Have sourdough starter will travel inland
Updated: Mar 16, 2020
One of the triumphs of the last year of my PhD was finally getting around to maintaining a thriving sourdough starter. Do you really live in the Bay Area if you don't have a coastal fog-acclimated jar of yeast on your counter? (Ok, this may not be very common, but it is very on brand for me.) Let's also ignore that I just discounted finishing my PhD in 3 years to elevate the accomplishment that is feeding a sourdough starter regularly. It is arguably more difficult to maintain the latter.
So for the last year, I've been enjoying weekly sourdough bread and other novelty sourdough items. But as I geared up to move to Pullman, I wondered how the sourdough starter would fare. How much does environment actually impact taste? Temperature, relative humidity, natural yeast in the air...these were all things that would change drastically. Also, would it survive the actual journey?
I am here to report that I failed miserably as a sourdough starter parent, as I immediately forgot about the jar in the fridge for almost TWO MONTHS after moving to Pullman. To be fair, I traveled for over a month of that. And the rest of the time...starting a postdoc is stressful, ok? However, the starter proved to be one tough cookie and here's how I was able to revive it. Learn from my mistakes though, and just feed the darn thing regularly. It takes 2 minutes.
If you store your starter like I do (paper towel rubber banded around a wide-mouth mason jar), the liquid forms a thick crust on the top because it dries out. I threw this out when reviving my starter, but in hindsight, this probably had a ton of dormant yeast in it if I had just soaked it in water. So next time I move and inevitably do this again, I would save that part and incorporate it back into the starter.
Starter "crust". Yum.
With the remaining starter underneath, I did an entire week of feeding daily just like when I was starting it a year ago. The first few days I was doing 60% water/40% flour to get the liquidy consistency back, and I was also using 100% rye flour to up the natural yeast present. By the end, I was back to the regular 3 oz of flour and water (each) and using white flour. Important note here, only use bottled distilled water because you don't know what's in the tap water. Ever. See my other blog post about sourdough starter to learn how to make a starter from scratch if you're not familiar with the methods I'm talking about.
After doing this (and gifting everyone around me with loads of excess starter), I made a few loaves of bread and voila! Revived sourdough starter. I'll admit, it doesn't quite taste the same as in the Bay Area, but that might be mostly psychosomatic...in any case now I add 1/2 tsp of citric acid to get that tangy taste I grew accustomed to. The bottom line: it is possible to revive your starter after months of laziness + moving across state lines. Good luck!
I upgraded from paper towel to tiny fabric piece with elephants. I'm not a grad student anymore, ok? Also notice how condensed the starter has gotten in the bottom after sitting in the fridge for so long - usually it fills the whole container!
Our first rise!
That salt-looking stuff on the top of this flour is citric acid...no one needs to know you cheated on the tanginess!
The beautiful, beautiful final product!