Nursing a starter back to health.

Again, I let my sourdough starter go hungry for far too long. I am a terrible mother. But I do have a pretty good excuse: the past month has been a whirlwind of packing, moving, and then unpacking. And the requisite IKEA trip. But the spacious new apartment is so worth it – especially considering the kitchen cabinet space! If you’re like me, deep drawers for bowls are one of life’s little luxuries.

But forgetting to feed my starter is just one of the things that fell by the wayside. (Be glad I’m not posting about my overdraft charges – though I’m vindicated by this New York Times article.) I gave the starter a peek last night. A gummy doughy base was submerged in gray liquid. The separation of flour and liquid is normal…but not that sickly gray hue. I assumed it was mold. Vigorously stirring the doughy mass revealed an air pocket that released inky liquid. Mold. Ick. As a scientific type I am sort of delighted that I witnessed a bakebook admonition come true. Several sources warn that starters must be well stirred, lest an air pocket or clump of flour provide a haven for mold to grow. In a healthy starter the yeast defends its territory against molds. There ain’t room for the both of ’em. But a dry pocket keeps the yeast out, giving mold a little foxhole.

So I’m running an experiment to see if my yeast can reclaim its territory. Last night I stirred it all together (dough, liquid, mold, and yeast) and added one cup each fresh water and fresh flour. Tonight I did the same, discarding a cup’s worth or starter. The starter is not looking so horribly gray now and the odor is kinda normal. I don’t plan on baking with it anytime soon, but I’ll be watching daily for signs that the mold is entirely gone and yeast is thriving again.

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