The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Tossed My Starter

carefreebaker's picture

Tossed My Starter

I received a package of dry starter from my kids, which they bought in San Fransisco. Followed the instructions but after 2 days on my counter, I had to toss it out. The smell was awful, like someone had been physically sick. I expected it to smell like yeast or alcohol, at least that's what I remember from the last time I made starter which was at least 15 years ago.

Can you get sick from baking bread with a bad starter? How do you know the starter shouldn't be used?

Thank you

alabubba's picture

Wow, you shouldn't have been so quick to toss your starter. It can take several days of feedings for the good bugs (yeast) to overcome the bad smelly ones.

I suspect that a couple of more days would have seen your starter turn the corner and develop those wonderful SF sourdough flavors.


bobbywilson0's picture

I second what allan said, it doesn't hurt anyone to feed the starter for a couple of days and see what happens. Throwing out half and feeding with water and flour a couple of times of day may have made that starter excellent. 

I think getting sick from a bad starter is probably pretty rare, considering the good strong bacteria usually takes over and keeps the starter healthy and safe, and the temperatures that we bake at don't make it very easy for funky things to survive.

I am the type of person that would get that starter out from the trash and keep a tablespoon of it just to see if I could get it back to healthy and making tasty bread. 

Next time you get some starter, give it a water and flour a couple of times a day for a week, my guess is it will be lively and healthy, and making great bread!

good luck

carefreebaker's picture

The smell was awful and filled my kitchen. Next time I'll be more patient.

I sent away for Carl's OT starter and downloaded his brochure.

Question:  If I save a piece of dough, which has aged in the frig, and add it to a new batch of dough, will doing that eventually give me a sour dough flavor?

bobbywilson0's picture

The short answer is no.

What gives the sourdough flavor is wild yeast. Wild yeast thrives in warm wet nutritious environments. In fact you can start your own wild yeast starter from mixing up a some water and flour, the wild yeast from the air will make their way into your water and flour mix, this is actually what my current starter is made from now. I added a bit of diastatic malt for nutrition and pineapple juice per suggestions online to add a little acid to the mix so it keeps the bad bacteria out. 

However, your ball of aged dough, is sitting in the fridge, and yeast doesn't like the cold, it actually slows down yeast reproduction even to the point of making it dormant. Also it depends on what's in your aging dough, but even in the case where it is just flour and water it probably isn't ideal enough for the wild yeast to have attached to it and multiplied enough to create a sourdough flavor. Any flavor that is added from the old dough is probably just flavors that the dough has absorbed through sitting in your fridge.

amolitor's picture

Wrong kind of yeast. Baker's yeast does not require the acidic environment that the wild yeasts do.

Also, not lacto-bacilli, which work with the wild yeasts to create and maintain a hospitable environment for both (and a terrible environment for everything else) which happens to be very acidic (hence: sour dough).