The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Is 1 TBS Enough??

EZANO's picture
EZANO

Is 1 TBS Enough??

Hi, sporadic Tartine baker here for the past few years, just now getting back into it. I decided to bake a loaf, took out my starter last week and have been feeding it regularly for the past few days; it's rising and falling predictably and seems full of life. Last night, following the Tartine instructions, I pulled out a TBS and mixed it up with 200G of 50/50 flour and 200G H2O. I checked on it this morning after I woke up - 7 hours later - and it's got no life. Clearly not active. I remembered last time I baked a loaf something similar happened, but that was some time ago.

My question is this -- is 1 TBS of starter enough to create an active levain when paired with 200G flour and 200G H2O? Seems like a small motor to power a big train, if that analogy makes sense. I'm thinking I need to add much more active starter next time. Anyone else have a similar experience and/or recommendations?

Lechem's picture
Lechem (not verified)

Then a little will inoculate a lot if given enough time. From the sound of things your starter is fine so the questions are have you waited long enough and how warm is it?

Are you sure there are no signs of life? Try taking a spoon and looking underneath the surface.

A mature starter will inoculate a whole dough even at 1% over 24 hours.

EZANO's picture
EZANO

It was out in around 65-67 degree kitchen for 7-8 hours. I pulled it back with a spoon, nothing. And I know the smell of a starter/levain that's ready to be used and it smelled like fresh dough. I even tried a quick float test, which it failed. My intuition tells me I need more mature starter and warmer temps, but I was trying to follow the Tartine instructions, which say 1 TBS mature starter, and 200G of both flour and water, and even specifies a cool room around 65 degrees. Tartine also says to use a young levain, so it's not adding up for me.

Lechem's picture
Lechem (not verified)

If memory serves me correctly you're only going to be needing 150g of this levain build and you've now built over 400g!

When it comes to a Tartine recipe I skip the levain build advice and just make sure I've got 150g of mature starter built to the correct hydration and flour. Otherwise how I build is my own choice.

I might do something like : 30g starter + 60g water + 60g flour. Allow this to mature then onto the recipe.

It's quicker. I haven't built more then I need and if all goes wrong I haven't wasted 400g of starter.

I think you should keep it as warm as possible and see if it wakes up. If not then don't waste it. Add some yeast and turn it into a yeasted bread.

EZANO's picture
EZANO

You're right. I know how much levain I need and what it takes to build it. The Tartine instructions do indeed waste a ridiculous amount of levain, I think I just needed to hear someone else say it! Thanks for weighing in.

pmccool's picture
pmccool

If you can arrange for warmer temperature, you'll have a better shot at hitting your desired timing.  Or, if time isn't pressing, just let it develop at ambient temperature at its own speed. 

Paul

Lazy Loafer's picture
Lazy Loafer

Yeah, I'm with Lechem on this one. For the Tartine breads I usually just make my regular levain using the same proportions that Lechem recommended (i.e. 30 grams of starter, 60 grams of flour and 60 grams of water for 150 grams of levain) and go from there. I will make it a different hydration if that is really important, or a different blend of flours, but don't fuss too much about it. The low inoculation ones just take too long to fuss with. I still use it 'young' so it's not sour (or not too sour, anyway).

EZANO's picture
EZANO

Right on. Out of curiosity, how young is your levain typically when you use it to mix up a loaf?

Lazy Loafer's picture
Lazy Loafer

It depends on my baking schedule, and a few other things. Typically I'll build the levain around 9:00 or 9:30 in the morning and start mixing the sourdoughs around 4 in the afternoon. The levain will be soft and billowy by then and float like a dream! I could probably use it earlier if I want to though.

dabrownman's picture
dabrownman

Take the amount of levain you need and divide by 15.  in this case you get 10.  take 10 g of starter and feed it 10 g each of flour and water.  4 hours later feed it twice the amount 20 g of flour and water 4 hours later that feed it twice the 2nd feeding or 40 g each of flout and water.  4 hours after that you have a nice leva n ready to go that is exactly 150 g.

EZANO's picture
EZANO

I may give that a try, thanks.