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Tartine Starter Problems (long read)

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indiesicle's picture
indiesicle

Tartine Starter Problems (long read)

 

~First let me say thank you to all contributors to this site as it’s a treasured and essential resource online.~

I’ve been using the Tartine method for the starter about 40 days now and have had some problems or what I perceive as problems for the last few weeks.

            The first 2 weeks went predictable enough and all seemed right with the starter. I was feeding it once a day 50/50 KABF/KAWWF, discarding all but 14g, (around 7:00 a.m. to 8:00 a.m.) at 1:2:2 (14g:28g:28g) with an ambient temperature of 71F. I was getting a predictable doubling within 4 hours and a tripling within 6 and then the subsequent ‘fall’ which was super-duper.

Around that time I decided to try the leaven just to see if it would float. It did! I then baked with it and got what you would expect with a new starter. It was ok, not much rise, poor crumb, but I considered it a semi-success none-the-less. I then went into search mode for starter improvements since that was most likely the problem, I had surmised.

            I then started reading about starter maintenance on here to see if I could boost it up a bit since the subject was barley touched in the book. The consensus, as I understood it, was to feed at least 2 times a day in 12 hour intervals. This made a lot of sense so I gave it a shot.

The first feed was the same 1:2:2 but the second, 12 hours later, was just the flour and water doubled (70g:56g:56g) and added to the starter without discarding. Not sure why I did this (obviously a misunderstanding) but it seemed right at the time. It seemed to work as it would double within 4 hours again no problem but my bread still didn’t meet my expectations so it had to be the starter, right? So I continued reading.

I then found something that seemed to say feed it a little after it has peaked and started to fall. So I did. But this round I discarded every time and did the normal 1:2:2 but it was eating it all up quickly so I feed it 3 times a day around 8 a.m., 2 p.m., and 8 p.m respectively. I did this so I could build the leaven around 8 p.m. right when it had peaked and fallen a little thinking that may help with my problem bread. This is where it all went bad. After a day or so it just stopped doubling until at least 12 hours but usually 18 so I cut it back to 2 a day at 1:3:3. Then it would barley double in 24 hours.

Now I’m back to once a day 1:2.5:2.5 (20g:50g:50g) for a 20% inoculation. I’ve added 20% whole rye flour to the 50g flour (40g 50/50 - 10g rye) for two feedings and it is almost doubling around 4 hours again but that’s it! No more tripling at all. It just almost doubles and then falls. I also read that once-a-day feedings will slowly starve it so I’m just at a loss at what to do or how to properly strengthen it. I don’t want to refrigerate it because I would like to bake everyday but that presents its own set of problems with using the leftover leaven as a starter which I found to be very weak for a few days afterward.

My bread has subsequently gotten much worse. Although the leaven rises 30% at 65F overnight (8-10 hrs.) like clockwork, the bulk fermentation (4-5hrs) never does much. Just stays the same after the 2nd turn or so with little perceivable aeration. At initial shaping it seems a little better but then just falls flat a few hours into the final rise with very little to no oven spring. I’m not one to quit on anything, I’m just frustrated with these results and I'm clueless how to fix it. Nothing seems to work! I will keep trying because it just has to workout eventually as explained in the book.

I guess my question is to anyone who has a robust starter built using the Tartine method: What schedule have you found that works for you, your bread, and your sanity? I really don’t mind a 2 to 3 a day feeding schedule if that is required. Again my ambient temperature is around 71F in the morning but it gets around 76-78 in the evening. Any help would be greatly appreciated as I imagine someone out there has certainly had this problem.

 

 

jcking's picture
jcking

The whole wheat and rye are making the starter heavy, not enough gluten. It is not mentioned what flour you're using in the final dough. I believe you need more bread flour, with higher protein, in both your starter and your final dough.


Jim

indiesicle's picture
indiesicle

Thank You Jim for the reply ~ For the final dough I use 900g KABF and 100g KAWWF per the Basic Contry Bread recipe in the Tartine Bread book. I've only used rye flour twice in the starter to give it a boost which I heard would help and it has seemed to a little. I'll try anything at this point.


-Josh

jcking's picture
jcking

Josh,


I've not tried the Tartine started - it seems like a lot of work. I've used P. Reinhart's starter version in his artisan breads everyday book. Refresh every 3 day's @ 75% hydration, which is close to the hydration of most bread recipies. I don't think you're starters a problem - sour dough needs to be handled differently than yeasted breads. Such as gentler handling and longer rises.


Jim

jcking's picture
jcking

After reading a section of Shirley Corriher's book Cookwise she claims adding certain spices can boost yeast activity. Add 1/4 tsp of ground cinnamon to your starter, see what happens and let me know.


Jim

coveloyo's picture
coveloyo

cinnamic aldehyde Is the compound in cinnamon that inhibits the growth of yeast. I have read that other spices, such as cardamon, maybe ginger, might excite yeast or stimulate it. But I don't think cinnamon would be a great idea. Does anyone have another idea on this? Thanks.

jcking's picture
jcking

It may depend on the type of yeast? I haven't tried it.


Jim

jcking's picture
jcking

Josh


From Shirley Corriher; Cinnamon and cloves contain chemical compounds known as cinnamic aldehyde and eugenol, respectively, which act as preservatives by inhibiting mold growth and aflatoxin production. But they are also detrimental to yeast growth. Use of these spices,as well as nutmeg and allspice, in the dough itself should be limited to amounts below about 1/4 teaspoon per cup of flour.


Are you using a banneton?


Jim

indiesicle's picture
indiesicle

Yes. I use two round, cane banneton baskets.



I had a semi-sucessful bake yesterday almost by accident. I went through the normal routine and baked one and put the other in the fridge. The first was terrible but the one I retarded (18 hrs-I had forgotten about it) turned out almost right. It had nice oven spring and decent crumb.



My only problem with everything is that there should be a way to match the author’s results by his same method if followed correctly in sequence. Even though it's more of a suggestion it should be doable. The only real goals given in the book to achieve are: starter doubles in 4 hrs, when leaven has risen by 20% or when it passes the float test which I always achieve easily. But these don’t seem to matter much because they don’t translate into a 20 - 30% rise during bulk fermentation at 80 degrees or any rise at final proof (for me at least). That’s what's so frustrating. I seem to meet the requirements until I reach the bulk fermentation stage.



This is why I go back to my starter and leaven thinking they're the problem but they pass all the aforementioned tests laid out by the book so what could it be? I just keep re-reading the text hoping for that one 'ah-ha' moment but I just haven't had that yet so I'll keep trying.



I have a leaven going right now which I built from my starter that had doubled in around 3.5 hrs. I waited until 7 hrs when it had started to deflate and used 20g mature starter for the build (200g 50/50 flour, 200g 78F water). I will keep you posted.

indiesicle's picture
indiesicle

5 hours into the leaven build. Status: Temp 65F on the nose, hasn't risen at all! Will check back in at the 8 hour mark.

indiesicle's picture
indiesicle

I forgot to update but here goes..... 8.5 hours in my leaven had risen 20%, passed the float test, and smelled and looked great so I mixed the dough. It felt right this time. I did the bulk fermentation for about 4 hours and it seemed to be a bit airy so I shaped and put them in the fridge overnight. Baked in the a.m. 10 hours after shaping and got the flattest, most dense ones yet. Zero oven spring and terrible crumb. Ugggg!!!

jcking's picture
jcking

How cold is the fridge?


Jim

indiesicle's picture
indiesicle

I checked it with my instant read and it was 37F. I think that's a bit cold.

jcking's picture
jcking

Bulk ferment for 2 hours, shape, 2 hour proof, place in frig overnite, out of frig in am for 2 hours then bake.


Jim

indiesicle's picture
indiesicle

I will try that tommorrow. I'll do the leaven build in the a.m. and then try your suggestion. I'll take some photos to post.


Thanks again Jim,


-Josh

jcking's picture
jcking

You go, tiger!

jcking's picture
jcking

Have you tried typing Tartine starter in the search box here?


Jim

indiesicle's picture
indiesicle

Yes. Many times. Seems a few people have the same problem but a lot don't. I couldn't really find anyone's account that went from starter to bread by the book though. But I certainly could have missed it. I'll keep looking and thanks again for the replies.

jcking's picture
jcking

You sound like me. I get very stubborn when things don't go as planned and dig and dig, and experiment. I gotta put my hand in the flame to prove it's hot. Like Churchill said, Never, never, never give up. :)


Jim

jcking's picture
jcking

There's also the possibility that the bacteria are good and strong, yet the yeast are not. Dough can be risen with bacteria and the gas that they produce, but won't rise as high. With the better success of the over- fridged dough I would try to let it fridge for 3 days and see what happens.


Jim

indiesicle's picture
indiesicle

That's kinda the way I was leaning the more I have read on the subject. I guess I have great bacteria but not much yeast. Does just refrigerating the starter help build the yeast or should I feed everyday and refrigerate?


Thanks,


-Josh

jcking's picture
jcking

Guess I wasn't clear, I meant the dough. But you could try the starter too. I fridge my chef after it has risen, but mine is 75% hydro. I think your's may be higher. Like I said I'm not familar with the Tartine type.


Jim