When I first decided to learn to make sourdough bread I looked everywhere on the net to learn how to make it. There are heaps of sites out there with expert advice on how to create a sourdough starter from scratch but my first two tries ended up with something that smelled really bad.
Then I found you could buy dried sourdough starter and have it mailed to you and at about the same time, Celia from Fig Jam and Lime Cordial asked me if I wanted some of her Priscilla starter. I jumped at the chance and soon I received a small ziplock bag filled with dried sourdough powder.
She sent instructions on how to turn that powder into ripe, bouncy sourdough starter that makes the BEST bread. Celia has instructions on that too.
The dilemma for me was now that I had this starter I named Esmerelda Pissemeyer, what if I killed it? We all have very busy lives and mine is no exception and I worried that I’d kill my starter through neglect. Off I went to the net and learned freezing starter isn’t a very good idea but drying worked. I found sites that recommended pouring the starter onto baking paper and leaving it to dry. In places that are very dry, it might take a day or so but areas of high humidity like where I live, it could take several days to fully dry to crackly stage.
While I love my starter, the idea of having it laying out on the kitchen table for days didn’t excite me. Then while looking in the laundry room cabinets for something, I looked up and saw my dehydrator. It has a very low heat setting and I figured I’d give it a whirl. I grew lots of bubbly starter and after cutting the baking paper into circles to fit the dehydrator, I started painting it on with a pastry brush. I did all 6 layers and set it on low and walked away.
I figured it would take days but it was just one appliance and it wasn’t on the kitchen table but lo and behold, it was 100% dry in less than a day. It peels off the baking paper in a whole sheet like this. I just fold them over and squoosh them into the food processor. Just a bit of a whizz and it’s ready to bag up.
It’s not necessary to pulverize it like I did, you can bash it with a rolling pin or just break it up but I find it reconstitutes much better when it’s been whizzed in the food processor. I’ve kept it for months in the refridgerator and the freezer and it keeps just fine. No more worrying that I’m going to kill my starter and then have to beg someone for another piece of Priscilla.
Plus, it means that I always have some dried starter to share with friends.
Want Some Free Dried SourDough Starter?
Several weeks ago I won this dehydrator from Bobbi at Bam’s Kitchen from Crazy Sales in Sydney. As I mentioned, I already had one so I phoned Celia to see if she had bought one yet and she said no, so I packed it off to Celia. A few days later, I received another one from Crazy Sales with a request to test this one out. So I did. All the starter in this post was dried using this Dehydrator. I set it between 30c and 40c. As a result, I’ve got quite a lot of dried starter and if you’d like some Esmerelda, daughter of Priscilla, send me a message through my contact page.
How to Reconstitute Dried Sourdough Starter
First thing in the morning, in a medium sized bowl, empty the packet of dried starter (about one ounce/30 grams). Whisk in 1/4 cup of filtered water (yeast doesn’t like chlorine) and 1/4 cup of bread flour. Cover with plastic wrap or a shower cap and leave on the countertop.
At noon, whisk another 1/4 cup of filtered water and 1/4 cup of bread flour into the mixture. Cover and leave on the countertop.
Before going to bed, whisk 1/2 cup of filtered water and 1/2 cup bread flour into the mixture, cover and leave on the countertop all night.
In the morning, you should have a bubbly starter ready to use. If not, keep feeding until it comes to life – it could take 2 days. Mine is always quick.
Once your starter is alive and bubbly, pour off a small portion – 1/2 cup or so, and feed it 1/4 cup filtered water and 1/4 cup of bread flour. Whisk, cover and place in the refrigerator. Feed it every week and it’s fine to pour off all but 1/2 cup or use it to make sourdough pancakes.
To Make Your First Loaf of Sourdough Bread
The remainder of the starter in the bowl can be used to make your first loaf of bread. Here’s a link to Celia’s Sourdough tutorial and instructions on how to make your first loaf.
Awesome post! I’ve always found sourdough starter to be so strange and interesting. Your bread looks awesome!
Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella says
How helpful! And we were just talking about how long dehydrators take but I guess when compared to several days on a benchtop it’s not too bad at all! 🙂
I have never seen this before. I’ll have to try it.
Victoria of Flavors of the Sun says
What a helpful post. I didn’t even know this was possible. Haven’t made sourdough in yonks, but used to have a pot of starter at all times. You inspire.
John@Kitchen Riffs says
Never made sourdough bread. Really need to try it at some point since we bake so much bread. Never knew you could dry the starter — interesting idea. And really informative post — thanks.
Wow that is so cool, would never have thought to dehydrate a starter. They are a lot of work to maintain. And the bread looks fab!
Veronica (Roni) says
Wow! Great experimenting Maureen :))
Love a good “How-To” Thanks for your discoveries…xx
Mary Frances says
I love that the starters have names! I will have to try this on my own. I’ve always loved sourdough, but been intimated to try it on my own. Thank you for the encouragement!
Barbara | Creative Culinary says
How cool is that…I’ve never shared starter except locally! Of course I have none right now…send me some? 🙂
Melanie @ Melanie Cooks says
I never made sourdough bread, it just seems too complicated. But I love sourdough, so maybe I’ll attempt it one day 🙂 Your first loaf of sourdough turned out perfect, awesome job!
I’ve had luck freezing the starter itself flat in a small freezer bag or air drying/grinding and then bringing it back. My sourdough bread doesn’t always look as nice as yours does though. I usually spike with some commercial dry yeast. Now that I have some I’m going to try making really great loaves. Maybe in the spring. 🙂
I think making sourdough might just be my new years resolution next year. I have a new chest freezer to store any surplus loaves and a hungry toddler who will turn into a loaf of bread if he has his way.
Liz (Good Things) says
Great post, Maureen!
As for the starter….I’m so embarrassed, I killed Homer!!! (Priscillia off shoot from Celia) Reading this post inspired me to give it another crack.
So jealous you have a dehydrator. Been on my list of things to try for yonks. N x
Brilliant! Who knew you could dry a starter. I might actually make some sourdough bread now that I don’t have to worry about keeping the starter alive.
Robin Follette says
The bread is gorgeous! I’ve neglected my starter and need to begin again. Once I have it going nicely I’m going to dry some to give to my daughters and friends for Christmas. Thank you for sharing the info!
All the very best for today . . .
Tricia @ Saving room for dessert says
Thank you Maureen! Your last post had me fascinated with the idea of dehydrated sourdough starter. Very cool!
Your loaf looks perfectly baked, great idea to dry the starter. Happy Holidays!
The Ninja Baker says
Sourdough makes the best way to sandwich in leftover turkey….Hats off to you Maureen for your ingenuity, inventiveness and ability to come up with really fun sourdough starter names!!! =)
Kate @ Babaganosh.org says
Ha, I love that you named your starter! That’s probably a good way to make sure you feel pressured enough to keep it alive. Food dehydrators are wonderful things, aren’t they? Even for something totally unexpected like this!
This is a very informative post Maureen. I’m not much of a bread baker but your bread looks fantastic.
Nancy | Plus Ate Six says
I’ve killed off Lucy Liu and Lucy Too. I’m going to have to try harder with Lucy San!!!
My goodness. Maybe you should change her name? 🙂
Helen | Grab Your Fork says
One day I will commit to sourdough! Your bread looks so good. And the dehydrating tip is a great insurance plan!
Jean | DelightfulRepast.com says
Maureen, I really need to dry some of my starter. Would make it much easier to share. Thanks so much for providing these explicit instructions!
Deb Harris says
I just found your site from My Savory Spoon’s blog list. As I was looking through your site I got excited when I saw your sourdough bread. I’ve been a bread baker for many years but have never tried sourdough. It’s my husband’s favorite so we buy it. Now we go to Florida in fall & back to Maine in spring so I thought I’d never be able to do it. Drying it might work. Your bread looks wonderful & now I want to try. Do you think you could do in a low oven? Don’t have dehydrater. My oven has a warm setting. Also do you know of anyone selling starter (reasonably) I’d rather get it from someone who nurtured their starter than a company. I just looked & King Arthur sells if I can’t get somewhere else. I fought if I could start one from scratch. Thanks for any info. I just subscribed, I’m looking forward to more recipes. Thanks
You don’t need a dehydrator! Most people don’t use one. They smear it over baking (parchment) paper and let it dry. Then put it in a plastic bag and bash it with a rolling pin or put it in a food processor. I’m happy to send you some of Esmerelda – it’s a fantastic starter and only takes a day or so to be ready to use. What part of Maine do you spend your summers in? I’m from Winslow and we spent the summer at either Ocean Point or Snow Pond in Oakland. 🙂
Krista Bjorn says
This is brilliant!! Such a clever way to keep from losing or wasting starters. 🙂
Claire | Sprinkles and Sprouts says
I love you named your starter, so cool. I have never tried sourdough bread. Well I have tried it as in eaten it, but never tried making my own. I saw Paul make some on river cottage Australia and though ooooh I should try that, but somehow it has always been at the bottom of my to do list.
Once I have moved I will have to give it a go. Wonder if dried sour dough will travel to WA 😉
I’m sending some to Vancouver, Boston, Florida and San Diego, so I think it would travel to WA 🙂 Let me know when you want some.
Claire | Sprinkles and Sprouts says
Oooooh, if you think it will travel okay then yes please 🙂
I will email you xx
Thank you so much for this great helpful post Maureen! My husband love to bake bread and hasn’t made sour dough in years. I remember how much work it was to keep his starter alive and inevitably there would come a time when Eddie would forget to feed it for a while and that was the end of that. I’m excited to show him your post and get him back to making sour dough bread, which I adore!
I had no idea you could dry sourdough starter. I learned something new today.
What are your recommendations as far as making your own Sourdough Starter? Would love to learn.
I tried it twice and failed both times. The starter smelled like something I’d never eat. I would never try it again – I’d just get some free sourdough starter from a tried and true starter. Maybe that makes me lazy but I can’t see working for days only to toss it out. Dried starter is ready within 24-48 hours.
How very interesting is this. I am always a bit overwhelmed at sourdough just because of the thought that we have to keep it alive and all that fuss. This seems like a great idea.
I need to try this. I do have a dehydrater too , but I’m guessing an oven will work too. Loving the starter name. Hugs to you.
Hotly Spiced says
I love the look of your bread and how you’ve mastered the art of keeping Esmerelda alive xx
Kelly - A Side of Sweet says
This is so interesting! I’ve never made sourdough, but I’ve heard people talk about starters before and it all seems so overwhelming! This is such a great hack to make the process a bit easier!
Chris Scheuer says
Who would of known you could do this, very cool!
Gourmet Getaways says
That sourdough looks fabulous!!
I have some of Pricilla as well! You have inspired me to make a loaf ASAP!
Thanks so much for sharing,
I’ve tried my hands before in sourdough starters but ended up very bad smelling stinky thing and ever since I get that weird stomach pain when I think sourdough :). Yet, your bread looks oh so so airy and delicious, and this was your first sourdough bread!!! oh my, you are a genius Maureen.
Deb Harris says
If you are still offering, I’d love some sourdough starter. Now that my kids aren’t always here I don’t bake bread regularly like I used to. I know my husband would be thrilled to have homemade sourdough bread. I’ve found the Internet is sometimes smaller than you think. We are in South Berwick a nice small NE town about 1 hour from Boston & 1 hour from Portland. My husband loves winters in Fl so he can play golf. I like not having snow.
Suzy | The Mediterranean Dish says
Great post on sourdough bread. I don’t know if I’ll ever attempt it, but if I do, I will sure try it your way.
Fran @ G'day Souffle' says
Your post is so interesting! I had no clue of how to make sourdough bread. And where did you come up with the name Pissemeyer? If you leave out the first ‘e’ in the name, you’re left with a most unfortunate name!
When my kids were little they were like kids everywhere, “Mom!!” this and “Moooommmmm” that until I would get so frustrated, especially if I was cleaning up their mess. I would say, “I am no longer Mom, if you want something, you have to address me as Esmerelda Pissemeyer before I will answer you.” They would fall about laughing because they used a word with piss in it. 🙂
They had fun with Grey Poupon too. No class at our house.
Shashi at RunninSrilankan says
Now I have made starter and used it before – but never have I ever dehydrated it and rehydrated it – wow – this is so interesting – this means starter can be stored for next to forever!
Vicki Bensinger says
I’ve made all sorts of breads before but never sourdough Maureen. This looks perfect. I’ll have to go back now to read this a few more times so it sinks into my head how to make this. I bet it tasted sensational. Nothing tastes better than homemade bread. Great job! You’ve inspired me now.
Amanda (@lambsearshoney) says
Seems I missed this post somehow.
What a great idea, to use the dehydrator. I have one in a dark corner of the pantry that seldom sees the light of day. Might be time to pull itout.
Never heard of dry soughdough starter, how cool is that. Hubby is the bread maker here and he really wants to make some again. Your bread turned out gorgeously!!
bedak pixy says
that’s looks very tasty. I want to make it at home and give it to my husband and son.
Bam's Kitchen says
I can almost smell that beautiful sourdough bread baking from here. I have not tried making my own started dough before but drying it out sounds like a breeze in your dehydrator. I am so glad Ceiia got to enjoy one too. Happy holidays to you!
Sourdough is MY FAVORITE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! But I’ve been too scared to try to make it! LOL. I’m bookmarking this though, I need to give it a go at some point and stop being a fradey cat 😉
sherry from sherrys pickings says
i wish i liked bread more than i do as every other blogger seems to love making and eating it. very clever of you to do all this drying and baking of it.
Emma @ Bake Then Eat says
I have to admit to being a bit scared of sourdough starter and bread. I really must man up one day…… 😀
I’ve become quite accomplished at making sourdough starters now; because I let three die!
Dan Lepard uses raisins in his and it’s a bit fiddly to extract the fruit alothough the taste is good.
Richard Bertinet’s from his book crust is the easiest by far.
I use it mostly to make Joanna’s from Zeb bakes rye sourdough and it tastes just divine
Kim | a little lunch says
Dear Maureen, thanks for your tips on dehydrating sour dough starter. (I’ve read Celia’s tips with rapt attention, too.) I don’t currently have a dehydrator, but I have high hopes for “Prissy” — daughter of “Priscilla” — languishing in my fridge and in sore need of immediate attention and/or a lil’ drying time to keep her going.
If need be, would you be willing to send me some of “Esmeralda”? (Postage paid by moi.) I’d hate to see Celia’s progeny dwindle away, but I want to share the WONDER of it all (mostly cuz I can’t eat sourdough bread, DRAT — but I love to bake and SHARE!) I’m hoping “Prissy” will survive… despite my neglect. But hey! “Second cousins” WORK, even if I have to keep TWO batches of Miss C’s original starter going. Let me know, thanks! xo
Fiona @TIFFIN bite sized food adventures says
Yes… Humid climates are a devil as far as baking or drying is concerned. I’ve had to dry it on the table over several days so the dehydrator is a good option.
Charlie Ralph says
Love the lesson on drying!
Alaska McFadden says
I read on the king arthur site that the dehydrator goes above 130 degrees and will kill the yeast. Have you successfully reconstituted starter from dehydrator dried? I am making a bunch of dried starter as wedding favors and really want to speed the process up by using my dehydrator!
Maybe American dehydrators are warmer than my Australian one. My starter rehydrates just fine but the dehydrator was on the absolute lowest heat setting.
Vast Buys says
The dehydrator is by far your best option. It quick and fool proof.