Hi all. I've been getting lots of useful information here over the past two months since I started baking sourdough bread. (Thank you!) I began my starter from a dried packet from Sourdoughs International, and it went through the 'kinda smelly' stage to something far more pleasant and stable. I've since baked 5 or 6 loaves with it, as well as a couple pizzas and some pancakes. I have a bit of a routine: it comes out of the fridge on Friday evening, I feed it a few times, and make bread dough on either Saturday evening or early Sunday morning. By Sunday evening or Monday morning it's back in the fridge. I typically feed it twice a day, though I'll admit I don't use a scale because I don't have one (I know, I know).
This has been working quite well so far, so much so that I was getting very smug about the whole thing. Then, this previous Friday, I took out the starter and fed it. I can't quite remember if I forgot to cast-off any at that feed or not. There were the beginnings of what I think was hooch on it at the time, but very little, so I stirred it back in. By Saturday morning it was looking somewhat greyish, maybe with a tinge of purple. Strange! I cast-off and re-fed it, and left it be. By the afternoon it was decidedly more grey/purple. It seems to be developing toward the end of the feed, and it seems to be 'growing' from the top down. I tried increasing the frequency of feeds, worried that I was letting it go hungry....it is quite active in general.
But by Sunday morning it was just getting worse. The photo I've included is from that stage.
I decided to take drastic measures, and follow Ed Wood's suggestions for 'washing' a culture, by massively diluting it, keeping it at roughly 32 degrees for 24 hours, and then feeding it regularly. This was no easy feat, since it's -10 degrees here at the moment and there's no way we're heating the house like that, so we kept it in a soft cooler with a jar of hot water that gave it some heat.
At first it seemed to work! For a whole two feeds it looked like normal, and since last night it's been back at room temperature (roughly 19-21 degrees Celsius). Alas, it is beginning to look greyish again this afternoon.
What do you think? Does it look like something dangerous? I have some foccaccia dough rising at the moment from this morning's cast-offs, but I'm kind of nervous to bake it.
Is there some kind of bacteria or fungus that likes the cool temperature of our house, that is throwing things off balance?
Any suggestions/advice appreciated. A friend has offered to give me some of her starter if I can't recover this one, but I'd like to figure it out if possible.