The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Chemical Smell

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Dorothy's picture
Dorothy

Chemical Smell

Help!  I have had my starter in the refrigerator un-toughed for 2 weeks or less.  When I opened it up, it smelled just like lacquer thinner.  It also as some what solidified on top.  When I fed it last it was ovoer 80 in my kitchen.  Should I throw it out and start over?????  I don't want to kill anyone!   Thanks Dorothy

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bwraith's picture
bwraith

Dorothy,

That smell is probably acetone, and it is not unusual in an underfed starter. I would feed the starter repeatedly at room temperature until it recovers, and it may well turn out to be fine.

A typical feeding might be something like:

1 teaspoon of starter, 2 tablespoons of water, stir vigorously to froth it up, then add 3 tablespoons + 1 tsp of flour, and stir it until it becomes a smooth, well mixed paste. Let this rise for about 12 hours at room temperature. Repeat the feeding every 12 hours or so until it is rising by double in about 6 hours and then continues to rise, peaks at some point and falls. If everything is OK, it should recover in 2 or 3 feedings.

If you are using a scale, the feeding above in grams would be something like 5 grams of old starter, 28 grams of water, and 31 grams of flour or maybe .25 oz old starter, 1 oz water, 1.1 oz flour.

To avoid a solidified top, use a lid that will seal fairly well, so that moisture doesn't escape into the refrigerator. Otherwise, the starter will form a skin on top and start to dry out.

When you want to refrigerate the starter, feed 2 tsp of old starter with the water and flour as above, but add a little bit more flour and thicken it up even more. Then, just put it in the refrigerator immediately. A starter that is just fed generally will keep better than one that is refrigerated too long after it has risen and become ripe or mature.

Bill

Dorothy's picture
Dorothy

Bill,  I wanted to thank your for your instructions.  It turned out okay, well so far so good.  Thanks again.... Dorothy

bwraith's picture
bwraith

Dorothy,

Good luck with it. I hope it continues to work.

Bill

rcornwall's picture
rcornwall

When I made my first starter I called the USDA health office and was concerned about the safety of using a starter for long periods of time and leaving it out for hours on occasion. I was reassured that a starter is perfectly safe until it gets contatminated somehow. You can tell this by red or pink streaks or spots in your starter.  As long as you dont have that your starter should be fine. It is common for a starter to develop strong paint thinner odors if it hasnt been fesd regularily. My does that too if it gets a little neglected. Just pour off some and feed it. Thats all it takes.

rcornwall