There are lots of reasons to “save” your sourdough starter – from having a sourdough insurance policy to establishing a regular sourdough baking routine. Whatever your reason, this post will help you to store your starter in a way that suits your baking style.
Storing Your Starter In The Fridge
Sometimes you might want to have a break from feeding your sourdough starter. Perhaps you’ve established a baking routine and you only need your starter once a week, so feeding it daily is a bit much. It might be time to put your sourdough starter in the fridge.
Once your starter is active and you are baking sourdough bread, it is good to think about how to store your starter to best suit your needs. If you bake regularly, it’s easier to just keep your starter out on the bench and feed it regularly so it’s always ready to bake with (this is always my preferred option as it helps your starter to develop a better flavor and rise).
But if you don’t use it everyday (maybe you only bake once a week) or you’re going away for a while, it’s easier to store your starter in the fridge.
To put your starter in the fridge, feed it, put the lid on the jar (tight). Place in the fridge.
You don’t need to wait for your starter to double before you put it in the fridge – otherwise it will have used up all of it’s food. So just feed it, stir and pop in the fridge and it will happily sleep, while slowly snacking 😉
To keep it in the fridge, feed it once a week (always discarding before you feed). You don’t need to leave it out, you can feed it and put it straight back in the fridge if you aren’t going to bake with it. If you are going on holidays it will survive longer than a week without a feed so don’t stress.
Just feed it how you normally would – so discard and then feed 1:1:1.
IMPORTANT NOTE – I recommend keeping your starter at room temperature and feeding twice a day until it’s mature. This can take quite a while (at least 6 to 8 weeks usually longer). This allows your starter to develop a good flavor profile and strong yeast colonies that rise your bread easily. If you put your starter in the fridge too soon it will not reach maturity for a long time as the fridge puts it to sleep. If you can leave it on the counter and feed it is always the better option.
Baking With A Starter From The Fridge
To bake with your sourdough starter after it’s been in the fridge, take it out of the fridge, discard and feed it (depending on how much starter you need for your recipe – but 50g of water and 50g of flour is always a good place to start). Leave the starter on your counter at room temperature to ferment and double.
If your starter was mature when you put it in the fridge, it should only take one feed to get it going. If it’s a young starter, you may need 2 or 3 feeds to get it ready to bake with.
Your starter is ready to bake with when it’s doubled, spongy and has a slightly domed top. It needs to be bubbly and full of life!
Your starter will survive for quite a while in the fridge, even if you forget to feed it or you go away. It may develop hooch (meaning it’s hungry) and become quite sour but you will be able to revive it by discarding and feeding when you’re ready to use it again.
Backing Up Your Starter
A great way to make sure that you never “kill” your starter is to have a back up (or two). There are a few ways you can do this. It’s a good idea to replace your back up starter every 6 to 12 months to ensure that it is viable (unless it’s dried and this should last a lifetime but if you can, update it from time to time).
Freeze Your Sourdough Starter
Freeze 2 tablespoons (or however much you’d like) of your starter in an airtight zip lock bag or jar. Make sure you label it and date it. It will last around a year in the freezer. You can replace it with a fresh batch after that.
Try to keep your frozen starter at the back of the freezer so that it stays frozen and doesn’t have changes in temperature.
Dry Your Sourdough To A Powder
This is how people are able to post their starter! All you need to do is:
- Feed your starter and wait for it to double.
- Smear your starter in a thin layer on some baking or parchment paper.
- Leave it out on a flat surface to dry completely. You can also use a dehydrator on a very low setting to speed up the process if you want to.
- Once it’s fully dried, break it into pieces and store in an airtight jar.
It depends on your climate as to how long this will take. It must be completely dry as any moisture will allow mould to form. I find that as it dries, I break the larger pieces up and it enables the starter to dry through completely.
To store it, crumble it up and store in an airtight jar in a cool, dark place. If dried correctly it will last you a lifetime.
You will be able to share your starter with friends in this way. You can let them know how to get a dried starter going again with these instructions.
If you want your starter to be a fine powder, rather than just crumbled, you can pulverise it with a motar and pestle or in a food processor or Thermomix.
Sourdough Starter Ball
You can mix a tablespoon of your starter with enough flour to create a bliss ball type consistency. It should hold together but be fairly dry. Store these in a zip lock bag in the fridge for up to six months.
Reviving Your “Back Up” Starters
When reviving your starter from these consistencies, you’ll need to feed them for a few days to bring them back to life. You may never need them – but it’s good to know that your hard work in getting your starter established will not go to waste if something happens to your starter. I’ve written a full guide to activating a dried sourdough starter here.
It might surprise you, but you can get a starter going with a very small amount of “back up” starter. I have experimented a lot with this and have successfully got my starter growing from just the residue left inside the jar after using it all for a bake. It only took topping up the jar with equal parts flour and water and it was bubbling. The same applies for dried starter. While it’s optimal to use a few spoons, even just a few grains of a potent starter will be enough.
Have you checked out the Ultimate Sourdough Glossary? You’ll find it here.
Check out this Easy Multigrain Sourdough Recipe. It’s absolutely delicious!
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