The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Tartine Country Loaf - Leaven

Melany's picture

Tartine Country Loaf - Leaven

I'm approximately 25 days into feeding my Tartine starter (every 24 hours - 150g flour mix, 150g water, 75g starter).   The starter was residing on my kitchen counter (approx. 69 degrees).

Last night I progressed to making the Leaven (1 Tbs. of the starter mixture, 200g flour mix, 200g water).  This morning I did the float test and it sunk.  I then waited 30 minutes (placing the mixture in a warmer place) and the mxiture failed the float test again.

Finally I mixed half the starter mixture, 100g of flour mixture, and 100g of water.  Let it ferment for two hours and again the dough didn't float.

I have not had an extreme amount of bubbles at any phase.  The rise/fall has been subtle.  The aroma is sweet with a hint of acidity.

Thank you for any advice.  I have NO idea what to do next.


amolitor's picture

I'm not a Tartine aficionado, but I might be able to give a little direction here (so, this is NOT based on experience with Tartine's methods specifically).

Firstly of all, it's possible your starter feeding schedule isn't as good as it could be. I find that it's more about reading the starter than it is about following an exact schedule. For the maximum vigor, you should be feeding your starter a little while after its maximum rise. You say that your starter is "subtle" which suggests to me that EITHER you're not letting it go long enough -- so it doesn't get to that maximum levels of yeast before you feed it again, OR you're letting it go too long -- the yeasts and whatnot are dying off when you feed. Ignore the schedule and try to hit that point of max rise for a few feedings in a row, see if it doesn't get more excitable.

A non-vigorous starter is going to give you a non-vigorous leaven.

Next up, you should ideally be using your starter to make the leaven at that same time -- a little while after its maximum rise (although I *seem* to recall that the Tartine book has some ideas about using starters and/or leavens "early" -- no matter, you need to be in tune with your starter, you need to know when that maximum rise will be in order to follow those directions too! Check the book and do what it says!)

Finally, give your leaven more time. Even if it's a bit weak, it can still build up a stronger population of yeasts and bacteria if you give it more time. If it fails the float test -- well, the worst that can happen is you throw it out later on, so experiment! Half an hour is NOTHING for sourdoughs, try giving it another 4 hours in a warm place (top of the fridge?). Try giving it another 8 or 12. Even if you don't wind up making bread with it, you'll learn how it acts, and you'll get more in tune with the process. Eventually the proteins will start to break down, the leaven will get moist and won't hold its shape -- you probably can't make a good loaf at this point, but you're a day or two into it, so you've learned a lot!

It's like gardening more than like chemistry, I find, but if one garden doesn't work out you can throw it out after a couple days!


Cachi's picture

With a 1:2:2 (starter:flour:water) ratio, your starter should rise (double) and fall within 4-6hrs if kept at 70 degrees, especially if you've been feeding it for 25 days. If it is not, then something is not right, your starter is very weak and won't leaven your bread correctly. The float test just means there is enough CO2  to make it light enough to float.

When you do have a strong starter, make sure you prepare the leaven with a mature starter: It has reached maximum volume (about double) and just started to fall.

Good luck!

margieluvschaz's picture

I've only made the recipe twice but both times I've had to wait 24 hours not 10-16 and I live in Az where it is pretty warm compared to other cities.  I've also had to bulk ferment longer as well.


lbcheatham's picture

Where you live could be a problem. I lived in northern North Carolina and I know that in certain places it is nearly impossible to make a sour starter. There just isn't the right bacteria hanging around in the air. I did find that leaving it in my basement, when it's warm enough, helped alot.

Cachi's picture

According to our resident expert, it doesn't matter much where you live as most of the yeast spores are contained in the flour and to a lesser extent those in the air serve to inoculate the starter. You can make a starter or desem fully enclosed in flour with no direct contact with outside air.