The Fresh Loaf

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What's that smell?

fupjack's picture
fupjack

What's that smell?

I am trying to build up a starter for the first time in a while.  My starter's been growing for about 5 days, and smelling not too strong.  Last night I built some loaves using it, and fermented them overnight.

This morning, the loaves and the starter smelled... strong.  Not acidic like vinegar, but acidic like fresh vomit.  (I've got kids, I've encountered it plenty.)  I've had starter go bad before and turn sort of pink, but this looks normal.  Is there something else creeping in there?

lepainSamidien's picture
lepainSamidien

It sounds to me like you're well into the "vomit phase" of the starter's life, which can take a little time to pass as all the natural little beasties in the environment compete for resources. Keep feeding and discarding, eventually you should arrive at a healthy starter. However, I wouldn't try to build loaves with it until a couple of weeks into its life.

Good luck !

fupjack's picture
fupjack

I did build a loaf up with it. I didn't get very much rise, but I did get some. It smells good, not barfy. It's still cooling, so I haven't cut into it and smelled the interior.

Is there anything potentially wrong with that bread with that starter? i.e. toxic? That seems unlikely, but worth asking just cause the smell was so off-putting

doughooker's picture
doughooker

Give your starter another week without feeding it at all while the microoganisms colonize it. Stir it once per day to keep the ingredients mixed.

I would discard the loaves you've made thus far with it. I doubt they'd be toxic but they won't be very good, either. Chalk it up to experience.

dobie's picture
dobie

fupjack

I would definetly not eat it at this point, at least not until you've heard from someone much more knowledgable.

Unforunately, I forget the name of the bacteria that can sometimes dominate an early starter, (but it begins with an 'L'). I don't know if it is unhealthy or not, so I would hesitate to eat it and do as lepain and doughooker suggest, let it ride.

The vomit stage is pretty common, and eventually, the microbes you want, will dominate them and all should be well. Some folks add some acid (pineapple juice, etc) to begin a starter, to help supress the 'L' bacteria, but shortly, the LABs should provide that acid, and the 'vomit' should die away.

Personally, at this point (perhaps, over cautiously), I would err on the side of caution.

dobie

fupjack's picture
fupjack

Thank you for these followups - I did not expect such a strong smell, and I was thinking this was a dead end.  I'll keep stirring and waiting...

dobie's picture
dobie

fupjack

Just curious, how did you begin your starter? What flour, hydration and temps (or other processes)?

dobie

fupjack's picture
fupjack

The start was with the Tartine bread book mix of I think white and rye flours - I don't remember what I added.  The time I've refreshed since then was 100g whole wheat, 400g all-purpose, 400g water - from the FWSY book, which I also got for Christmas.   

I read that colder, wetter starters don't go as sour as fast, and my house is already pretty cool, so I may go to 100% hydration.  After it gets past barfiness.

dobie's picture
dobie

fupjack

Pretty funny.

My suggestion would be to go with the Rye and/or the WW. Actually, I would go Rye at 100% hydration and leave it at that. That's just where I've had the most success. The AP can add food (carbs to surgars), but doesn't offer as much beasties as the others.

Not sure about the wetter, but the colder, definetly will slow things down. My room temp is pretty cool as well (60-65F thru night and day), but I have had a starter develop within those parameters.

For some reason, 100% hydration is very common when beginning starters. They can always be weened to what ever flour or hydration you want, once established.

I think you're going to do fine with what you're doing. I would only get worried if you started getting true mold (particularly, the pink stuff) or if the barfiness continued too much longer.

Good luck, keep in touch.

dobie

Alok's picture
Alok

Dobie:

The "L" bacteria you are thinking of is "Leuconostoc."

The little stinkers!

Alok

dobie's picture
dobie

Alok

Thank you very much. No wonder I couldn't come up with it.

dobie