The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Hello from Arkansas and Sourdough Starter question

pdavis68's picture
pdavis68

Hello from Arkansas and Sourdough Starter question

Hey guys. I'm from Northwest Arkansas. I recently discovered this site. I've been lurking around reading stuff. Very cool.

I'm a relative novice bread maker. I got a bread machine years ago and made a whole grain dough (mix of about 8 grains, seeds and stuff, and lots of extra gluton). Once I kind of mastered that mix, I just made that every week for a couple of years. 

A friend recently mentioned sourdough and I had recently started working from home. Being at home all the time would make starter maintenance no problem at all, so I made a starter. Anyway, fast forward a few months and dozen or so loafs in...

I had read somewhere that you could dry your starter out and grind it into a powder, keep it frozen and then use it to resume a starter later. I was only making about a loaf a week and throwing out that excess starter every day seemed so wasteful, so I got this idea and I started drying out the excess starter. I kept a cookie sheet on the counter under an air vent and I just spread out all the excess starter on it with a knife. By the next morning it'd be dry. Peel it up, throw it in the blender and add it to my jar. 

Pretty quickly I had a big jar full of excess starter in my freezer. I ran a few tests of re-constituting the starter from water and a few days of feeding (3-4). Seems to work like a charm.

So I stopped maintaining a live starter. Once I filled up my jar, I just started operating off of that. About 3-4 days before I plan to make a loaf, I take 2 teaspoons of my dried starter (which is nothing, really) and mix it with about 4 teaspoons of flour, add a little water to get the consistency where I want it and then I feed it about 1-2 teaspoons, twice a day. Then the day I'm going to make the dough, I feed it a decent amount and when it's ready, throw it all into the dough.

Anyway, I'd be curious to know if there are any disadvantages to this. I'm not trying to do great loaves of bread. I'm just trying to make a decent tasting sourdough for my sandwiches and I'm pretty happy with the flavor. But I'm curious if there is some reason others might not want to do this... 

Anyway, cool site. Thanks...

eddieruko's picture
eddieruko

Welcome! 

As you've probably come to realize, starter maintenance is a key part of sourdough baking... just as much as the recipe. And it appears that you're well on your way.

If you have the space in your freezer, you could even skip the blender step. I've seen some people freeze their liquid starter (without drying) into premeasured cubes. There are a lot ways to store your starter.

I think the only real drawback is the time it takes to bring it back to life. 

Eureka's picture
Eureka

I like your creative approach to starter maintenance. I tend to find the summer too hot for baking -- wimping out in Connecticut. I have found that if I freeze my wee yeasties for a couple of months, they can be coaxed back to life over a couple of days. Usually I give them this icy vacation for July and August. Last year because of some travel plans, I tried freezing them from early June until the end of September. They could not be brought back to life. This led to a desperate email to a fellow baker, "Millions Dead in Freezer". Luckily she was able to hand along some of her precious starter and I was back in business, but now I know that there's a limit to the freezing process. Maybe if I dried them first they would last longer...

 

Last weekend I went to Sturbridge Village and had a fascinating discussion with a young woman who does demonstration bread baking in their farmhouse. Their bakers create little dried biscuits that are rich in yeast, as was done in the early part of the 19th century. The little discs, about the diameter of a dollar coin and a half inch thick, are soaked in water and then flour is added to make a sponge. This is used to make the dough, which undergoes the usual-bread making process. This was apparently a standard method and the little biscuits could be shared around, much as my friend shared her liquid slurry of yeast with me.

Dalia's picture
Dalia

You don't need to use the blender or the freezer.   I dry extra batches on parchment then just break it up to large flakes and keep that in the fridge.  I dissolve the flakes in warm water and rebuild over a few days from there.  It probably doesn't even need to be refrigerated but I do that to keep the temp constant.   This also allows me to share it very easily with friends that don't want to maintain a starter. Happy baking!