Drying sourdough starter is a great way to preserve your live sourdough starter if you are going away or have far too much sourdough starter.
Dried sourdough starter will last a long time and it’s easy to revive it when you need to use it again.
Over the years, I’ve always kept my main sourdough starter in the fridge, but always had some dried sourdough starter ready to share with my bread baking students or to post to my friends.
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Why dry sourdough starter
Drying sourdough starter is a simple way to preserve your sourdough starter for later.
You can dry all your sourdough starter if you know you are going to be away for a long time or you know you won’t be baking for a while. Alternatively you can dry part of of your sourdough starter as a back up, in case your main sourdough starter goes off.
It’s a great way to reduce the size of your sourdough starter if you don’t want to bake as regularly as before.
Drying sourdough starter is also a fab way to share your sourdough starter with other people, especially if you want to travel or send the sourdough starter in a post.
Since sourdough starter is a living bacteria, it’s a bit difficult to travel with (or even send it) in case it gets too active and it overflows.
If you have dry sourdough starter you can easily post it or take it on the airplane (where normally you can’t take any liquids on in more than 100 ml bottles).
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What do you need to make dehydrated sourdough starter
- Active sourdough starter
- Large baking tray
- Suitable drying environment (ventilated room, oven, dehydrator, warm cupboard etc.)
Ideally you want to make sure that your sourdough starter is active and bubbling before you start to dry it. This is because, if your sourdough starter is active before you dehydrate it, it will be a lot quicker to start baking with it when you do re-hydrate it after it’s been dormant.
You will also need a large baking tray, lined with greaseproof paper to spread the sourdough starter on to. I find it easier to peal the dry sourdough starter from a paper than from the baking tray.
Can you dehydrate in-active sourdough starter?
Sometimes you might have a starter that’s not that active (e.g. it’s not freshly ‘fed’ with fresh flour and water) but it doesn’t mean that you can’t dehydrate it.
You can dehydrate (dry) in-active sourdough starter and use it as a flavouring for bread and flavouring and thickenning for soups or sauces or adding to pancake batter.
If you wanted to use in-active dry sourdough starter as a sourdough starter for baking bread, then you’d need to gradually bring it back to life again.
You can do that by re-hydrating the dry starter first with water and fresh flour and then add more flour and water each day as if you are starting a new sourdough starter.
Before you feed your sourdough starter each day, you will also need to remove half of the sourdough starter (unless you are bulding up your sourdough starter and need more volume).
Where to dry sourdough starter
Drying your sourdough starter in a room temperature is perfectly fine, especially in the summer. You can choose to place the tray anywhere where you see a sun to make the drying out quicker.
This method will take the longest and the amount of time will depend on how warm or cold your room is – anything from 24-72 hrs.
The best way to dry your sourdough starter in the oven is to place the tray in after you’ve just finished baking and you’ve switched the oven off. Let the oven to cool down a bit (you want to have about 30 C or 90 F) or leave the oven door slightly open.
If you are not in a rush to dehydrate your sourdough starter, then you can add the tray in every time you do some baking and it will eventually dry out.
Alternatively, set the oven on the lowest setting and place the tray with sourdough starter in. The drying time can be anything from 4-6 hrs to 24-48 hrs, depending on how much you’ll use your oven.
If you have a dehydrator, then you can just layer it with a sturdy greaseproof paper and spread your sourdough starter directly into the dehydrator. Follow your dehydrator maker instructions and set the temperature around 25-30 C or 75-90F maximum.
This method will probably take about 4-6 hrs or slightly longer depending on how much sourdough starter you are trying to dehydrate.
Any clean warm cupboard such as hot water boiler cupboard can be also used. I always make sure that I clean the cupboard first and cover the tray with a loose cover to make sure that the sourdough starter can not be contaminated.
How to dry sourdough starter
Drying sourdough starter couldn’t be easier!
Line a large baking tray with a greaseproof paper – it will be easier to get the sourdough starter from the paper than from the baking tray.
Spread thin layer of your sourdough starter on the tray – about 3-4 mm maximum
Leave to dry in the room or in warm oven (don’t go over 30C or so) for 12-24 hrs. The amount of time will depend on your room temperature, the year season or if you use oven.
Break the dry soudough starter into small pieces and store in a large jam jar or another suitable container with a lid.
How to keep a dried sourdough starter
A jam jar or other air tight container is best as you want to ensure that your sourdough starter doesn’t absorb any humidity from the air.
To prevent your sourdough starter going soft, add a teaspoon of dry rice at the bottom of the jam jar. The dry rice will help to absorb any humidity before the sourdough itself does.
How long does dried sourdough starter last
As long as you keep your sourdough starter in an air tight container, your dry sourdough starter will last indefinitely.
I’ve successfully kept mine for 3-6 months, but I’m sure it would last much longer.
How to revive sourdough starter
Take out a tablespoon of dried sourdough starter and mix it with about two tablespoons of water. Add more water as the dried sourdough absorbs it. You should end up with a runny paste, similar to what your sourdough starter was like before.
Once you like the consistency, feed your sourdough starter as normally and depending on how active it is after 6-12 hours, feed it again before you bake with it.
Other uses for dry sourdough starter
Dry sourdough starter can be used as flavouring for regular yeasted bread. Simply add a few pieces to the water measured for your yeasted bread. Leave the dry sourdough pieces to re-hydrate and then use the sourdough water to make your regular bread.
The sourdough starter will add a wonderful tangy flavour and the dormant wild yeast might help to rise the bread a little (although don’t rely on this and always use other way of rising the dough by using yeast, baking powder or baking soda).
BREAD RECIPES THAT WORK WELL WITH SOURDOUGH STARTER FLAVOURING
Dry sourdough starter can be also used for flavouring and thickening various savoury sauces or soups. Just add few pieces of dry sourdough starter to the sauce or soup and carry on cooking.
You can also add the sourdough starter to any pancake batter. The dehydrated sourdough starter is pretty much 100% flour, so you can weigh it and swap it with some of the flour in your pancake recipe. I usually go with something like 1/4 of dehydrated sourdough starter to 3/4 flour of the total given in the pancake recipe.
It doesn’t have to be that precise either, but the more dehydrated sourdough starter you use the more tangy your pancakes are going to be. You can even make them 100% from the dehydrated sourdough starter if you like the flavour or you have a lot of dry sourdough starter.
PANCAKE RECIPES THAT GO WELL WITH SOURDOUGH FLAVOUR
Dry sourdough starter
- large baking tray
- greaseproof paper
- 1 cup sourdough starter 200 grams or whatever you want to use
- Line a large baking tray with a greaseproof paper
- Spread thin layer of your sourdough starter on the tray
- Leave to dry in the room, hydrator, warm cupboard or in warm oven (don't go over 30C or so) for 12-48 hrs (this will depend on your room temperature)
- Break into small pieces and store in a large jam jar or another suitable container
- Keep up to 6 months.
- To rehydrate your dried sourdough starter mix few dried pieces with water in a small jar and leave in the room temperature with a lid on. Add 1 teaspoon of bread flour (rye, wholemeal or brown flour etc.) mix in with one extra spoon of water and leave for another day. Repeat until the sourdough starter is bubbling and strong again to use.