The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Tartine Starter Issues

artichkme's picture

Tartine Starter Issues


I finally got the Tartine baking book and no matter I can't seem to get started right.  I've followed the instructions for the starter to the T and everytime it seems to be going fine.  Lots of bubbles, bit of a stink - everything looking good.  But then I feed it and inevitably the next day it appears all seperated and funky.  There's been a layer of yellowish water on top and very little bubble and no matter the consistency when I start it turns out very thin and runny.  I've never had a crust form but the last batch even had fruit flies swarming towards it.  

Since it always seems to so south after about the fourth or fifth day I have restarted from the beginning three times now and just don't know what to do.  Could it be that it's too hot in my kitchen?  We don't have AC and its typically in the low 80s minimum in the kitchen.  Is my flour rubbish?  Am I just a terrible baker?

Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated - I was so excited when I found this gorgeous book and thought I would finally have an in to switching to all homemade bread.



dvuong's picture

Sounds like the yellowish water on top is what we call "hooch."  When hooch forms, it means that your yeasties are hungry and needs to be fed!  Just stir the hooch back into the rest of the starter and feed more often, perhaps to twice a day or up the ratio.  A 80 degree, minimum, kitchen is pretty warm and will cause the yeasts to be more active, thus needing to be feed more often.

jcking's picture
jcking room temperature (65°F)


Cachi's picture


Kenneth Rutz's picture
Kenneth Rutz

When all hope is lost, keep feeding. You can make it, just keep feeding. Although, i agree with dvuong, you probably have to be feeding it more often. My starter kicked off on the second day and double in size. then for the next 6 or seven days it did nothing. But i kept feeding and all those little buggers came around and it started doubling again with alcohol this time. I started with  three feedings a day for the first three days and from then on, twice a day. I put as much food in as there is starter each time and therefore I only have a really small starter. Basically, it's all good. When you feel like giving up, just keep feeding and you'll pull through