The Fresh Loaf

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Tartine Starter Question

Canyongap's picture

Tartine Starter Question

I'm a newbie (both to this forum and to Tartine bread).  I'm on my second starter attempt and not sure if what I have is working.

i started with 50 grams of 50/50 white all purpose and wheat King Arthur flour and 50 grams of bottled water.  By the third day I had a mix that had risen at least double.  I stirred all of it together, then discarded about 75 to 80%, leaving about 25 to 30 grams of starter, which I then fed with 50 grams of the 50/50 mix and 50 grams of water.  Covered with a single layer towel.  24 hours later it had risen about 300%.  I repeated the feeding.  Almost no activity for the next 7 to 8 days except for some bubbles around the edge.  Now, after about 10 days, I'm getting bubbles around the edge and a rise of about 50% after 10 to 12 hours, but it doesn't drop.  It's still at that level (or close) after 24 hours.  I'm still feeding every 24 hours, but unsure why the rise doesn't drop.  It stinks somewhat after 24 hours, not much odor after feeding.  Temperature is about 74 degrees, sitting in a fairly dark corner with no drafts.

Would appreciate your thoughts.  Thanks.







Sam Fromartz's picture
Sam Fromartz

Sounds like you have a live starter, it can go dormant for a bit in the day 2-6 as organisms compete with one another but if it is rising, you're doing just fine. Proceed to the recipe. Also the longer you let it sit the riper it will get, developing more acetic acid rather than the milder lactic acid earlier in the fermentation. 

FlourChild's picture

If your starter "stinks", it may not yet be ready.  You could try feeding it 1:1:1, so 25g seed starter, 25g flour mixture and 25g water, then let it ferment until it rises and then falls back- even it if takes several days, make sure you wait until it falls back down a good amount. If the starter is drying out on top (a skin might prevent it from visibly falling), you can switch to an airtight cover with no ill effects.

After it has fallen, feed it again but still just 1:1:1, don't go up to 1:2:2 which is what you have been feeding.  Again, wait until it has risen then fallen back a good distance.  The reason to wait this long is that you are trying to build up enough acidity to ward off stinky, undesirable microbes.  The reason to feed equal amounts flour and seed starter is to retain enough of that acidity to continue to ward off undesirables. 

Continue to feed 1:1:1, waiting each time until the starter falls back before feeding again.  

phaz's picture

I think the important question is -  what does the stink smell like?  it sounds like you're on the right track,  starters can smell really bad the first few days or so,  that's normal.  but it should change to a soury sweet smell when things start to balance out. I went from strong blue cheese the first 2-3 days to old paint thinner the next 3 or so days,  then a green Apple smell (used white flour to get it going). once it hit that stage it was fine and has been for the last 6 or so months. dropping after a rise - Try not

feeding until it does drop. you just may have an over abundance of food. nothing wrong with that, except the starter will be a little diluted. you can also skip feeding and just stir it up. if it keeps rising with just a stir, there's plenty of food. then you can just stir till the rise slows or stops, and then begin feeding again. it may just be my starter, but I find a little food goes a long way. I keep about a quarter cup starter and feed once every day or 2 when temps are around 70F. I only feed it about a tablespoon ap and tablespoon whole grain rye with a splash of water to get a very wet dough consistency and that seems to last. I've let it go for 3 days without feeding. took an extra couple hours to get my normal rise after feeding, but all ok. I just made a loaf using the 3 day unfed starter and it was just fine. got a little more tang, that was the only difference. matter of fact, I liked the extra sour, so I'm going to an every other day feeding schedule for the extra tang. oh, using some flours, and depending on starter consistency, you may not see a drop. I get this now that I'm feeding some whole grain rye. didn't happen when I was feeding ap flour exclusively. happy baking!
Canyongap's picture

Thanks for the feedback.  It doesn't stink badly, just a slight odor after 24 hours, not much smell at all after feeding.  I'm not very good at classifying the smell.  Will work a little harder at that.

I did feed this morning at 24 hours, and it hadn't dropped at that point.  It had a little bit of "skin" on the top.  I stirred that back in and fed 1:1:1.  I then capped the jar, so hopefully won't have a "skin" on the top tomorrow to possibly prevent it from dropping.

I'll also wait for a few days to see if it falls.  If it does, then I'll spread the feedings out for awhile.  I'll post again when it's had a chance to rise and fall.

Thanks again for the help.