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Weird textured starter

Anonymous baker's picture
Anonymous baker (not verified)

Weird textured starter

Help! Back at around the end of March, I had made a starter using Debra Winks pineapple juice method, + whole wheat flour. At some point in time, I decided to turn it into a rye starter. Within the past month or so, I've been trying to convert a small blob of it back into a whole wheat starter, just so I could have two of them going, and it is now doing the most bizarre thing.

What I did for awhile was feed it 1:1:1 of rye starter, whole wheat flour, water. That didn't work, so it was suggested that I feed it at 1:4:4. Same as before. That didn't work, so what I did was feed it 20g of weird blob*, 10g whole wheat flour, 30 g rye, 40g water. I eventually transitioned it over to 20g healthy starter, 30g whole wheat flour, 10 g rye, 40g water.

All was well until I tried to feed it 100% whole wheat today, and now it's back to its weird blob thing. What is going on??

*Weird blob thing is not its usual airy, spongy texture when it is getting happy. Instead, it is a funny smelling, gummy, thing. Even given about 6 hours, with the good texture, it would start to liquify itself, but in its weird blob state, it just sits there as a weird blob.

What did I do, and how do I fix this? Thank you!

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

the funny smelling aroma?  

You might do better starting a whole wheat starter from scratch.  Now that you've done it before it will go easier and less stressful.   

Also what kind of schedule is the rye starter and  the blob on?  

Can you feed the blob (no discarding)  more ww flour and let it just sit there until it smells yeasty?  Give it a day or two.  

What temp is it?   Does it fluctuate?

"How do I fix this?"

 After feeding it different grains, the chance of returning to a whole wheat starter exactly like the one you started out with is almost impossible.  Even starting a new one, with the same flour, the new starter may be different due to a change in the variables that support yeast and bacterial growth.  That can be a good thing.  Right now it sounds like a frustrating exercise in biology.  

Take a look at this list.  As the starter is maintained, some of these colonies of yeast or bacteria will grow or decline with the ideal conditions of the starter.  They each have preference for temperature,  type of food, and living conditions dependant on us and their companions in the starter.  Some with thrive and some will not and others may live on the edge of existence waiting for an opportunity.   Changing from wheat to rye is usually an easy manoeuvre, the starter will speed up, thrive better and prove resistant to a lot of abuse we throw at it.  Switching back to wheat may take longer or not depending on how the bacteria and yeast respond or adapt to the new variables.  Important is not to rush fermentation.  

In order to mess up a starter enough to adapt to a new situation, you might want to try a large portion of ww flour and water (or unsweetened pineapple juice)  say 50g each (or just combine to a favourite consistency) and add just a drop or two of your rye starter. Then give the starter plenty of head room (5 times the volume) and a good 24 hours  or longer to respond stirring well a few times to encourage growth and notice aromas, cover.  When the mixture eventually peaks, reduce and give it a normal maintenance feeding (like you did before it was a rye starter) to watch it again.  Let the starter guide you.  When it peaks, reduce and feed.  

I think in your situation switching back to wheat will take longer to ferment and you have to be patient to let the pH drop (acid build) and yeast numbers return and respond when they are ready for more food.   A lumpy starter with a blob of gluten not breaking down tells me it might not be fermenting.  That  :) bacterial chain of events is off and not supporting the yeast fermentation.  Let it just stand and ferment so the starter can sort itself out.

JessicaT's picture
JessicaT (not verified)

For the aroma, initially it was a weird gummy smell. I don't really know how else to describe it. I posted this after about 11 hours after the feeding, and it started to take on a lighter, fruitier alcohol smell.

Up until yesterday, blob was being fed every 24 hours during the transition period, and during that time, it reacted perfectly. Smell had a light beer smell to it, the texture was light and spongy. The original mother starter currently isn't on a feeding schedule. I had transitioned it to a 50% starter about a month or so ago, and left it in the fridge. The only time its come out since is to attempt to convert some of it over to a ww starter. I would say the temperature of the house has been a little bit inconsistent with the spring weather. Some days it's only 20*C inside, and others it can warm up to about 23-24*C

I will feed the blob a little bit more ww today without discarding, stir it down, leave it be, and see how that goes. Thanks for the help, Mini!


Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

at the moment.  My kitchen thermometer just read 19°C with the window shut.  Time for bed. When the weather is warmer during the day I tend to feed, elaborate and build during the day.  Then chill at night and use in the morning.  If the kitchen is cool during the day and the ferment is slow, then leave it out all night.  It's a tricky time of the year for starters for sure.  Easy to overfeed them too.  

JessicaT's picture
JessicaT (not verified)

I think things are going well with the conversion. I just stirred it down, and it's now back to its light, airy spongy texture as well as it's not stringy like it was before. Time has run out for me to bake this weekend, but I'm going to give it a shot next weekend and see how that goes.