The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Tartine starter

Yves Duboin's picture
Yves Duboin

Tartine starter

Just finished my first Tartine bread, I followed the starter and the leaven directions. He mentions that the starter is ready when it floats in water, mine never did despite waiting longer as recommended. I ended up adding some dry yeast and the bread came out OK. Does anyone  has any suggestion I would like to avoid using dry yeast in the future.







lepainSamidien's picture

Hi Yves,

I would say that temperature is the most important factor in getting a good rise out of a starter. Make sure that, when you are building your levain, you use warm water and warm (or room temp.) flour.

Also, a good rule for all steps of bread-making: trust the dough, NOT THE CLOCK ! Given times for rising, baking, etc., can only be extremely approximate because the fabrication de pain is a delicate process that responds very much to different environments. C'est-à-dire, one's process of making bread has to conform to the environment, which changes from season to season, week to week, day to day even ! 

It has taken me a lot of practice and a lot of time (and a lot of patience and failure, to boot) to acquire a decent connaissance of my starters and how they react to different flours, temperatures, etc. I can say that it can be a disheartening project, at times, but one at which you must keep working in order to get better.

Bon courage !

cerevisiae's picture

How long have you had your starter? If it's fairly new, it simply may not be ready to use yet. If you are new to starters, some of it may be you getting used to it. My starter moves pretty quickly, but sometimes it doesn't pass the float test because I've deflated it a bunch when removing some, or it's sat too long.

However, since I know more or less how my starter looks, smells, and tends to behave, I can still tell (most of the time) if it's something I want to use to make bread at that point.

Craig_the baker's picture
Craig_the baker

Mine will often not float but it still works fine without the use of dried yeast.

David Esq.'s picture
David Esq.

Let me tell you a little story...

Wednesday night, I made my levain by mixing 200 grams of freshly milled flour with 200 grams of water.

Thursday morning, the levain looked relatively unchanged, maybe a little more spread out.

My wife put the levain in the fridge on Thursday afternoon, and by Thursday night it still looked dead.

I then realized I had forgotten to add my starter to the water before adding my freshly milled flour to create the levain.

Thus, what I actually did was autolyze 200 grams of water with 200 grams of flour for 24 hours.

No wonder, my levain looked dead!

I took a tablespoon of my just fed refrigerated starter and kneaded it into my 400 gram dough mass, and by the next morning my levain was filling the glass bowl nicely, filled with air pockets and ready to pass the float test.

This probably won't help you any. But it is good to know that being absent minded does not prevent one from recovering.

Your levain may not have passed the float test because:

1) You forgot to add it.

2) Your starter is dead.

3) You did not give it enough time.

4) You did not spoon it out gently enough and collapsed the air pockets that would have let it float.

If the levain appeared to have grown substantially rather than continued to look like the freshly mixed dough that you started with, it was probably the 4th reason.