The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Flour Pets in Flour-Scarce Times -- Thoughts?

BreadBabies's picture

Flour Pets in Flour-Scarce Times -- Thoughts?

About once every six months I get all starry eyed and dream of starting a starter again. My sourdough baking tendencies are like my dieting tendencies, lots of dreaming, planning, and then finally execution. Then, much like a diet, I'm strong out of the gate, but after some time, my willpower to keep the starter alive dies out. It gets edged out by those pesky kids who also need time, attention, love, and to be fed and kept alive. Conveniently, I then remember how much I love ciabatta and wonder why I ever bothered with the time-suck that is sourdough.

Well, I've got the itch again. But as these are times when flour is difficult to find (I don't know where you are but in the current bleephole that is California, flour is still semi-scare) the idea of throwing out starter really bothers me.

I'm considering many approaches, including resident dabrownman's NFNM starter. But there is also the matter of getting the thing going. I attempted to activate a dried Oregon Trail starter that I sent away for about 6 months ago, but it was an absolute failure. Something was not right about the specimen I received. I don't really want to send away for a Cultures of Health starter... So, besides pineapple juice, I'm wondering if anybody has some tips on lowering flour waste in order to get this puppy going. Then, I suppose NFNM must be the way to go after that.

Any tips would be appreciated.

rgreenberg2000's picture

The fastest way to having a happy starter in your kitchen that I know of is to find a fellow baker who will donate some of his/her starter.  That would get you over the potentially wasteful hump of having to start one from scratch (and has the bonus that you can start baking with it much more quickly.

I see you are in the Greater Bay Area?  If you can narrow that down a bit, there may be someone here who could help.  I'm in Redwood City, so if that's near you, just let me know.  I'd be happy to share some healthy starter with you (as I've done with quite a few in my neighborhood as we have had lots of new bakers during Covid.)  If you are on NextDoor, that's also a good place to ask your neighbors who can help.

I'm sure others will be along with more ideas.....


BreadBabies's picture

Yes, indeed. I tried this route first. Nobody I know that I am close enough with to exchange food during COVID times has a starter. 2 bakeries told me "no". I was actually very surprised by that. I was under the impression that bakeries were more generous. I offered to buy it even. I've posted twice on our neighborhood social site with zero responses. Must be the times.

That's very kind of you to offer! I am opposite of redwood city, up near napa. But thank you.

clazar123's picture

I have always started my starters with only 2 tbsp flour in a small bowl. After it is a starter (you sound like you know what you are doing to get it started so I won't address that)-maintain  it with the same amount.

Before converting to NMNF, make sure it is active and behaves like a mature starter. What the heck does that mean, you ask?? IMO, if you are going to store a starter for long term, it should have a good balance of symbiotic lacto/yeasts, so that when it is activated to work, it performs well. Case in point, I found a dried, 40 yr old  sample of Sourdough Jack in its original cellophane package that was sold in San Fran as a tourist souvenir. It was in its original ceramic bailed jar at a flea market in the hot sun. For .25 I thought I'd take a chance. I even waited a few more years while I became more proficient at sourdough and starters. It revived instantly! Quite amazing! I still have "Jack" and use him every time I bake.

Speaking of dried starters, are you sure you don't want to dry and freeze some active starter for rejuvenation for use later? So much easier. It would take about 2-3 days to make a levain in prep to bake. I have posted about this-just do a search on drying starter for travel.

BreadBabies's picture

Yeah, I've never used NFNM before. But I'm wondering why I haven't tried it. I do not have the patience for waste or constant feeding and the solution has always been right in front of my eyes and I have always know it's there.  I was just somehow tied to the romance of a liquid starter...stupid...I guess... But that's how Chad does it...and he's ever so dreamy. I definitely need the tips on making the conversion. I'm gonna be a NFNM first-timer.

SugarOwl's picture

I used the pineapple juice method, turns out my water was the problem. It is treated with chloramine. So I have to use bottled water. You can also dry your starter to re hydrate later. I am in the process of re hydrating mine after almost year. It bubbled, but I left the lid open and it got moldy. I am glad I dried my starter, I am only re hydrating about 5 grams to start with, so it's not a big loss. I have a snack size baggie full.

For less waste, keep it small. Like another said, start with only a tablespoon of flour. Once you get it going and it matures, then keep it in the refrigerator for once a week feeds. For waste, look at crackers, pancakes, rolls, etc, or just dry it

BreadBabies's picture

I've never tried it because I've never had to. I have a Berkey, so maybe I'll run my water through that before using it. Honestly, I've started up sourdoughs in the past and it's kind of hit and miss. I am a believer that the flour is the issue.  The resident beasts turn into good starter or they fight like hell. I even tested this once. I had some rye and I made a starter from that over and over and it failed every time. I bought some randomly different rye and it was a near instant success.  So, flour lotteries being what they are, I just can't bare the idea of missing and using up so much flour in the process.

Thanks for the tip.