The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Tartine levain vs mature starter help please

CMCVOL's picture

Tartine levain vs mature starter help please

To start off I'm a beginner here. Following Robertson's method for his baguettes, I am getting so confused on his definition of mature starter. I have a culture that I feed in the mornings. I consider that culture a "starter" that I refresh/feed in the morning that will  be a"mature starter" in about 7-8 hours at 80 degrees.

In his baguette method, his leaven requires 1 tbs of a "mature starter" mixed w AP flour, water that will rise overnight. 

Can anyone clarify this for me? Im trying to bake at home but w a usual 7a-3p work schedule, so there's much difficulty re timing. 

WatertownNewbie's picture

Your starter is what you feed each morning, and the fed starter that has been re-nourished for a bit is your mature starter.  In other words, what you described in your post is correct.

What I do for a Tartine recipe is weigh out 40 grams of mature starter (which I have found is pretty close to 1 Tbsp and is easier to measure) and then add the other levain ingredients.

Also, if you happen to do a search (on TFL or online generally), you will find that the words starter, levain, poolish, biga, barm, mother, and others similarly found in recipes have caused much angst and no small amount of debate.  Sounds like you are dong the right thing already.  Please post something when your baguettes are finished (photos are especially appreciated).

Happy baking.


CMCVOL's picture

Thanks Ted. I will post as soon as Im able to bake these. So much terminology swimming in the brain. Probably doesn't help reading multiple bakers' books (Forkish, Hamelman). Appreciate the feedback!!

gavinc's picture

From Jeffrey Hamelman:

Starter: A general term for a sourdough culture.

Levain: A French term for sourdough bread. It can also refer to the final stage of building before the dough is mixed.


Filomatic's picture

We all stumble over terminology because as others have pointed out either the terms are interchangeable or are used loosely (or at time incorrectly).  It's pretty clear what Chad intends once you know what you're doing, but in the beginning there is a lot of info to digest, and it takes time and experience for it to sink in.

Basically, starter, levain, and final dough are all just naturally leavened dough at different stages, using different ratios of starter, flour, and water, and varying the type of flour used and the temperatures needed to get the result sought.

I always recommend Hamelman's Bread to anyone, but especially to new bakers starting with Tartine.  Hamelman is the best all around teacher and recipe provider.  I love Tartine, and it's worthwhile trying his methods, but be aware that very highly hydrated doughs are extremely hard to work with, especially at the fermentation temps Chad suggests.  So feel free to lower the hydration level into the low 70's % for mostly white flour doughs until you are more comfortable at shaping.


UpsideDan's picture

I am currently using this baguette formula and can contribute the following observations: (1) the leaven should be in its “young and sweet” stage and not sour and that can be best tested by the smell. I find that I need to use only 10 grams of mature starter for that purpose since a full tablespoon makes the leaven too sour. You should test what works best at your environment. (2) the book suggests adding 3 grams of yeast to the poolish, assuming 3-4 hours of fermentation or overnight in the fridge. You can use instead 1/8 teaspoon or even less and leave it at room temperature overnight. It will be ready together with the leaven (3) keep 50 gram of water for dissolving the salt and add them together with the first turn, and (4) stir the poolish, leaven and water very well together until it is all liquid and well dissolved.