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Old 04-14-2004, 02:51 PM   #1
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How do I know if my sourdough starter smells right?

I am making sourdough, and as per my recipe, I have left a combination of flour and milk out to try to attract surrounding yeast and bacteria. The recipe states that the mixture should bubble and smell sour, but if it starts to smell bad or turn pink, it should be thrown out. Well it's been almost two days now, and it has bubbled, but I'm not sure about the smell. It smells like expired milk (which is no surprise, given that the milk was a day away from expiration when I used it) which I would definitely call a sour smell. Except, I would also call it a BAD smell, which is where my confusion lies. Is this expired milk smell bad within the definition outlined in the recipe, or is this the correct sour smell? The recipe also states that if it is turning pink, it should be thrown out. I may be imagining things, but the starter has an ever so subtle pinkish hue; it is still basically white, but I see just a hint of pink. So what do I do? Is my sourdough starter a bust, or is it doing exactly what it should be doing?

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Old 04-14-2004, 11:41 PM   #2
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I confess total surprise that a recipe would suggest the use of milk in that manner - The freshest of milk would turn after exposure to room temperatures for a day - with or without the aid of airborne yeasts and bacteria.

Personally, I'd use water instead of milk and avoid the confusion. The aroma of a yeast slurry in the "sourdough" stage is a clean, pleasant sour-ish odor, As with wines, if it smells bad, it is!

:Unless you are in a rural locale - especially one with vineyards - I suspect you'll have little luck in capturing a desireable yeast. I find it more dependable to simplly toss in the contents of a packet of dry yeast. I've made breads with excellent sourdough flavor after a mere three days by that method.
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Old 04-15-2004, 05:48 AM   #3
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old coot;
I just want to thank you for fielding all these baking questions. It's good to have a competent baker around!
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Old 04-15-2004, 07:39 AM   #4
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Yeah, that's what I was afraid of. The ingredient list said "whole milk", but under instructions, it says to mix the water. Given that all the sourdough recipes I've seen elsewhere have used water, and not milk, it's pretty clear where the mistake was. Damn. What a wasted effort...
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