The Fresh Loaf

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Tartine Starter refreshing question

DarkNova's picture

Tartine Starter refreshing question

I recently got the Tartine Bread book and started a Tartine starter. I'm trying to follow his method exactly, but have a question about it. A few days ago my starter reached the point where it's yeasty and rising and fall predictably.

On page 46, he talks about the refreshing process and makes it seem like his maintenance procedure is to feed the starter every 24 hours with a 1:2:2 ratio of starter:flour:water (by weight).

Then on page 72, as he talks about the starter in more detail, he says "refreshing a starter on a regular schedule with the same amount and blend of flour while storing the starter in a temperature-stable environment (ideally 65 to 75F) will train it into a predictable and lively natural leaven." and later "We always feed at moderate room temperature using a small seed amount (less acid transfer), and we feed often -- a few times per day depending on the season."


So what I'm trying to get a handle on is how much and when to feed my starter. It seems to me like there are 3 variables involved in feeding a starter: temperature, feed ratio, and timing the feed. As the temperature goes up, the yeast goes through its food more quickly. If I give it more food up front, it has more time to go through its food before its exhausted. And from what I've read elsewhere, it seems like normally you want to feed the starter shortly after it starts to receed in volume (as then you know it has exhausted its food supply).

It is difficult to control room temperature as it fluctuates all year long. So this indicates that as the room temperature goes up, I need to either feed the starter more food (less starter in the ratio), or feed it more frequently.

I realize either would work, but I'm trying to understand, what does Chris actually do in the Tartine method? I can't find a satisfactory answer as it seems like he tells you to feed every 24 hours, on a regular schedule, but then later he says they may feed a few times per day depending on the season. He also mentions feeding "using a small seed amount" but I'm unclear if he means the 20% seed (1:2:2 ratio) that he listed elsewhere, or if he uses a smaller seed when its warmer out.

Thanks for the help.

dabrownman's picture

lot of work to me and a huge waste of flour too but maybe that is what is required to keep a large commercial bakery humming along - I wouldn't know about that.  I keep 80 g of starter at no more than 70% hydration in the fridge and feed it once a week after making a couple of loaves of bread a week that use about 50 g of it.  Mine is 33% each AP, WW and rye.  Since I bake just about every week I don't throw anything away and the starter is aways ready to go.  What I do probably isn't what most others do though - but it works for me.

Happy Baking

clazar123's picture

When kids are hungry they start complaining ( so does my spouse). When starters are hungry, they start making hootch or smelling funny. So if you have been going along with a 65F room temp and feedings are going well and the summer temp goes to 85F ,the starter may complain. When yeast/levain is cool, they don't eat too much. When the temp goes up and they are warm, they are lots more active and eat a lot! Feed them more. I have the Tartine book but I don't follow his method (his original method calls for TONS of flour-I do 2 TBSP to start a starter)so I can't comment on what he would do. For me, I keep a half pint canning jar 1/4 full with starter(prob about 80g as prev mentioned). If I leave it out on the counter, I feed it once or twice a day, depending on how warm it is. I usually get it well fed over 2 days and then put it back in the refrig. til the next weekend (I bake every weekend and take the starter out every Thurs PM for 2 feedings so it is ready to make a preferment on Fri PM.) Find what works for you. A lot depends on how you use your starter and how often you bake. So find some recipes that work and tailor your feeding schedule so you are successful.

There are as many feeding/storage/maintenance methods as there are Fresh Loafers. Find what works for you.

Doc.Dough's picture

A stable starter can tolerate a lot of variation in temperature and to some extent inter-refreshment time intervals. I keep about 30g of starter on the counter and feed it once (if I forget) or twice a day at something like 2:14:14. Typical temperature is 23°C in the summer and 20°C in the winter.  You don't have to feed it at exactly the same growth phase every time, but if you wait too long the population starts to die off, not very quickly but very definitely.  However, since a healthy starter has about 10E7 LAB per gram and 10E5 yeast per gram, you could lose a lot of them and still get it back in one refresh cycle.  The LAB always finish growing first and stop when the pH gets low, leaving behind much maltose; the yeast are slower but continue to multiply until the food supply (glucose, fructose, and a bunch of glucofructans) is exhausted.  Yeast is insensitive to pH (over typical sourdough growth conditions).  One criteria for continuous propagation is that the post-refresh pH should be at least 5.0 or the LAB population will decline relative to the yeast over time.  This motivates a refresh ratio higher than 1:1:1, and if you miss a feeding you probably want to go higher than 1:2:2.  At typical room temperatures 1:10:10 will fully refresh in ~9-10 hrs (26°C) to ~16-18 hrs (20°C).


tfranko29's picture

means about 2 tablespoons