People making Amish Friendship Bread for the first time often ask what their starter should smell like. Your starter should have a lovely, yeasty smell, like getting a whiff of bread rising in a bakery, times five. If you stick your nose into your bag of starter, you’ll get a pretty heady hit of yeast.
However, if you’re noticing a smell that reminds you of nail polish remover or paint thinner, especially if your starter is looking a bit runny and constantly separating, there’s a good chance the balance of milk, flour, sugar and fermented goodness is off. You need to fix it quickly or your starter may be on its last legs.
If you’ve only noticed the smell for a day or so and you’ve been feeding it regularly, you can try an easy remedy of adding flour, one tablespoon at a time, until your starter thickens.
It shouldn’t take more than ¼ cup of flour to bring your starter back to the consistency of pancake batter.
After a few hours, the sharp smell should dissipate until you’re left with that familiar yeasty fragrance. The starter will bubble up again, thicker this time, and don’t forget to give it the occasional stir every now and then to make sure everything gets incorporated.
If you haven’t been feeding it regularly, on Day 6 and Day 10, then 1 tablespoon of flour isn’t going to do the trick. Instead, give your starter a good stir and discard all but one cup. Then give it a Day 6 feeding:
- 1 cup flour
- 1 cup milk
- 1 cup sugar
Your starter should come around within 24 hours. If you’ve neglected feeding your starter for a while, say like two weeks, then you may just have to let it go. Yes, it’s time to say adios.
Starter Alert: If your starter looks discolored with a pink or green tinge, or if it has mold (a no-brainer but worth mentioning), or if the sharp acetone smell doesn’t go away, discard your starter and make a new one from scratch. It’s sad, I know, but so is food poisoning. The rule in the Friendship Bread Kitchen is: when in doubt, throw it out.
To ensure you’re never out of starter when one goes bad, consider keeping at least one bag of starter in the freezer.