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Lauren’s Einkorn Sourdough Starter Story

Lauren’s Einkorn Sourdough Starter Story

Lauren-1My 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.

Lauren's starterMy 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. 

Lauren'sEinkornBouleMy 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.

Good luck!

40 Responses to Lauren’s Einkorn Sourdough Starter Story

  1. denise says:

    wow, thank you , i have discarded my starter many times because i just didn’t see it bubbling. I even showed it to some bread baker friends and they said “no, that’s not what a ferment should look like”. I’ll give it another try.

  2. Nancy says:

    Your blog is so timely. Some friends and I have been on Facebook sharing attempts and discussing what we feared were failures in our starter. I threw away my last attempt several months ago because I was sure I had killed the poor starter. This time I am going on faith. I was actually on day 5 when you posted this, so I am glad to have read about your experience before I opened the cabinet door.

  3. Wendy says:

    I’m a big fan of Einkorn wheat! I tried it for the first time about a year ago when I read that people with gluten issues (me) tolerate it well. It’s TRUE!!!

    So excited and proud to have my friend Lauren involved with such an amazing product/company!!!

  4. Melissa says:

    Thank you for posting this! It makes so much sense and clears up any questions I had. So excited to finally have a fully fermented bubbly sourdough starter.

  5. Diana says:

    Wow, that’s interesting, how differently einkorn reacts vs other flours. But I mill my own grain. Can I use my whole grain einkorn same way?

  6. Susan says:

    Looking for clarity on exactly when I should start discarding part of my starter… the directions in my Jovial Einkorn cookbook aren’t very clear on this. I am at the point where I am feeding twice daily, and still only discarding the filmy goo on the top. Thanks so much!

    • jovial says:

      Hello Susan-up until day 5 you are just adding flour and water-then when you begin refreshing you remove the 10 grams and refresh just that amount and discard the rest. From that point on, every time you refresh, you remove the 10 grams, refresh it, and discard the original amount.

  7. Elisabeth says:

    Thank you for all your helpful comments. Last week I began my first attempt at an Einkorn sourdough starter using Carla’s, “Einkorn Recipes for Nature’s Original Wheat.” After Day 3’s feeding, I missed feeding on Day 4 and am now on Day 6 (haven’t fed since Day 3). Wondering if I should discard? The surface is bubbly, but as I also didn’t follow Carla’s method of mixing it ‘by hand’ on the Day 1 to make a ball (rather with a fork to sort of make a ball), would you advise me to start over? Thank you again, I’d appreciate any input.

    • jovial says:

      The starter should respond if you begin refreshing by taking 10 g of starter and adding 30 g of water and 60 g of flour. Do this two times per day until there are visible bubbles on the surface and it expands a lot in between refreshes. I would work it with your hands each time you refresh. It will be tacky, but should not stick to your hands. This helps to distribute the moisture and flour throughout.

  8. Elisabeth says:

    Thank you for your helpful feedback! Should I discard everything except the 10g of starter? Carla’s method in her book, “Einkorn Recipes for Nature’s Original Wheat,” doesn’t mention discarding the whole starter less 10g. Is this another method or a repair remedy for my neglected starter?

  9. Lisa says:

    Ok, I am confused. I want to start marking my own Einkorn sourdough bread. I read the instructions on Einkorn Sourdough Starter page. There is no mention of discarding all but 10 gm of starter each day you feed the starter. So, let me see if I got this right.

    On day 1, you start with 1/2 flour and 3 Tbsp of warm water. You save 10 gm of starter on day 3 and add 1/2 cup flour and 3 Tbsp of warm water. You repeat this same process on day 4 and on day 5, you can make your bread with 2 tsp of starter?

  10. Emma says:

    Hi there. Thank you for this article. I started a starter and accidentally fed it three times longer than I should have. I now realize I was supposed to start the refreshing process at that point but continued to feed it. I have about 2 cups of starter rather than 1. Should I discard my whole starter and try again from the beginning or just start refreshing now? Thanks so much.

    • jovial says:

      If there are a few bubbles showing in your starter, then start refreshing and discard the original piece. You will see bubbles in the starter and it should smell sweet. If you are unsure, start a fresh batch.

  11. Clare says:

    I just had to throw out my starter on Day 7. I followed the books directions and refreshed as directed but it remained a hard ball each time and it no longer would mix with the water when I tried to refresh it. I’m not sure what happened but I’m very frustrated.

    • jovial says:

      Did you remove 10 g of starter each time you refreshed and discard the original piece? Your starter should stay the size of a tangerine, and when you refresh, take the 10 g and add 30 g of water too it and stir until creamy (the starter will not completely dissolve) then add the 60 g of flour until it comes together into a ball.

  12. Sheila says:

    Hi! I grind my own Einkorn but I have a package of Jovial Einkorn Flour in the pantry. Is there a benefit to using my ground Einkorn to make the starter or would it be just as good/nutritious to use the Jovial Flour?

    Also, I want to make a sourdough starter, where do I go for the best instructions, it sounds a bit confusing… Do I buy a certain cookbook? Or is it online? Or do I call? Thank you so much!!

  13. Jackie says:

    I’m on day 18 now, and I can’t say I see any “bubbling” in my starter. Still refreshing 2x/day, ever since day 5. It’s definitely expanding between refreshes, but not “bubbling.” I’ve followed instructions to the letter. Only mistake I made was refrigerating the starter overnight after day 5 — I misinterpreted the instructions in the book. After that, it’s been in the dark at room temperature, getting 2 refreshes per day, and a lot of tender loving encouragement!
    Not sure if I should throw the towel in and start over from day 1, or tough it out for a few more days. Any advice you can give me would be most appreciated. Thank you!

    • jovial says:

      Why don’t you try to refresh once a day and let the starter rise at room temperature for 24 hours and see if it starts bubbling.

      • Jackie says:

        I’ll give that a try. I actually skipped last night’s “feeding” and refreshed this morning. I’ll see how it looks after a few days of 24 hours between and let you know. Thank you!

          • Jackie says:

            Hi again! OK, I’ve been refreshing once every 24 hours for the last 3-4 days now. Definitely seeing a difference — a lot of bubbles on the bottom and sides, not so much on top, but the whole thing is expanding a lot more. I’m encouraged, and so want to see my starter develop and be healthy and happy!
            Do you think I should start refreshing every 12 hours again, or just keep going. I can’t give up on this now. I’ve got some emotions invested in this project, along with 2 bags of flour!
            Thanks for your help and encouragement!

  14. Jackie says:

    Hi there, Jackie again. I emailed pictures of my starter taken this morning to the address you gave me in our last post. I think I may be ready? Let me know what you think. Thank you!

  15. ylsheilaheck says:

    Hi! I bought the book and started my little baby starter! We’ve been bonding now for about a week. It expands and bubbles after 24 hours (it’s a bit cool in our house these days 70 degreesish) but not after 6 hours yet. So I just keep going and feeding every 24 hours right? Until I see that it can expand and bubble in less time preferably 5-6 hours right? It still stinks too.
    Thank you!

    • jovial says:

      Yes, just keep going! You will see a pretty obvious change in appearance as the bubbles become so plentiful that the starter flattens out and you can see bubbles on the surface as well as the interior.

  16. ylsheilaheck says:

    I just looked when I got home from work and it is all gray and crusty on top and hardly got bigger and bubbled at all. Did I kill it? Should I start over?

    • jovial says:

      If you are only on the first day or two, the gray slightly hard crust is normal oxidation and will disappear as the acid level improves in your starter. It should have sweet, yogurt like smell. If you are farther along, try refreshing with 10 g removed from the interior of the starter rather than the outer section.

  17. Karen Rowantree says:

    Carla I have your book on Kindle. I find the instructions very unclear. I did the 5 days of refreshing the starter leaving it at 69 F. It seemed to be working fine. Then I started on the day 6 – 10 and your instructions clearly state to refrigerate the starter until you refresh it again. so that’s what I’ve been doing. But of course, it never expands and when I mix the 10g of starter with the 30g of of warm water, it’s very hard to mix and certainly doesn’t get “creamy”. anyway, now I’m thinking I shouldn’t be leaving it in the refrigerator for day 6 – 10 but should be putting in back again at 69 degrees. Your directions are very unclear re that part of the process. Anyway, I will try that, because this is definitely not working. It never expands. PLEASE PLEASE clarify and perhaps do a video on the process.

    • jovial says:

      Hello Karen-so sorry you are having trouble. You should not refrigerate the starter during the 2X per day refreshing (days 6-10) You should not put it in the refrigerator until after it has bubbled up within 5 hours of refreshing (for some this is day 6 or 7 and for others it may be 10 day or possibly more). Once it does this, you can put it in the fridge and refresh 1X per week. By chilling it, you are reducing the activity and will get an active enough starter to leaven the bread. Please email us at info@jovialfoods.com if you have more questions.

  18. Chandra says:

    Hi,
    Lovely post, thank you!
    I am confused about building a starter without discarding daily. I see mention of amounts that indicate there may have been discard, but no instructions for that step in the Einkorn cookbook recipe for creating a sourdough starter. Can you direct me to the instructions I’ve missed or explain when you discard if you do?
    Thank you!

    • jovial says:

      If you refer to the ‘refresh’ steps on days 6 through 10 it instructs to start with 10 g of starter from the previous day. Up through day 5, you are building, and then you refresh.

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