Sourdough is the best traditional grain prep method, hands down.
Because… of all the grain prep methods — soaking, sprouting, souring — sourdough is the most effective way to prepare grains for best digestion and nutrition.
That’s just one reason I love using sourdough and rely on it for nearly all our baking.
There are other reasons, too. Like, how beautifully sourdough leavens baked goods because of the action of the wild yeasts in the starter.
And of course, the flavor — a delightful tang that just can’t be beat!
Then, combine the power of sourdough with the health of einkorn — a healthy 5,000-year-old variety of wheat — and you have an even better combination!
In today's post, I’m going to show you how to make an einkorn sourdough starter (both print and video) and tell you how to care for it. We’ll also go over the differences between an einkorn starter and other grain-based starters.
What is Einkorn, Anyway?
Einkorn is a 5,000-year-old variety of wheat that many find easier to digest than modern wheat (it has gentler gluten and less and gentler starch). Yet it's a bit tricky to figure out how to use because it behaves differently. You can skip the learning curve by using my free & AMAZING no-knead einkorn bread recipe!
The recipe is FREE, easy, and healthy, and takes only 15 minutes of hands-on time!
And soon your family will be saying: “This is the best bread EVER!”
Here’s why you should embrace sourdough in your traditional kitchen (provided you can eat grains and gluten).
It’s the most nutritious. If done right*, sourdough is the most effective grain preparation, surpassing the effectiveness of soaking or sprouting. The wild yeasts and bacteria in the starter pre-digest gluten, consume grain sugar and neutralize anti-nutrients such as phytic acid and enzyme inhibitors. Einkorn is already easier to digest and has less phytic acid than newer grains, so if you combine this ancient grain with the power of sourdough, you end up with marvelously digestible and nutritious baked goods!
*What do I mean by “if done right”?
There’s a difference between modern sourdough recipes you might find on the Internet and true, traditional sourdough. A truly nutritious sourdough recipe, like any of ours, will include 3 important things:
- At the beginning of the recipe, all the flour is combined with the starter for the entirety of the souring time, except perhaps for a bit of flour used for rolling or handling later on.
- The souring time will be done in a warm location, which is essential for the sourdough starter to do its important work.
- And, the souring duration will be long enough, usually 5 to 24 hours, depending on temperature (the warmer the location, the faster the souring time can be).
The power of natural leavening. It’s amazing really — the wild yeasts in your sourdough starter are powerful. They produce gases as they eat the starch in einkorn, and this actually rises your dough. No need to purchase store-bought yeast because your sourdough starter does the job. It’s beautiful to watch and simply like taking part in a miracle — miracles which could happen daily in your kitchen!
The taste. Myself, I love a good tang, and sourdough delivers. Sourdough doesn’t have to be overly sour, however. If your family doesn’t care for sour, add a bit of baking soda to the batter or dough right before baking. Baking soda reacts with the acid of the sourdough to “sweeten” the dough. This and other tips for reducing the sour can be found in this blog post — 6 Tips to Prevent “Sour” Sourdough. Not to scare you, though, because most sourdough recipes are not overly sour anyway!
What's A Sourdough Starter?
In order to use sourdough in your kitchen, you need a sourdough starter. This is a batter-like mixture of flour and water that you feed and care for regularly in order to cultivate an active colony of wild yeasts and beneficial bacteria right inside it (it’s microscopic).
You use some of the sourdough starter in your baking (by combining it with flour and other ingredients), always making sure to reserve a portion of it that you keep going through regular feedings of more flour and water.
Sound intimidating? It's not! Soon, your starter becomes like a cherished member of your family. Often people name their starters! I never have, but maybe I should. 😉
When you're ready to maintain an einkorn sourdough starter, you've got 2 options. You can either transition another sourdough starter over to einkorn flour, or you can start a fresh einkorn starter.
Here's how to transition a sourdough starter to einkorn; I covered it on a past #AskWardee.
Keep reading to find out how to make an einkorn sourdough starter from scratch.
Unique Qualities Of An Einkorn Sourdough Starter
Before I show you how to make a starter, let's talk about the unique qualities of an einkorn sourdough starter.
If you have experience with sourdough, it may have been with a wheat or rye starter. The care and feeding (and even starting) of these starters is similar to an einkorn sourdough starter.
Their behavior, however, is different. It comes down to 3 things.
First, since einkorn absorbs less water, the starter tends to be runnier. You can easily adjust for this by adding a bit more flour or a bit less water at each feeding. Which, by the way, is a good idea. Because a starter on the thicker side works better in Traditional Cooking School's recipes.
Second, while a whole wheat or rye starter will often double or triple in size at its peak (the height of activity), einkorn simply does not. So don’t rely on height for signs that it’s doing well. Instead, use the other signs of an active starter to gauge your starter’s health — that it’s bubbly, domes slightly, produces hooch (yellow liquid), and smells fresh and sour.
Finally, an einkorn starter is a bit stringy. Nothing wrong with this; it’s just the way it is. 😉
How To Make An Einkorn Sourdough Starter
Check out the play-by-play video above. And here are the instructions written out.
To start your einkorn starter, you need:
- einkorn flour (where to buy einkorn)
- well or filtered water (not city water)
- pint-size jar
- plastic wrap or paper towel and rubber band
Feeding 1. Put 1/4 cup water and 3/8 cup flour (1/4 cup + 1/8 cup) in a 2-cup glass jar. Stir vigorously. Scrape sides. Cover. Allow to sit for 12 hours.
Feeding 2. 12 hours later, if you don't see life, stir again. Scrape sides. Cover and allow to sit for 12 more hours. If you do see life (a few bubbles), add 1/4 cup water to the jar. Stir well. Add 3/8 cup flour. Stir vigorously. Scrape and cover. Set aside for 12 hours.
Feeding 3. 12 hours later, if you still don't see signs of life, dump out this mixture and start again. If you do see life (a few more bubbles), remove 1/2 of the starter, add 1/4 cup water, and stir. Add 3/8 cup flour and stir. Scrape and cover. Allow to sit for 12 or so hours.
Feeding 4. Remove 1/2 of the starter. Add 1/4 cup water and stir. Add 3/8 cup flour and stir. Scrape and cover. Allow to sit for 12 or so hours.
Feedings 5, 6, 7 … Continue with this routine until your starter consistently shows signs of life (bubbles, hooch and domed), and is at least five to seven days old.
If, after day 3 or more, your starter does not show much activity 12 hours after its discard/feeding, try giving it a good stir without discarding and feeding. Sometimes this pause gives the organisms a chance to catch up and the starter an opportunity to take off. Then when you're satisfied it's behaving well — it's bubbly, domes slightly, produces hooch (yellow liquid), and smells fresh and sour — use it in recipes!
The sourdough starter is not a viable starter until 3 to 5 days old and sometimes longer. It takes that long for the organism balance to get established. Discarding half is actually the MOST FRUGAL way to do this…
Think about it… If you don't discard some each time, you have to feed it MORE flour each time (because it's a larger quantity of batter to keep going).
Some say they want to keep the “other half” and give to a friend. The problem with this is… at every feeding, there's another half which becomes other HALVES at each new feeding…
First 2, then 4, then 8, then 16…. up to 256 from the first mixture after just 4 days!
And EACH ONE needs to be built up to maturity (3-5 days with 2 feedings a day).
Who has that much counter space, abundance of flour, OR friends? 😉
So… it's much less wasteful to discard some each time (which can go in compost or toss in something else you're baking… doesn't have to be wasted) than to use tons of flour or try to make tons of starters. 😉
Need Einkorn Recipes?
- FREE recipe: No-Knead Sourdough Einkorn Bread
- Einkorn Sourdough Bagels
- Sourdough Einkorn Cinnamon Rolls
- Sourdough Einkorn Grilled Pizza Crust
- Einkorn Baking eBook & Video Package
- Einkorn Baking eCourse (included with your membership in Traditional Cooking School)
- 6 Tips to Prevent “Sour” Sourdough
- Einkorn 101
- Where to buy einkorn
Have you worked with einkorn sourdough? Have you started or kept an einkorn sourdough starter? Got any tips to share? Comment below!
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