As an avid baker, I’ve spent years in pursuit of mastering all types of breads, pastries and other savory, comfort foods that include wheat as a major ingredient; so you can imagine how I felt upon realizing that my digestive problems seemed to coincide with consuming products made with commercial wheat flours.
I do not believe that I have celiac disease or a gluten allergy but think I reside in a sort of in between place along with so many others; my body is just intolerant of hard to digest grain s— wheat in particular. Out of a reluctance to give up wheat completely, I embarked on a mission to learn all I could about traditional methods of preparing grains that render them more digestible — as well as the different types of wheat: hard red, soft white, emmer, kamut, spelt, etc.
Our ancestors knew the value of soaking legumes, sprouting grains, and sourdough fermentation. But in our modern society — which values “instant” and convenience above all else — this knowledge has fallen by the wayside. It is fascinating to examine through the lens of science the difference it can make to take some extra time to prepare foods properly.
I became dedicated to sourdough, learned how to sprout grains and started milling my own flour. I also experimented with ancient grains like spelt — which I enjoyed the flavor of — but found that it produced a texture that was often too dry for my taste. When I spoke to a good friend of mine she mentioned, “Have you tried baking with einkorn?” I had never heard of it but was intrigued and began to do some research. The plethora of information I came upon is too great to recount here but I’ll give you some of the main points.
Einkorn is the most ancient form of wheat cultivated by humans. In fact, einkorn is the only wheat that has never been hybridized.
Einkorn has less gluten (and it’s gluten structure is a slightly different variant) than other types of wheat making it easier for the body to digest—especially when sprouted or prepared using a sourdough technique.
Einkorn has a much lower yield than modern wheat but a much greater amount of nutrients including: almost twice the amount of protein compared to soft white wheat, two times the amount of lutein (an antioxidant) compared to modern wheat, 50% more manganese, riboflavin and zinc, 20 percent more magnesium, thiamin, niacin, iron and vitamin B6—all things which are added back synthetically to our processed, store bought breads.
I was sold on the research and began baking with einkorn. The sweet and nutty flavor is wonderful, it holds moisture extremely well, creates moist cakes and soft breads. But while I had wonderful success right off the bat, some of my more complicated recipes fell short. I stumbled my way through different techniques and slowly perfected my staple recipes, but einkorn is in some ways counterintuitive to even slightly seasoned bakers so in certain instances, I had to let go of some basic baking principles to achieve success.
One thing I learned is that no-knead, sourdough breads are a cinch and also incredibly delicious if you adjust the liquid levels a bit. Things like cookies took me longer to get the hang of but I found that little tricks like refrigerating the dough for a bit before baking made all the difference. Below, I’ll share one of my favorite einkorn recipes adapted from Carla Bartolucci’s cookbook, Einkorn: Recipes for Nature’s Original Wheat.
• 2 cups warm (not hot) water
• ¼ cup refreshed sourdough starter or ¼ tsp active dry yeast
• 6 cups all purpose einkorn flour or 7 ¼ cups whole grain einkorn flour plus more for dusting
• 1½ tsp sea salt
1. In a large bowl, mix together the water, sourdough starter and yeast until creamy. Add the flour and salt, and mix until all the water is absorbed and you have a sticky dough. Cover with plastic wrap or ceramic dish and let rise in a warm place for 10-15 hours or until doubled in size.
2. Generously flour a work surface, turn dough out onto it and form into a loaf.
3. Put loaf seam side up into a heavily floured, linen couche lined colander or heavily floured proofing basket, cover with clean dry towel and let proof at room temperature for 30 minutes
4. Place a dutch oven with the lid on in the oven. Preheat oven to 500 degrees Fahrenheit for 30 minutes.
5. Remove the pot from oven and take off the lid. Invert loaf and place it in the pot seam side down. Cover and place in the oven.
6. Reduce the temperature to 450 degrees and bake for 40 minutes. If you like a darker loaf, take off the lid and bake for an additional 5 minutes.
7. Remove loaf from pot, place on wire rack and let cool for at least 2 hours before slicing (by far the hardest part of this recipe).
You can store by wrapping in a clean kitchen towel on the countertop for up to three days or you can freeze in a sealed plastic bag for up to a month.
If you’re interested in trying einkorn but don’t know where to purchase it, you can find it available at Jovialfoods.com. I buy all of my einkorn from Jovial Foods because I find that they sustainably produce a wonderful, quality product at an excellent price. Carla Bartolucci, the owner of Jovial Foods also wrote an excellent cookbook full of great recipes, tips and information about einkorn. If you’re interested in their cookbook Einkorn: Recipes for Nature’s Original Wheat, they have kindly extended a special offer to MOTHER EARTH NEWS readers for 25 percent off the cookbook, free shipping, plus a free 2-lb bag of all-purpose or whole grain einkorn flour with the purchase of the cookbook.
Just add the book and whichever flour you choose to the cart and use the coupon code FLOUR. I should also mention here that I have no affiliation with Jovial Foods other than being an enthusiastic, long time customer. Happy baking!
Lindsay Williamson is a mother to two beautiful boys, keeper of bees and backyard chickens, baker and fermentation enthusiast . She is the co-owner of Farmhouse BBQ–a BBQ pop up and catering company that specializes in 100% oak smoked, grass-fed brisket. She is also the homesteading instructor at Haywood Community College in Clyde NC. You can contact her via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read all of her MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.
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