The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Starter Disaster

CAphyl's picture
CAphyl

Starter Disaster

Well, it's finally happened.  I lost two of my starters during a long trip away in England.  I have an all white flour starter and a mixed starter with white, rye and ww flours and both bit the dust as I was away for five weeks. I fed them right before I left and put them in clean jars.  I'll never do that again!  I've traveled before and they have been fine.  AND in the UK, my starter seems OK, but smells terrible.  My niece feeds it while I am away, so I am not sure why it smells so bad.  It perked up OK when I fed it, but I didn't have good luck with most of the bakes.  Went a bit flat, even though the dough had a good rise.  I think I need Mini-Oven here to help!

I had two gluten-free starters that came through all right, so I converted one to gluten to try and see if that would work.  I fed it twice yesterday, once before I got up and it seems to be popping up nicely.  I am going to try to make some dough this morning.  Fingers crossed that it works out! I am also planning to bring back some starter from the Midwest that my sister feeds while I am away.

Open to all discussions on how I can maintain the starter when I am gone for long periods.  I also need to catch up on everyone's wonderful bakes.  Here's hoping I can get back to normal with my starter and bakes.  Best,  Phyllis

 

Comments

CAphyl's picture
CAphyl

Not sure why the blog didn't show, so I will repeat it here.  My starter died while I was on a long trip. Black and mold.  I fed it right before I left and put it in clean jars.  I have left before for long periods, and it's been fine.  My trip was to England, and my starter there is suffering as well. My niece feeds it, but it just smells terrible.  Need Mini Oven's help.  I had two gluten-free starters that came through fine, and I converted one, feeding it with white, ww and rye flours.  It looks good.  Fingers crossed it will work.  Making dough with it today.  Another "baby" of my California starter is in the Midwest, and my sister feeds it, so let's hope that is OK.  All comments welcome on how to maintain it better when I travel.  Best, Phyllis

chefcdp's picture
chefcdp

What works for me is to simply stir into some fresh starter enough flour to make a stiff clay like mass, then store the mix in a small covered container in the refrigerator.  I have kept this very stiff start at a cabin from fishing opener in May until late fall hunting season without a problem.  It just takes a teaspoon of the stored mix with a bit of water and flour and it springs back to lif,  After a couple of refreshments, it is like new.

Charles

 

CAphyl's picture
CAphyl

Charles:  I will try in future to make it as stiff as I can before departing on a trip.  I have left for longer in the past and haven't had a problem, so I was a bit puzzled.  Will give your suggestions a try.  Best, Phyllis

alfanso's picture
alfanso

I'm certain that  there will be several camps on how to do this, one not necessarily better or worse than another.  But first allow a moment of silence for these dearly departed pools of goop that we hold so close to our hearts.  Okay, now that that is out of the way...

I keep a stiff 60% hydration rye starter packed tightly in a flat tupperware type covered container.  The starter itself gets a sheet of plastic wrap pressed tightly to its surface.  The container occupies a spot in the far back of the refrigerator and only comes out when it is time to cleave off a few grams for a build or for a refresh.  These can and do last me at least 4 months before either I run low or decide to refresh.  I find that they will tend to weep just the slightest amount of moisture from time to time.

Due to my Freudian anal nature, I also freeze a little of it as well as keep a dried and flaked version in a sealed zip-lock bag or in a small covered jar.  I've yet to have to rely on the "nuclear option" of the frozen or flaked versions.  However, two years ago I didn't yet maintain this stiff version.  And I was indeed able to resurrect the starter from the flakes.

alan

CAphyl's picture
CAphyl

Alan:  Very good tips.  I, too, kept some frozen, flaked starter in the freezer, but haven't tried to get it going.  I might do that.  I like the idea of the wax paper, too.  Four months is great.  I have never gone that long before, so that is encouraging.  Thanks for sharing.  Best, Phyllis

clazar123's picture
clazar123

Over the last 10 yrs, this has happened on occasion and it has usually been when I had to leave it inn long term storage. I was always able to carefully scrape and get a "clean" specimen from the very bottom and start a new starter.

Interestingly enough, it has not happened since I have a colder refrigerator. My old refrigerator (35 yrs old!), apparently was not as cold as my current refrigerator. I have seen a difference in how food keeps. I would check the temp in multiple locations in your refrig and keep the starter in the coldest spot for long term storage.

I also would keep the starter in a thicker consistency-almost like clay but still stirrable with a wooden spoon. In preparation for long storage I feed very well for 3 days so it develops a good acid content and high yeast population. On many occasion  I have taken a teaspoon of my beefed up starter and rubbed it into about 1 c of flour until it looks like cornmeal. This I store in the freezer or refrigerator as backup. I have also travelled with starter like this.

Starter is pretty tough. It will come back.

CAphyl's picture
CAphyl

clazar123:  I do think the frig temperature can make a difference. Thanks for pointing that out.  I'll also work on the thicker consistency.  I am just getting ready to bake a loaf with my gluten-free starter that I converted to gluten.  It really looked good, so let's hope the bread is tasty.  Thanks again for the tips.  Best, Phyllis