I'm baking bread at home as a hobby, using sourdough. After skipping one baking day, I haven't used my sourdough starter for two weeks. When opening the jar in which I keep it, I saw the surface had taken on this unusual look. When viewed from the side through the glass, the contents looked normal below the surface.
The sourdough starter consists of whole rye flour at 100% hydration (flour:water = 1:1). I had removed it from the ripe sourdough on the last baking day and have since kept it in the refrigerator with a lid (only loosely screwed on) for 13 days.
Normally I'm using it already after keeping it for 7 days, and I'm used to the surface turning light gray and dry (but smooth and soft) after that time, which didn't ever seem to be a problem. Now the color of the surface was identical, but it has become grainy, like tiny worms.
I have removed and discarded the top layer (3 mm). It was soft (unlike dried out, crusty, dough) and smelled a bit like fresh yeast. Below that, the contents smelled normal, like very ripe sourdough.
The jar is about 6 cm in diameter and was filled to about 2 cm (→ volume of the starter ≈ 60 ml).
What are we looking at here? Could it be actual yeast cells (or other microorganisms normally found in sourdough)?
Is it harmful?
After only 2 days, the starter looks like this: