Once you have a thriving colony of wild yeasts – your own very personal sourdough starter – you won’t want anything to destroy the colony.  Unfortunately accidents happen.

I’ve lost several colonies over the years.  Someone cleans the refrigerator, sees the slimy smelly dough in the crock, shakes their head and dumps the starter into the garbage.  *POOF*  – a colony I had carefully nurtured for ten years vanished. Or I’m just not in the mood to clean the crock.  (Feed it? yes.  Clean it? no.) and the colony drowns in it’s own hooch. (Hooch is the cloudy alcoholic liquid that forms on top of the sourdough starter.) Or my husband decides the crock full of starter can sit outside on the porch while he rearranges the entire kitchen.  It was a hot day, and I ended up with a partially cooked loaf of bread *inside* the crock…  Like I said, accidents happen.  It’s a good idea to dry some starter while the colony is happy and healthy.  Dry starter takes up very little space, lasts for several years, and can be rehydrated easily.  (Dry starter is also a great way to share your colony with a friend.)

So what is dried starter?  It’s this stuff:

Dried Flakes of Sourdough starter.
Dried flakes in a plastic container that has a tight lid.

Every time you clean the crock you end up with a “spare” bowl of sourdough starter.  It’s perfectly good starter.  You can bake with it.  Or dry it.  Or it is thrown out.

To dry the starter:

  1.  Put some aluminum foil, shiney side up, on a cookie sheet.

2.  Spread a thin layer of starter on top of the aluminium foil.

Starter spread on aluminum foil.
Sourdough starter spread thinly on aluminum foil.  (I usually have the foil on top of a cookie sheet so it’s easy to move.)

3)  Let it dry for two or three days – sometimes longer. It depends on how thickly you spread the starter on the aluminum foil.  Drying causes the dough to contract.  The starter sticks to the aluminum foil, so the foil curls up as the starter dries and eventually looks like this:

The foil curls as the starter dries.  (And there's my cookie sheet under the foil! The cookie sheet makes it easier to move)
The foil curls as the starter dries. (And there’s my cookie sheet under the foil! The cookie sheet makes it easier to move.)

4)  Peel the aluminum foil off of the dry sourdough starter.  This can be a tad messy.  I keep the cookie sheet on my lap while I peel off the flakes.  Eventually one ends up with a lot of dried flakes.

Dried Flakes of Sourdough starter.
Dried flakes in a plastic container that has a tight lid.

Store the flakes in a glass jar with a lid.  They will (supposedly) keep for 20 years or more as long as they are stored in an airtight container in a cool dark place.

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