Dark layer of dough on top


 I got lazy and didn't feed my starter for about 4 weeks. It developed hooch of course, and there is a layer of dark dough on top. I am wondering if this is normal or is this the begining of mold, and how would i be able to know that it is safe to use....

Any advice would be appreciated,



153 users have voted.


farinam's picture
farinam 2011 June 3

Hello Tali

I have had this sort of thing ages ago.  Not sure what causes it, but somebody else might.  I'd suggest pour off the 'hooch' and remove the dark layer as best you can and then feed the beast.

Give it a couple of feeds and provided that it is good and active and smells right then 'Bob's your uncle' and back to baking.




HopesHope 2011 June 4

I stirred it back in, kept it out of the fridge, and fed it a couple of days morning and night.

Trajan 2011 June 4

It's 99.99% likely mold. Give a quick whiff and see if it stinks and has mold spores. If so, throw it out!


I usually freeze a couple sourdough starters in my freezer just in case if my mother sourdough starter goes bad.

tali 2011 June 5

Thanks all, 

To Trajan: it didn't stink and didn't look like typical mold. just dark, like the hooch liquid. 

In the mean time I porured what I could off, fed, and it looks fine but I don't know if it is safe to use...

I thought maybe if it is mold it will get moldy again real fast? don't know...


Trajan 2011 June 5

If it's hooch, you're perfectly fine! After you pour what you can out, just mix the remaining hooch in; it won't hurt the starter.


Mine does that when I leave my starter in the fridge too long. On the other hand, if I leave my starter out in the open too long (without a daily feeding), I get mold. I also live in a very humid climate, so that might be the problem with mine!

Jeff 2011 June 5

I found this:

Your sourdough starter may grow mold if it is not cared for properly. If you open your starter container and it is covered with mold, scrape off the mold on the surface, expose the clean, mold-free starter, and with a clean spoon, get a little scoop of untainted starter. Throw out the rest of your starter, and clean your container thoroughly. You may want to even pour boiling water in it to make sure the mold does not survive. Put the salvaged sourdough starter in the clean container and feed it. The smallest amount of sourdough starter still has growing bacteria, and will soon "eat" the new flour, and you will have your sourdough starter again.





Seems as though it shouldn't be life threatening, probably safer than E-Coli

HopesHope 2011 June 5

Tali it's safe to eat, and I agree with you it's not mold.   I cannot remember who it was here on the forum went on vacation for a month and his starter wasn't fed all the time he was gone.. He came home fed it a couple of times and made some wonderful bread.   I am doing the same, I've made 6 loaves of bread already, and I'm not dead. 


I wouldn't worry about it, make some bread and enjoy it.....



Merrid 2011 June 6

Just stir it back in and feed it - the hooch is a sign that the creatures are starving and haven't moved around in the culture sufficiently to keep it mixed. You do need to keep the culture covered, whether in or out of the fridge, to minimise mould spores and insect visits and so forth - the yeast and bacteria in the culture don't actually need a lot of oxygen so you don't have to worry about them suffocating or anything. I'm not sure what the hooch is, but given how it smells it's probably various alcohol byproducts and possibly some dead yeast and bacteria cells. No worse than lees in a bottle of wine.

tali 2011 June 9

Thank you all for your insights!

So what I gather is that I should have carfully taken off the discolored layer with a spoon. The problem is, that isn't what I did - for some reason at the time I didn't think too much of it and I just poured out some starter (which wasn't smart at all beacuse it resulted in only partially removing the dark layer and I think quite a bit got stirred back in...)

So now I still don't know what to do...

After feeding it really looks fine, but who knows...

Would you use it? It is an 8 year old whole wheat starter...

Thanks all!



Merrid 2011 June 9

It shouldn't matter - the colonies will win out in the end. If you're worried, you could just leave it a couple more feed cycles before you use it for baking, to make sure you have a healthy population of desirables. The dark dough was probably just a layer of oxidated dough with a high population of dead yeast and dead bacteria, so all you need is a sufficient population of live ones to have a working culture.

farinam's picture
farinam 2011 June 9


As long as it is active and smells good (as distinct from really rotten) then there should be no problems.

Look forward to your continued success.


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