Lauren’s Einkorn Sourdough Starter Story
My name is Lauren and I work at jovial. I have always loved to bake, having learned from my Italian grandmother, Lucia, in her tiny kitchen decades ago. My favorite recipe that we made together was an orange chiffon cake that called for 12 eggs. She would crack each egg into my hand and I would let the whites slide through my fingers and then plop the yolk into a separate bowl. When I became a mom, much of my time in the kitchen was spent trying to feed everyone a square meal and cleaning up, so my baking fell by the wayside. Then, I saw a game changing recipe in the NY Times about 14 years ago for No-knead bread, and suddenly, we had homemade bread again!
I heard about einkorn, saw Carla give a talk at a local bookstore, and was eager to know more about jovial. Lucky for me, I live just 10 minutes from the company in Connecticut, and landed a job at jovial in February. If you’ve emailed or called for advice this year, I have probably helped you out. I field many questions about the sourdough starter recipe in Carla’s cookbook, and it became clear that if I was really going to offer meaningful help to our customers, I needed to make a starter for myself.
I took a 2 lb bag of all-purpose einkorn flour home with me the first week along with the book. I have a kitchen scale, which I have learned is probably the most important tool when working with einkorn. I got started, and as soon as I added the water to the flour, I was convinced that I did not have enough water. What I had in the bowl looked dry and crumbly, and that was so far from any starter I had ever seen. Since I wanted to be ‘by the book’ I kept stirring, and of course, after a few moments, the mass came together into a ball and I was able to pick it up and work it with my hands as Carla instructs in the book.
I put my new starter in a glass bowl, covered it tightly with plastic wrap and then tucked it into a kitchen towel and put it in the cabinet. I knew I had to wait 48 hours until I needed to feed it, but I actually forgot about it until nearly the end of the third day. When I uncovered it, what I saw looked nothing like what I had put in the cabinet. It was slimy and lumpy, and the flour and water had separated.
I continued, but I REALLY had trouble getting past the first 4 days. Before creating the starter for myself, I was not sure why I got so many questions about Day 5, since it seemed clear to me that you were supposed to discard most of this hard-won starter and refresh with only a half-dollar sized piece each time until the starter was ready. Wait, what? You THROW IT AWAY??? I did exactly what the book says and moved on.
My starter remained a ball with just a few bubbles forming after each refreshing for well past the 10-day mark. I was worried and frustrated, so I brought it to work with me one day. Our test kitchen reassured me that I was on the right track. I kept refreshing, covering, sniffing and hoping and hoping. Then, out of nowhere on day 16, I opened the cabinet and there she was, in her glory. I finally had a bubbly and sweetly sour starter that looked just like it should. Not only could I see bubbles when I turned the bowl over, but I could see bubbles on the surface of the starter, and it had spread out and risen up the sides of the bowl. It had all come together. It worked! Finally, I was on to baking, and let me tell you, it really was worth the wait.
My favorite go-to recipes are now the French Boule and the Classic Sandwich loaf. My daughters will eat almost a whole loaf in a day. We’ve made focaccia, grissini, and piadina. The slow-fermented Belgian waffles are a weekend regular as well. I’ve found out that thanks to einkorn sourdough, I can actually make many of these recipes even during a busy week with work and family. If I can do it, you can too, so don’t give up after Day 5 if things are moving along slowly. And, if you are feeling frustrated, you can always call me. I will do my best to answer any question you might have.