The Fresh Loaf

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Total failure after moving

Julian Locke's picture
Julian Locke

Total failure after moving

Back at home in Boston, I was churning out fairly successful tartine style loaves every weekend, following recipe in tartine book 1. See an example below. 

I've since moved to durham NC, started a new starter, and following the same recipe, am producing terrible loaves, with seemingly no yeast activity at all (see title image). My starter is thriving, my leaven is passing the float test, I'm not sure what is going wrong. Has anyone experienced anything like this? I'll detail the process followed below just incase something is off. I don't see how this process is leading to such extreme failures.

Starter maintenance: fed twice daily at 9am + pm. New started is 1:3:3, so 30g old starter, 90g water, 90g flour (sometimes 50 150 150).

On the day of a bake, at 9am I'll take a tablespoon of the starter and mix it with 200g 50/50 flour and water, and store at 82 degrees until it passes the float test, usually around 4pm. 

At 4pm I mix 200g of leaven with 900g white flour, 100g whole wheat flour, 700g 80 degree water, auto in 82 proof box for 30 min.

Then add 50g water + 20g salt, back in proof box until 10 pm, stretch and folds every 30 minutes for first two hours.

Shape at 10 pm (6 hour bulk), fridge until morning, then bake in combo cooker at 500 for 20, 450 for 10, then uncovered for 20. Result:

Am I missing something silly here? I'm completely baffled. I was consistently making good bread using this technique.

Justanoldguy's picture

How old is your new starter compared to your old one in Boston? Are you using the same brands of flour for the starter and the loaves? Did you bring your appliances, stove and fridge, with you? If not a likely suspect would be the temperature in those appliances and I'd make sure that they're really performing as they indicate. Is the ambient temp in your new home in line with your old residence's? In other words, if your technique is the same as before it might have more to do with new stuff - starter, appliances, flour brands and types. 

Julian Locke's picture
Julian Locke

I'm using a new brand of whole wheat flour but that same of bread flour. (switched from KA to Whole Foods). I've verified that the oven + proof box temperatures are as expected. Fridge may be different temperature, but I feel like that shouldn't be enough to cause this complete of a failure.

BrianShaw's picture

Double check the specs on the flour.

BreadLee's picture

Just some thoughts and guesses here based on your explanation. 

1. I'm an hour away from you,  in the Triad area.  

2. Your new starter is most likely the culprit in your woes. 

3. You may try mixing your main dough a bit earlier and catch that starter yeast activity at the 4 hour mark? So instead of 4pm, try 1pm. I know the Tartine method uses a 4 hour time frame with that.  

4. Try using an organic whole wheat in your starter.  See if that gives it a kick in the butt. 

5. I'll be attending the Ringo Starr concert at DPAC in Durham in a couple weeks.  Wooooooooo!

Good luck! 

Bread Lee


BaniJP's picture

I remember when I made my starter, it took about 10 days until it was active and another two weeks or so until it produced good results (even though it passed floating tests before). So maybe it just needs more time? Just a hunch...
In my experience starters can be a little grumpy in the beginning, but after some time they behave well.

Btw, I have the same problem (breads flat after moving, same techniques and ratios), so I'll follow this conversation with great interest (see my posts for more details).

OldLoaf's picture

Firsrt, do you have city water, or well water?  I live about 90 miles S/E of you East of the Fayettevellr/ Fort Bragg area and our city water here is horrible for making bread.  Too many chemicals.  I use filtered wate (Eaither Brita or my GE fridge) and let it sit out overnight so whatever sanitizing chemicals are left can evaporate.  Makes a big difference for my leveain.  I had been using KA AP flour for my seed, but will be switchng to Central milling real soon.

Welcome to NC!!!



Julian Locke's picture
Julian Locke

Well, after putting this away for a while, I tried again with bottled water, and what do you know, my starter and m dough were both WAY more vigorous. It was definitely a case of too much chloramine in the water. Thanks for all the tips!

idaveindy's picture

Thank-you for the report.  It really helps to know this.

Some people are reluctant to accept the possibility that one of the "things that change" when they move to a new home is.... the water.     

Your report lends credence to the idea that people need to seriously consider the change in water.