Hello Earl!

This week I got one of my favorite comments on the blog of all time.  Mostly because it gives me a kick to hear what everyone is naming their starts, and to hear that starts are going well.  I love that Sarah is so honest about her uncertainty at the beginning of starter-keeping, and named her starter accordingly. More important is her report on the overall digestive health improvements she has noted in her family since switching to Natural Yeast.  It seems that every week another friend or aquaintance is diagnosed with some wheat-related digestive illness, and all unnecessarily. Here’s what Sarah had to say:

HI All,
I’ll have to admit that I was skeptical at first thinking that the process of bread baking was way too long. I even named my starter “Earl” as in the Dixie Chicks song thinking that this relationship might not last. I love Earl and am so sorry to have doubted him. It took about a month for my bread and Earl’s bubble level to be successful. My chickens have eaten alot of trial and error bread because I am a perfectionist.My question, we have eaten homemade whole wheat bread using the Kitchen Kneads recipe for at least 20 years. We eat it most every day toasted with peanut butter for a quick breakfast. It always felt heavy in our tummies – like it would last way past lunch. With our Earl bread, we don’t feel the heaviness and it seems so much more digestible – I’m sure that is the result of the natural yeast and the breakdowns that occur. So Melissa, was our old method of bread making hard on our bodies and we lost alot of the food value? How was the old method metabolized differently?
Thanks so much for all that you do. I love learning new things and thanks for my new friend Earl.

Yes Sarah, your old bread was hard on your body.  VERY hard on your upper GI especially. Your body was doing a lot of work for very little pay.  In other words, it was in an abusive relationship. 🙂 Not only was the wheat itself difficult/impossible to break down and digest, it had spent so little time absorbing the liquid in the recipe that it was also very dry, which only made things worse. I’m so glad you’ve noticed a change in your health with this new/old way of making bread, and I hope it is only the first of many benefits you will see in the long run!


  1. says

    I hope you can help me with some fine-tuning. I had trouble getting a good start from the flakes but a friend shared her start with me and everything worked after that. (Her start was from your class and my start from her is actually the parent of Earl above 🙂 Ha, is there such thing as a starter family tree?)
    Anyway, when I began with that start I got the window pane easily after 10-12 minutes of kneading (I have a Bosch). When I dumped the dough out I could see the stretchy, gelatinous quality it had that was different from other bread doughs I’ve made before (the window pane was new to me too). It was great bread. Now, it seems like it is harder and harder (takes longer and longer and still wants to tear if I stretch it too thin) to get the window pane and I’m not seeing the stretchy dough I had before. I haven’t changed wheat flours (I usually use hard white and sometimes a little hard red mixed in). I am trying not to use too much flour and the last few batches have been very sticky to work with even though I stop adding flour when the dough starts to clean the sides of the bowl. Then I have to let it mix for at least 15-20 minutes or more to get any kind of windowpane. Is there anything related to my start that might be causing that or is it a mixing problem? Thanks for all your help!

    • says

      Is your bread still turning out well? There are times when my dough is stickier than others for no obvious reason, but it still makes great bread so I have never thought much about it. Have you been doing anything different with your starter? Is your starter runnier than before? Also, where are you getting your wheat?

    • says

      I thought my starter was a little too wet so I added more flour and that seems to help the bubble and double thing. I still never get a very good window though. Always seems to start tearing just as it is getting thin enough to be translucent. I remember the first couple times I made bread after I got my new starter it was great and I was using the same wheat I am now and can’t seem to get the window anymore. Today I made a batch with hard red wheat from Azure and it had a hard time rising in the pans (what would cause that?) and didn’t seem to get much rise in the oven. Seems more dense than the bread I made last week with hard white wheat from my local Macey’s which is what I usually use. I thought hard red had more protein which was better for gluten development.

    • says

      I am not familiar with the quality of Azure wheat, so I couldn’t really make a statement about the flour itself. Has anything changed in the nature of your starter? Does it still bubble up nicely? Is it thicker or thinner than it used to be?

    • says

      I have had no luck getting my gluten to develop and can’t get a windowpane to save my life, and I also have Azure Standard Hard white wheat. My starter is happy, bubbles and doubles nicely. I get great rise but it crumbles and falls apart. No elasticity at all. I want organic but what use is it if it won’t make bread that can support a rise. My dough looks NOTHING like yours in the video. I’ve had fail after fail. I’m so frustrated. >:(

  2. says

    As long as we’re on the subject of naming our starters…
    I named mine Captian Jack not the Jack from pirates but from Dr. Who because he can’t die. I still managed to kill my first starter though. My current starter is still Jack and doing very well I just made bread today and it came out perfect.

  3. says

    The bread is still good though I don’t think it’s quite as light and fluffy (doesn’t rise as high maybe?). I think maybe my starter is too wet. I’ve been adding more flour the last couple times and my bubble and double is better. I haven’t made bread again yet to see what difference that makes.

    • says

      I was wondering if that was the problem. The starter should be thick enough that you can hold a glob of it in your hand without it running through your fingers. I’m interested to see if that makes a difference!

  4. says

    I have one question that I haven’t found the answer to on your blog or in your book. What speed do you mix your dough in the Bosch? I’m new to the Bosch world (I had a KitchenAid before), and I get a different answer from everyone I ask. I just watched your videos and they were extremely helpful to be able to see the dough and how you do things. Still couldn’t see the dial on the Bosch though.

  5. Clara says

    When I asked my three year old daughter what we should name our starter, her immediate response was “toothpaste” . And so, toothpaste it is. Lol

    Question though: I got a live starter from Caleb warnock. Have fed it three times, I get some bubbles, but no rising! It’s in my fridge, I feed it regular wheat and kamut, filtered water. What should I do?

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