Preserving Sourdough Starter, Part 1: Drying

Dried Sourdough Starter

Rory: “Could someone please tell me what just happened?”

The Doctor: “I’m sorry, Rory, but you just died.”

“Everybody knows that everybody dies. But not every day. Not today… Now and then, every once in a very long while, every day in a million days, when the wind stands fair and the Doctor comes to call, everybody lives.” — River Song

My Sourdough Starter died. I’ve been calling it Rory, after Rory Pond in Doctor Who. Geeky, I know, but why not? When I first started baking sourdough bread, I found myself having to dig pretty deep for some patience. It’s ready when it’s ready, and not a moment before. I thought a character who waited nearly two millennia for the woman he loves would be a good role model. But I didn’t take into account that…spoiler alert…Rory dies. More than once, but it tends not to stick. Still, I shouldn’t have been surprised that my Rory died, too.

We had three separate heat waves this past summer. My house is brick, so it soaks up the heat from the sun. We’re fine as long as it cools off at night, but during a heat wave, it’s like living in a brick oven. Literally. Then I ran out of flour. (Those who know me well are thinking, “You ran OUT of something?? Are you okay?”) I hardly ever run out of stuff. I blame it on the Blizzard of ’66. The roads were so bad that my dad had to abandon his car and walk the rest of the way home. Even in Western New York where blizzards are commonplace, plow crews are experienced, and people are hardy, the plows just couldn’t keep up. We were snowed in. The next day, my dad and his friend dragged a toboggan more than two miles to the village to stock up on supplies. It made quite an impression on me. He was pretty tuckered when he got home! So I tend to keep spares of just about everything. Then whoever opens the spare has to put the item on the grocery list so I can get a new spare. It’s a good thing I have a nice, big pantry! I’m not sure how I managed to run out of flour, of all things, especially since I’ve been baking bread a couple of times a week for months. But I did run out. I really wanted to bake, so I tried feeding Rory some bread flour. I don’t know if it was the different flour, the heat wave, or the combination, but the next day Rory was covered with stinky, pink fuzz. I’ve read that some folks are brave enough to skim the fuzz off and use the starter anyway, but I have an especially strong aversion to food poisoning and wasn’t taking any chances. When you’ve been using sourdough starter long enough, you learn to tell the normal yeasty smell from the normal alcohol smell (a byproduct of yeast fermentation) from any other smell. This really smelled off. So Rory went into the trash. I started a new one as soon as I got back from the grocery store. I still call it Rory; we’re all made of stardust after all, so it’s all good. 

Once I had my Rory reboot up and bubbling (patience!), it was time to hedge my bets and set some starter aside as insurance against a repeat fiasco. King Arthur’s website came through as usual and I simply followed their instructions. It’s remarkably easy! Now I have a jar in my pantry for a quick reboot if I ever have the same problem. I’ll post again soon with instructions for regenerating… er… reawakening the dried starter. Click here for how to reawaken the dried starter.

Ingredients: 

0 dss

70 g (2½ oz.) ripe sourdough starter (or whatever quantity you’d like to dry)

rimmed baking sheet

parchment

spatula or bench knife

kitchen scale (optional)

flour

water

Preparation:

1.) For ripe starter, feed as you usually do. Wait until the starter is very active after the feeding. This time will vary with the kitchen temperature and the vigor of your starter. Leave it in the cold oven with the light on if your kitchen is cool. This may take 2 to 4 hours or more.

Sourdough starter

2.) Crease the parchment about a third of the way in on all 4 sides. Place it on the scale and zero (tare). Pour the starter into the center of the paper and make a note of its weight.

2 dss

3.) Transfer the parchment with its starter puddle to the baking sheet. Spread the ripe starter over the parchment as thinly and evenly as possible.

4.) Set everything aside to dry. This stage can take anywhere from a day to a week, depending on temperature and humidity. Fully dried starter is quite brittle and will easily peel off the parchment. 

4 dss

5.) Tare your scale with a small bowl. Break up the dried starter and add it all to the bowl. The weight should be about half of what you started with. Store in an airtight container in a cool, dark pantry or cupboard. 

5 dss

Preserving Sourdough Starter, Part 1: Drying

Ingredients

70 g (2½ oz.) ripe sourdough starter (or whatever quantity you’d like to dry)

rimmed baking sheet

parchment

spatula or bench knife

kitchen scale (optional)

flour

water

Directions

1.) For ripe starter, feed as you usually do. Wait until the starter is very active after the feeding. This time will vary with the kitchen temperature and the vigor of your starter. Leave it in the cold oven with the light on if your kitchen is cool. This may take 2 to 4 hours or more.

2.) Crease the parchment about a third of the way in on all 4 sides. Place it on the scale and zero (tare). Pour the starter into the center of the paper and make a note of its weight.

3.) Transfer the parchment with its starter puddle to the baking sheet. Spread the ripe starter over the parchment as thinly and evenly as possible.

4.) Set everything aside to dry. This stage can take anywhere from a day to a week, depending on temperature and humidity. Fully dried starter is quite brittle and will easily peel off the parchment. 

5.) Tare your scale with a small bowl. Break up the dried starter and add it all to the bowl. The weight should be about half of what you started with. Store in an airtight container in a cool, dark pantry or cupboard. 

2 Comments Add yours

    1. julie says:

      Thanks, Jennifer!

      Liked by 1 person

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