Several years ago when my first son was starting to eat solid foods I became much more thoughtful about food in general and my definition of “eating healthy” underwent a massive makeover. It was and is important to me to provide my family with the very best nourishment possible. Bread is practically synonymous with nourishment but the breads that fill the shelves of the grocery stores bear little resemblance to the bread of our ancestors. I always bought “healthy, whole grain bread” (you know, the more expensive kind) and felt pretty good about it but then one day I looked at the ingredients and was shocked. High fructose corn syrup in a product I had felt great about eating for years (not to mention a whole host of other ingredients I couldn’t even pronounce). I felt like that company had really pulled the wool over my eyes so I looked at the ingredient list of another brand and another only to find one single brand in an entire aisle that did not have high fructose corn syrup. This is when I realized that bread as I knew it is not real bread and if I want my family to continue to enjoy it I should learn to bake it.
I started baking bread using organic, all purpose flour and commercial yeast but then thought that it would be better to use organic, whole wheat flour so I switched. I felt great about sending my son to school knowing that his sandwich was on homemade bread. It wasn’t long though before I started wondering how bread had been made before the (fairly recent) invention of packaged yeast; that’s when I discovered sourdough, and then spelt. After my second son was born and had a sensitivity to many foods a good friend told me about einkorn. Once I tried baking with einkorn there was no turning back. My research has led me to believe that using einkorn to bake sourdough bread is as nutritious and easily digestible as it gets and my taste buds prefer it to spelt, kamut or whole wheat. It is absolutely delicious.
Einkorn is the first form of wheat cultivated by man about 12,000 years ago. To put that into perspective, spelt was first planted roughly 5,000 years ago and quinoa roughly 4,000 years ago. All you need to do to see just how far modern wheat is removed from einkorn is to look at a kernel of each side by side. Compared with modern wheat einkorn has:
30 percent more protein (the same amount as quinoa), 20 percent more zinc, 10 percent more iron, 200 more lutein, 150 percent more tocotrienols and significantly higher levels of B vitamins
15 percent less total starch
Twice the ORAC value (antioxidant value of foods)
A deep buttery color due to the higher levels of carotenoids
Chances are you won’t find einkorn in your local supermarket but you can buy it online at JovialFoods.com. They’re currently offering a discount of 15 % off of your entire order at the Jovial Foods Store plus free shipping for Mother Earth News readers! The code is: EINK14. There you will also find a treasure trove of information on einkorn and tried and true recipes. I buy the einkorn wheat berries and grind them finely in my own grain mill and have had great luck following the recipes below. The only thing I’ve had to change is adding a bit more liquid. Here are a two recipes adapted from jovial foods that are simple and delicious:
I have to say that these are awesome buns for hamburgers but also for any kind of sandwich or with just a little bit of butter and honey. You can also freeze them and reheat in an oven at a low temperature for using later.
For this recipe, you will make a pre-ferment the night before baking. Mix the starter in warm water until it dissolves, then beat in the flour with a fork until well-incorporated. Let stand in a covered glass bowl in a dark place for 12 hours.
2 tbsp (25g) sourdough starter (click here for a link to sourdough starter recipe)
1/2 cup (118g) warm water
1 cup (120g) einkorn flour
Now, you will make the dough using the pre-ferment, which will speed up the proofing on the day of baking.
5 cups (600g) einkorn flour
¼ cup (50g) sugar
2 tsp (10g) sea salt
pre-ferment water oil and eggs
¾ cup (177g) warm water (up to 1 cup if your milling the einkorn yourself)
4 heaping tbsp. (60g) of olive oil
2 medium eggs
In a large mixing bowl, combine flour, sugar and sea salt.
In a small mixing bowl, add water, oil and eggs to pre-ferment and whisk well with a fork.
Pour liquid mixture into the flour, then mix with a wooden spoon as much as possible. Finish kneading with your hands.
Cover the mixing bowl with a plate or plastic wrap and let stand in a dark place for 2-5 hours, depending on the strength of your starter and the temperature in your kitchen.
Scrape the dough out of the bowl with your hands and place on a floured work surface.
Add a sprinkling of flour and knead until smooth, then divide the dough into 12 pieces.
Using extra flour, roll each piece of dough into a firm and smooth ball.Line a large baking tray with parchment paper and place each ball on the tray, leaving 3 inches of space around each roll.
Press down on each roll to flatten. Cover the tray with a damp cloth.
Let proof for 1 hour.
Preheat the over to 390 degrees Fahrenheit and bake the rolls for 12 minutes
Here are some helpful tips to consider when making this recipe.
The pre-ferment is ready when it has very large bubbles. If you decide not to bake after making the pre-ferment, it can be refrigerated and used when you are ready, within a few days. You will not have to leave it out again to proof, you can use it directly from the refrigerator.
Einkorn absorbs water slowly, so the dough will be rather wet at first. A wetter dough will yield a softer bread with einkorn. In fact, your dough will be very sticky at first, but as the flour absorbs water during proofing, the dough will stiffen and become more manageable.
You must deflate the balls of dough to form the rolls because they will lift up in the oven during baking. Leave enough space around each roll to allow for even baking. Even if the sourdough rolls do not double in size
before baking, they will rise quickly in the oven.
Scroll to the bottom of this recipe for a sourdough version. I prefer it in sourdough form but if you’re not a fan of sourdough or are new to baking bread, this turns out a super yummy loaf either way. I have also found that by having a rimmed baking sheet preheated in the oven and pouring a cup of hot water on it when you put your loaf in, it helps to give you a nice moist loaf with a soft crust and eliminates the need for aluminum foil.
4 cups (480g) einkorn flour + extra for dusting
2 tbsp (32g) sugar
1¼ tsp (9g) sea salt
2 tsp (8g) dry active yeast (not needed if you’re making the sourdough version)
¾ cup (195g) of milk, warmed
¼ cup (58g) of water, warmed (up to ½ cup if you’re milling the einkorn yourself)
3 tbsp (45g) butter, melted
1 tbsp (15g) extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp (4g) lemon juice
Combine milk, water and sugar in a small bowl.Add yeast, stir to dissolve and let stand for 5 minutes; then add butter, olive oil and lemon juice. In a large mixing bowl, combine flour and salt. Add wet ingredients and mix until the flour is absorbed by the liquid. The dough will be very wet and very sticky, but it takes time for einkorn flour to absorb liquids. Let stand for 30 minutes.
Dust the dough with 2 tbsp of flour, turn out on a clean work surface and knead briefly until the dough becomes smooth. The dough will still be a bit sticky and wet, but much more manageable. A wetter einkorn dough will give you a softer loaf. Let rest for 45 minutes.
Even if you do not see much of a rise, form the loaf using another bit of flour, only if needed. Butter an 8″ x 4″ loaf pan and add the loaf, pressing down to spread to the corners of the loaf pan. In order to get a soft crust, you don’t want the surface to harden, so tightly cover the pan with plastic wrap and let rest for 45 minutes, then preheat the oven for 15 minutes at 400°F.
Now, the trick to a great loaf of einkorn bread when baking with yeast is to be careful not to let the dough rise too much. This is not important when using sourdough starter. The gluten in einkorn is very weak and when it rises too much or too quickly with yeast, it loses elasticity and strength and therefore cannot maintain the structure of the rise during baking. This will cause sinking in the middle of the loaf. Therefore, don’t follow the rule of letting the dough double in size. Try the proofing times we suggest here and then adjust them according to the results you get in your kitchen.
The rise of the loaf will happen in the oven during baking, so it is important to score the top of the loaf with a sharp knife or razor to allow expansion while avoiding an uneven shape. The loaf will also stay firmer so you will be able to get nice slices without having them fall apart.
Bake at 400°F for 20 minutes, rotate the loaf pan, then lower to 375 degrees for 15 minutes more. If you think the crust is browning too much, cover the bread with aluminum foil after the first 20 minutes.
Turn out on a cooling rack. Now, place a lightly dampened, clean dish cloth on top of the loaf while it cools. This will soften the crust nicely. Let cool completely before slicing.
If you cannot eat dairy, you can easily exchange a grain beverage like rice milk for the milk and vegetable spread or oil for the butter and the results will be pretty close.
We also made this recipe with a sourdough preferment with fabulous results. Learn how to make your own starter and pre-ferment here. To make this recipe with 17g of pre-ferment, reduce the amount of milk to ½ cup (110g). The proofing times will be longer. We recommend 3-4 hours for the first rise and then 1-2 hours before baking.
These recipes have been adapted from Jovialfoods.com
Photo by Lindsay Williamson
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