Monday, August 29, 2011

Sourdough Starter, Demystified UPDATED AS OF FEB. 2013

UPDATE (added February 13, 2013)
Please read my current (February 2013) post, which actually outlines, photographically and written, how to begin a rye starter that is wholly 'guaranteed' to be issue free. If you are having problems with your whole wheat/AP flour starter, this may shed some light for you and help you realize a viable starter more successfully in just 9 days.
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After a few emails from people feeling daunted about spawning their own sourdough cultures, I created a simple photographic summary which you can follow. I included, along with the photos, an in-depth outline to clarify any obscurities that you might encounter.

I encourage you to start your culture now. Follow the directions below, and in about a week, you should be well on your way to the fabulous world of wild yeast risen bread. It's not difficult, costly or time consuming. For now, all you need is flour, water, and a reliable scale.

Have a look:




SUPPLY LIST
- Bottled spring water
- Dark rye flour
- All purpose flour, I use King Arthur

UPDATE: I actually use all rye flour to maintain my starter, and I would not go back to adding white flour. Rye flour has an abundance of nutrients that make maintaining your starter foolproof. I will keep the instructions as is, because rye flour can be admittedly expensive, and you may want to keep costs lower by using a mix of rye and all purpose. Just know that you CAN use all rye flour for your new starter, and to maintain one. And it will be easier for your starter to grab hold if you do go this route. The options are endless. You can make an all white starter from this new starter once it grabs hold, you can keep doing a blend of rye and white, you can do all rye, you can do a blend of whole wheat and white, you can do all whole wheat. I just wanted to update you and let you know what I personally do for my own starter. And just a reminder, every detail in my posts outline exactly what brand and type of flour I use, exact ratios and times, and what sort of starter and levain that I use.

Day one



Weigh your empty jar, write the weight on the jar with a Sharpie. You will see why we did this tomorrow.



Place the jar on the scale. Tare the scale to zero. Mix to a smooth paste: 50g h2o, 25g rye flour, 25g all purpose flour this will equal 100g of starter. Put in a warm spot in the kitchen for 24 hours.


Day two



This was my starter after a mere 17 hours, and I thought I might share. Your starter may look like this, but it's unlikely, unless you live next door to a bakery. The reason mine is already active is because I bake bread often, so the presence of wild yeast in the air is greater than the average household that does not bake bread. Your starter may not look much different than when you mixed everything together the first day. Perhaps there are a couple of air pockets in the paste, maybe it's a bit frothy. Whatever the case, you are right on track.

Before you feed your starter, there is one other thing, aside from the appearance, that you should be looking at. Smell. Have a sniff. Mine was moderately sour smelling, pleasant, and with overtones of rye. The nose of your starter is something that you should check in on regularly. It should smell crisp and vinegary, though in the beginning, there will only be hints of these notes. When your starter is mature, it can burn your nose if you take a big whiff, not gravely, but like vinegar might if you shove your nose in it. It should not smell foul or funky or unpleasant at all. Remember, this is a fermented food, so it should smell pickled and sour. But there is a difference between sour and just plain gross.

OK. Its been 24 hours, you are ready for your first feeding. Put the jar on the scale. The number there is the weight of the jar PLUS the starter, of course.



Now you will learn why we wrote the number on the jar. The total weight of the jar plus 100g os starter should now be around 358g (100g of starter plus 258g for the jar). Pour off or scoop  out (into an awaiting container) enough culture so that the jar, with starter, weighs the gram amount of the empty jar PLUS 50g, because we want to save a total of 50g of starter to keep going with our project. For instance, my empty jar weighs 258g. I will scoop out enough culture so that my jar, with culture, will weigh 308g (258g for the jar, 50g for the starter). To make a 150g starter, I want 50g of starter to remain.



Once you make weight (50g of starter), you can safely toss the excess culture. You don't want to toss your cast-off starter directly into the trash because, well, you can't fish it out again if you accidentally remove too much.


Toss this.

Now, tare the scale to zero. To your 50g of starter, add in 50g of bottled h2o, room temp, 25g all purpose flour and 25g rye flour. This will total 150g.




Mix thoroughly and apply the lid.



Pop back into its cozy spot, and in 12 hours, you will feed the starter again as you just did.

Note: From here on out you will feed your starter every 12 hours, so pick a time when you will be awake for both feedings. i.e., 8 am and 8pm.

Here are a few more photos of my starter after just 21.5 hours. Pretty remarkable, but a little unfair. When you bake bread at home, there are more wild yeasts in the air than a home that does not bake bread, so a new starter has many more yeasts to capture in my home, which is what begins the fermentation process. Once you get your starter going and bake regularly, you will build the amount of wild yeast in the air, and this sort of crazy fermentation will happen for you quickly as well.


Notice how it is getting even more frothy than this morning, which denotes some serious fermentation happening.



OK. Enough showing off. And don't worry, yours will eventually look like this if it does not already.


Day three

You should have fed your starter twice yesterday. If you didn't, shame on you. It is crucial in the beginning stages of fermentation that you feed your starter twice daily, at 12 hours apart. Once it takes hold and predictably rises (and falls - the starter will puff up a couple of hours after you feed it and stay that way for several hours, before falling back down again), then you can play around with how often you feed it. But we will get into maintaining your culture and the options you have with that later on.

OK, today, this third day, marks our third and fourth feedings. I am going to show you what mine looked like on this third day, but go back to the photos above and keep following those feeding instructions for the next few days.

Here are the pictures after my feedings on day three:

Day 3: 6 hours after first feeding


Day 3: 10 hours after first feeding

This is what my starter looked like every day for the next six days, predictably rising and falling.



Fallen starter: this means that the culture has eaten all of the sugar in the flour. Time to feed it again.

Don't worry about the falling part, your starter is not dying, this is part of the process. It just means that the culture has eaten all of the sugars from the flour that you added, and it will patiently wait until you feed it once again. You don't have to feed your culture more than once every 12 hours, no matter how deflated it looks. I will admit, I knocked the starter down a bit so that you can see what it looks like when its thoroughly fallen. This starter is really active!

Days four through nine

Every subsequent day my starter grew more 'tangy' in the nose, and it remained as active as the photos above. It also got thicker as the days progressed, and showed a network of gluten structure. I had to eventually scoop it out, whereas the first day it was a looser consistency that was easily poured.

You can try to make bread with your starter on the 6th day, but it is wise to wait till the 9th. Why? Because your culture will gain strength, reliability and complexity with age. The stronger your starter becomes, the more reliably it will raise your dough. Your culture will develop structure and complexity as well, and you will notice that as it matures, it develops its own flavor identity.


After the 9th day of double daily feedings, provided you live in a climate of moderate temperature, you can reduce your feedings to once a day (in warmer temperatures, keep feeding the starter twice daily, or if your starter is not predictably rising and falling with every feeding). You can also refrigerate your starter at this point (see information about this just below) if you plan to bake only periodically. Again, only refrigerate if rising and falling predictably, which shows that the starter is firmly established. I personally keep my starter on the counter. I have a 'back-up' starter in the fridge just in case something goes wrong with my counter starter.

You can also change the gram ratio of flours to 1/3 rye and 2/3 white flour in your feedings, or keep going with the 50/50 ratio of white and rye flours. I personally prefer using 100% dark rye flour starters in all of my baking.

Now you see how simple it is to grow a culture. I used to share the same fear about growing and maintaining one, just like you. I had heard all of the urban legends, about how sourdough cultures were some fragile thing that would die dramatically (cue thunder and lightening) then come back to haunt you if one of multiple daily feedings was missed, or if you were one gram off in your measurements. I had also heard that you would have to spend a small fortune on flour, elevating it from a tedious to a costly pursuit. I'm happy to report that none of this is true. Bread baking and maintaining my starter, contrarily, has been one of the happiest choices I made in my cooking life, and I encourage you to start yours as soon as possible so that you can have fresh baked bread whenever your life calls for it. In my own life, that's pretty much all of the time.

A few key notes to ensure success
Water:

Begin your starter on bottled water. The wild yeast starter is very sensitive to chlorine in tap water. The chlorine can actually kill the bacteria that is required to grow your starter. I just used inexpensive Trader Joe's bottled mountain/spring water at 89 cents a jug. You don't have to use Evian. Once your starter is good and strong, you can switch to filtered tap, or even use tap water that you've let sit out for 24 hours, as this allows the chlorine to dissipate. For the record, I use water from my Brita filter with great success.

The Vessel:

Use a pint jar for this project, nothing larger. I found that when I used a really big jar, my starter did not grow as well, in fact, it didn't grow at all. It took me weeks to grow my starter, and then I started tweaking things, like, where in the kitchen I stored it (see just below), what sort of water I used (see above), and oddly, what size vessel I used. It was when I put my starter in a more appropriately-sized vessel that it began to take hold.

Where to store it:

Put it in a warm place in the kitchen. I stored my new starter in a cabinet just above the fridge. The warmth from the refrigerator's motor migrates upward and warms the interior of the cabinet. The perfect environment for my starter. I also use the cabinet as a proofing box in very cold months. If you don't have a cabinet above the fridge, ON the fridge itself is a good spot. It's pretty warm up there. Once your starter takes root, you can store it on the counter (read the section below about how to set up your starter/flour station).

Flour:

I use King Arthur all purpose flour and either Bob's Red Mill dark rye flour or to your health sprouted rye flour (links above). I have also used Arrowhead Mills dark rye flour with fabulous success. Bob's is cheapest. And don't use light rye. It doesn't have enough nutrients, and the nutrients are what help your starter grow. Don't use cheap supermarket flour. It defeats the purpose of making artisan bread. Always buy the best quality flour that you can afford. King Arthur and Bob's Red Mill, which I use in the baking of my loaves as well, are inexpensive choices. I also experiment with artisan and sprouted flours with my breads which I always outline in my posts and provide links to so that you can purchase them yourself and experiment.

Quantity:

You don't have to maintain 150g of starter, in fact, I don't anymore. I only keep 60g of starter because I work with levains in my baking, where I only need a small amount of starter for a given formula. If I need more starter for any reason, say I am making four loaves of bread and would use up all of my starter, I just increase the total volume of it in the days before the bake. See the guidelines below for further explanation.

How to maintain your starter

You have a couple of options here in the maintenance of your starter. Here are some scenarios that will help you along.


Before I continue reading, my starter is not as active as yours, and its been a week, what should I do?


The same as you have been. Feed it every day, every 12 hours. And make sure that you 1) use bottled water to start, 2) measure things as accurately as you can 3) store the starter in a warm place 4) use an appropriately sized jar. For the amount that we are making here, I recommend using a pint jar, nothing larger.

Great, I followed your advice and it worked. Now how do I feed and maintain my starter?

I feed my starter every 24 hours when the temperature is cooler, and increase the feedings to twice a day (every 12 hours) two days to three days before I know I will bake bake bread. For example, if I know that I will bake bread on Wednesday, I will feed my starter once a day on Thursday, Friday, Saturday. On Sunday, I will begin feeding it twice a day, once in the morning, once at night, twice again Monday and on Tuesday I will start my levain,
which is the preferment for the bread I will bake Wednesday. If I don't need a preferment, I will simply feed it twice on Tuesday, and thus, my starter will be at peak strength Wednesday when I want to make bread. If you plan to bake bread a couple of times a week or more, by all means, feed it every 12 hours so that it is ready to go at a moments notice.

My Starter is rising and falling quickly when it's hot out, should I worry?
I feed my starter every 12 hours in very hot weather because when the temperature rises, the bacteria in the starter eats the sugars in the flour a lot quicker than when it's cooler. It has been hot in L.A., so, I feed it once in the morning and once at night. If it's uber hot, I will feed it 3x in a day. This is not unusual, but it is rarely the case. I live in L.A. and in the summer it can get to 100+ degrees.

Where do I store my starter?
I keep mine on the counter, next to the scale and my jugs of flour. I also keep a small 'dump container' handy, just a cheap plastic takeout container, where I scrape the exhausted starter and can easily pitch when it's full. You have to keep your setup efficient and accessible. If you have to dig out flour, scale, dump bucket and starter from a million different places, it will discourage you from keeping your bread baking endeavor alive. As well, now that my starter is powerful, I don't have to keep it in a very warm spot. When you begin your starter, keeping it in a warm place helps it to take hold.




Oh my GOD! I forgot to feed my starter for two days I think it's dead!

It's not dead. But try not to forget in the future. If you are not going to bake frequently, I encourage you to keep it in the fridge. Trust me, it likes it in there. As for your forgotten starter, just begin feeding it again as soon as possible. It will show signs of life quickly.

Geez, I added 2 grams too much water today and yesterday I added 5g too much flour, did I screw it up?

No, you didn't. This is not an exact science. Just continue to feed your starter, trying to achieve the gram weight indicated in the formula as closely as you can. If you're a gram or two off, nothing bad will happen at all.


Speaking of water, I used tap, is that OK?


In the beginning, I found that my new starter preferred bottled water. It was a baby, and more sensitive to the environment. But as your starter matures, you can use filtered tap from here on out, like, from your Brita pitcher. This is what I use. If you don't have filtered tap, use regular tap that has been sitting out for 24 hours. The chlorine will dissipate if the water is left to sit out for a few hours. And it is chlorine which challenges the growth of the bacteria in your starter. We don't want that.

Shoot, I was supposed to feed my starter at the 12 hour mark, but didn't get home in time and now its been 14. What should I do.

Just feed your starter as you normally would. I feed mine in the morning and at night, or once a day, dependent upon where I am on my bread schedule, and how hot it is. What time? Hm, who can say. The point is, it got fed. It's happy. And so is yours. Don't fret.

Help! I have travel plans! My starter will die!
Don't worry. It won't die. Your starter is resilient. This post was designed to make you realize just how so. OK, travel plans: If I plan to go out of town, I pop my culture in the fridge and there it happily awaits, unscathed, until I come back. Why? Because colder temperatures retard the starter just like proofing loaves. The slower it eats the sugars in the flour, the less often it needs to be fed. When you return, simply put it back on the counter and resume feedings as you normally would.

I don't plan to bake very often, maybe once a month.
That's fine. You can keep your starter in the fridge if you only want to bake periodically. Lets say that the last week of every month your grandmother comes to visit and she must have freshly baked bread. Fine. Just keep your starter in the fridge, and then 3 full days before she is due to arrive, take the starter out and feed it twice a day (every 12 hours) for the three consecutive days before her arrival. On the fourth day, you can bake bread with it. When granny is safely on the bus back home, feed your starter, then pop it in the fridge after a feeding. You don't have to think about it again till the week that she comes back. Just be sure that if you do plan to use the refrigeration method, you plan your baking in advance so that you have at least three full days of 12-hour spaced feedings before bake day so that the starter is running at optimum strength.


Two refrigerated starters, fed once a month...or so

I want to bake once a week like you, but damn, it's expensive to feed my starter twice a day!
It doesn't have to be costly. Remember, you only need to feed it once a day if the temperature is moderate, increasing the feedings to twice a day just two or three days before you bake bread. Aside from that, I keep a very modest amount of starter going. Did you notice the small amount in the jar pictured above? Here's what I do:

I only feed my starter(s) 20g of flour in a given feeding so that I maintain only about 60g of total starter at a given time (20g of water + 20g of flour + 20g seed starter = 60g of total starter; and just a note, I use 1/3 rye flour and 2/3 all purpose, that's 13g all purpose and 7g rye). That's only one spoonful of all purpose and one smaller spoonful of rye, once a day most months out of the year, and twice a day if its hot outside.


UPDATE: I now use ALL rye flour in my starter. No all purpose. And I still only maintain 60g of starter. So 20g of seed starter, 20g of water, 20g of rye flour. Please see my current post (CLICK HERE for the new post)



Sounds good, but I'm not only baking from the Tartine Bread book, and some bread books & websites call for more starter in the formula.

If a formula that requires a larger volume of starter piques my interest, I simply build the starter to increase its volume, instead of casting off the starter during feedings. For instance, we keep 60g of starter using the method I just explained above. If a formula calls for 100g, I would feed 40g of my starter with 40g of flour and 40g of water, which will equal 120g (40g starter + 40g water + 40g flour = 120g). Remember though, you also want to have some left over, right? You don't want to use all of your starter, then you have nothing leftover for future baking. Now you have 100g of starter for your project, and 20g is left over for you to keep feeding.

Finally, you can use this sourdough starter for any formula in any bread book that you have that calls for a 100% hydration starter, which is a common hydration percentage. Once you begin exploring wild yeast breads, there is no end to the variety of starters that you can grow, Leader's Local Breads is a fabulous and colorful resource that goes into depth about the different kinds of starters that you can achieve. And Susan, who owns Wild Yeast Blog, uses a 100% starter for most of her loaves, and she has loads of really interesting breads to add to your roster of loaves to accomplish. But you don't have to have 10 different starters for your breads. I've done just fine with one. Many artisan bakers have their favorite starters too, so don't feel obliged to keep a pantry of cultures on hand. If you require a starter with a lesser or higher percentage of water, you can certainly build a new starter, and fairly quickly, because the wild yeasts that have collected in your house from regular bread baking will allow you to conceive a new starter without too much effort, as you have seen from my starter above. You can also increase or decrease the percentage of water in your current 100% hydration starter. 

If you have any questions, or if you are nervous about your starter, please send me a note in the comments section. I check in on my blog frequently, and I am happy to help you along.

I hope this post helps to relieve you of any fears you've had around starting and maintaining a culture. I would love to know of your successes along the way!


To the staff of life!

113 comments:

  1. superuseful as usual! Thanks for sharing this, I follow your blog as it was my bread bible!

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  2. Valeria, you are so sweet. I feel so honored. How are your Tartine breads coming along?

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  3. This is an awesome resource! One I've been following very carefully now that I have a kitchen scale!

    I've gotten to day 9 and am now trying to decipher what to do next. I want to maintain 60 g of starter like you do. So I discard all but 20 g and add 14 g of white and 7 g of rye. But I want to start my preferment tonight... Do I need to feed my starter extra so that there will be some left? How much does 1 TBSP of starter weigh? That's what we need for the breads right?

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  4. Hi Christy Joy. Excellent! I would love to see pictures of your bread. No, you don't need to increase the amount of your starter. 1 TB of starter weighs about 15g. And yes, that is the volume used for the Tartine loaves. Do you have the book? Will you be starting with the white country loaf?

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  5. Oops, Christy, sorry, the calculation for the starter flour should be 7g rye and 13g of white. No biggie. Just one gram less on the white, thank you for highlighting that I need to make that change :)

    Good luck with the bread, and don't worry about 'kneading' the dough. Most of the strength built up in the dough comes from fermentation. when we do our turns (in which you will use a delicate hand) it primarily serves to 'organize' the gluten molecules, it does build strength as well, but a slight hand is all that is needed, especially at the third and fourth turns. Trust that the dough is 'doing its thing' during fermentation (building all those lovely gas chambers and strengthening its gluten strands). And be sure to give the bread proper time to autolyse. This is very important. Chad's method is fool proof if you don't get aggressive with the dough!

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  6. I actually don't have Tartine yet (that's why I've been using your blog!) But I do have Bread by Jeffrey Hamelman and Peter Reinhart's Wholegrain Breads and Healthy Bread in 5 Minutes a day by Jeff and Zoe. I've baked extensively from all 3 but am just now trying out my own sourdough starter because of our new kitchen scale :) I wanted to try Chad's method but since I don't have the book yet, I've been following your method. I plan to get it soon, it just hasn't happened yet! I also have a starter going from Peter Reinhart's whole grain breads and we'll see how that turns out as well. Thanks for your help! I was just stuck between the raw starter and pre-ferment stage.

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  7. Hi Frankie, I've read this post as you recommended. It is most instructive and I especially like that one can keep a very small amount of starter and yet keep it going. Thank you! Love everything about your posts - pictures, recipes, explanations, musings...

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  8. yay. im glad my post helps gretchen! i ADORE my starters. i keep a pair. they need the company of each other ; )

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  9. After having no luck with the Tartine starter, I am giving yours a shot. Starting today. Thanks for the post, I will keep you updated.

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  10. Franny D. Let me know how it all turns out. You should have no problem with the rye starter. Rye is excellent for new starters. I'm here if you have any questions!

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  11. HELLO EVERYONE! Just a note: you can use your rye starter for any bread formula. Some will specify what type of starter to use (what type of flour in the starter), but don't worry about that. The only thing that you need to be concerned with is hydration. This is a 100% starter, good for those formulae that call for 100% starters. In fact, Tartine calls for the use of its whole wheat starter which I (and evidently many people) found sluggish, so, I don't use the starter outlined in the book.

    Obviously it would be nice to have a rye, a white, a whole wheat starter, but unless you are baking around the clock, there is no need for all that. Plus, I love that my white breads have an additional bit of rye in them from the starter (I will also make a rye levain for a white dough, just fyi, just because I think it adds an interesting depth to white loaves).

    If you are working with a formula that calls for a higher amount of starter than you have, or a different hydration, you just need to do a bit of planning a day or two ahead of your planned bake day to transform or grow the starter.

    When I get on to other formulae that deal with differently hydrated starters, I will post my findings as soon as possible. For now, Tartine uses 100% hydration starters, and this is what my project is centered around.

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  12. It's Franny D, had trouble with log-on. I had to start over already. The first couple of days went okay, not great. But then I forgot a feeding and got the stinky water on top. Tried 2 more, but it never got bubbly again. I reluctantly started with what may have been stale rye (it was in a container). I now have a fresh bag of Bob’s and restarted today. You put the lid on real tight, right? I also do a lot of baking using yeast preferment and chef’s dough for my pizza. I want to use the starter mostly for my pizza, so Rye will be good. I’ll keep you updated…

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  13. Greetings!
    I'm new to sourdough and just acquired the Tartine Bread book. As a home brewer I have an affinity to doing things with yeast and I've had a couple of forays into bread-crafting.

    I followed your instructions on creating a yeaster starter and things went well the first four days. After two days I had signs of fermentation and on day three and four I could readily see the fermentation cycle - young, fresh, sweet and bready to older sour and vinegary. Then on day five, nothing. No cycle. No rise and fall. I can smell the starter change from sweet to pungent but there is no rise and not much for activity. I've stayed the course and feed twice daily. Any ideas?

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  14. hi tim. sorry, i have been mia for a while. im back in the swing of things now.


    just keep feeding as planned. it will pick up. make sure that you are using bottled water, high quality flour (dark rye, not light), and really make sure that the vessel that its in is not too big. it should be just big enough to house the starter with a little headroom after a full rise.

    try putting it in a warm spot as well.

    hope this helps!

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  15. Thanks for all the great info here!

    I am trying to follow this but i am running into a problem that i cant understand.

    Here is what i am doing, any help would be MUCH appreciated.

    1) I am using a jar slightly smaller than the pint jar, but i mix KAUBAP with dark rye and filtered spring water and place in oven, which i think falls under the "cozy spot" category.

    2) after 24 hours the culture shows lots of activity.

    3) then the problem starts. discard all but 50g and start my 12hr feedings. but once i do this, the activity ceases. after several 12 hour feedings there is no rise and no fall. only a few surface bubbles.

    4) should i be more patient and continue the feedings? should i not store in oven? could this be too warm?

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    1. im sorry. i was on hiatus for a bit. you probably figured out the problem by now, but just keep feeding it. it only needs to be cozy until your starter is up and running. mine first one took several weeks to take root. so, keep feeding twice a day, and one day it will miraculously start to do its thing. you have to be patient while the starter collects the wild yeasts in the air. this can take some time. possibly a month. once you start baking, the wild yeast count in your environment will grow, and you will be able to make a starter from scratch overnight :)

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  16. Great information and this is encouragement for me to finally start making a loaf...I salivated over it for too long now. What kind of kitchen scale will work for this project, I really don't want to purchase an edlund scale like Robertson, what would you suggest? Thanks for your passion and dedication, I hope for just as much one day.

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  17. hm. i just got an AWS scale from amazon. super cheap. 19 bucks.


    http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B001S12738/ref=oh_details_o05_s00_i00

    its working out swell. (my salter finally croaked).

    aws is great for accuracy, and they are affordable. taylors are ugly, but will last forever, and the benefit is that you get to plug them in. no dead batteries late at night when you are in the middle of weighing out flour (happened to me twice!). whichever you get, make sure you get one that takes a long life lithium battery. scales using regular batteries will die in two weeks!

    happy baking, and let me know how it turns out!

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    1. I used my taylor scale and followed your experiment exactly, for two days everything went well, but on the 3rd days feeding the starter stayed flat the whole time. I let it sit for two days thereafter and still no sign of bubbles or smell. I wonder if the weather affected the process, going from 100 to 80 and now into the high 70's? So I threw the starter out and started over today. Was I too hasty?

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    2. Well, now that it's in the trash, I would say no, you were not too hasty ;) but next time, really do give it some time, especially if this is all new to you. There is activity happening even if you can't see it. Those colonies are building in the starter little by little, and if this is a first starter for you, it will take some time for the culture to grab the wild yeasts from the air. Specifically if you live in an area where there are not a lot of yeast spores floating around. My first starter took weeks, I would have to go back, but I think it might have taken close to a month. I remember that it was weeks. Below are some posts outlining my experiences that might help you. If you let a brand new starter sit without feeding it for a couple of days, you might have murdered it. But I think the only indication of murdering your starter is a really bad smell and mold. So unless that happens, I say just keep feeding it twice a day and make minor alterations: change the water, like, if you are using tap, try bottled. Try putting it a smaller container if they one you are using is too big. Keep it out of the sun. Keep it warm (just in the beginning, like, in a cabinet above the refrigerator, it becomes a little incubator - this is outlined in the posts that I included below).

      Most of all I would say that your starter is here to teach you patience in the beginning ;) But once she is active and thriving, she will give you years, if not generations of joy in bread making. So, just be a little patient with her at the start. After all, she has many years of hard work ahead of her!

      Oh, on a final note, try using 100% rye in your starter instead of a mix of flours. I switched my starter to 100% rye about a year ago... best decision I ever made, and she makes the best bread in L.A., hands down!

      Good luck next time!

      http://tartine-bread.blogspot.com/2011/04/butcher-baker-candlestick-maker.html
      http://tartine-bread.blogspot.com/2011/05/my-doughlai-lama.html

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  18. Being a lazy loafer and a scaredy cat I got my starter on eBay, it came from someone in Wales and survives a lot of mistreatment! I love your blog, been reading it non stop for the last couple of hours, ever since I found it - it is so helpful to have the processes so clearly explained (a la Tartine) and so beautifully illustrated. Is there any chance that you could increase the font size as I like to bake without printing off and I can't read without my specs and they will only slip off as I flash the flour around. Thanks for all your hard work in putting it all together - it is fantasticly helpful.

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    1. hi Anna! i love that you love my blog! it's so much fun. i love writing down all of the details so that people can follow along. i also like to keep it simple. im a lazy baker. i love throwing my dough in the fridge. i will not take the temp of my water or my dough. lol. i just have a look and seem to know if its going to be right or wrong. i think its important that a blog outline every step so that people like me who really dont know how to bake at all can make something extraordinary. ok. maybe i can bake a little at this point. but in the beginning, forget about it!

      hey, no shame in purchasing a starter. i should sell mine. she could probably help me pay rent.

      unfortunately i cannot change the font size. but on your computer, if you go under 'view', you can click 'zoom in' and that ought to help increase the font so that you can bake alongside your computer.

      i hope this helps!

      Delete
  19. Hi,
    I have a starter I am rejuvenating. It is bubbling nicely after I feed it and it quickly rises to double its size but it falls again within a couple of hours..........am I doing something wrongÉ

    ReplyDelete
  20. o els179. you are doing everything right. your starter is a being. in its infancy, it's just learning how to develop. so, you may get a fast rise and fall, and you may even get a slight rise and fall for a while (don't let that freak you out if it happens. its normal). just keep going. let the bacteria develop. let the culture grab more yeast from the air and from the fresh flour that you feed it. you will soon find, as i did, that your starter is a lot more forgiving than you think it is. trust. over time your starter will become more 'independent' and sustain its rise, so that you may only need to feed it once a day. right now i only feed my starters once a day, until im about to bake, then i will feed it twice two (and sometimes only one!) days before. a few times during the week i might feed them twice a day, but mostly just once, and theyre cool. for you, however, in the beginning, i would feed it twice a day till it gets a hang of its 'sea legs'. cheers!

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  21. In making starter, should the jar be capped right from the beginning?

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    Replies
    1. yes. or it will dry out or form a 'skin'. just screw the jar cap on as though you would for anything edible. not screamin' tight, but not loose. just regular ;)

      Delete
  22. I can't say "thank you" enough for your blog(s), I have been reading them for hours this morning in a mesmerized state. The excitement is overwhelming at the thought that I could actually succeed in baking my own bread instead of dreaming about chad's tartine bread or running over to Boudin Bakery for a baguette. Maybe if I had read up more on the blog, you would not have to repeat yourself or rather, lets just say your the "comforter" of home bakers that need to push us who keep falling down. Sacramento shouldn't be any harder then LA, so here's to starting over and staying out of the trash. I only wish that the days were longer because now that I've found out about "farmer to geek," there isn't enough time in the day to read and cook recipes from both blogs.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Lynn, you are too sweet :)

      Be on the lookout: two new posts on tartine and geek this upcoming week! and good luck with your starter. before long, you will have your own blog. keep me posted!

      Delete
  23. I know why my starter failed last time and started to show the same signs again on my 2nd round, I had the lid on too secure. Once I unscrewed the lid and left it on very loosely, my starter doubled and bubbled almost to over flowing. I guess not enough air was getting in and even chad keeps the starter covered with a kitchen towel. If you like, you can use the discarded starter for pancakes. Just put it in a lightly greased skillet and cook low and slow.

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  24. Hi, I'm a little confused and nervous about this starter. I'm on day 7. I have been feeding it at 630pm daily. It rose quite a bit but maybe within 4-5 hours later a little more than two times its volume. Is that okay?

    When do I know when the starter is ready to use?... When is it at its peak or ready to be used in the levain?

    Also, how do I create a more sour starter?

    If I use my starter frequently, can I just never discard any starter and feed it so that it has its original volume +the amount needed for the bread recipe?

    I'm sorry for all the questions! I hope you can help :D

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  25. Yes. The more it rises, the better. You are on the right track.

    Here is a snapshot of when I'm planning to bake bread. I feed my starter once a day. When I want to bake, two days prior to my bake day, I feed it twice a day. So, say I want to bake on Sunday. On the Friday before I plan to bake, I would feed twice one at 8am, once at 10pm, or whenever really; on Saturday, I would feed it at, oh, 8am again, then again at 5pm, then at midnight, I might stir up my levain (and feed it again here), let the levain do its thing overnight, and mix up the dough at about, oh, 8 or 9 on Sunday morning.

    The starter is ready to use a few hours after it has been fed. So, say you feed your starter at 8 am, you can safely use it at around 4 or 5 when its risen to its max, or later. I would try to use my starter within a 'reasonable window' of time after feeding, again, if you have been feeding your starter twice a day for a few days, and do an 8am feeding, you have a large window of time when you can use it for your levain. If your starter looks elevated at 8pm, hey, go ahead and use it. But I do try to use it within an 8 hour window. Remember, when you make your levain, the starter is going to be feeing off of the sugars in the flour, so, its going to pep up again within the levain itself.

    I keep never more than 60 grams of starter (I'm too lazy to start looking up new recipes that call for higher quantities of starter! my levain only takes 35g of starter, but I will talk about that in a minute), so, say you've fed your starter, all looks good, you have 60 grams of it, you want to build a levain, you scoop out 35g of it, and you are left with 25g of starter. just enough to feed it again and keep your starter going with another 20g of water, 20g of flour 20g of water, + 20g flour + 20 (more or less) g of starter = 60 grams of starter, your original number. In a pinch, if you screw up, and find yourself with, say, only 10g of starter. That's cool. Just feed it with ratios in relation to starter (so to your 10g of starter, add10g water, 10g flour = 30g starter), and just increase the amount of flour/water/starter ratio with the next feeding to build it back up to the number that you want. the point is, you don't want to use all of your starter for any recipe.

    ps, keep a backup starter in the fridge at all times. just 60g ought to do it. and feed it once a month. just make a priority of feeing your refrigerated starter the first sunday of every month.

    if you run across a recipe that uses a higher quantity of starter, just plan for it. so say your next recipe calls for 200 of starter, but you only keep 60g. a day or two before the bake, instead of scooping out some starter and throwing it away, just feed your starter with 60g each of flour and water, this will make 180g of starter, then the next day, scoop out 90g of starter, this leaves you with 90g, feed it with 90g flour, 90g water to total 270g of starter. bam. there's your 200g of starter for your recipe, and 70g left over to keep feeding.

    which is a big YES to your next question, about just feeding it so that its the original volume plus the amount needed for bread. the only reason why we throw starter away is because if you just keep feeding it, you will end up with vats of starter :)

    ANY questions you have that i am equipped to answer i am happy to oblige. happy baking, and remember, your starter is very, very yielding. and the possibilities are endless. if it feels right, do it!

    -francis-olive

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  26. one more thing, the older your starter is, the more powerful it is. i have baked some lofty bread after trying to feed my once-a-day-fed-starter that two days before my bake, well, i would feed it twice for one day, then only feed it once the next day (the day before the bake) but then i make my levain anyway, and it works. so, dont trip too hard about the quality of your starter. when it matures, its soooooo SO reliable and strong even with once a day feedings.

    the more you bake, the more yeasts are in the air, the stronger your starter gets. so, in the beginning, if you dont get the loft that you are looking for (and you very well may get lovely loft!), just know that over time your starter will get stronger and more active and more powerful, and before long, all of your bread are going to get fantastic oven spring 100% of the time.

    happy baking!

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  27. I made my first Basic Country Round Loaves and though there were those few flaws; score not rising, crumb tender but small amount of big holes, crust shatters b/t teeth but did not make the crackling sound just out of the oven and the color was almost there. I worried that the first rise wouldn't happen so, during the fermentation process the dough rose almost too much and I think using the oven as a proof box and setting the dough in the oven to rise caused it. Practice make perfect and I can't wait to have another few days to make some more. My coworkers and family are begging for more.

    ReplyDelete
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    1. Ohhhh, yeah. You want cold fermentation. Cold is key. Cold and slow. Warmth will cause the yeasts to gobble up the sugars too quickly resulting in a more dense loaf and one that lacks oven spring. With bread, the keys are long, cold, slow, patience. All this lends to flavor, proper texture, better crust, better oven spring. You cannot hasten any part of bread making because it never pays off. Really use your refrigerator, and remember, Chad and everyone who owns a bakery has a proofing box, and proofing boxes are cool, not warm. The fridge is your friend. Ignore any of those old bread instructions that call for rising your bread in a warm place. It is just not an asset to your sourdough bread. The best bread takes many hours of fermenting. This is why I only 2 hours of fermentation at room temperature. The remaining 17 are done in the fridge.

      I hope this helps! And yay! Keep baking and experimenting!

      Delete
    2. ps, score deeply. and a dough that has passed its capacity in proofing will never score well, or get proper oven spring.

      cold cold cold!

      cheers!

      Delete
  28. I started the all-rye starter today to find that 50 g water when combined with 50 g Bob's Red Mill Dark Rye flour gives a very stiff/hard dough, with no hint of any excess liquid. I doubt that any fermentation with bubbles will appear because bubbles need some liquid. Did I do anything wrong? I am inclined to add another 50 g water. Any suggestions?

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    Replies
    1. hm. this is strange. did you use a scale? or a cup measure? can you take a picture? the starter is not a liquid starter. it will be a 'mass' vs. liquidy. adding 50g of water will be too much. maybe sprinkle in a few sprinkles of water. not much, just to loosen it up. and yes, it WILL develop gas bubbles. even stiff starters using much less hydration develop gas bubbles. i prefer my starter on the stiff side actually, and when it's too 'loose' i will add flour. this can happen if you don't feed your starter often enough. take a picture and send it to me at tartine-bread-experiment@live.com

      don't worry. we will figure this out. don't panic or anything. it will be fine while we are figuring this out. send me a picture, tell me how you have been measuring your ingredients and lets take it from there...

      francis-olive

      Delete
    2. I started an all rye starter yesterday and found mine to be much thicker than the starter in your pictures as well. Very stiff, hard to stir....i used a scale to measure, so I am pretty sure my measurements were accurate. I fed it this morning and added a few extra drops of water. Just wondering if larrych had any success w/their starter? Love your blog! Very inspiring:)

      Delete
    3. hi anonymous. what brand of flour do you use? this could be why. adding a couple of drops more water is totally fine. im curious, what type of flour did you use and what were your gram measurements?

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    4. I used 50 grams of Bob's Red Mill Dark Rye flour and 50 grams of water. Those are the correct measurements, right? Thanks so much!!

      Delete
    5. yes. strange. well. just add a bit more water to loosen it up. and document your measurements. can you also send me a picture of what it looks like with the 50g of flour and 50g of water? tartine-bread-experiment@live.com

      sometimes people think that is wrong because it seems thick and stiff, but, i actually prefer a stiffer starter. mine is at 90% hydration now. send me a picture. did you see my post 'the classic'? this will show you what my starter looks like.

      Delete
    6. also, please know that the starter of this post is using white and rye, so, its going to be looser. white starters are looser. a totally rye starter is going to be thick. the post i created here is for people who want to begin a starter and either leave it at half white half rye, or move on to all rye like i did, or move on to all white. its also cheaper in the long run to do a half and half starter.

      send me a picture and lets take it from there. no harm in increasing your hydration a bit. and just know that your starter, once it becomes a starter, is going to loosen up a bit. at this point, when i feed my starter the half and half ratio, its quite loose. lets try to get the enzymatic activity going in your starter and then just work it from there. this is a work in progress, not an absolute, so, do what you can to get it going, then adjust the hydration up and down to your preference once it grabs hold. remember, bread, sourdough, its all flexible. there are no absolutes. there are quite wide variables from starter through dough. and the more that people realize that, they more fluid they can become with their bread. just go with the flow. your starter is working magic as we speak, no matter what the hydration is!

      cheers!

      Delete
    7. Thank you so much! I will send you some pictures. We're on day 4 now and there's definitely something going on in there! There are tiny bubbles throughout, and a slight vinegary smell. I've been adding about 55 grams of water per feeding, and that seems to be enough to moisten all the flour. I went back to look again at your "classic" post and, yes that is just about exactly what mine looks like! Glad to know I may be doing this right!:-)

      Delete
  29. Hi Francis-Olive! I am in LOVE with your blog. I call it bread porn! I bought the Tartine book on a whim last week after my boyfriend asked me to bake him bread and I had a disastrous experience with the Joy of Cooking (why did I think I'd find edible bread in there? My first indication should have been when the recipe I tried didn't have any salt). I have zero bread experience despite being an avid baker, but the Tartine Bread cookbook is so gorgeous and Tartine is sort of my heaven on earth , so I vowed to master it. I began with the starter Chad describes for the country loaf but I had so many questions (what really constitutes a "thick batter"? How watery was it supposed to be? How do I eyeball 80% of my starter to discard it? How long should my starter be rising and falling reliably before I can bake with it? etc) and finding your blog was such a godsend. Here's someone who has asked many of the same questions as me, and has answers! I have been following your regimen for the past three days (with my original starter and a new starter) and both are doing pretty well, finally. THANK YOU for your suggestion of storing the starter on top of the fridge. I have a little thermometer by my starters just for kicks and it is consistently a full 5 degrees warmer up there than where they had been down on the counter! And your revelation about chlorine in the tap water!! How had I not thought of that?!?! Of course my starter was slow! :) Anyway, I am loving this whole experiment and really, really appreciating your insights and photos.

    I do have one question for you though, which might be because I have misread something in your instructions and am too dense to unravel it on my own. Tonight I was doing my second feeding and had this sudden realization that I maybe haven't been discarding enough at each feeding. We start out with 100 grams of starter, then discard 50 grams, but add 100 grams. Then again, and again... so at each feeding I have been consistently discarding only 50 grams and then adding 100 grams... and now my starter is starting to get kinda FULL, since I am essentially adding a net 100 grams every day. So I am currently planning to discard all that extra starter at tomorrow's feeding, so I'm back to only 50 grams above my jar weight, but I wanted to make sure before I do it... now that its so happy and active, it's like stinky gold!

    PS hello from Oakland, of COURSE you have Bay Area roots!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. xo east! thank you for pointing that out. i should have written that you would maintain 150g of starter, not 100g. the formula was right, so, if you follow the instruction, you will be right every time, but it would just be 150g and not 100g. there was just that errata in the verbiage. sorry about that. i changed that toute de suite! dammit. i hate errata. and i really do this blog and try to be as accurate as possible because i want everyone to have success with their bread.

      i will say that the beginning of my experiment was fun! i overhydrated, underhydrated, just to see what i would get from it. just goofed around really. but in the beginning beginning, i was scared too. how do you know this? and that?

      i love that chad's book gave me 'permission' to be a hippie about my bread and intuit my way through it. but i did ultimately use some other more scientific books so that i could understand about different flours, and what certain hydrations meant for bread, among other things. i tend not to be scientific when baking, but now i do have that foundation there. its best to know how a flour will behave so that you know what to do to compensate for, say, lack of gluten, or lack of gluten quality.

      today i was just thinking that i should venture out and try different flours. i've got rye down pat, whole wheat, spelt. but there are a bunch of others that i'm going to work with soon. im such a lazy baker! i devise a bread and love it, and keep going with it for a while. i bake many more loaves than what i post, because i will get stuck on one type of bread. i am doing a fun post next. playing with hydration again, and final fermentation times, as well as going into more scoring techniques which so many people have been asking me about. i decided to do a full write-up about it. i will also mention the starter issue.

      say hello to the bay! i miss her!!

      Delete
  30. Thanks so much! I am also in love with how Chad describes the bread you create becoming sort of a reflection of you, your life and lifestyle, who you are... I like the idea that my bread can be an expression of me, and it makes me look at my specific process through a greater context. How am I pacing myself, what kind of quiet time am I giving myself in the day? Am I patient, what kind of care, quality, feeding am I putting into this (and into myself)? I know this borders on woo-woo (hey, I'm from the Bay Area, man!) but I know you went through this realization too, so this is a safe space!

    Anyway, thank you again so much and YES --try different flours and post all about it, please! I am supposedly gluten-intolerant (tell that to the pressed Pastrami sandwich I ate at Tartine last night, though I admittedly do feel like I got hit by a bus today) and looking forward, once I have the old school stuff down, to experimenting with gluten-free flours. So much to learn still. I'm so glad your blog is here! BREAD PORN.

    ReplyDelete
  31. Hi,

    I'm very new to making a starter and have followed someone else's instructions on making it. However they are similar. My fiancee like to bake bread a lot but doesn't use the Tartine method. She uses yeast packets and flour. In any case, my main worry is that the starter isn't fermenting right. My nose is trained to smell what the commercial yeast smells like, not what a good wild fermentation would smell like. It's day two and I took a whiff of it and it smells pungent. Not something I'm used to at all. When a starter goes bad would it have a more of a sewage type smell than a vinegary small like you described?

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    Replies
    1. if your starter smells like sewer, i would say that that is not a good sign at all. it should really smell like vinegar, sweetish, and it can smell like alcohol, but sewer, no, definitely not. i might start over.

      try this: 60g DARK rye flour and 60g SPRING water (to equal 120g). let it ferment for 12 hours. after 12 hours, scoop out enough starter so that 40g is reserved. add 40g flour and 40g water to this (will equal 120g). after 12 hours repeat. and keep repeating this until it begins to ferment predictably. you will see gas bubbles form (see my post 'the classic'). after a week (could be more) you should have a good strong starter. keep it in a jar just big enough to accommodate its rise and fall. nothing too big. in the start, keep is someplace sort of warm. when it grabs hold, you can keep it on the counter where it's cooler.

      let me know how this works!

      Delete
    2. Sometimes, if you feed the starter and leave it for too long, it forms a dark crust, and/or if the hydration is high, some "dirty water" accumulates on top of the dark crust. In such cases, I just discard the dirty stuff with a spoon and feed it again with flour and water. That "purifies" the starter and it comes back to life and to a more pleasant smell. (Although the smell of a good starter is quite pungent and some people, especially if they are not used to it, may not call it "pleasant" or "sweet". For example, I think my starter smells a bit like apples because I started it with apple peels with haze. But my mother said it just smelled bad.)

      MTK

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    3. yeah, that gray liquid is called 'hooch', its actually alcohol. i only ever got that once in the very beginning. they say to just pour it off.

      feeding it more often, i believe (esp. if you live in a warmer climate) prevents hooch.

      francis-olive

      Delete
  32. Francis-Olive,
    I want to give you a HUGE thanks for your blog. Like some of your other readers, I initially tried using only the Tartine book and was concerned about the lack of specifics regarding what to expect. I tried developing a starter for a week with little success. Then, in desperation, I found your blog. I'm happy that I didn't throw away my existing starter - it wasn't actually dead, just very weak. I switched to feeding 2x/day, using 100% rye flour and spring water, and that made all the difference.

    My husband and I made our first loaf of Tartine Country Bread last weekend, and it was a revelation. We couldn't believe how well the bread came out - the crust, incredible crumb and delicious flavor. I look forward to even better results once I get more used to working with this type of bread (I've baked bread using commercial yeast before, but the results were never really satisfactory - I felt like I could purchase better bread than I could make at home.) The only thing stopping me from keeping the starter on my counter and baking every week is the fear that my waistline would balloon like the starter.

    And a note: I have a decent scale (only 5g precision), but I actually didn't use it while feeding my starter - to 1/2 cup water and 1/2 cup 100% ryte flour, I added ~20% of the existing starter, and it seemed to work out fine.

    Thanks so much again, for helping to open me up to this new world of bread baking.

    ReplyDelete
  33. Just sharing some travel experience with my sourdough starter.

    I live in Iowa, and I recently had to travel to Brazil for work. It happens that my parents live in Brazil and they love my bread, so I decided to take my starter with me. My "bread challenge" was that I had to be working for three days at a remote site, before I could meet my parents. My schedule: depart Iowa on Saturday, work until Wednesday, travel on Thursday to my parents' home -- all that carrying my live starter somehow. The solution was to make a very low hydration "pattie" out of my original starter by adding only flour and no water, until it attained the consistency of clay. (Of course, before doing all that I backed up half of my original starter in the fridge, which allowed me to continue using it upon my return.) I just put the pattie in a ziploc by squeezing out as much air as possible, and tossed it in the check-in suitcase along with toothbrushes and all that. It looked like a bar of soap. Upon arrival, I popped the ziploc with the pattie in the hotel's fridge and left it unattended for four days. On Thursday, I put it back in the suitcase, traveled to my parents', and added some flour and water. Voila! It worked!

    MTK

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    Replies
    1. what a fabulous idea! i wanted to travel with mine, but i didnt' want those dudes at the gate to give me guff about what could appear to be some sort of explosive material. i could just see getting carted off to jail for carrying deadly bacteria through those gates.

      i will try this the next time i travel. in the meantime, i am doing a post about 'refrigerated' starters, and if it really affects the quality of a finished loaf....

      francis-olive

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  34. Hi, This is some amazing information! Thanks so much. I was having some issues getting my starter going. my method worked great the first time and then it just hasn't been repeatable since. So I tired your jar method and WOW it really works. I do have one question. Have you ever had an issue with an exploding container? When I popped the lid it decompressed pretty rapidly just wondering if you ever had an incident involving a container explosion? Thanks! Brian

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    1. Hey Brian. I am so glad it worked. No! Never had an exploding container. It sounds like your container is too small? Is it exploding/bubbling over, or just exploding? What kind of container are you using?

      Maybe you put the lid on very, very tight? When people ask me how tight I put my lid on, the best way to describe it is if I made myself a PB sandwich, unscrewed the lid, then when I was done, put it back on... so, not CRAZY tight, but certainly not loose. Just like any jar I would mindless put a lid back on. I hope this helps!

      Francis-Olive

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    2. I'm using a "BALL MASON JAR" I have been using the 12oz smaller size jars. They aren't bubbling over they are about 3/4 full looking. Looks about the same as the picture you are showing "Day 3* 10 hours after feeding. The lid isn't on super tight just snug. I just didn't want to come home from work to a kitchen of broken glass and starter everywhere. :) That wouldn't be fun. But thanks for the reply in assuring me my container are safe!

      Delete
    3. oh. sorry, i misunderstood. i thought you were having explosions over there. yeah, sometimes the gas does swell and will rush to escape in a hiss when you twist off the cap. i've had my starter in the same jar for 2 years. no explosions! i think you're all good...

      :)

      francis-olive

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    4. I had followed tarine starter to the T and have had used the resipes for succesful bakes in the past. I started a new starter and afer The first 3 days I had the frothy bubbles and the rise. I fed it the first day using Chads method of a thick batter no measuring. So after the first feeding I have not seen any action since and was feeding every 24 hours. No bubbles just a few air pockets. I finally started measuring the exact flour water ration by weight so now I discard about 80 percent and add in 100 grams water and 100 grams flour. Put my starter in oven with the light on to get the temp to 80 degrees. I saw more signs of bubbles but nothing significant and it got more liquidy. Is this dead or just a really slow process? Should I not feed it until I get the activity back?

      Delete
    5. Hi there. Well, I believe that one must always be able to quantify one's starter components precisely. There is plenty of whimsy allowable in baking bread, but when it comes to the starter or the levain, one must really be precise. It is the only way to track progress, and to know when something is going wrong and why/how to fix it. With that said, it is uncanny that my current post actually addresses the very thing you are speaking of, see here:
      http://tartine-bread.blogspot.com/2013/02/9-days.html
      Have a look at that post. It may help you understand a bit more about your starter, and see that you are not the only one who has ever had difficulties using the method a la Tartine. Keep feeding your starter. Always feed your starter. No matter what happens, not feeding it will make things worse. In the meantime, have a look at that post and see if it helps you along your path.

      Hope this helps!

      Francis-Olive

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    6. So After 9 days of feeding my starter I have no bubbles or anything. I only had bubbles after the 48 hours of creating the intial starter. IDont know what to do if feeding the starter helps or not. Wouldnt I need some action in there for it to keep eating the sugars?

      Delete
    7. hi there. yes, feeding your starter a consistent measure of flour and water every TWELVE hours will make it work. you must keep feeding it, and again, please read my current post as i think you will find it helpful. thanks!

      Delete
    8. I read your post but its frustratong becasue you have many bubbles and fermentation after 2-3 Days lol.

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    9. i think I should start over I have 2 starters going and they both dont do much. The most frustrating part is I succesfully had a great starter going making amazing breads.

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    10. Im not going to give up yet. Today I will discard all but 30g of starter and feed it 30:30 Mix. So I will try to get this guy back to life. I will Maintain 90g from here on out. Could the flour I be using have something to do with this. In past I used King arthur WW abd King arthur Ap for my starter. Now I am using Arrowhead stone ground WW and organic white flour from Arrowhead Mills?

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    11. let me know how it turns out. arrowhead is quite good, so no, i don't think it's that. experiment. maybe you need to start with a rye starter and get it going nice and strong, then you can switch back over. rye is an excellent beginning starter. if you are struggling, you might just consider it....

      Delete
    12. Ok Will do, I might try the Rye too. thanks for the response.

      Delete
  35. Hi Francis-Olive,
    Thank you so much for your tireless commitment to this blog. I'm so glad I finally found it tonight. I have been baking bread about 2-3 times a week for the past 3 or so months. Constantly on the quest for a better loaf.
    My question is: I started a sourdough starter about 3 weeks ago from an active dry yeast and have been able to maintain it fairly nicely but learned a ton tonight by reading your blog. Would I have better results starting a new "wild yeast" starter or do you think after this much time that a portion of the starter is wild? Would the favors from a wild yeast starter be a lot different than the starter I have now? I live in the Santa Cruz area of CA, and am blessed to have awesome well water.
    Thanks so much,
    Julie

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    1. Hi Julie. Commercial yeast and sourdough yeasts are not compatible. The acid in sourdough makes an inimical environment for commercial yeast and kills it. I have never used commercial yeast for a starter, so I can't say whether what you have has 'become' a sourdough starter.

      The lovely thing about sourdough, aside from the health aspects of it, is that by virtue of it's chemistry (how the yeasts and bacteria interact), it makes for a complex loaf of bread (please see my current post http://tartine-bread.blogspot.com/2013/02/9-days.html , I have given a nutshell view of what happens with wild yeast starters). Commercial yeast is engineered yeast with only one strain of yeast, so the chemical activity of a wild yeast is not present, and it is this chemistry that creates the pleasing flavor of bread. Commercial yeast was bred to do one thing: rise your bread. It does not contribute to its complex flavor.

      If you are on the quest for a better loaf, and I take this to mean great flavor and texture, then I would dispense with the use of commercial yeast altogether. I know that many of the best bread books include (if not almost entirely) bread formulae using commercial yeast. Baguettes (new) use a small portion of commercial yeast in order to achieve a very thin crust (although, it is NOT necessary, and in my opinion, not favorable to use commercial yeast in bread for any reason). I have made sourdough baguettes with all sourdough with fantastic result. In fact, in France, they began using commercial yeast (I'm sorry, I cannot give a year) in order to produce bread for the masses cheaper and faster. Over time, the reliability and celerity of commercial yeast took over the baking world, and it was not until Pierre Poilâne came into the picture and 're-revolutionized' the 'slow' bread movement (I believe in the 30's?) using the ancient methods of making bread using all sourdough yeast because bread produced at that time was flavorless and bread practices were wholly divorced from France's rich history of bread making using all natural yeast. Pierre Poilâne is revered worldwide for his sourdough bread.

      In short, with flavor, there is no comparison between commercial yeasted breads and those that employ sourdough. There is no comparison when it comes to the gratification one gets when working with sourdough as a medium v. commercial yeast. Living in Santa Cruz, with its cool climate, you are likely to devise a lovely starter. Please read my current post about starting a 100% rye starter. you can have one in just 9 days. FYI, read somewhere that Pierre Poilâne would not allow school children to tour his premises because he feared that they would carry strains of commercial yeast on their clothing and compromise his environment. LOL. Of course, it is not proven that there exists such a threat, but this story illustrates more than any other the eminence of wild yeast over commercial.

      If you convert to a wild yeast starter, over time it will develop its own identity and make better and better bread, wholly exhibitant of its terroir. I am from the bay area as well (in LA for the moment), and we are blessed with a symbiosis of geology/climate that produces really incredible sourdough starters. So, along with your well water, I would say that your bread will prove remarkable over time.

      I hope this helps.

      Francis-Olive

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    2. Hi Francis-Olive,
      Thank you so much for your response. I am going to start a new starter. I think for know I will keep using the old one til the new one is up and running, even at the risk of commercial yeasties getting in there. I think I will experiment with the two starters and see if I can see a difference in the two.
      Thank you so much for sharing your time and knowledge. I am so grateful and can't wait to find more time to read more of your blog- who needs bread books when we have your blog!
      ~Julie

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    3. my pleasure Julie. i hope all goes well with your bread, please keep me posted. i would love to hear how the sourdough starter does in santa cruz.

      francis-olive

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    4. Hi Francis-Olive,
      I have been reading more of your blog and I'm learning a lot and still baking bread with my old starter. I started a new 100% rye starter five days ago and I have what seems very little activity. I, like a few others that have posted, have a super stiff starter. I'm using Bob's Red Mill dark rye organic flour. I'm using a pint ball jar and I'm feeding 2X a day 8am and 8pm. When I feed I use 30gr of starter, 30 gr rye flour and 30 gr of well water(no chlorine). When I look at your starter other than the bubbles that make me a bit( or a lot) jealous, your starter seems SO much looser. I do have some small bubbles everywhere after 5 or 6 hours and I haven't given up hope in the least!
      Im still using my other starter until I get the new one up and running. I must say the old starter has a great sour smell and rises and falls beautifully every day. It's been making wonderful bread so far but I have nothing to compare it by and can't wait for the new one to get going.
      My question is should I add a bit more water to my starter mixture to get it a little wetter? I'm thinking of maybe 5 more gr of water, 35gr instead of 30.
      My other starter is 100% white starter and Im using Central Milling Co. organic unbleached AP flour. Do you think an organic flour would have more nutrients than non organic?
      Thanks so much for all your help!!!!!!
      ~Julie

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    5. i always use organic.

      YES, add a bit more water! just be sure to weigh it so that you know what your hydration is. i like a stiff starter, so, i will often keep mine at 90% hydration. you know, i have gotten a couple of emails about uber stiff starters, and i have no idea why that would be given that we are doing exactly the same thing. but, and this is going to be helpful on your bread path, use this as a starting point, if it does not work for you, make an adjustment (i recommend small adjustments, and writing everything down so that you know what you did), and if once you get to a place that works for you, then that's what you should be doing. if my starter is too stiff for you, then add water.

      likewise, it sounds like your current starter is doing well, better than well. perhaps you should not even bother with rye?

      just a thought....

      but, before you ditch the rye effort (once you get one going, they're amazing), try loosening it with a few grams of water. see where that gets you. could be that 5 grams makes crazy activity, and thus, a very happy baker.

      if it doesn't work, pitch it and keep going with what you have. no harm lost. the bottom line is, you are making incredible bread!

      (and yes, i would imagine that organic has more nutrients than non).

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    6. ps, be malleable on your path. we are in different regions, so our starters will behave differently. like i said in my current post, for some reason, angelenos are having amazing luck with rye (probably because this place is so sucked dry of spirituality we need a little extra nutrients in our flour. ha. ha. ha...), but you are not the first person to have mad success with chads whole wheat and white starter who happen to be living in the bay.

      bottom line: go with whatever works. there are some people who email me and tell me not to refrigerate my dough. works for me! and not refrigerating it does not.

      this is YOUR path. get to know your bread in your way. listen to advice, read loads, but if it does not work, its not advice you should keep working with. ive had terrible luck with some of the best bread books, and uncanny luck with some of the most obscure ideas found on the internet. i catalogue what works, and this makes for a successful path.

      keep me posted. and don't doubt. ok, you started with some commercial yeast. sounds like you have a sourdough starter now. so, go with it. i bet the bread you are making is amazing. and thats all that matters.

      francis-olive

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    7. I will take your advice. Today is day 7 on the new rye starter and I see little to no action. I think i will plug away at it for a few more days. It smells ok, sweet sour smell but still does not rise or fall at all. i thought i read that a few of your starters took quite a while. Do you know of a good starter we can buy if all else fails? My other starter does seem to be making amazing bread. I was hoping to take a photo of a loaf I made yesterday but left home at 5 am, was gone all day and my son annihilated the WHOLE loaf and I gave the other away.
      I had one other question about proofing my bread. I proof it in a round basket with a towel. I've watched countless videos on how to do the multiple folds and to get the dough super taught but during my 3 hour proof my bread just seems to sag out instead of rising up. Im not getting the nice round boules I'd like to get. Any tips? Are the baskets that are normally used fairly small? Is that possibly my problem?
      Thanks again for all your help!
      Julie

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    8. lol. growing boys.

      hm. well, if you dough is sagging, it means that it is over proofing... generally speaking. its hard to say unless i see it. also, i dont know how your starter behaves with endured fermentation or if the fact that you started it with commercial yeast makes a difference here.

      i think i will do a shaping video next ;) i did one a while back for some bread friends and they said it helped them immensely.

      and do you know, for a 500g (flour) boule, i use a kitchenaid bowl to proof. its the perfect size and shape!

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    9. Hi Francis-Olive,
      Just thought I'd give a quick update on my starter as it's been really hard to start. At day 7 I had next to no activity after religiously feeding it(on time) twice a day with 100% dark rye. I'd get a few very tiny bubbles in the mix but no rise or fall at all. On day 8 I was tempted to pitch it out. I decided to try something and it seemed to work. I had my starter in a pint wide mouth jar. I took off the lid and put it outside. I spritzed the top of it with water about every 1/2 hour and stirred it, to try and prevent skin formation. After about 3 hours I put the lid back on and put it back into the kitchen. The next day I got significantly more activity. I only fed it once that day after that and it blossomed!! It is the most active beautiful starter now. I named her Rye-ly.
      I spoke to a friend who actually did her thesis paper on sourdough in culinary school in Paris. She recommended kneading my dough- she thought that just the folding method that Chad uses would not be enough to form good gluten structure.
      I baked my first loaf with Rye-ly last night- WOW- the loaf rose beautifully. I made my dough using same recipe and after adding salt and extra H20 I kneaded it in my Kitchenaid for about 5 minutes and then continued on with the recipe as written. The bread was unbelievable!!!
      Todays loaf is carmelized onion and brie!
      Thank you so much for all your help and most of all the inspiration to bake bread!! My family LOVES you too!!
      ~Julie

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    10. how interesting. so, you say that it rose MORE after you did the kneading technique? what was the crumb like? hole structure? send me pictures of your bread (i've been meaning to ask you for pictures!) tartine-bread-experiment@live.com

      it makes sense that after putting it outdoors that it would capture more yeasts and bacteria. very cool. VERY cool idea to suggest to people. i have also heart that starters like to be stirred, and it can increase fermentation somehow. i've never needed to stir my own, but i would love to look into the theory behind it.

      julie, i am soooo glad your bread is on its way with rye-ly! now, the older it gets, the better it gets. it become part of the family indeed!

      and you are very welcome. thank YOU for sharing your experience with me. i've learned a lot from you with your unique questions and your own experiments!

      francis-olive

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    11. btw, i believe i will experiment with kneading after this. i love the idea of making a change like this, one that is the converse of the method i have been using. lets see what happens. i think i may try this with the next post!

      francis-olive

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  36. I am on day six now and it looks good except for the fact that my starter looks thick and lumpy whereas your looks smooth and creamy. My jar weighs 250g and I add 50g's water and 50g's rye flour to the jar which weighs 300g's with the culture in it. It does bubble nicely though and at first it smelled like creamed corn.

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    1. bill. you are too funny... 'creamed corn', i love it.

      add a bit of water. some people have mentioned that their starters are a bit too thick, and not smooth. add water, but record the amount so that you can consistently keep it at the same hydration level. arbitrary hydration in a starter is not a good idea, in my opinion. if you always know where you are at, fundamentally, then you can safely maneuver with your dough in ways that will lead to success. if you don't know what your hydration levels are in your bread, you will never know where something went wrong, and how to fix it. ps, ive used 90 - 100% hydrated starter with my breads all with great success. so the window is flexible, however, you must always know what those levels are. if you use a stiffer starter, for instance, you may need to increase the hydration in the dough.

      cheers!

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  37. Hi Francis, my sourdough does not rise after the first day. It doubled in the first 12 hours and then it remain as it is for the remaining days. It has been a week now. There is some big air pockets on the surface, about 7-10 pockets vs 10cm diameter jar. I have been feeding it 12 hourly for the first 3 days using whole wheat flour then switching it to all-purpose flour for the remaining days. However I only feed it 24 hourly using the AP since it won't rise. I discard half during each feeding. The smell did change from a "vomit like" smell to a little nutty and alcohol after the switching. I live in Malaysia which has a tropical weather at around 32-35 degree Celsius room temperature. The starter does not bubble as shown in most of the websites and more importantly it wont rise! Is my sourdough starter still unusable?

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    1. well, if you are following the tartine sourdough starter, then you should probably do as chad suggests and keep feeding it whole wheat until it grabs hold. the reason why whole wheat and rye make good starters is because there is more yeast and bacteria on whole grains than on white flour molecules. another thing you should not have done was to switch to feeding it only 24 hours. a starter needs to be fed, specifically a new one that is just beginning to develop. so, no, you starter is not 'usable', meaning, you can not bake with it from the sound of it. the reason why your starter is developing excess alcohol (it's called 'hooch') is because you are not feeding it enough, and the very little sugars that it is able to consume, it is consuming quickly given your hot weather in malaysia. (when the bacteria eats the sugar in flour, it excretes alcohol). in hot weather, you will always have to feed your starter at least twice. in colder climates, you can maintain the starter feeding it just once a day, but when you are planning to bake with it, you should feed it twice a day three days before you plan to make the dough.

      with all that said, please see my current post. it might shed some light on your situation, give you some understanding about how a starter works, and give you an alternative starter that might be easier for you to develop and manage. again, given your climate, no matter what starter you choose to develop, you will always have to feed it twice a day. when it is very hot in los angeles, i feed mine even 3x a day.

      here is the link: http://tartine-bread.blogspot.com/2013/02/9-days.html

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    2. Hi Francis-Olive,
      Just discovered your Blog today. It certainly has caught my attention and it has occupied most of my day today.
      It is fascinating and, most importantly, informative.
      After reading about your "switch' to Rye flour, I am going to follow the same route, but I am going to start with my existing starter which is the typical Chad starter ie: white flour and whole wheat. It was only 4 days old and I was feeding it every 24 hours starting with the 3rd day. It seemed that I was getting activity, and most certainly.....Hootch. When you mentioned that that meant to feed it more....I am changing to your twice a day feeding, but I am using Rye flour now. I kept 30g of Tartine starter and added 30g of rye and 30g of H2O.
      I am going to try to maintain a 90g starter. (I know, you only maintain 60g)
      Btw...I live in the East Bay.

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    3. excellent. yeah, i do love rye. i had so many issues with a whole wheat white starter, but it works for people too. now, because my starter is so well established, i can make and maintain starters with any type of flour. in the beginning, rye just made it so much easier, and it turned out that i loved the complexity of the loaves it makes, so, i just kept it going. let me know how all turns out!

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  38. I have a starter that has been going strong for about four months and continues to rise and fall with feedings and yields exceptional bread. About a week ago, my starter began smelling less sour and more nutty (this is the best I can describe the smell). Do you know why this has happened? Is my starter bad?

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    1. you will KNOW if your starter is bad. trust me. nutty is not indicative of that. nutty sounds good, bad starter smells like death. ummm, what have you changed? has the weather changed? did you change flour type or brand? have you change frequency in feeding? just keep feeding it. feeding it more often will yield a milder smelling starter, so, if you have increased feedings it will indeed smell more nutty or fruity (esp. if you are using spelt or rye) than sour....

      hope this helps!

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    2. I going to take a guess and say it was a change in the weather that changed my starter.

      Thanks!

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  39. Hey Francis! It has always been my objective to start sourdough bread in 2014 after buying the book of chad this year. I have been baking a lot of bread with very little yeast and slow sometimes 3 days of fermentation but now I want to start the reals deal. I have read chads book but I was so scared but after reading your posts you have given me ample of courage to start ! You are really really the most clear and helpful blogger out there! Before I scrape all off my courage off the kitchen floor just a few questions (maybe silly to you but hey I need to start somewhere ;))
    If you say : LEVAIN DAY:

    the night before you plan to make the dough, make your levain:

    50g 100% hydration whole rye starter
    100g to your health sprouted spelt flour
    100g cold filtered h2o
    Do you mean with the 50 gr of starter 50 gr of the 60 gr of starter that you have fed for 3 days twice a day ? So then you have only 10 gr of your 60 gr I'm right? How do you bring it back up to 60 grams?

    So really don't I need to feed the starter in the fridge? Because I have read everywhere that what ever you do you need to feed the starter once a week when it is in the fridge?

    The culture that you throw away when feeding could you use that to make for example a spelt flour culture with?

    Thank you soooooo much for this blog and I really hope it stays online or I will need to print it all out :p

    Grtzzzz from Belgium

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    1. Hi Shanna. So first, you start to build your starter. Instead of scraping away xxx amount so that you consistently maintain the 60g, you calculate how much you will need to make your levain (in this case, you will need 50g of starter, right, to make one loaf of bread, so, you should build your starter (the day before the bake is fine, you don't need to maintain this amount for the entire 3 days before baking) to equal 70g (I always do a pinch more, so, 75g) so the day before you build your levain, you need this: 25g starter, 25g flour, 25g water. This equals 75g. Then on levain day, you can use 50g of the starter, and be left with 25g of starter.

      If you store your starter in the fridge, you only need to feed it about once a month to maintain it. If you are baking regularly, you may as well keep it on the counter. But if you are only baking, say, once a month, you would pull your starter out about 4 days before you plan to make your levain, feed it twice a day for the 4 days, then you can build your levain on the 5th day. It should be strong enough. I do recommend, however, that if you are going to refrigerate your starter, you only do this if your starter is very strong and reliable.

      Yes, you can use your 'spent' starter to build different types of starters. For example, take 20g of your rye starter, add 20g of whole wheat flour and 20g of water. Keep doing this and your starter will turn into a whole wheat starter.

      Don't worry. I have no intention of taking this off line. It will be up as long as blogger is around. In fact, I am toying with starting it up again because Chad has a new book out. We will see!

      I'm glad you find this blog useful! That was my goal :)

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  40. And what do you need to feed again? The old starter 60gr - 25gr OR the new remaining 25 gr of starter?
    Sometimes I read recipes like this one http://www.karenskitchenstories.com/2013/11/multi-grain-and-spelt-100-sourdough.html where you need 430 gr of starter? How should I go forward with this?
    Last question of the day ;) : what % of protein do you bake with? I only use organic flours without any bread enhancers so it is really important to know :) thx again for your kindness

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    1. Hi Shanna. When you are done with your bread for this round of baking, go back to your 20/20/20.

      Someone who uses all starter and no levain is making a pretty sour loaf of bread. It's a method that many people use, but I do not (I have, and decided I prefer levain). I prefer a more subtly flavored loaf, which is what you get with a levain-based bread vs. a starter-based bread.

      I use primarily Bob's Red Mill for all purpose (and rye to feed my starter), King Arthur for Bread flour, To Your Health for spelt and rye (the rye to make bread), and Community Grains for Whole Wheat. I'm terrible. I never check the protein content. :) But all the flour I use is organic. And I have never used bread enhancers except for a 100% whole wheat loaf.

      Cheers Shanna!

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  41. For the 20/20/20 is suppose that I use the leftover from the starter (25 gr) or do I proceed with the old and remaining 35 gr ? (Sorry for all the stupid questions but I am a new kid on the sourdough-block :p)

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    1. I'm not sure I understand. So, lets say you keep 60g of starter, every day you scrape out 40g and add 20/20 water and flour. on 'levain day', you will build this starter to reach (lets say that you need 50g of starter to make a levain) a total of 70g of starter (I always add a few more 'just in case' grams, so, lets say 75g total starter needed to make a loaf of bread - 50g for the loaf of bread, 25g remaining). scrape out 50g of starter and use to make the levain, you are left with the 25g now. just feed this as usual.

      i hope this helps!

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  42. Hi France, thanks so much for this blog!! I followed your instructions to make this sour dough starter and I'm on my 4th feeding. The starter looked quite active by the time I got to it for second feeding. However it's not doing much now; it doesn't rise as much anymore. Can I use this starter to make a basic country bread? I baked several ones using commercial yeast. My loaves always came out with very thick crust and a rather dense crumb. The only thing that did happen was there were holes. The loaf also didn't have the oven spring; the score didn't bloom... Any feedbacks you can provide is really appreciated!!!

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    1. Hi there. Thank you for loving the blog :)

      Ummm, your starter after only 4 feedings is likely not ready. I am assuming that this is only 2 days of feedings, if you are feeding it twice a day. You usually want to wait about 9 days before you actually bake with it. It is still 'determining its personality' at this stage. Think of it this way: you wouldn't put a baby behind the wheel of a car and expect it to drive, would you? Same for the starter. It needs time to mature and grow. And your first couple of loaves may even be rudimentary. But you must bake regularly. It's good for the environment to keep that constant flow of bacteria and yeast circulating. The more you bake, the more active your environment becomes, the more of an identity your starter takes on. That's why I don't agree with refrigerating starters and baking only once in a while. You may as well just purchase sourdough bread if you only plan to bake only a few times a year. So, let it go for a full 9 days, and bake at least once a week if you can. You will get really good at learning bread if you bake regularly.

      Commercial yeast and I are not good friends. It is a valid medium for baking, I just prefer sourdough. For health reasons, artistic reasons, and my single-handed effort to slow the world down a bit and focus on quality rather than speed or quantity. So, I would say wait for your starter to mature, and focus on using it instead of commercial yeast. :)

      France

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    2. First, I'd like to pay my sincere thanks for taking the time to encourage and to spend time answering my question! Today is my 5th day since I started the sourdough starter. Today it looks like it is more active so I am very hopeful! I'll continue feeding it twice a day for the next 5 days. I previously tried a basic country bread using Ken Forkish's recipe. It's a 78%hydration dough using the S&F only. Although the results always came out with nice, large holes in the crumb it's missing the crackling, shattering, and thin crust. It came out with a very thick crust and one cannot take a bite out of it!!! His method calls for 10-14 hours of room temperature fermentation then final fermentation of 1 hour then pop right in the oven. No oven spring happened as my score didn't produce that nice ears I'm also much after. I tried oven steam using the roasting pan filled with lava rocks and water method. I baked in a Dutch oven. His recipe calls for a 30 mins autolyse as well. I always find myself questioning how many S&F should my dough needs each time. At one point I did it until I could somewhat do the windowpane test. Then I decided that was not necessary and do a few less S&F. I then was afraid that might produce a really weak dough, and actually that was the case. I'm a beginner in this bread making madness and it's my new obsession. Since I decided to become a vegan, I can only make a very limited number of desserts so you see I'm making it my goal to learn about baking bread. It's been a rough road and quite frustrated experience because I know nothing about bread and the art of baking bread, and not counting new terms I have to learn! I was almost at a point of not wanting to learn anymore! Since I happened to find your blog it's like a new encouragement and at least I think I can feel like there is someone(you) to "hold" hands to help with
      walking me and many others on this journey!
      I'll be baking my first country loaf using my starter this weekend. I'm making half bread flour and half whole wheat starter since those are what I had on hands. Do you bake with the stone underneath your combo cooker as well? I think I read it here somewhere.

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    3. hey there. yes. i used a stone. two actually. try using all purpose flour to make your starter. i think it works better than bread flour. i think that chad is on the money about the folds. one fold per half hour for two hours. if you follow my formulae, you will start to learn bread, then you can start to experiment further. but as a beginner, try to follow formulae that are easy. you will learn the science of bread as you go. no need to learn it all in one go. the thing about the tartine bread experiment is that it's simple. chads bread is meant to be simple to make. the science is necessary to understand (i.e., protein content, the properties of flour), but for now, try to focus on the basic stuff. like, getting a proper starter off the ground so that it can make you bread. i think it might be helpful to stick with one book/source for now, then you can pull in others. if you have too much information on your hands, you are going to get confused. and i guarantee, if you are using my experiment/chads book/forkish's book/other books, you are going to have way too much conflicting information on your hands, and no tools/skills to deal with it all because its all so new.

      dont rush. this is supposed to be a new endeavor for you. enjoy the process. take it slow. choose one of the books/sources, follow that for a while, ask questions when issues arise for that specific book/formula rather than ditching it and picking up another book. chad will do things differently than me because his environment is different. i dont know if you used commercial yeast or sourdough for forkish's recipe, but if you used your starter, the reason the crust came out tough is because your starter is too young. in fact, in 9 or 10 days you can make bread with it, but that perfect crust/crumb balance is going to take time to happen because a starter gets better and more reliable with age. right now you will be making bread with a not fully developed/matured starter. 9 days is great to start, but don't expect your 9 day old starter to make bread like you will be able to make in six months time with the same starter. it takes time to develop a personality.

      room temp fermentation is tricky. ive never been able to master it. i live in a warm environment. i avoid room temp fermentations. as you read my blog, you will see that i always fridge ferment. LONG COLD SLOW fermentation is what produces crisp/shattery crust and the best flavor. my loaves consistently ferment in the fridge for 18 hours these days. with the exception of the 2 hour bulk fermentation at turn time, it is always cold.

      finally. i always use my combo cooker. ive never had luck with trying to inject steam into my oven. i have a cheap oven. i doubt it holds steam very well. ive tried everything from ice cubes to wet rags to squirt guns every few minutes. no dice. until i can afford a better oven, the combo cooker is my best friend.

      do yourself a favor. keep making that one loaf of bread before you move on. master that country loaf, get to know that flour, experiment with hydration, let your starter develop. then move forward. i am not saying this because i am biased, but you will see around the middle of my blog where things really started taking off. choose one of the best formulae, and keep making it. add more or less water, more or less salt, ferment more or less, then you will begin to understand YOUR bread in YOUR environment.

      this is your bread journey. you call the shots. you make the rules. become the master of your bread in your environment, and you will be making chad-worthy loaves in no time.

      good luck, and keep writing if you need help. i'm here!

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    4. and take lots and lots and LOTS of notes! time of day/temp/exactly how much water you used, brand of flour, all of it. that way you can always tweak your recipes. you need something to go off of. your memory will not be reliable enough to count on. and you will make a fabulous loaf one day soon, and want to remember just how you did it so you can keep making successful breads. early on i 'lost' many a loaf because i didnt write it down.

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    5. Hi France - I've been reading quite a bit, but I guess I'm a bit of confused with starter/ leaven and hoping you can help! First, I intend to take out the 1 Tbsp. of starter to make bread leaven and leave the rest of the starter and keep feeding it twice/ day. However, the book mentioned to discard the rest of the starter and use the leaven and keep it feeding it to maintain the starter for future baking. This is where I am confused...why can I just use the leftover starter and continue feeding it for future baking? Is there a logical reason why I shouldn't use the leftover starter, but use the leaven to start the "new" starter?
      Secondly, say if I have to use the leaven to do the "new" starter, according to the country bread's instruction, I am not sure how much I can keep the leaven and how much of it I can use to make the bread...
      I experimented with the leaven, but after 12 hours, it did not pass the float test - I am thinking this is because my starter is not mature, is this true?
      Finally, say if I want to have 20 gr. of starter to maintain at all time, can I increase the amount of flour adding to the starter? For instance, I understand from your instruction that if I want to maintain 20 gr. of starter, I'll need to feed 20 gr. of flour and 20 gr. of water to 20 gr. of starter. What if I increase the amount of flour and water to 35 gr./ each to the 20 gr. starter? What will that do to the starter? I just want to understand a bit more about how starter should be kept/ feeding, etc.

      Thanks again, France! I truly appreciate all your time and feedbacks!

      Delete
    6. I can't remember...I think that Chad actually calls to use the levain as a continuation of your starter. I treat the two independently. I don't bake daily, but the starter must be fed daily. Whenever I want to bake, I just pull out what I need to make the levain, and continue to feed whatever is left in my jar. I maintain this starter no matter how often I bake. I don't pull out a portion of levain and use this as my 'new' starter. So, it's your call. There is no right or wrong way. It sounds like you want to use the method that I outline. Perfectly fine.

      Well, this is Chad's method - the float test. I don't do it. I never got my starter to float. Well, maybe once. After that, it was a 'suggestion' more than a 'rule'. As all of Chad's ideas in the book, they are suggestions rather than hard and fast rules. Use what works, discard what does not -- no pun intended :) I remember when I did the float test, it never worked, and I kept biting off pieces of my levain until it was almost gone. That's what prompted me to discard this idea and just trust my instincts with my levain. I use other visual cues, and if you look at my most recent posts, you will see that I photo my levain fully realized so that you can begin to get an idea of what it is supposed to look like without going through the float test.

      How old is your starter?

      You should be maintaining at least 60g of starter. Perhaps I should reword that post. But, to clarify: 20g starter, to this, add 20g flour, 20g water. This equals 60g of starter. Regardless of if you just add the flour and water to this 20g, or if it's hours old, that total amount IS your starter.

      So, to sum up: go ahead and use your starter to make your levain, instead of pulling out levain and calling it your 'new' starter. And you are maintaining 60g of starter at all times. When you need to bake and need more starter to make a levain, just do some math and increase the amount of starter to suit the formula.

      Hope all this helps!

      France

      Delete
  43. Hi Francis:
    So maybe you could help me figure this one out. I have had success making the round country loaves and the pizza in the past, but I haven't made bread in probably at least 6 months or so. The last two times (last night and a month ago) I prepared my levain. When I start to proceed with the next step in the morning, I do the levain test and take a piece of levain, put it in cup of water to see if it floats, both times it hasn't floated. I threw the last levain away after letting it ferment for over a day and still no floating pieces. I don't want to go on in case my country loaves don't turn out and I have wasted even more time and money on flour. I'm in sacramento, my place is about 65 degrees. Any suggestions this time around? I now have the time to bake on a regular basis, at least once a week or more.
    Lynn

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    Replies
    1. Hey Lynn, how funny. Read the last comment and my reply. This will answer your float test question. I never do the float test. I use other visual cues (often photographed on my posts so the reader can see what my levain looks like). Nice. 65 degrees is great for making bread!

      Have you been (in this past 6 months) been doing two feedings a day faithfully? Or just one? I feed once a day as a rule, then when I am going to bake, I feed twice a day for a full 3 days before 'levain' day. You must do double feedings for at least 3 days before levain day. I also have good habits with the levain and never forget to feed it. I have on a couple of occasions awakened from a deep sleep at 3am saying MY STARTER! and gone to feed it. Try not to forget (I mean, the sky will not fall if you forget once or twice, just don't go days without feeding it if you can help it).

      If you are baking more than once a week, just do double feedings every day, that way your starter is always ready to go. And be sure to maintain at least 75g of starter. That way, at a moments notice, you have enough starter on hand to make a loaf of bread with enough leftover to keep feeding.

      Hope all this helps!

      France

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    2. Hi France -

      I am SOOOOOOO sorry for hogging up your time....I will admit, I am learning to be patience in learning new things....
      So my levain never ever passed the "float" test. One time, I went ahead and continue with making the loaf. I made a mistake and not dividing the amount into 2 equal loaves so my loaf came out huge, dense, very little air/ holes and we couldn't eat! It definitely tasted sour...
      About a week and a half later, I tried again, this time, I failed miserably. I halved the recipe so it would only make one loaf. Again, the levain did not pass the float test, but after 18 hours of fermenting it, I went ahead and used it. This time the loaf did not have Any oven spring. The crumb was so dense, it was like a brick. I was thinking of using to throw around like a baseball!!! I am beginning to think this bread baking hobby isn't liking me so much.... My starter will be exactly one month old this coming 27th. There is Only One time, and one time only, that I saw pretty foam like yours had and that was surprisingly, happened when my starter was about 4 days old. Ever since then, my starter has been Very moody. Someone told me I need to name my starter, and talk "nicely" to it!!!! So I named my starter "Helen" - that was the first thing that came to mind....I am insane....so "Helen" hasn't risen so much lately. She hasn't produced any positive sign and I feed her twice a day, religiously, with half organic rye and half whole wheat. I always keep her in the oven, with the pilot light on 24/7.....I am not doing something correctly I guess... I'll keep feeding her, although she's been very "unfaithful" to give me any hope....Anyway, I am so glad I'm able to share these silly moments on your blog, and I really appreciate you take the time to answer/ comment/ suggest and encourage us!

      Delete
    3. OK. Well, first I would not put whole wheat flour in it. Try the formula with all dark rye. And try moving it, the jar, I mean. The thing about getting started is that you have to be flexible and try new things constantly if something is not working. Adapt to your environment. Maybe it's too warm in the oven? Try someplace cooler. What kind of water are you using?

      Tell me from beginning to end what you are doing. What you are using. What type of flour and water. What the temp is in your house. What type of vessel are you using. Send pictures to: tartine-bread-experiment@live.com. Send pictures of the starter. The flour. Etc. We will get to the bottom of it. I had the same issue with my starter early on. It took over a month. The key for me was 1) changing the water type 2) changing to 100% dark rye (it MUST be DARK rye) 3) changing the size of the container. This last one seems silly, but it was the final factor. The starter was sluggish forever until I got it into the right size vessel.

      LOL. You don't need to talk to or name your starter to get it to work. I mean, you can if you want to, can't hurt, but what it needs is the right components in your given environment.

      xo

      fo

      Delete
  44. Hi France,

    I recently found your blog and I enjoy it greatly. I, too, own Tartine Bread and I have started on the path of bread enlightenment but before I start using wild yeast starters I am using commercial yeast with a similar bread formula to Chad's. Unfortunately, I am running into some trouble and I was wondering if you would be able to assist.

    The dough never seems to hold its shape as well as yours does.

    Currently, the formula that I use has a 72% hydration, requires 4 - 5 hours bulk fermentation with turns every hour and has a final proof time of 1 1/4 hrs. The next time I bake I was planning on performing the turns every half an hour and possibly fermenting in the fridge seeing that it gets rather hot where I live. (A Caribbean island..my kitchen gets up to 82 - 85 F). Any ideas?

    Thank you for your time and advice in advance.

    Respectfully
    Zack

    ReplyDelete
  45. Hello and thanks for this very informative blog. A question if I may. How much of the dough starter do I add to my bread making? Perhaps it was already answered here and I had missed it.

    Thanks,
    Yury

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    Replies
    1. you are welcome.

      all of the formulae in my blog list how much stater for each bread. ;)

      Delete
  46. My starter seems pretty dry too. Can I please send you a photo of it?

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    Replies
    1. it all depends on the brand of flour you are using, if perhaps you are milling the flour yourself for your starter. if it's really, really stiff, just add water. it's fine. i promise :)

      chad goes by how his starter looks and feels rather than getting weighed down by weighing out his flour and water.

      france

      Delete
  47. ok so here is my question i have started my starter using arrowhead mill rye flour and bobs red mill white flour and whole wheat flour. i keep all my flours in the fridge but i take what i need out a couple of hours before i feed my starter. it is day 7 and while the is a lot of bubbles on the side of the jar in it it is not rising or getting foamy at the top like yours i am using aquafina bottled water. do you think the flour in the fridge is affecting it. this is my first attempt at making a starter. also i know its working because when i take out my excess starter to feed it again it has a nice sour taste to it. i was just wondering why it was taking so long to get to that point like the ones in your picture. i have noticed that me start is a little stiff after i have been making it so today i added more water than usual to make it into a thick batter consistency about 75 grams of water to my 50 grams of flours and 50 grams of starter i will see what that does tonight after i come home from work.

    i really like your blog you have a lot of good tips and it is very informative. thanks ralph

    ReplyDelete
  48. Hi, quick question on the combo cooker you have. What quart size is it and what dough weight range would you recommend using?
    Big G

    ReplyDelete
  49. Superb blog. after spending the last 2 years making different strains and blends of flour for starters and baking them off against each other I've come to the conclusion that 100% rye is the best choice and have given up with the rest (bar a backup of 50/50 rye and white I keep in the fridge).

    I got good results with all different blends but one thing I've noticed is that any blend with whole wheat in is the most tricky and can actually change a lot over time as well. White flour for me was always great but I'm not a fan of the "dull" flavour in the finished loaf...even when its just 10g of rye starter in the final loaf it shines through with a complexity of flavour in all the bread I bake.

    Anyway its nice to see some else have the same experience. Keep up the fine work its an utter joy to read ^-^

    ReplyDelete
  50. Love your blog and gorgeous photos. Lot's of wonderful info to add to long (and fun) process of learning to make fabulous bread! Thank you!! I have a question... I think I know the answer, but not sure. I've been making preferment poolishes (with various flours, experimenting) for a couple of years, usually leaving it out at room temp for 8-12 hrs then in the fridge for another 12 or more. I would simply add some of the poolish to any bread recipe I was making, along with a bit of extra commercial yeast for a more "developed" and complex flavor. Always worked well and the breads (mostly rustic 50% to 80% whole grain flours) and I could taste a positive difference from breads made w/o the poolish. Fast forward... I started a poolish in my usual way (75% whole dark rye flower and 25% AP or bread flour), but instead of using it all for a couple of baking sessions, I kept feeding it over time and mostly kept it in the fridge. After about 3 months, I noticed it has a distinctly sour taste and smell (the good kind!) and is nothing like the poolish it started as. Since then, I've maintained it by simply adding more rye flour along with a little AP or bread and water, after using a bit or if it has been sitting idle in the fridge for a week or so. It seems that my simple poolish has become a lovely sourdough starter. I've been able to keep it at the same flavor profile now for at least 6 months. Is it possible that the original commercial yeast has been replaced by wild yeasts and the "good" bacteria that provides the sour flavor somehow found a favorable environment in my humble poolish? I live in hot Florida, so I was never brave enough to attempt to purposely make a wild sour starter, but it seems that one found me. Have you heard of this happening? I sort of thought that the commercial yeast would remain dominant, preventing the wild yeasts from getting established. Thanks in advance for any thoughts. All the best.

    ReplyDelete

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