Drying starters results in a powder suitable for long-term, no-care, storage of starters, or for convenient mailing to friends or relatives.
Dried starters may be kept for long periods of time outside the freezer, and even longer when stored in the freezer. The freezer is the best place for dried starters.
Since yeast has the natural survival mechanism of being able to sporulate upon drying or refrigeration, it tends to survive quite well when stored in this manner. The 'sour' in the starter though, is from lacto bacilli. Lacto bacilli do not have a natural mechanism for surviving drying or refrigeration (or freezing).
Before relying on any dried starter for maintaining the original starter and all of it's characteristics, it is best to test it. That is, dry enough starter so you have numerous 2-tablespoon packets of dried starter, then restore one of the packets and compare it's qualities to the original...taste and smell should be good enough tests. No need to prepare an entire recipe. If the 'sour' is missing, or the powder doesn't easily restore, then another try at drying is in order. Once you've successfully dried the starter, place it in the freezer or mail it immediately.
As more and better information becomes available to assist the art of drying starter successfully, this page will be updated to reflect those changes. The following technique is though to work in most cases. Note that the technique may actually diminish yeast concentrations while at the same time maximizing lacto bacilli concentrations. This is purposeful since it will also maximize the chance that the lacto bacilli will survive the drying process.
Here's what to do:
- Using 1 cup of your starter, replenish this starter as described in the instructions above, but rather than proofing for only 8 to 12 hours, proof the starter for about 18 hours at 85 degrees.
- To restore the starter in the starter container, just follow the normal, unmodified, replenishing directions above.
- Tear off a piece of wax paper about 3 feet long, and lay it on your working surface making sure the WAX side is UP.
- Place a few tablespoons of the over proofed starter on the wax paper near one end and spread thinly across the wax paper using a dough blade or flat knife.- Allow to dry at room temperature overnight.
- When dry, the wax paper will probably have curled up. Just press the wax paper flat to free the dried starter from the paper. Place the freed dry starter into a bowl. Scrape or crack-off any remaining starter into the bowl. Using your fingers, crunch up the starter until it is a fine powder.
- Place 2 tablespoons of the dried powder in plastic bags. I prefer the zip-type sandwich bags available at most grocery stores.
- Test the newly-dried starter by restoring it as described above. If it resembles the original starter fairly closely, then you're in business...store the rest of the packages in the freezer. If the starter does not resemble the original, repeat the drying process and try again.