seeking advice on funky starter


Hi all! I am a proud beginner sourdough momma, and have baked a few rounds of bread from a beauitful, active starter given to me by a friend. Unfortunately, I recently went on vacation for 10 left it on the counter instead of in the fridge, and came back to a starter with some funky mold growing on top of a hefty layer of hooch. Characteristic fungal odor instead of the sweet tang of the starter I left. :( I live in Central CA, so inside temps were probably reaching 68-70 during the days.

Not wanting to give up on it, I dumped all but a tiny bit of starter out, poured just a tad into a clean jar, and tried to start over. I fed it every day for about a week, and it started coming back-- not quite doubling, but definitely rising, and gaining a pretty overwhelming tangy smell but no moldy smell. But now it's doing this weird thing where quite a bit of hooch forms after ~24 hours, and there is a section of rising dough on top of that. 

Unfortunately, the website won't allow me to upload my images of my starter, but if you can imagine a canning jar with the bottom third of starter, followed by a quarter-inch layer of hooch, and topped by about a half-inch layer of more bubbling starter, that's what I've got. The color looks fine, the smell is VERY sour.

I've been pouring out the top, the hooch, and most of the bottom and re-feeding. Any suggestions? Should I just stir it back in?



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amber108 2015 May 1

Ive had something similar a while long ago, is your starter quite runny/liquidy?? If you go for a slightly thicker batter type, the hooch as you say will be less likely, liquid starters often separate and alchoholize quicker - its almost as if as the upper flour is digested by the yeasts it drops to the bottom - dead. Also, I find to keep my leaven healthy if its looking doubtful, to 'tip and feed' twice a day with the thicker batter type works well until it looks right again.

Hope that helps :) If all else fails just start'er again, no loss!

108 breads's picture
108 breads 2015 May 2

Yes, making sure that your starter matures a little slower, so that it does not get so liquidy so fast, is a good idea. 65 percent hydration works well. I use that percentage for my vacations; it goes in the back of the fridge.

You can also start over. A starter only takes about a week to get going and you have invested more than that. In fact, I would do both at the same time and see which starter thrives, the old and/or the new.


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