The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Tartine Starter

kplsouljah's picture

Tartine Starter

Good morning.  I'm new here.  I've been baking simple breads for years but have recently entered the world of wild-yeasted bread. I started with Tartine's Country Loaf and I have a slew of questions. Perhaps some of you can help. 

I got my culture going with no trouble.  It looked and smelled just as the book indicated it should.  

The I began feeding the starter once daily.  My first question is about the texture of the starter.  When I use equal amounts of the  50/50 flour mix and water the batter seems very thick.  I have attached a photo.  Is this thicker than it should be?  I have also been moving the starter to a clean bowl once I feed it.  Is this a bad idea for any reason? 

So after I feed the starter it does seem to rise and get some bubbles some of the time.  It gets that acidic/sour smell going but it doesn't look like it's doing much.  I have been feeding it for a week today.  I live in a cold climate but my kitchen is about 65 degrees.  The book suggests keeping your starter in a "cool, dark place".  Is 65 degrees too cold? Does this sound wrong or do I just need to give it more time?

Thanks so much for reading!

Ford's picture

I think that the mixture of flour and water is not too thick.  Equal parts of flour and water, by weight, gives a 100% hydration.  Most sourdough bakers use this or even less water in their starter. 

A temperature of 75 to 85°F is more conducive to growth of the yeast and the lactobacteria.  Lower temperatures will work, but the growth of the culture will be slower.


kplsouljah's picture

Thank you Ford.  Any idea how long is takes to "train" this starter?  Does a few weeks sound reasonable?  Anyone have suggestions for trying to achieve these higher temps in a cold climate?

Ford's picture

In answer to your questions the below answers are good ideas, choose the one that best suits you  As for the amount of time -- a few weeks seems about right.  You can then put the freshly fed starter in the refrigerator until needed.  The day before you want to use it, refresh in the ratio of 1:1:1 by weight alow to ferment for about eight hours at 75 to 85°F, then feed again at the same ratio and let it ferment for another eight or ten hours.  It should be ready to go at that time.  As a safety precaution dry some of your starter on parchment paper and store it in a glass jar or closed plastic bag.


linder's picture

Hi Kplsouljah,

There are a few things you can do to provide a warmer environment for your starter.

1) If you have a microwave, you could boil a cup of water in it.  Leave the cup of water in the microwave and put your starter in a covered container in the microwave.  Check the temperature inside the microwave, it could be 80F so your starter will ferment more quickly in the warmer environment.

2) If you don't have a microwave, then you could use a large ice chest/cooler.  Place boiling water in a cup, put the cup in the cooler, put the starter in a covered container in the cooler.  Again, check the temperature inside the cooler to be sure you don't over ferment your starter and check the starter periodially too.

3) Buy a Brod and Taylor home proof box ($150).  They work really well and allow you to set the temp. you want for the fermentation.

4) Some folks use their oven to provide a warmer environment. 

For more ideas, do a search on maintaining sourdough fermentation temperature.

Best wishes,


AR's picture

Hello kplsouljah,

Starter.  Looks about right to me.  Alt. for microwave is using a crockpot (should you have one) set on high for 10 minutes.  Shut it off and place starter in it's container inside pot, cover with the lid.  The heat will be retained for at least an hour at which point turn the crockpot back on for a couple of minutes just to ensure you have low level heat.  For heavens sake do not forget about it as I have done, the crockpot will cook it....Easy procedure and I have done this for years with excellent results.

pjkobulnicky's picture

Just to give yourself a visual cue for the strength of your starter, put it in a glass measuring cup (2 cups are OK for the Tartine volume). Note the volume when you put in a newly refreshed starter and then note the volume about 6-8 hrs later. An active starter should easily double in volume.