Is 6 months too long between refreshings?

hitz333

Two nights ago I pulled my starter out of the fridge to see if it was worth using. It had been about 6 months since my last bake, and other than a little gray hooch and lack of bubbles, didn't seem too much worse for the wear. I refreshed a small amount that night, and twice yesterday. Yesterday it still smelled a little unpleasant, and this morning it smells better and closer to what I remember as normal, but not really there. It smells sour but not fruity-sweet at all. There is plenty of activity, and I'm pretty much refreshing every 12 hours without paying a whole lot of attention. This was made with commercial yeast about a year ago and I had been baking about every two weeks, but then I had a bit of a maternity leave from almost everything. =) How do I know if it is "safe" to use and will give me a decent flavor? I don't think rise will be an issue, but I'm worried about the quality. Thanks!

 

Update: It's been about 4 and a half hours since this morning's feed and my nose might be playing tricks on me, but I think it is starting to come around and smell a little sweeter. However, it does seem so much more acidic smelling than it did last November. Is this just an age thing? It seems to be just starting to head down from the peak, and I will probably mix up a dough tonight to bake tomorrow.

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farinam's picture
farinam 2011 June 18

I think if it is active and not smelling to high heaven then it is probably fine.  Mine recently rested for four weeks while I was on hols and I thought it might have needed a bit of CPR but some TLC was all it needed.

It is possible that the mix of beasties has changed from what it was previously and that could easily explain the change in smell.  Your olefactory memory must be great if you can be so precise about something you smelled over six months ago.

Keep us in the loop,

Farinam

Jeff 2011 June 20

I wouldn't eat it raw, but after a good bake, I don't think any meanies survive, the yeasts only last a few minutes in the beginning of the ovenspring, go for it, just keep the emergency services number handy...

hitz333 2011 June 21

(Sorry, don't have pics today!) Well, it made bread! Actually it seems fine. I think I overproofed it a bit, as it suddenly got very hot and humid after my last refreshing and I had to hurry to get the dough mixed in the evening, yet didn't bother to get up early to shape it (I have been following a recipe which calls for a room-temperature overnight bulk ferment). So I got it in the oven before it turned into ooze and ended up with a loaf just slightly flatter and denser than usual. Flavor is fairly sour, actually, more than it was when I was making it last summer. It makes me want to delve in and buy a prepared starter (now that I know I can keep one alive) to compare flavors. I had some extra splitting along my score lines; what causes that? The rest of the loaf is going to be the star of some French toast tonight for dinner!

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