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Author Topic: Before Starter Disaster Strikes  (Read 4340 times)

Offline Paul

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Before Starter Disaster Strikes
« on: June 15, 2010, 02:58:30 PM »
Here's something you may want to get into the habit of doing once or twice a year: Drying your Starter.

This is a quick Step-by-Step of the starter drying process so you'll have a back up in case someone tosses that "jar of goo" out of your fridge or you accidentally bake all of it in a dough on a morning you really should have stayed in bed.



Having "snapshots" of your starter as it ages may also prove handy should you find it's started to go "off", you can just go back in time a bit and refresh that same starter from last year.

It also makes sending some to breadhead friends far away a simple matter.
Paul
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I used to think I was indecisive, but now I'm not so sure.

Offline Steve

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Re: Before Starter Disaster Strikes
« Reply #1 on: June 15, 2010, 03:48:14 PM »
Not a bad idea at all!

I need to do this, both for myself and also because I can put it in a fancy envelope and give it to friends who want to start this (obsession) hobby.

Good lord, where would the future of mankind be without Gladass in the picture!

Thanks, this is timely, Paul!


Offline Paul

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Re: Before Starter Disaster Strikes
« Reply #2 on: July 10, 2010, 08:15:19 PM »
So have you got some emergency back up starter yet, Steve?
Paul
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Offline Steve

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Re: Before Starter Disaster Strikes
« Reply #3 on: July 11, 2010, 06:58:37 AM »
You bet!  Would you like some?   :thumbup:

Offline Paul

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Re: Before Starter Disaster Strikes
« Reply #4 on: July 11, 2010, 06:23:39 PM »
 ;D Thanks but I find keeping just one active plenty of activity, especially since I'm in the process of cutting back/ditching everything due to moving cross country in the near future.

I did however run into a stash of flakes I made a year or so back while clearing out a shelf. Just in a little plastic tub, sitting on the shelf so not frozen or refrigerated. I think I may fire up a teaspoon or two of it to see how it comes back.
Paul
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Offline Steve

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Re: Before Starter Disaster Strikes
« Reply #5 on: July 12, 2010, 08:30:26 AM »
Everything that I read says, 'yes it will' work fine.  Sounds like heat is the main enemy.

On a similar subject, depletion of oxygen seems to encourage dormancy in little beasties* as well; I don't have the studies at hand or I would cite them.  I wonder if I should vac-pack a little?

Do you suppose I might, just possibly, be over-doing this?   He he he.

On a related matter, I bought some vac-packed yeast at a warehouse market place a year ago, and I have left it out on the counter in a screw-top container.  It seems to show no signs of giving up the ghost.  I wonder if I will run out before it dies?  I guess at the rate I have been baking bread, I might run out first.

I remember as a kid hearing about yeast that "went bad", but in my short time baking it seems like it is impervious to everything but heat.


* tip of the hat to Joanna for that name, 'beasties'.

Offline Abby

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Re: Before Starter Disaster Strikes
« Reply #6 on: July 12, 2010, 01:24:52 PM »
I am leaving town for two-three weeks tomorrow . . . no time to dry my starter first . . . why didn't I think of doing this last week?!

Anyway, can my starter survive that long without any attention?? No one here will take care of it for me . . . . . I debated bringing it with me, but not sure that's practical or feasible . . . . . .  :hmm:

Offline Steve

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Re: Before Starter Disaster Strikes
« Reply #7 on: July 12, 2010, 02:10:44 PM »
I could probably feed it for you, or you could always take some of mine when you get back.  Heck, just let some dry out on a sheet of parchment - it will spring right back to life if it is only a few of weeks.

Offline Paul

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Re: Before Starter Disaster Strikes
« Reply #8 on: July 12, 2010, 03:45:31 PM »
Either do as Steve suggests: dry some while you're gone (it won't actually care if you're there or not) or (possibly and) make a very stiff ball of it: little bit of starter, little bit of water, plenty of flour so you have nearly bagel dough. Let it sit out on the counter then pop it in the fridge on your way out the door. And as a third back up, feed your starter and just get it back in the fridge as normal, then see how it is when you get back. It will likely be fine.

Many a starter has been "forgotten" for weeks on end and came back after some attention. I usually feed mine on a biweekly schedule anyway.
Paul
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I used to think I was indecisive, but now I'm not so sure.

Offline Abby

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Re: Before Starter Disaster Strikes
« Reply #9 on: July 12, 2010, 07:33:38 PM »
Thanks for the help, guys! All three methods are in effect right now (refreshed my regular guy, got the drying process started, and made a new very stiff starter) . . . . . . Is there a fingers-crossed emoticon?  :snicker:

Offline Paul

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Re: Before Starter Disaster Strikes
« Reply #10 on: July 12, 2010, 08:51:01 PM »
With this many bases covered, outside of a comet or tornado hitting the house while you're gone you should be perfectly fine.

No crossing of anything required here!

Have a fun vacation, wherever you're heading to. See you in three!
Paul
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I used to think I was indecisive, but now I'm not so sure.

Offline Paul

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Re: Before Starter Disaster Strikes
« Reply #11 on: July 20, 2010, 03:41:54 PM »
FYI: I found some OOOOLD starter I had dried about 2 years ago and had just put in a plastic baggie. It's been sitting on my bread equipment shelf totally forgotten for all this time, unrefrigerated.

When I went to open the bag, it pretty much disintegrated (!!) - it was dollar store baggies, not ZiplocĀ® or other brand name - so I gathered some of the flakes that had fallen all over the counter and put about a teaspoon into a glass jar with a little water. I let this sit overnight and gave it a stir the next day. The flakes were still not fully dissolved and they smelled rather on the rancid side.  :wot?:

None the less, I added a little flour and let it sit until that evening, added a little more water and flour (none of this measured exactly, about a tablespoon each) and let it sit on the counter for the next day.

Surprise of surprises, bubbles! Not sure if this would be "bad bacteria bubbles" or the starter actually coming back so I just continued. And it still smelled rancid but now there was more fresh flour too so the rancid was disappearing.

Over the next three days, the starter did manage to get back fully, the rancid smell worked out during the few regular feeds (discard most, add fresh). It was doubling well in about 4 - 5 hours. And no, that activity wasn't "bad" bacteria.

I didn't make bread with it but I don't doubt it would work fine as it was doing very well. Besides, PJ is the house starter at this point - he'll be 1 year old next month.  pompom

The moral here is: even if totally neglected and badly stored, dried starter will come back after a couple of years if rehydrated and given just a few feedings.
Paul
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I used to think I was indecisive, but now I'm not so sure.

Offline Zeb

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Re: Before Starter Disaster Strikes
« Reply #12 on: July 20, 2010, 04:44:41 PM »
I wonder if rehydrating old starter together with new flour and water really is getting the old one going, or simply starting a new one with the yeasts etc in the new flour as if making a new starter?  In Germany, where they do things a bit differently, they don't put so much emphasis on nurturing old starters through thick and thin, in fact they make new starters regularly because they reckon the old ones get contaminated and are less effective over time.... (just playing Devil's advocate here  :whistle:)  I of course, keep my little dears going as best I can. When I was without a kitchen Brecon stayed in the back of a fridge for about two months, got fed I think once, no exercise though and lived to tell the tale....two and a half now....
Joanna @ Zeb Bakes

Offline Paul

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Re: Before Starter Disaster Strikes
« Reply #13 on: July 20, 2010, 07:44:54 PM »
I wondered about that but the fact it was getting up and going in two or three days indicates it's not a "new" starter since that typically will go through the dreaded "stinky bacteria" stage, then die down for a few more days before finally getting it's pH act in gear and waking up the good yeasties.

It's true that with the pineapple juice method at our disposal, starting over is just a couple of days worth of trouble but then there's the following weeks or maybe months (if the starter lives in 'le frigo' much of the time) before the little pet develops much character and strength. So although it's possible to restart any time, it may be more sensible to "pick up where you left off".

Or one may want to keep ol' Gertie going for sentimental reasons.

And to answer the "they get contaminated" point: if you were to get your flakes made up when your starter was getting into it's own groove, then at year three when it no longer had much oomph and was 'contaminated', you could "go back in time" to how it was in it's younger days, uncontaminated and vibrant. And off you go again.
Paul
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I used to think I was indecisive, but now I'm not so sure.

Offline Abby

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Re: Before Starter Disaster Strikes
« Reply #14 on: July 30, 2010, 08:29:55 AM »
Well, I refreshed my good ol' starter (Austin) twice since getting back home last night, and he easily doubled in just a few hours both times . . . I'd say he's no worse for being abandoned for over two weeks!  pompom

And I now have a dried version . . . just in case!

Now, after being gone for over two weeks, I'm off to my kitchen! Thanks again for all of the advice!  :thumbup: