The Fresh Loaf

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Tartine Starter Difficulties.

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DobieG's picture
DobieG

Tartine Starter Difficulties.

I know that this has been discussed before, however i am really anxious to get this working right.  I dont seem to even nbe able to get my starter going and this is now my second attempt.

The first time i tried the starter:

*     i mixed the initial blend per the book i mixed by feel to a thick batter conistency using my hands no measurements. (should i have used weight, i know stupid question)

*     let it sit covered with kitchen thghowel for 2 days until it started smelling acidic and when tasted it had a sourish flavor (i took the book litteraly and tasted it)

*    since it matched the described smell and taste started feeding by removing 80 percent by eyeballing it and fed 50/50 flower and water mixture (using whole rwheat/ap flour mix described in book)

*    after feeding no rise happened nor was there any change in smell...24 hours passed fed it again.

*     next day checked it wzs molded.  end of first try.  (later discovered mold came form mixture stuck along sides of container.)

 

2 days ago started 2nd attempt:

 

*     this time i weighed the startting mixture 100g of flour and 100g wate

 

DobieG's picture
DobieG

*    stirred every 12 hours and made sure sides of container were clean.

*    day 3 mixture had watery consistency and water collected on top with very few bubbles,  has a sort of nail polish smell to it.

 

please help, i have no idea how to proceed with this and i am dying to get this to work.

 

i live in southern california so the tempt at my house is between 75-85 degrees fahrenheit, i keep the starter in a cabinet.

All at Sea's picture
All at Sea

... sounds like a good idea. Literally. That nail-polish small and the appearance of mold suggests undesired bacterial activity all right.

Always start out with a squeaky clean pot and mixing utensil. Wash hands, scrub nails thoroughly before mixing - if you have to handle the starter.

If you don't get any bubble action going by the 2nd or 3rd day at the temps you have there - then something is wrong. Either undesirable bacteria are ruining the show, or you are using flour that isn't viable.

If you want to fast-track then try rye - stoneground is ideal - to get that starter kicked into life - and then once you have bubbles a-plenty and a lovely smell developing, you can switch over to unbleached, unbromated white flour over the course of two or three feeds. Or whatever Chad Robertson suggests.

I don't have the Tartine recipe so can't help with regard to his instructions. But am sure others who do will help you out.

But good flour, good hygiene and you should not have a problem.

All at Sea

placebo's picture
placebo

I have two starters here, one whole wheat and one white. You're welcome to come by and get some of either or both.

When you fed the starter, how much did you feed it? Your aim is to get the pH of the concoction low enough to reawaken the yeast. When you feed a starter, you dilute it and make it less acidic, which isn't what you want, but you need to feed it to give the acid-producing bacteria nourishment to keep working. Consequently, in the beginning, it's a good idea to feed it relatively little. For example, if you keep 50 grams of starter, feed it 25 grams of flour and 25 grams of water.

DobieG's picture
DobieG

thank you for the advice and the offer...i would come grab some but im in the valley, verybgenerous of you though...one question though...to start the starter how much would you use to start flour/water weight wise...i am going to start over agaib.

placebo's picture
placebo

Yeah, that would be a bit of a hike to get some starter.

The last few times I experimented with making a starter from scratch, I followed Debra Wink's procedure.

http://www.thefreshloaf.com/node/10901/pineapple-juice-solution-part-2

Just two tablespoons of flour in the beginning in a tiny glass bowl. I have ascorbic acid on hand, so I used that instead of pineapple juice. You can use plain water. You just need to be aware of what will likely happen. After a day or two, you will likely see a sudden expansion (It's alive!), followed by a disquieting lull (Oh no, it died!). The key is to be patient. It will come back to life. If you want to know the nitty gritty of what's going on, read the first part of Debra's blog post.

Axel's picture
Axel

I am in the process of making a new starter now - day 4. I used two suggestions from a very experienced baker. 

First mixed ( day 1 ) I added a bit of honey. Gives some food and kills bad guys. Second ( day 2 and 3 ) I was dusting the top of the starter with little white flour. Prevents mold.

In the end of the day 3 I gentely removed top crust and spooned some starter from inside. Fed 1:2:2 .

6 hours after first feeding it tripled and now I have my own dilemma - to feed or not to feed ! It is hot in here..

Axel

timko's picture
timko

Hi, I use the tartine procedure and have found it very successful.

I agree with the comments, clean bowl, feed regularly until stable.

I was worried about keeping the bowl in an enclosed space, starters take on local flora and air circulation is helpful.  I keep mine on bench loosely covered by clean kitchen towel. I don't weigh feedings and have tested different consistencies. (There is discussion in tartine around keeping starter in fridge, but none I  think on keeping it there as it develops.)

Temp of water is cool. My kitchen is 60 degrees f.

 Harold McGee in his wonderful On food and cooking discusses   the importance of regularly aerating the started. Whisk it with a fork. He also recommends salt to prevent the rapid growth of other microbes. 

 Tim

Boleigh's picture
Boleigh

My first starter is now three days old and so far I think developing well. I am keen to start using it - how long until it's stable on average?

 

 

All at Sea's picture
All at Sea

... on so many factors. But that's not a very useful answer is it!

So, once you get the bubbly little darling to reliably double/triple itself within a few hours of feeding, and to accomplish this grand and glorious feat for several consecutive days; and if it also assails your nose with a piquantly sweetly yeasty tang you're good to go, I'd say.

You can successfully raise bread in as little as 3-4 days with a very precocious starter, but 7-10 days is much the safer bet if all seems to be on track. Others prefer to wait at least a fortnight.

Does your 3-day old starter (it must be a little older by now) smell yeasty, yet? If not, then it may be that the CO2 activity you see is LAB generated. If so, then you'll have to wait for the yeast to wake up and get marching!

All at Sea

Moya Gray's picture
Moya Gray

I live in a warm area and from my experience with making the Tartine starter my starter was ready long before the 7 days Chad Robertson recommends.  In the words of Robertson it passes the float test.  

But it doesn't make it stable - I think stable implies that you can trust it to raise the dough in a known way and impart an expected flavor.   Right now my starter is about 5 months old and initially I used it rwo or three times a week; I dropped down to once a week and then once every week and a half.  That is where I got into trouble.  My starter - while appearing active actually ate the gluten structure away.  So Internet research advised that I regain the health of my starter.  I think what happened was that I didn't feed it enough, weakening the yeast and allowing not so great bacteria to develop which ate up the gluten.  So I've removed from the fridge and am feeding twice daily with only AP flour. It is smelling better, it passed thefloat test within two hours of feeding it and  we'll see today whether it is healthy enough.

DobieG's picture
DobieG

so i have had my new starter going for about 5 days now...i have been stirring every day....and it dioesnt seem to be going anywhere.   i am wondering if it is the flour i am using (king arthur whole wheat and AP) 50/50.   i am starting a new starter wit just whole whear.  should i be using a fresher flour to start this maybe something local.  if so does anyone know a good source in los angeles county?

placebo's picture
placebo

I've made starters using both King Arthur's WW and AP flours with no problems. Other than mixing, what specific procedure are you now using?

pjkobulnicky's picture
pjkobulnicky

Appologies if you have seen this posting before but ...

Natural fermentations, new or old, do not like tap water. Chlorine is put into water to kill bacteria. Works on fragile yeasts too.  If you want to do one thing that will solve most of your problems with starters, use conditioned water. I use a simple Britta filter and it works fine. Otherwise buy some distilled water. Bakeries all condition their water to remove harmful chemicals.

 

Paul

DobieG's picture
DobieG

funny enough im using arrowhead....do you suppose the small amount of sodium in the water is retarding yeast growth.

DobieG's picture
DobieG

for my second starter i am using equal parts pineapple juice and 50/50 mix whole wheat and AP FLOUR.

Starting with 75g flour and 75g pineapple juice mixed and left for one day.( saw some activity)

next day added 25g flour and 25g water and stirred

day 3 stirred and all activity stopped

 

 

actually come to think of it all activity ceased once i fed it a little (per pineapple method)

baybakin's picture
baybakin

Ah, I think I see the problem.  You didn't give it enough food. Every time you feed the starter you need to feed it untill it is at least double the size it was, or throw away most then feed.  Example.  75g Flour and 75g of water/juice. the next day you would throw away a portion, then at least double the resulting mass with fresh flour/water.  I at least triple each time.  So I'd throw away all but 25g, then feed it 25g of water and 25g of flour (or more if I want it to grow slower).

placebo's picture
placebo

but when you're making a new starter, doubling is about the most you want to do. 

Moya Gray's picture
Moya Gray

I used a little bit of pineapple juice only on the 1st day;  thereafter I used only tap water.

As Baybakin said, it is critical to throw away all but 2 tablespoons (about 24 grams) of starter, otherwise the bacteria have a chance to outgrow the yeast.

Remember your are growing a colony of yeast and bacteria and the balance of this colony is what is critical.  The temperature of about 75 degrees encourages the yeast, and the bacteria that gives sourdough its flavor does not thrive at this temperature; but the bacteria thrives in a lower temperature and the yeast slows reproduction.  

If it is too hot and your yeast are really active your yeast will outgrow the bacteria and consume the sugar/food that the flour produces; so depending upon your temperature you may have to feed more often to keep a healthy balance.  

On the other hand, if you are keeping the starter in the frigerator you are slowing your yeast production and increasing the bacteria production.  You do not need to feed as frequently as when the temperature is low, but you do need to keep the yeast fed even while living in the colder environment of the refrigerator.

If you are getting mold, your temperature may be too high/humid.

Boleigh's picture
Boleigh

There ought to be a whole other forum for starter anxiety! My story sounds the same as yours - I have not tried the pineapple yet but will do tomorrow after I buy a water filter! (I have been using cooled boiled water tho')

Basically after quite a bit of activity up to day three - day four and then day five and nothing! 

 

All at Sea's picture
All at Sea

... comment above,Boleigh. Have replied to your earlier one, when you thought things were going well.

Sorry to hear there has been something of a hiatus. Have you continued to feed the starter twice a day? If so, what is/was your feeding schedule?

It might not all be doom- things can go very quiet just before the yeasties get up to speed. Very little or no action. Usually only lasts a day or so, or even just a few hours. But if things stay quiet for several days - no rising, no more bubbles - then something is wrong.

Others may disagree with me, but from the responses on this forum, it seems to me the most common reasons for poor starter activity is usually food related. The starter isn't fed enough or often enough in the early days. And too cold an environment will slow the yeast to a crawl. Yeast will grow in cooler climes, of course, but if you want a racing start for your beloved starter - molly-coddle it, keep those tender young yeasties snug and cosy and above all - warm!

All at Sea

Boleigh's picture
Boleigh

The hardest things are often the most rewarding...

I have fed twice a day from day 2 when there was quite a bit of liquid. Two table spoons of 85% flour and boiled water after keeping about two tablespoons of the starter. It's been quiet for about three days now - although this morning there were a few bubbles again. I may have been a bit stingy on the flour to begin with - I'm going to measure this tonight to make sure I'm not starving it. 

It's been pretty warm really I should say between 18 & 20 celcius (bloomin' Europeans) which I think is cool, but not excessively so.

I may try a second one with pineapple juice.

Anyone in Lincoln UK where I could just steal some?!

 

 

All at Sea's picture
All at Sea

... a couple of questions:

  • What type of flour are you using?
  • When you say two table spoons of 85% flour and boiled water - I'm not sure what you mean.  Two tablespoons of mixed flour and water?
  • Can you find somewhere in the home that is consistently warm - like an airing cupboard?

If your starter smells at all yeasty, then it is very likely viable.  But it does sound as if you've put it on something of a hit and miss diet- whereas it needs steadily, regularly fattening up.  For sheer ease of numbers, if you take 1/2 tablespoon of your starter - if it smells yeasty - and feed it with 3 tablespoons of flour and 2 tablespoons of water, you'll be fine.  Then put a loose lid on it, so the gas can escape but dust and dry air can't get in and place it somewhere nice and warm. Anywhere up to 30*C will be hunky dory.

Regular feedings, regular warmth and you shouldn't have any more trouble.

If you want a fast-track method of starting a starter then try the live yoghurt and rye method. It's seriously fast and very reliable. Just use stoneground rye for your flour, and live, probiotic plain yoghurt in place of water.  If you can make your own yoghurt, rather than shop-bought, the results are even more spectacular and speedy. But whatever flour or liquid you use, make sure your feed regularly and keep the starter constantly warm.

Good luck!

All at Sea

tacosandbeer's picture
tacosandbeer

Boleigh, I'm in Derby and have a fairly new (less than two-months old) but very healthy and active starter than I started at these abysmal temps we've been dealing with - you're more than welcome to some if you're interested!

-Michelle

Boleigh's picture
Boleigh

... thank you! I do go over Derby way sometimes. If I find myself over that way - and if I can't get this thing started I'll PM you. 

 

David 

tacosandbeer's picture
tacosandbeer

Sure, let me know! We get to Nottingham once in awhile, too  - could meet you there.

Boleigh's picture
Boleigh

All at Sea

Firstly, thank you for being such a lovely forum member! It's much appreciated. 

The flour is 85% whole wheat. That is it has been sifted at the mill to remove just the bran - they sell it as 85%. I like it because to my wife it looks quite white! It's strange stuff because it flows really well unlike most flour which sort of sticks together! It's flour from Tuxford Mill - a windmill in Nottinghamshire, just over the river and it's organic. 

I've may have not been feeding it enough - I've been going for 1:1:1 roughly but by volume not wieght (no digital scales yet!) 

It smells kind of acrid - not like vinegar and nothing like beer or yeast yet. 

I have started a second one using pineapple juice and may start a third using yoghurt like you suggested. I have found a warmer place for them which is a steady 24 degrees. 

Once again thank you. 

 

placebo's picture
placebo

Flour is about half as dense as water, so if you want a one-to-one mass ratio, use twice as much flour as water. If you use a one-to-one volume ratio, your starter will be very liquid. You should see bubbles, but you won't get much of a rise, if any, because it's not stiff enough to trap the gases.

I have a whole wheat starter. Even just 12 hours after it's been fed, it smells pretty disgusting. You might be experiencing something similar. I can usually get a whiff of the yeast if I concentrate on picking out that component, but it's not a very pleasant aroma overall.

Boleigh's picture
Boleigh

Hello

Just wanted to update you on where I was...

I have stuck rigidly to the feeding regime (I think I have been underfeeding) and in a couple of days both starters are now looking like I expect them too. I guess that they mature and develop but I couldn't wait to try one out! So I did a 12 hour rise on a pretty wet dough and whilst not amazing in terms of rise or spring it was pretty tasty. 

I now have a few days away on business so have fed them and put them in the fridge... 

 

Thank you everyone. 

All at Sea's picture
All at Sea

... on taking the plunge! A first big step and one worth celebrating. :^)

All at Sea

 

Boleigh's picture
Boleigh

yes, at the back of the fridge they both froze! I'm attempting to revive them!

 

All at Sea's picture
All at Sea

... is often spiked with little frustrations! Sorry to hear your starters got a little too chilled.  Administering CPR to the wild yeasties is proof you're a fully-signed up bread-head, now! 

Good luck Boleigh ... if they weren't too chilled for too long, you might well effect a Lazurus on 'em.

All at Sea

May_be's picture
May_be

All at Sea, your yogurt method is intriguing. Would you share specifics? Did you mean subsitute an equal volume of yogurt for the water? And do you use yogurt only on Day 1 of creating the seed culture, or later as well? 

I've been making yogurt for years and have a lively culture going - it turns 1/2 a gallon of milk into yogurt in under 4 hours. However, I'm very new to bread baking in general, including sourdough, so I've been experimenting with growing starters, and would like to give this a shot as well.

All at Sea's picture
All at Sea

... with go-faster stripes!

Hi May_be - your home-made yoghurt should be absolutely perfect for creating an active starter very, very quickly. Since the yoghurt is buzzing with its own species of very active lactobacillus, so the dormant wild yeast (present in the flour),  is presented with the perfect partner from the get go. Unlike with water, there is no waiting around for generations of LAB to get active first. They are already up and running.

The only caveat is that the speed of this starter will depend on how warm is your own home-baking environment. Mine is around 78-82 df - so the yeast bursts into life superfast. If you can't achieve those high htemps for your starter, it will take a little longer of course.  Nothing wrong in that. And even so, you should still create a very healthy starter in far shorter time  than one made with water. I don't use any water - all the liquid content is yoghurt alone. So here then is my recipe based on my ambient temperatures:

Day 1:

4 x Tblsp Stoneground Rye + 3 x Tblsp of homemade plain yoghurt. Mix well together, cover loosely. Leave at room temperature for 24 hours, preferably somewhere warm (75-80 df ideally). I found the mixture already had bubbles and was rising merrily about 12 hours into that first day. A lovely yeasty aroma began even earlier - about 8 hours in.

Day 2:

Use only half of the above; discard the other half. To the remaining half, add:

3 x Tblsp Stoneground Rye + 2 Tblsp of homemade plain yoghurt.  Follow instructions above, but leave to ferment for only 12 hours if your embryonic starter is rising, bubbly and energetic - as mine was.

Day 2 and a half:

Use only 1/2 Tblsp of above. Discard remainder. To the 1/2 Tblsp of starter, add 1 x Tblsp Stoneground Rye, 1 x Tblsp whole wheat, 1 x Tblsp white unbromated, unbleached bread flour (or unbleached All Purpose). + 2 x Tblsp home-made plain yoghurt. Follow instructions as for day 2.

Day 3:

As Day 2 and a half.

Day 3 and a half:

By this time (or a day or so later if your ambient temperatures aren't as warm as mine) the starter is healthy and vigorous enough to bake with successfully. I usually bake breads using a pre-ferment, so it is at this point that I built my starter into a pre-ferment. You don't have to do this, of course. Your wild yeast culture should be adult enough by this stage, that it can be managed any way you think best. For the Pre-Ferment - and this you can play with to suit your own recipe requirements - I used the following quantities:

Pre-Ferment

1 x Tblsp of active starter (from above) + 6 Tblsp flour (your choice) + 4 x Tblsp home-made plain yoghurt. Mix, cover loosely, leave somewhere warm till risen and fermented sufficiently to bake with. I'm being vague here deliberately, since I like to use a levain that isn't fully ripe - almost, but not fully. So I let it rise until it's almost doubled, but still has plenty of food left in reserve for the yeast. That gives me a lovely, rather sweet, mellow flavour, but helps avoid the sour flavour I'm not so partial to.

You don't have to use the exact mix of flours I've given - those are just my preference, but it does help to use stoneground rye at the beginning, since it is a power house of dormant wild yeast.

Hope this helps ... but if I've muddied the waters at all, please holler.

All at Sea

 

 

May_be's picture
May_be

All at Sea, thanks so much for that detailed response. I'm definitely going to try this - though only after I get back from vacation!

Maya