Reviving dormant sourdough starters
Back in January, when I wrote a story on sourdough, I had 18 active starters in my kitchen. Afterwards, I kept most of them, although baker Peter Reinhart told me I was being sentimental and urged I throw many of them out (have a little ceremony, he suggested). I gave some away, but mostly they've been languishing in my refrigerator since then, unfed, dormant, but not forgotten. As it's soon going to be too hot to bake happily, I decided to take out 4 of them and see how they'd fare after 5 months of neglect. The picture on the left shows them before feeding: Three I made myself, one with Peter Reinhart's pineapple juice recipe, one with Nancy Silverton's grape recipe, a third using Paul Bertolli's potato recipe; the fourth was from Sona's 100 year-old Puglian starter. On Friday morning, I stirred in the 'hootch' and fed each with equal parts water and AP flour; more feedings followed on Friday night, Saturday morning and Saturday night. By Sunday morning, they were all bubbly and very active (right). I baked with the most active of the four (Reinhart's, with Silverton's a very close second).
Here are the boules, which rose beautifully, had nice hole structure, and tasted nutty and surprisingly mild -- especially considering how long they'd gone without feeding. Which goes to show how resilient starters can be. And why I'll never need to buy yeast again.
-- Amy Scattergood
Photos by Amy Scattergood