The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Yet another Tartine newbie feeling lost..

Foster Glen's picture
Foster Glen

Yet another Tartine newbie feeling lost..

So here is the long story. 8 days ago I began my starter following an online recipe that described the Tartine method. I combined 315g of 50/50 white and wheat flour (Trader Joe's AP, and KA) with 455g of warm water. It seemed sort of watery but I went with it. I put it in my basement where the temp was about 64%. I now know that it too cold, but bear with me. After 4 days the thing actually began to look like it had some life in it. I had some bubbles and hooch...also some weird looking greenish blue stuff. In any case I removed the moldy lookng stuff and got rid of all but 50g of the starter and and followed the 1:2:2 ratio I found that people were using here and I brought the starter up stairs where the temp is always around 71F. Then..the thing seemed lifeless. I fed it for two days with no signs of life less 4 bubbles (I counted them). I decided to skip feeding yesterday and this morning had some hooch. I thought...well maybe they are alive, but hungry. After reading way (too much) here..I decied to "super charge" my starter with some rye flour (AM Organic). Fed it this morning at 10:00 and have seen no activty. So after this lengthy question(s) I continue to feed this bowl of mush that only really smells "bready" or do I wait until the smell changes? or do I add pienapple juice? or do I scrap the whole thing and start over? Every starter recipe makes it seem so simple, yet so many variables persist. Looking for guidance out of the forest. Thanks.


grind's picture

a simple and efficient method, nicely mapped out -

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

just add some to it (don't discard this time) and after it has gone thru that food, the next discard/feed should be a combination of more wheat and some rye.  The trick to starters is to stick to one method and not switch around mid-project when you get impatient.  

Yeasty sounds good but go back to the food it was eating.  You should soon be feeding about 1:2:2 every 12 hours or more importantly feed it when it smells strong yeasty and has risen as high as it can.  With each feed, it should be rising sooner and higher provided it is doughy enough to do so.  When you introduce a new food flour to the starter, do so slowly with a small amount of new flour and predominantly the food it is used to.  That way you are not forcing a major micro-flora adjustment on the culture resulting in a long pause of inactivity.  

Once the doughy starter can raise itself, pineapple juice is no longer needed. 

A little warmer would also help the starter, closer to 75°F



phaz's picture

 give it more time with regular feedings.  not unusual to see a few days of little to no activity with a new starter. I was able to get a healthy starter in a week at temps far lower than what you have now.  it will take time, but worth it in the end

jeffypoo's picture

I started mine with 1:1 whole-rye flour and water (by weight). Just kept discarding half and replacing it with new water and flour every 12 hours - and had a pretty stable/active starter within a week. At that point, you can keep it as a rye starter, or just start feeding it bread flour instead. (Or have two kinds!)

mm-baker's picture

I had similar issues with the tartine starter. You may have seen my post. Dissatisfying as it might be, I would suggest that you just continue on as you have been. I baked my first loaf yesterday after waiting a little more than a full month for the tartine starter to mature. My starter would rise very slowly by 20% or so (bready smell, no big bubbles just tiny ones) and then about 3 full weeks into the process it started to pick up speed. If you do decide to experiment with modifications to the tartine directions, I'd recommend doing them in parallel and maintaining your existing regimen. (I needed to do this type of testing to convince myself that I wasn't over or underfeeding etc.) While waiting I also started a 100% rye starter that I fed at 1:1:1 twice daily, and it started behaving normally within 3-4 days.  You might try that as a backup strategy (and to boost morale) so that you can start making bread sooner. 

When I compared my rye starter to my tartine starter, I noticed a few things that helped me. My rye starter was much thicker than the tartine starter, which went from a thick paste to a soupy consistency by the next feeding. Both were 100% hydration, but I decided to dial back on the hydration of the tartine starter a little bit and saw more loft. I also began to think that my flour (50% community grains organic whole wheat, 50% KA bread flour) was breaking down due to my starter being proteolytic. I started adding a bit of rye to my starter and worked up 40-50% rye with rest the blend of ww/bread flour. I also added a pinch of salt on occasion since I've read this can prevent gluten breakdown. My starter had a lot more structure and loft almost immediately after these changes. 

Let me reiterate that my starter definitely did become somewhat active using the instructions for tartine method before I made these changes, but it took a long time and I never saw the type of behavior others describe (tripling, quadrupling in 4-6 hours, for example). It took me 3 weeks before getting slightly more than doubling at the peak -at first this took at least 12 hours but has gotten somewhat faster since.  Nevertheless, I was pleasantly surprised that it seemed to work well enough for baking. Don't be discouraged. Your started may just require more time to get established! 

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

by understanding just what is going on in the starter.  By discarding twice a day at cold temps (anything below 75°F and above 60°F) you are delaying growth.  Don't discard the first few days.  If your room temps are cold like mm-baker, you don't need to feed every day, every second or third day would be enough and not at all during the first week.  Overfeeding in the beginning of creating a starter is the surest way for it to take forever.  

What starter can get going if everytime it even starts to feel like it is making a nice nest for itself,  the nest gets ripped open and thrown away?  Understand what you are doing!  When the culture numbers build to the point of rapid increase in population, the culture can be fed more flour in fact the starter demands more food.  If you are not sure your starter is growing, leave it alone.  It will let you know when it is hungry, it will smell yeasty and beery.

Foster Glen's picture
Foster Glen

Thanks for all your input guys. I finally got my starter into a nice happy rhythm about a week ago. It was doubling or tripling each day. I made my first loaf today and have some issues. My leaven floated per the directions, bulk fermented for 3.5 hours in my oven at 77F-85F doing four turns in the first 2 hours, shaped, rested, shaped again and then into basket. On the second rise, I needed to leave so I refrigerated for 6 hours. I returned home took it out for 1.5 hours and baked. The dough was super flat and did not rise much + I got a big hole near the crust (cavitation?). Any help would be appreciated. 

Monkadelic's picture

I'm no expert, but that just sounds like it over-proofed.  In my limited experience, I have learned that the final proof is one area of the whole baking proess where one needs to be nearby at all times.  I've baked so many flat and tired looking loaves in the past six months, but less and less as time goes by, and this is simply due to checking my loaded bannetons every half hour, if not more.