The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Tartine Starter

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pollyanne's picture

Tartine Starter

Hi - beginning sourdough baker - though quite a bit of commercial yeast experience

If I am trying to listen and observe my starter, for when to feed, do I feed it when it has doubled and seems fresh and alive?  Or wait until sometime later, when it apparently will fall and/or get hooch on top?  My question is regarding regular feeding, either to keep it going, or to rebuild it to then use it to inoculate leaven.

Thanks for any information.

Baker Frank's picture
Baker Frank

Once developed I fed the starter once everyday at the same time. However I did notice that by the same time the following day, the starter had already peaked in size and had already fallen slightly.

ehanner's picture


If you now have a starter that you have been feeding for a while, I suggest that you give it a feed that will make it work hard and feed it every 12 hours at room temperature for a while.

Then comes the question of what the ratio of flour and water are. The ratio that Robertson uses is 100%. That is the same weight in both flour and water. I suggest you try discarding or using all but 1 tablespoon or about 30-40 grams of the starter and feeding it 80 grams of water and 100 grams of flour for a while. This way the bacteria and yeasts will have a bit of extra food and the window of time at peak performance will be extended. Consider this your "Mother Starter", from which you remove the amount to build your levain. Once the Mother Starter is stable and active, you may refresh it and keep it in the refrigerator, feeding it once a week or longer if needed. When you bake, remove a Tablespoon or so to build your 100% starter or levain. Your levain will be very healthy and so will your bread.

I hope this helps answer your questions. Let us know how it goes.


pollyanne's picture

Thanks Eric.  That makes sense.  I did go ahead and feed the starter per Robertson, but used a very small bit (>5%) of the original starter because I needed to leave it overnight.  In the morning it had not risen very much, but when the house warmed up it went right to work, more than doubled by about mid-day.  I let it go, and toward evening it fell back to nearly original size.  I tasted some - tasted pretty sour.  So I decided that was my ripe starter from which to make my leaven.  I'm working on the bulk fermentation now, and need help judging readiness for next step, but I realize that's a post for a different forum.


Melany's picture

Hi -

I'm a newbie starter creator and am following Tartine.  I created my starter on February 5th and started feeding it on the 7th.  Every 24 hours I'm taking 75g of starter and feeding it 150g of water and 150g of flour (white/wheat mix).  I'm leaving it on my kitchen counter covered with a bread towel. 

There are minimal bubbles and the rise/fall is subtle.

Any suggestions?

Thank you

Baker Frank's picture
Baker Frank

Take the long view and have patience. Eventually all will turn out ok if you stick with it and follow the concepts and method. Let results guide you and not a preconceived idea as to when things will happen.

This was the advice I received when I first started and it served me well.

Best of luck,


pollyanne's picture


Working on my two starters now, every 24 hours or so (Starter A whwh feeding per Reinhart; Starter B 50/50 feeding per Tartine and Eric of this site, as above <blockquote>30-40 grams of the starter and feeding it 80 grams of water and 100 grams of flour</blockquote>).

Both of them rise nicely - usually double or more during daytime...I am trying to feed mostly in the morning.  They take a long time to fall, even though they eventually get to a point where they smell a bit vinegary.  Mostly it is feeding time again before they fall.

I've been working on them for a bit more than a month - sometimes they have been in the refrigerator - not being fed daily.  I am thinking that their ability to rise tells me that they are now strong enough to just keep in the refrigerator and feed either once a week, or when I want to bake with them, whichever comes first.

What do you think?  Thanks,  Polly

pollyanne's picture

see that my attempt to quote Eric using proper formatting shows that I haven't a clue what I am doing in that regard!  Sorry

3 Olives's picture
3 Olives

If all else fails, order some of the FREE starter from NY Bakers. I ordered some flour from them a while back and took them up on their offer of free starters. I put off starting their starters, as I have a very nice, vigorous starter. I started their SoCal starter Tues. and used it today, It smells and tastes wonderful and it's now my #1 starter. BTW, I was very pleased with their customer service and quick shipping.

schmudu's picture

Hey All,

So my wife made fun of me because after 6 months (and about 7 attempts and numerous bags of flour) I still wasn't able to make the Tartine bread.  In fact I got so upset the 8th time that I decided to give up and put a 1 t of commercial yeast in it (which is exactly opposite of the reason why I chose to try the Tartine recipe).  In the end it ended up being one of the best experiences for me because it taught me what a proper starter should do to your bread.  My 8th loaf came out looking exactly as it should (the taste was SUPER bland) and I finally started to believe all the people who were able to succesfully get their loaves to rise.  To be honest I thought everyone who was able to get their bread to rise were magicians!

So here's what I learned.  I live in Washington, DC and the temperature in my apartment is kept at 74 degrees Farenheight.  (For those curious about the ambient temperature).  I fed my starter every night with All Purpose (AP) flour around 10pm and checked on the amount it rose at 6am.  Two and a half weeks went by with a couple of bubbles forming, but nothing close to what all the successful posts on this forum were talking about (their pictures made me jealous).  Finally there's a sentence in the Tartine book that stated that Whole Wheat (WW) flour is much better at getting wild yeast activity.  So I caved in and went down to the store and made my 50/50 mixture (50% bread flour and 50% whole wheat flour) and started feeding my starter with that instead of just AP flour.  Lo and behold about a week after I started using the 50/50 mixture my started started rising like everyone was talking about.  I think there would be a 50% increase in volume when I checked it in the morning.

With that said I had a mature starter and it took me about a three and a half weeks to get there.  Just for the people with very little patience like myself, the first few time I tried this recipe I tried to make the bread with a starter that was only 3 days old.....needless to say it didn't work.

Another thing I learned is that I hated the taste of whole wheat flour.  So after I got a mature starter I switched back to feeding it AP flour and it rises just fine overnight.  If I had to do this all over again I would probably start off with the 50/50 mixture and try to get a mature starter with that instead of trying to do it with AP flour.

Also for the bulk fermentation (when you turn it every half hour according to the recipe) since my apartment temperature is lower than the 80 degrees that Chad Robertson calls for I allow the bulk fermentation process to go on for 5-6 hours.

Six months in the making....but worth every atttempt.  =)

ml's picture

Hi All,

So, I just finished 2 bakes, one SD with 56.3% mixed flour starter, & one Foccaccia from 100% white.

So, I have a little of each left, as well as some 100% 50/50 wheat/white, from a tartine bake.

I am questioning needing all of these. If I take a small amount, say 20%, of any one of these, and build my levain( at least 3x) using whatever flours & % are called for in the formula, how much will it matter what the "mother" is?

Anyone willing to share what they keep in their fridge?


tn gabe's picture
tn gabe

I keep a white wheat at 100% and a rye at around 80% hydration, recently anyway. If you don't bake rye bread all the time, I'd say just keep one. Or if you want to try something different just keep a rye. I've been re-browsing Whitley's Bread Matters & that is his recommendation.

I was keeping a third, firm whole wheat, but got tired of the extra maintenance and instead now elaborate a whole wheat from the white starter when neede. The whole wheat starter has a less pleasant aroma that can get downright foul if not refreshed regularly.

Baker Frank's picture
Baker Frank


I feel that after 3 builds of your levain according to the needs of the bread you will be making, it really doesn't matter the types of flour and % of each used in the mother starter. FYI: I maintain only a firm starter of 2/3 rds WW bread flour and 1/3 rd White bread flour. Then I make the levain accordingly to the needs of the bread I will be making.






schmudu's picture

hey ml,

Personally I didn't like the taste of the WW flour so after getting a mature starter I switched to all-purpose flour and only use that to not only feed the mother, but it's the only flour I use in making the bread as well.  Don't know if that's correct or not, but it's been working for me.  =)