25

I left some dough to ferment in a 2L container in the fridge, got distracted by a hospitalization, and didn't remember it again until 6 weeks later.

The lid hadn't popped open and the dough looked and smelled fine, but the texture was very strange, wet, gooey, and not like anything I'd seen before.

I cooked a small amount and the result was nothing like bread, but more soft and rubbery, with a texture somewhat like jelly or Turkish delight (but not sweet or flavoured).

What is this interesting substance, does it have a name, and is there anything for which it can be used as an ingredient?

(I'm not worried about wasting it and throwing it away; I jut think it looks like it should be useful for making something I've never tried before.)

3 Answers 3

18

Most likely you have created a sourdough starter, which is a microbial colony containing yeast (make it rise), and Lactobacterii (produce lactic acid, make it sour), and other microbes that give it a unique flavor.

But why is the cooked dough soft and rubbery and not bread like? Lactobacterii digest gluten, and have has had 6 weeks to turn all of the wheat gluten into food. Which is why the dough is now soup like (that and the yeast digesting all of the carbs). And gluten as a protein, is what gives your bread structure, no gluten = no structure. The rubbery bit probably comes from undigested bits of gluten and other carbohydrates.

What can I do with it? Try adding some flour/water and see if it is indeed alive (I've had sourdough come back after being forgotten for 7 months in a refrigerator.. I've also had sourdough that died after being forgotten for 3 weeks). If it is alive, and you like how the bread it makes tastes. Congratulations! You have created a sourdough starter on accident.


Note the more traditional way to create a sourdough starter is to use a mix of equal parts whole wheat flour and water, and then wait somewhere between 2 days and 3 weeks with the starter at room temperature, with fingers crossed that it will start bubbling, instead of growing mold (though after 2 weeks, it's better to repeat the attempt... don't want a slow growing yeast).


There was some excessive concern about food safety in a heavily downvoted answer, but for future refence this is how you tell if food is bad:

  1. Smell, does it smell bad? If so throw it away. The human nose is remarkably good at detecting a wide range of toxic substances.

  2. Appearance, does it have mold (green, or black specks) growing on/in it? If so, throw it out.

  3. Does it have a live culture (such as being a sourdough starter/ wet yeast). As long as the sourdough starter is 'alive' the yeast/lactic bacteria will prevent other microbes from colonizing it. It should be fine. (this is why raw milk goes sour and is still edible for a time... while pasteurized milk goes rancid and is inedible).

The bacteria that you have to worry about with bread:

  • E. Coli bacterium, A bacterial infection is not a concern as it dies at 160 F. A specific variant can produce E. Coli Shiga... produces Shiga toxin which is inactivated at 212 F after 5 minutes which might be a concern as most bread is considered 'done' when the middle reaches somewhere between 190F and 210. But I wouldn't be to concerned over it as E. Coli produces an unpleasant sulfurous odor, which is noticeable

  • Salmonella dies between 145 and 160 F. If you cooked the bread, not a problem.

Everything else, highly unlikely.

  • Clostridium botulinum is an anaerobic bacterium, unless your bread dough was in a low oxygen environment (such as a sealed can) it's fine.

Finally as with everything in life:

  • Trust your common sense. If there is something that looks off about the food. Throw it. Its better to be safe then sorry*

*That being said, we wouldn't have bread, cheese, butter, wine, beer, lutefisk, vegemite, mead, soy sauce, fish sauce, ketchup, raisins, beef jerky, cooked meat, etc.. If someone hadn't ignored their instincts that said "don't try anything that looks weird"

5
  • 8
    I appreciate the effort to answer the general food safety question, but you're probably better off focusing on bread dough specifically. Killing bacteria doesn't make food safe; sourdough is safe because the culture prevents harmful bacteria from ever multiplying enough to produce enough toxins to cause issues.
    – Cascabel
    Commented Jan 9 at 4:37
  • 2
    It's definitely still alive. I took 100g of the stuff, added 200g of new flour, salt, and water (80%) and despite its being too wet and requiring 45 minutes to bake, it turned out better than I expected: Photo. Commented Jan 10 at 20:54
  • While I know you're including extraneous details on food poisoning just to be extra precautions. I do wonder if the internal temperature of the bread ever actually reaches or exceeds 350F. The crumb still has water in it which might keep the internal temp from rising that high. I know that much of that is converted to steam, but water in a liquid state cannot usually exceed 212F. An article by Taste of Home's test kitchen claims an internal temp of 185F for their bread recipe, so it may vary depending on the bread you're making, but I don't believe most breads will reach 350 internal temp
    – tsturzl
    Commented Jan 11 at 18:14
  • That said, I don't think it will be a problem. Humans have been making sour dough for thousands of years. Bakeries do this, and it doesn't seem like it's ever been a major food safety concern. I just wanted to point out that if, for whatever unlikely reason, you're bread is contaminated with botulism, baking if is might not going to get the internal temperature of most breads high enough. I'm really splitting hairs here, and think the detail in your answer is otherwise very good.
    – tsturzl
    Commented Jan 11 at 18:18
  • @tsturzl That is a good point. I hadn't thought to check the internal... I personally am not concerned about botulism as it is an anaerobic bacteria that is extremely unlikely to grow in the aerobic conditions found in bread dough. ..
    – Questor
    Commented Jan 11 at 18:31
35

It has a name: sourdough.

This may surprise you if you are accustomed to thinking of sourdough as something created through an arcane process of feeding, discarding, coddling at special temperatures or improving with fruit juices. All that stuff is simply the side effect of the way modern food geeks approach their hobby, and a workable way of producing one specific type of sourdough. But it's not what makes sourdough a sourdough. A sourdough is any dough which has been left to ferment for a very long time, creating a stable microbial colony with a distinct taste.

A sourdough can be baked directly, like you did, although that's rarely done. The more common role is to use it as a preferment and add it to freshly made bread dough, alone or with other leaveners. There are also recipes for other baked goods, such as waffles, which use sourdough. Look around for recipes including sourdough, and you'll find a lot.

If you enjoy the taste of the particular colony you created, and don't want to use it up, you can replenish your sourdough with more flour and water any time you take away some for baking.

7
  • 5
    I suspect it will change a fair bit over a few cycles of using and feeding - but it will still be sourdough and quite possibly very good sourdough. It tends to adapt to its environment and feeding cycle (availability of nutrients for the various species in there) and this presumably started out heavy on commercial yeast
    – Chris H
    Commented Jan 8 at 9:30
  • 4
    "very strange, wet, gooey, and not like anything I'd seen before" is why sour doughs are used as a pre-ferment.
    – RonJohn
    Commented Jan 8 at 18:07
  • 7
    Possibly not a sourdough as we would expect it per se, but the technique of keeping some (yeasted) dough as starter is also very old, although slightly forgotten thanks to easy access to commercial yeast. (And experimentally proven during the Covid food shortage craze, when I had to stretch my one measly cake of yeast as much as possible.) Over time, the “old dough” will likely become a more classic sourdough when the biome changes through continuous feeding.
    – Stephie
    Commented Jan 8 at 20:16
  • 2
    Likely a pretty normal sourdough, though one that's gone that long without feeding will indeed have gobbled up the gluten and be rather "odd" until it's fed and brought back to a happy-bread-making state.
    – Ecnerwal
    Commented Jan 8 at 21:12
  • 2
    That being what the part of the comment after "until" is about...
    – Ecnerwal
    Commented Jan 8 at 21:32
-14

Bro, you left the bread dough for 6 WEEKS? After as little as 10 days it already starts to become substandard quality and it's even hard to imagine how it is after 6 weeks. Nonethtless, it is certainly something no animal should consume, much less a human. This "interesting substance" has a name, it's called rancid and spoiled food, and it should only ever be used as an ingredient in making up the composition of garbage bin's contents. Stay safe and better start over, good luck.

21
  • 12
    There exists a highly upvoted and educated answer...and then there's this answer
    – MonkeyZeus
    Commented Jan 8 at 18:47
  • 8
    @HumanofPeople his snark is because OP created a yeast colony, and an early answer is well educated and thought out... Though calling it sourdough is a bit of a stretch it possible it might not be sour. While it might have an unpleasant flavor (not all 'sourdough' tastes good), it certainly isn't rancid or spoiled. It should be safe for consumption, as long as it doesn't smell bad. The container was not sealed so there isn't a danger of Botulism as that requires anaerobic conditions.
    – Questor
    Commented Jan 8 at 19:20
  • 9
    The asker reports no visible spoilage and no off scent or flavor. As they didn’t start with a random food item, but with a dough intended and thus composed for fermentation. The result, as so diligently explained in the other answer, is simply the consequent process over a longer time. This process of propagating works with a classic sourdough, but yeast-based doughs will work as well. There is a risk of spoilage, but unlike for other foods, the probably heavy presence of yeast from the start gave it a good head start to outcompete pathogens and spoilage would be evident.
    – Stephie
    Commented Jan 8 at 19:58
  • 12
    This answer is beyond ignorant. My sourdough starter has been living in the fridge for more than 6 years now...and has been utterly fine on various occasions when it went more than 6 weeks without being used.
    – Ecnerwal
    Commented Jan 8 at 21:09
  • 10
    A few thousand years of practical experience (plenty of research as well, in the past couple of hundred years once microscopes got themselves invented) are as nothing against your baseless assertion...only in your mind.
    – Ecnerwal
    Commented Jan 8 at 21:32

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.