The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Levain without organic flour

Bella's picture

Levain without organic flour

Hi there,

I am quite new to this site and live in a smallish town. I am trying the levain in Local Breads. Has anybody tried this without organic flour? and to what end? I am on day 2 with reg. grocery store bread flour. Any input would be appreciated.

Thank you.

Uberkermit's picture

[Edit: Sorry, somehow I missed the fact that you were building up a levain, rather than baking a levain bread. So my original post is a bit less relevant to your question. Breadnerd's post (below) has some more relevant info. --Chris]

Non-organic should perform close, though probably not identically, to organic flour. There are a lot of variables that can make a difference. For organic flours, farmers have to pay more attention to soil quality (since they can't rely on fertilizers), and that can make a difference in the quality of the resulting wheat. They may even be different strains of wheat, since organic wheat can't rely on pesticides to fend off insects, while non-organic wheat can be selected entirely for crop yield at the exclusion of all else. There could also be differences in how the flour is milled or treated subsequently to harvesting. It can vary so much that you probably can't generalize across two brands, or even two flours (organic & non-) from the same brand.

breadnerd's picture

I think the appeal of organic flour is that the organisms you are looking to encourage will be more plentiful, as they are less likely to be killed off by pesticides etc.  So, I'd guess it will still work, just might take a little longer to get an active culture going. 

Any way you could get a little organic whole wheat or rye to start out, or maybe even some whole wheat berries to grind?

When I started mine years ago, I used half org. WW and half rye (can't remember if it was organic or not).  Rye was recommended to me as it also encourages enzymatic activities that are good for getting started.   It worked for me :)

Once up and running I switched over to regular white flour, and I mix it about 30-50% with whole wheat when I feed it as I like the color/flavor of the mix.

susanfnp's picture

On the other hand, most non-organic flour is malted, whereas most organic flour is not. The malting means the flour is enzymatically balanced and this may mean the organic will ferment more slowly. So the non-organic may actually get going a bit faster. I honestly don't think it will make that much difference.

I wouldn't worry about it, just use the non-organic. I'd recommend Gold Medal Harvest King (in some parts of the country labeled as "Better for Bread"). It's available in many frocery stores. It has a lower protein content than some other "bread flours" (as Uberkermit was referring to) and is great for hearth breads.


TRK's picture

I made my levain with non-organic flour from the start and have always fed it non-organic flour.  It works fine.  You also don't need to buy spring water, feed during the dark of the moon, or dance naked around a bonfire.

Bella's picture


Too late about the dancing naked. My apologies to the neighbours.

I should have also mentioned that I am in Canada. I don't recognize the names of the flours mentioned but I believe that I have Robin Hood Best for Bread in the canister. Sometimes hubby brings home store brand. I may have to venture towards Toronto to find anything alternative.

I will have to have faith in my non-organics science experiment. (I have PH's recommended white & rye combo - also, only rye I could find was dark)

I also find Peter Reinhart's idea of room temperature rather warm and am trying to coddle my science experiment in the livingroom where the temp is more stable. (The oven is not an option for rising or brewing as I use it too much)

p.s. - Where are people finding these malts and malt syrups that I read about?