Transitioning sourdough starter to einkorn

(Leah) #1

I have a faithful sourdough starter that has been wonderfully baking my NK bread recipes here on I would love to transition a portion of my sourdough starter to einkorn flour so I can have the option of baking NK einkorn sourdough bread as well. Can anyone tell me the easiest way to transition some of my existing starter to einkorn? I do live in the desert southwest so admittedly, my home is becoming quite warm indoors, nearing 80F, which is the basic temperature in my kitchen during the warmer months.
Many thanks, Leah

New here. How often does someone reply?
(Paul) #2

Put 1/2 cup of einkorn flour in a small jar and mix with 1/3 cup of water. Then thoroughly mix in a teaspoon of your existing starter. At 80F, I’d leave it out for maybe 2-3 hours and then store in the fridge.


(Leah) #3

Wow, @peeve! Seriously, that’s it? Sweet! So basically I just do that once a week or so for a few weeks and I should then have an einkorn starter? I have a couple more questions: How do I cover the container? On my original sourdough, I just have a paper coffee filter covering the opening to the mason jar, held on by the “ring.” Should I do the same for the einkorn starter or does it need to be tightly “sealed?” It’s my understanding that sourdough needs “air flow” to be healthy and that it shouldn’t be sealed in its jar because it needs oxygen. When the transitioning starter is sitting out on the counter, do I need to protect it from the light be covering it with a towel? I’ve heard einkorn sourdough is light-sensitive. Any other pointers you might have would be very appreciated.

(Paul) #4

As far as I’m concerned, once you do what I wrote above and let it sit a few hours so the culture of microbes develops in the new jar, you’ve got an “einkorn starter.” Just treat it exactly the same as your existing starter, except when you feed it, feed it einkorn flour instead of whatever you are feeding your existing starter.

I also think that if you make a loaf of bread out of 100% einkorn flour and use, say, 5% by weight of your existing starter to leaven it, then before you stick it in the oven and kill all the microbes, you’ve got a 95% einkorn starter there. What is sourdough leavened bread dough before it goes into the oven? It’s a big ball of starter, that’s what.

In general, I think people overly mystify and are too conceptually precious about sourdough starter. It’s not really a big deal in practice (as miracles go).

I’m trying to puzzle out why you think you would need to repeat that procedure multiple times over multiple weeks to make an “einkorn starter,” or treat it any differently from your existing starter. To me, “einkorn starter” is a sourdough culture that exists in a matrix of einkorn flour. If you took that same culture and inoculated a mix of rye flour and water with it, then you’d have a rye starter. It’s not that mysterious.

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(Leah) #5

@peeve, Yes, once I start feeding him einkorn, he’ll grow into an einkorn starter. I’m sure within a few feedings of einkorn he should be ready to actually bake an einkorn loaf. I may not have articulated it as clearly as it was in my mind. It’s my understanding that to transition a starter from one flour to another it takes a few feedings before it’s ready to bake with in it’s new form, though I could be mistaken. I’m still really new at bread baking and sourdough. I only just acquired my sourdough in February 2018 and didn’t start baking my first loaves of bread until mid-March. I do tend to ask a lot of questions. BTW, I think my favorite line from your response to my post is “What is sourdough leavened bread dough before it goes into the oven? It’s a big ball of starter, that’s what.” That just made me smile! Right now, Paul, I’ve got a “big ball of starter” sitting in a proofing basket on its final rise before going into the oven. I’m baking my first chocolate cherry rye…! Have a great day, Leah

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(Paul) #6

I make starters with different flour all the time and use them to bake with a few hours later.

I keep a small amount of “mother” starter in the refrigerator all the time which is fed just organic white bread flour every couple weeks. The night before I am going to bake a loaf, I do what I told you above - mix in a teaspoon of the mother starter with about 1/2 a cup of some other flour (often rye, or one or another whole grain heirloom flour) and 1/3 cup of water. And then I leave that jar of starter on the counter overnight. When I wake up the next day, I use that always very bubbly, vigorous starter to bake my loaf.

(Leah) #7

Now that’s a really cool idea! I never would have thought of mixing up a different starter just when I need it, but I really like that idea. My faithful starter is fed weekly with organic, unenriched, unbromated white AP flour. He is very bubbly and happy and has been the only starter I use. Though I’ve been wanting to experiment with some einkorn baking I wanted an einkorn starter for it but really didn’t want the bother of keeping one going if I was only going to use einkorn sporadically. Your “when I need a different starter” method may just be my answer! Wow, thanks!

(lenb) #8

If you have a mill which keeps grain temperature low enough, just grind organic flour add water and feed as usual. You will see it become active over a few days. It may fade appear to loose activity, but wait and keep feeding. You will develop a community of yeast and bacteria from those in the grain. These are your personalized starters, optimized for the grain you bake with.

This is basically what you do when you start feeding your starter with different flour. I think eliminating the mother starter completely makes it easier to recognize when the starter is ready for use and tells you how active a community your new flour has. It would be interesting to see a study comparing ‘commercial’ organic flours with home milled flour, for ease of creating starter. In commercial milling, I believe the rich living kernel is killed, and the detritus used to rebuild our bodies. If the grain is properly ground and treated, the living kernel is not killed, we incorporate the living world more directly into ourselves.

(Leah) #9

Hi @lenb! I do have a stone grain mill, a Mockmill100 that I recently purchased from this site. I love it and the quality of low temperature fresh ground flour it produces. I currently have a delightfully faithful starter that I’ve been cultivating since acquiring him back in February 2018. One of my local friends has been baking with her sourdough for years and when I expressed an interest in sourdough she gifted me some of hers. I’ve named him D.J. Cyril. Cyril has been living happily in my home and has baked beautiful loaves of bread for me. What I haven’t done yet is start a starter “from scratch.” I am interested in developing an Einkorn starter so I can experiment with baking Einkorn bread. I just haven’t started that process yet. Developing a new starter, Einkorn or otherwise, may end up being put on the back burner for a while as I currently have other priorities. Since Cyril seems to be a happy little starter who bakes great bread for me, I am not in great need of developing another starter right now. I know I will at some point. I just don’t know when that will be. Until then, I am thankful for D.J. Cyril and his faithful brood of microbes.

(skipper1994) #10

Paul, rookie question here. Why does the starter have to be fed the flour you will be making the bread with? Why can’t you just use your original starter?

(Paul) #11

Absolutely no reason that the starter has to be fed the flour you are planning to bake bread with. Sometimes people want to make a loaf that is 100% some flour or another and in that case you might want to feed your starter with the same flour you are baking with.

But by and large, sourdough starter is massively overly mystified in sourdough baking in my opinion. All it really is, is an environment where some microbes that are beneficial to bread baking can live. And all you really need to do is to introduce a small quantity of those microbes into your bread dough in order to allow them to colonize your dough and then do what they do, a side-effect of which is to blow bubbles in your dough thus raising it.

Recently, I am using such a tiny amount of starter in my bread baking (like 1/2 to 1 teaspoon) that instead of mixing up an overnight “levain” as I described in the post you replied to, I’m now just taking a tiny amount from my small batch of mother starter in the fridge (which is still fed just white bread flour) and mixing that into my dough.

To try to demystify the properties of starter, I think of this more now as simply inoculating the dough with the microbes rather than mixing in some ingredient that has it’s own powerful effect on the finished bread; I really don’t believe it matters much at all what you feed your starter as long as whatever it is can sustain the right mix of microbes. The only reason I would want to use a particular flour to feed my starter is if I were, for some reason, going to use enough starter in a particular bake that it would have a pronounced influence on the flavor of the bread.

These opinions may make me something of a sourdough bread heretic.

(Ivan) #12

Paul, I’m 100% with you. There is always the danger of fetishizing any technique, in bread making or any other art.

For example, being able to measure ingredients in 1 gram increments I see recipes with flour/water measures to ridiculous precision as if there were a difference between 550 gm flour and 551. (I don’t advocate sloppiness, but will round off recipes to the nearest 5/10 grams.)

I do love the micro-inoculation technique, it saves a lot of wasted flour. And the minimal quantity of flour used obviates the necessity of trying to make a dozen different types of starters when we experiment with various grains.

What I pay close attention to is dough temperature and proofing temperatures and times. I’ve found that as few as 3-5 degrees can make a great difference in texture and flavor. Once I have found a range that works for me, I try to stick to it.

Best regards from your fellow heretic…