Sourdough for Beginners

Here’s How to Take a Summer Vacation from Your Sourdough Starter

updated Jul 9, 2020
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It feels like eons ago that we were all diving head-first into sourdough baking, many of us for the first time, this spring. Getting into a sourdough bread-baking routine was cozy and comforting when the weather was still cool, but feeding your starter every week (not to mention baking bread every week) can be quite a chore in the summer months.

Whether your interest in sourdough baking has waned or you just need a break from heating up the oven this summer, it is helpful to know that you can take a break from maintaining your sourdough starter.

The 2 Methods for Hitting Pause on Your Sourdough Starter

You can keep your sourdough starter happy in the fridge for months at a time by just feeding it every few weeks, but if you’re looking for a longer-term hiatus from feedings and baking, you’ve got two options: You can freeze your sourdough starter to revive later, or dry your starter to rehydrate and reinvigorate a new starter in the future. Here’s what you need to know about these two methods for taking a starter break.

Credit: Modernist Cuisine

Freezing Your Sourdough Starter

Freezing your starter will give you ready-to-use starter anytime within two weeks of freezing it. Make sure your starter is fed just before freezing. You can even portion it into cup or tablespoon-sized servings to pull out just what you need. After two weeks in the freezer, your starter won’t have the same leavening power, but it can be used to flavor baked goods, as long as yeast or baking powder is used as the main source of leavening. What you lose in shelf life with starter, you can gain in convenience: It takes almost no time to pop your starter in the freezer. It is also a great way to keep extra “discard” starter if you don’t have time right now for baking biscuits or making pancakes.

Drying Your Sourdough Starter

Drying your starter, on the other hand, takes more time: You’ll spread your starter out onto parchment or a Silpat and let it air-dry completely. (This can take days if you live in a particularly humid climate.) But then you can store the dried flakes of starter in a lidded container in a cool, dry place indefinitely. To use it, you’ll reconstitute the starter flakes in water and then add flour to feed and strengthen it for use.

Which Method Is Best?

Neither method is perfect (there are pros and cons to both freezing and drying), but either can give you the summer vacation you need — at least from your sourdough bread routine!