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Reviving dormant sourdough starters

June 2, 2008 |  2:18 pm

Starter1_4Back 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.  Starter2_4 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).  Starter3_3

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