Picture this: you wake up one morning and go to check your Amish Friendship Bread starter. And you see … THIS:
Okay, maybe that doesn’t look so bad. Let’s try another angle.
Ew, right? Have no fear, it only means that your starter has separated, and it’s your job to bring it back together.
Fortunately the solution is simple: it needs to be stirred. I know this may seem obvious, but when you looking at a separated starter for the first time, your brain ceases to function. It just looks so-not-right. You’re convinced something is wrong and might even be tempted to pour it down the drain.
HOLD YOUR HORSES and give it a chance. First give it a stir, scraping down the sides and bottoms.
After a few turns with the wooden spoon, your starter will now look familiar and happy again.
Disaster averted. Leave your starter to do its thing and remember to give it another stir later in the day. One to two stirs a day will usually do the trick, incorporating everything together so your starter will be ready for action when you are.
If you’re seeing a lot of liquid and also noticing a bit of an acetone-like smell, it may also mean that the balance of milk, flour, sugar and fermented goodness is off. In that case, before you give it a stir, pour off some of the excess liquid (which is actually acidic liquid that’s produced after the bacteria has burned through all the sugars in your starter) and then jump over to this tutorial for how to remedy that.
Note: This applies to Amish Friendship Bread starters that have been maintained daily and fed at the proper ratios. If you’ve forgotten to feed or take care of your starter, or if you are feeling nervous about the overall health of your starter, I recommend discarding it and making a new starter from scratch.