE'LL WANT PICTURES!!  I've been a member for only a couple of months, but it's a very comfortable community.

Rosalie

leemid's picture
leemid

I have emailed Yvonne who is the customer service rep at Bob's Red Mill about our plans. Tours are available M-F with two weeks notice for adults only, last about 30 minutes or so. The store and deli are open 6AM-6PM M-F, 7AM-5PM Sat., breakfast/lunch up to 3PM each of those days, no response to the idea of us bringing our own bread to share and brag about. Also, no specific times for the tours but I can confirm how late they go as we get closer to time.

So let's get a list going of who wants to do a tour on a weekday and see if we can get the minimum 10 participants.

Lee

Floydm's picture
Floydm

With two week's notice, I could make it on a weekday.

Paddyscake's picture
Paddyscake

2 weeks notice..I could make a weekday also...

bwraith's picture
bwraith

JMonkey,

I'm going out to my parents' cabin in Montana for a visit. I had my recently started up SDI SF Sourdough starter at 90% hydration having been fed every 12 hours at 1:4:4 for about a week or so. I decided I'd give a try to traveling with it from Nantucket to MT.

This morning I had about 45 grams of 12 hour old 90% hydration starter. I took 5 grams and fed it (5g:15g:25g) and rolled it into a dough a put it in the fridge. We got in the taxi at 3:00PM. We flew to Boston on Cape Air, with the starter packed in my luggage and checked.

I'm in a hotel and put the starter in the minibar fridge. It didn't appear to have risen much, so far so good. I've put big signs all over the room, since I have to leave at 4:00AM and the most likely error is to leave it in the minibar fridge. I'll repack it early in the morning and it will travel in checked luggage (it's in a small glass jar with a screw on plastic lid).

If we make it all the way to Missoula, shop for groceries, drive 2 hours south, and it lives, then this one little starter travel experiment may have worked.

Bill

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

That's what I've found out.  That is to say: if I dry my starter for travel, I dry a ripe starter  thinned with water so it dries faster; and if I transport it wet, I mix a tablespoon of ripe starter with lots of flour to the point it just hangs together before crumbling apart.  Both get packed air tight.  Both get set in a small dish of water at destination to rehydrate and then go on from there.  Trick is not to leave them in a hot car or suitcase.  To make a quickie thermos wrap in alu foil with shinny side in, then in newspaper or insulation wrap and alu again, shiny side out.  Air traffic inspectors go nuts with foil so leave it out when flying.  Glass thermos bottles do not always fly well.  I'm off to China next week.  We will see how CB and A are doing there.  --Mini Oven

KipperCat's picture
KipperCat

Do you know if the foil is a problem even in checked bags?

redivyfarm's picture
redivyfarm

I've been so smug about my starters. Heat, cold, starvation and neglect have never discouraged Lazarus or Tang. Sadly they have a stress related disorder symptomatic of the chaos that has descended on my household. I'm treating them for trauma and hoping for the best. I don't have crystals to wave over them but I do have vintage rhinestone jewelry. I'll give that a try.

I suggest you implement all the above suggestions and have a source of alternative healing advice as well. You're moving to Oregon, new-agers are everywhere! (I can't even imagine the stress of a move across country, but welcome!)

I'm locally famous for the sourdough no-knead conversion I stole from you, so for heaven's sake, don't let anything happen to those starters!

bwraith's picture
bwraith

The duffel I packed this jar of firm starter in was lost and ended up taking a 6 hour detour through Denver and on to Missoula. We picked up the bags, and then went grocery shopping and left the duffel in 100F heat for a couple of hours, then drove for several more hours. All in all, the starter was removed from the minibar fridge at 4AM EDT and I fed it here at our cabin in MT at about 11:30PM MDT. Now it's the next day, and it rose very vigorously and appears to be just fine. I'm making some bread with it and it seems to be rising normally. So, despite quite a bit of temperature abuse, the starter survived nicely.

JMonkey's picture
JMonkey

I expect my starter will survive. Between the dried starter and the stiff doughballs I'll make later this week, I hope to have three healthy, revived cultures back in the fridge sometime the first week of August.

Glad to hear yours made it fine, Bill!

bluezebra's picture
bluezebra

precious cargoes JMonkey!!! Can't wait to hear how it went for you!

bluezebra's picture
bluezebra

survived!!! Have fun in the mountains!

bwraith's picture
bwraith

Hi BZ,

I hope all is well with your breadmaking adventures. It was interesting to realize how quickly the environment became harsh for that starter. I feel lucky it made it. Of course, it was just for fun and I have backups at home. Some good breads have already been made with it.

Bill

bluezebra's picture
bluezebra

Hi Bill, Stinky is gaining power these days and this weekend I actually think I heard him conspiring with the Claussen (naturally fermented pickles...they share a shelf in the fridge) about busting out of this joint and going for freedom.

I'm not 100% sure but I think I heard them saying something to the effect of "taking out the two bozos in the front room" and I'm a little afraid - ok, very afraid... :D

I made some sourdough pitas this weekend that were mighty fine if I do say so myself! And served them with homemade tziki (sp?) and chicken schwarma. Sorry Alton but they were good eats! :D

I also made a remake of Katie's sourdough English muffins and they turned out so pretty! Have also been making a recipe for pizza crust (thin) that is from Cook's Illustrated that I have tweaked to become a sourdough formulation and it's turning out good cracker style crusts.

So all in all, it's been very good on the baking front. I am going to try making Katie's sourdough sandwich bread at some point this week. I'm usually not lovin sandwich bread but her's looks great so I will have to give it a go.

How has your summer been and have you had lots of baking successes? I love that you took the starter on a road trip lol (so to speak). I wonder if the aridness of the mountains has changed the nature of the starter at all?

Hey I started a new blog at www.mulliganstewme.blogspot.com and hope to be playin around with more bread soon. I wrote about the sourdough muffins as the first post. I'd love for you to drop in and add your very knowledgeable voice if you ever feel like it!