Starter/Leaven/Tartine

I would think if you add 200g flour + 200g water to 1 tbsp starter you’ll end up with 400g of leaven.

Without haing the book in-front of me i’m thinking he means that the extra bit of leaven you have made will be the starter for the next recipe.

Perhaps the 1:1:1 ratio you’re talking about was making the starter from scratch but keeping the extra leaven to be starter for the next loaf is maintenance. Many ways to get to the same pplace as long as you always keep something for the next bake.

Thank you Abe for your reply! For maintenance do you keep your original starter or the leaven?
Also, why would Robertson have you make 400 g of leaven when you only need 200 g for the recipe?

Very difficult to say as I don’t have the book. But as long as you have the correct amount of leaven to go then that part of the recipe is open to interpretation. For instance…

Some will build a leaven but build a bit extra. That little extra becomes the starter for the next leaven build.

I keep my starter and leaven separate. So what i’ll do is build about 100g starter and keep it in the fridge. From this starter i’ll take a little off to build the exact amount of leaven I need for a recipe. When the starter in the fridge runs low i’ll re-feed it, allow it to activate and return it to the fridge.

It does seem strange that he recommends to build 400g and only uses 200g. The only thing I can think of is he wants you to build an extra 200g which you keep for the next time. Then you discard everything but 1 tablespoon and use that to build the next 400g (of which you use 200g) and so on. But that seems very wasteful. then again i’m only guessing here.

The only way to be sure is if you could show me what he says and his explanations. Perhaps you can email me the instructions he advises and i’ll look through it. Perhaps it needs further explanation or some tweaking for your own needs.

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Wow, thank you Abe! You answered all my questions. I think you are exactly correct on Robertson’s reasoning for the excess leaven build. I have been doing exactly the same as you, keeping 100 g of my original starter, then using that to build the leaven as needed. I also agree that it is wasteful to over build the leaven. As a fairly need SD baker, I just wanted to make sure I was on the right track. I soooo appreciate you helping me tease this out, THANK YOU!

Glad we’re on the same page :slight_smile:

Recipes are guidelines and how you end up with the exact amount of leaven, built to the correct specs, ready to go is even more open to your own needs.

If i’ve built mine but can’t start it straight away then i’ll refrigerate it for a few hours and then use. If i’ve decided too late for the recommended levain build and I have enough starter then i’ll increase the starter to feed ratio… and so on. What I always do is make sure it’s a healthy feed and nice and active.

Btw forgot to say, but I’m sure you’re doing this already, why not just half everything which will give you the 200g leaven for your loaf? 1/2 tbsp starter + 100g water + 100g flour. You’ll most likely end up with exactly 200g as some weight is lost through fermentation and sticking to sides when transferring.

Good idea, I will try that! Thanks again!

I am of the opinion that there are as many ways to do starter as there are people who bake with sourdough and have access to the internet. All of them are wrong, except the method that works well in your own kitchen.

But, when you think about it, most of the methods are variations on the same ideas for developing, maintaining and baking with starter. Also, within reasonable limits, a stable starter is resilient.

I have two of Chad Robertson’s books (#1 and #3) and have learned a lot from them, especially #3. But, I would not recommend his approach to developing and maintaining starter for the home baker. But, I respect that it works for him in his bakery. He bakes and sells bread that has a consistent crumb and flavor profile. He is able to produce that flavor profile by carefully controlling the development of the levain, not just the relative quantities of starter, flour and water, but he also controls for time and temperature. And, given that he has a bakery that produces more than one product, I doubt that any of that large quantity of discard goes to waste.

My own approach is to bake 2 loaves of bread at a time, 2 or 3 times a weak. I maintain a “mother starter” of 75 grams, the amount required for one loaf of bread. I feed that with 75 grams of water and 75 grams of water, bake with 150 grams of starter and reserve 75 grams. As a variation on that approach, I will double the 75 grams; divide that after it is ripe, reserve half and double the other half and then bake will all of that after it is ripe.

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Thanks John for the help! As a 3 month SD baker, I am still trying to find my starter/baking rhythm, without too much waste. One question:
If you have 75 g of starter, then add 75 g of water and 75 g of flour, after the rise will you have approx 225 g (75x3) of starter?

Tartine Bread has been has been my go to bread for a while now. I have Chad’s original book and the following is based on my understanding of what he has written there. I believe that his process is based on trying to minimize acid buildup in the starter, leaven and bread. That’s why he starts with a relatively low starter inoculation for 200 g each flour and water. That will dilute and acid in the starter. Then only half of the mild leaven is used in the dough, and the remainder gets refreshed as the ongoing starter. If baking daily this would minimize acid buildup. For me, at least, I don’t bake daily so that process doesn’t work for me.

Thanks Keith, that makes sense. So appreciate your comment.

Interesting! I mostly bake with what you refer to as a “low starter inoculation” … I think … The first sourdough recipe I used, nearly 4 years ago, was an adaptation of a Tartine recipe that called for taking 1 T of active starter, feeding 75g water, 75g flour and letting that sit for 12 hours and that is the leaven. (Recipe goes on with 700 g flour, 525 g water, salt …mix, rest, s&f, shape and bake). At any rate, then I remove about half the remaining starter (discard which I use all of in crackers/naan/tortillas/pasta), feed the other half and store.

Based on reading other recipes here and “watching” other’s experiences, I sometimes skip the overnight leaven build and use 150-200 g of my stock starter (active). That enables baking same day. I’ve tended to like the Tartine method results but not sure if it is just because that’s how I started or an actual difference. But your explanation is interesting to me in the “Oh, that’s why!” - Thanks!

Hi Abe,
You said that you keep starter and leaven separate. How you do that? Do you take some from the starter, and you put it on another jar and feed it until it’s peak, then you use it for bread?
Is starter called as mother?

I’m newbie here, so pls bear with me.
All these things are new to me.

I agree nothing mysterious about a starter. I just keep it in the fridge and don’t even feed it. I’ve had it for about 3 years. At first I kept it on the counter and fed I’d every day and just threw alot of it away. Then I kept it in the fridge and fed it occasionally. Now what I do is about 6 hrs or the night before I make a preferment with flour water and starter after that rise I just throw the same amount of starter I took out back in and refrigerate. I always have the same amount I started with. Maybe that’s wrong but it works

That’s correct, Elny.

My starter is where I store all the yeasts and bacteria. I think of it as a petri dish. Don’t keep much at any one time. Build about 100g and it lives in the fridge. When it comes to baking i’ll take some off and build a preferment, aka a levain, to go into the dough. The levain does a few things… it builds the flavour profile, ensures your starter is firing on all cylinders before making the final dough and it enables you to keep one starter that fits all recipes. Your levain can be built, using your starter, to any hydration and with any flour all geared towards the bread you’re making.

In other words my starter is non specific. My levain is the beginning of the recipe and purposefully built. As it is my starter is 100g of 100% hydration whole rye flour. But what happens if I need 200g of 80% hydration bread flour “starter”? That’s where a levain comes into play.

Of course there’s no one rule. If you have just fed your starter, it’s mature and ready to go, you don’t need much and you are not fussed if it’s just a few grams of a different flour and at a different hydration then by all means use it. It’ll work and make nice sourdough bread. sometimes I do that for off the cuff bread baking. But more often than not I go down the levain route as it’s very manageable, no fuss and i’m not slave to my starter. When it runs low i’ll take it out of the fridge, give it some TLC and feed it then back into the fridge it goes. i’ll make sure it gets a healthy feed and is active before refrigerating. But I don’t wish for it to have peaked and begun to fall as then it won’t last too long between feeds. So i’ll catch it when it’s about doubled then refrigerate. Also using rye flour is a lot easier than wheat as a rye starter is very robust and hardy.

I guess what I’m doing is technically a leaven then. I’ve heard it called a poolish as well. I make my leaven using mostly white flour because I return some to the starter jar. All the ingredients or different flours are added to my leaven after I return some keeping the starter basic. I guess I’m lazy and thrifty because doing it this way I never have to actually feed my starter or throw any away. The volume is constant . Maybe I’m mistaken in my procedure but it always takes right off

Technically a poolish is made with yeast and a leavan (or levain) is made with a sourdough starter. There are many ways to get good results. Some people just keep some dough from the previous bake. I did this for a while but what happens if you forget? Or you make a bread with lots of add-ins? Do whatever works for you :slight_smile:

I use a small, 4.4 oz canning-type jar (without the rubber seal) to hold my whole wheat mother starter in the fridge. Sometimes I’ll build the starter up enough in the small jar and just take from that, but if I’m going to bake several loaves or want to add some other type of flour I take a portion and build it up in a separate jar. The photo shows the mother starter on the left and the larger jar on the right. The larger one is an old sunflower seed butter jar (well-washed before using) – the yellow rubber band is so it doesn’t get tossed in the recycling after washing. I used 130 grams from the larger jar this morning, so it’s somewhat depleted and needs to be fed. For reference sake, the smaller jar has about 70 grams (just over one-quarter cup) in it.

That is something else I do. The scrapings of flour and dough go in the starter pot

Excellent idea. Thank you!