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Ask Tess: Can I use farro for a bread starter?

A reader asks about starting a yeast from farro or emmer flour.

Hi Tess,

My husband and I own an Italian market and are very interested in supplying our customers with an authentic yeast from Italy that would flavor their pizza doughs, breads, etc.  We import from Italy ourselves and are confident of the authenticity of our products.  Do you think that if we took farro from Italy and soaked it to get the natural yeast from it, that we would have an authentic yeast to use in our focaccia, as well as offer to our customers?

Thank you for your help.

Best Regards,



For those of you wondering what farro (also called emmer) is, it’s an ancient kind of wheat, and is very popular in some parts of Italy. Over time it has become less popular since its outer husk makes it more difficult to cultivate than modern varieties of wheat.

This whole grain is very healthy and has a wonderfully nutty, slightly floral flavor that lacks the bitterness of traditional whole wheat flours.
Regarding your question, I do think that you can extract the yeast from the farro by soaking it; however, you may run into a problem. Farro doesn’t have as much gluten in it (compared to commercial wheats) and the shaping may be a bit more difficult than normal. On the other hand, I have also heard in bakeries, that there is a lot of wild yeast floating around and if your kitchen bakes a lot of bread, then sometimes the wild yeast can makes its way in, thus helping the process.

Try using  this recipe and see if you can extract the natural yeasts from it. If it doesn’t become active in 2-3 days, then add a pinch of yeast.

  • 1/2 cup whole farro or emmer flour
  • 3 Tbsp cool water
  1. In a small bowl, combine the starter ingredients to form a dough. Cover with plastic and let sit at room temperature overnight.

I hope this helps and best of luck with your bread making.


This article was originally published at Ready Nutrition™ on August 21st, 2013

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