The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Starter smells strange

Mamalam's picture

Starter smells strange

I am new to bread baking.  My step mom gave me a book on bread, the La Brea Bakery cookbook, that had a starter recipe.  The starter went great thru all 14 days.  Somewhere about 16 days in, the starter smells less like beer and more like paint, pasty smell.  The first bread I baked, a rustic, came out great.  But my second batch of the same bread is not as great.  Kinda flat and not the great beer like taste to it.  I am not sure what went wrong and how I need to fix it.  Any help would be great!


WoodenSpoon's picture

I would keep tending as usual and I imagine that it will mature past this painty phase, though if you don't want to do that you could throw away all but 20 grams and feed that with 20 grams of flour and 20 grams of water and build it back up from there.

gary.turner's picture

If you mean that the nascent mother smells of nail polish remover, it means your batch is suffering from ketosis. Ketosis is a symptom of an underfed mother;  autolysis, or self-digestion. For a new mother, it  means the little beasties are growing and multiplying faster than their food supply. Feed them a little more or feed them more often.

Once the mother has matured, you are able to apply a policy of benign neglect. Pull it out of the fridge, feed it and give it an hour or so to come back to life before using a bit to build your preferment.

Put the unused portion back in the fridge. An acetone smell is common in (benignly) neglected, refrigerated mothers, and is not a problem generally. A good feeding and all is well.