Having been working with sourdough starters for a while, I’ve seen and done a lot to my creations. However, when I first started using sourdough I was shocked by what seemed to be quickly dying sourdough. I would make the starter, bake with it on a regular basis, and be happy. But if I went away for vacation and forgot about the starter for a few weeks, I’d be disappointed to find a dark mass with icky liquid on top.
At that stage I figured the sourdough starter was bad. I mean, it smelled fairly strongly (not in a good way) and looked pretty beat up. So I would eventually end up throwing it away and starting over from scratch. Truth be told, that kind of sidelined be from using sourdough for a few years since I kept making perfectly good starters and they ended up dying. I figured I just didn’t have the baker’s equivalent of a green thumb, whatever that may be.
all this time, I was doing it wrong!
One day I picked up a copy of the Tartine bread book and decided to try again. Surely, the sourdough was created just like the book said it would and the loaves were delicious so I figured I should do a little research and put a little more effort in to this thing. I mean, if other regular people are maintaining their sourdoughs so well then why shouldn’t I be able to?
I did my reading and found out that, all this time, I was doing it wrong! All that gunk was basically just the sourdough exhaust. The mass had eaten all of the nutrients in the flour/water mixture and burped up that other stuff. Instead of throwing it away, I should just stir it back in and refresh it with fresh water and flour.
Since this revelations, I’ve kept my starters for many years. I grow them to share with friends, to experiment, and of course to bake.
Check out this video below and see just how easy reviving a “dead” starter really is.