The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Did my starter turn??

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JIP's picture
JIP

Did my starter turn??

I recently purchased a starter drom KAF and things have been going well.  I have gotten 2 good bakes out of it and stored it for about a week.  In the last couple of days I have been getting it ready for another bake and things seem a little odd.  I was kind of wondering what the smell of the starter should be.  When I first got it going so I do not really know what is proper. The smell I am getting is a VERY sour smell so much so tht it is to the oint that it seems like if you were to take a bid whiff of it when you take off the plastic wrap it would knock you out.  There is no mold and I really havent stored it long enough to develop hooch be it on top or bottom.  So tell me to thing is the sour smell ok and what are th signs of a starter goig bad. 

fancypantalons's picture
fancypantalons

That can be an indication that the bacteria have overrun the yeast... I had this problem with my starter recently after switching to an all-white-flour feeding regimen.  I got virtually no rise, only small bubbles, and the ph went way down.  I switched back to my old schedule of 25% wheat, 75% white, and did a few days of twice-daily feedings in a nice warm place (conditions amenable to yeast activity), and it's happy as a clam once again.

JIP's picture
JIP

Well there is alot of activity.  There are alot of bubbles and it is doubling when I feed it although I have not had a chance to bake with it since this started.  I have also been trying to convert some of it to a rye starter and this smell has been alot more prevalent there.

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

Sounds to me like it just got stablized.  Oh do bake with it and let us know how it comes out.

Mini O

JIP's picture
JIP

Well I have baked with it only twice since I got it but not since this smell thing started.  I just fed it to bake tomorrow I am going to divide the recipe into 4 instead of 2 loaves to make bread bowls for some leftover veggie chili.

Davo's picture
Davo

Sounds to me like what mine did recently - it's gone a bit acetic (smells like vinegar, rather than that usual pleasant beery smell).

No problem, if that's it. I asked some questions from a SD wizard and found that it's the same group of bugs but in certain circumstances they (the bacteria) tend to produce more acetic rather than lactic acid (which doesn't smell, as lactic is not volatile, whereas acetic is). They tend to do this when a) it's colder, b) the starter mix is drier. So it's not an invasion of some unwanted beastie.

The way back to the pleasant beery smell is just a couple of feeds at room temp over a day or two - mine is back brand new, now. When you first throw some out and mix in new flour/water, it will still smell acetic for a while, but it will soon dissipate.

Apparently the smell will eventually turn to acetate - like nail polish remover rather than just vinegar, if you keep it the same way, but again, it apparently can be revived.

I notice slightly decreased activity when it was acetic.

JIP's picture
JIP

Yes vinegar would be a good way to describe the smell.  I just wonder is it safe to bake as-is I do polan on baking a few loaves tomorrow as I posted I just hope I don't get my wife and baby sick or something.

dmsnyder's picture
dmsnyder

Hi, JIP.

If it smells like vinegar, your bugs may be out of the balance you prefer, but it is not unsafe. Making bread with it should change the balance, depending somewhat on the formula for the bread.

The most sour smelling starter I every baked with was a liquid starter I used to make Janedo's "Basic bread." The resulting bread was significantly less sour than the sourdoughs I usually make. So, take heart.


David

JIP's picture
JIP

Ok so I made a couple of loaves with it and everything worked out fine.  Evrything rose like it should the pre-ferment came up the dough doubled (although it took longer than it should have) oven spring was acceptable. The problemI had was the flavor I used it to make bread bowls for some chili as I said (really just small boules with the center cut out).  We have purchased small loaves like this for a long time and my wife said these were the best she'd ever tasted but I would beg to differ with her.  For me I tasted some spots that were WAAAAAAY to sour and almost had a foul taste to them.  I think it would have been alot more pronounced had they not been filled with chili.  So I am thinking that mabye since I have ben using a fairly innaccurate method of feeding it in preparation for baking.  I know that in the past it was "a little flour a little water and stir it up" but I think for me things may be a little out of balance.  So after that big diatribe my question (finally) is what can I do to bring things into balance.  I have several books and currently have Hammelman's bread book from the library I also have Silvertons book but I do not think I can afford the flour to follow any of her regimens.  So can anyone recommend a feeding schedule to bring things back in line.  A link? a section in a book (my library has an extensive selection of baking books) or even your recommendation but I would really like all the weights like starter flour and water.  I am currently using the instructions from KAF and they use volume and not weight for the feeding and I think right now I need something a little more detailed.  SO can anyone help me I really do not want to give up after only 2 bakes with this starter.  

AnnieT's picture
AnnieT

In May of last year bwraith posted great instructions for maintaining a starter, and I imagine it is somewhere in the archives. Bill, if you are out there can you help? A.

clazar123's picture
clazar123

The next time you feed it, follow the suggestion of taking a small amount out,discarding the rest and then feeding the small,saved protion.Let sit in a warm place.

But this time, when you mix the flour and water-mix it with a clean hand. That's right-wash your hands and then mix the culture with your hands.Even clean hands have a normal yeast flora which can be transferred to the mix. Let it set as usual in an open bowl at room temp(70-85F). When I did mine, I stirred it every couple hours that day to incorporate air (hopefully air filled with more yeast).It truned out beautiful.

A sourdough culture is a balance of lactobacillus (which digests the sugars and produces the sour and creates a yeast friendly environment) and yeast (which digests the carbs to sugars and produce a lactobacillus friendly environment and gas to rise the bread). Sounds like the lactos are out of ballance with the yeasties so by removing most of the lactos (taking only a small amount of the culture for use) and then stirring the mix with a clean hand, you are adding more yeasties to the mix.

Should work. Interesting to see what happens.