In my journey to better health, I have discovered some of the old ways of doing things are healthier, and some of the older varieties of vegetables and grains are healthier, too. Have you? Our society’s desire to make foods more attractive, have longer shelf-life, and better growing habits have absolutely destroyed the beauty and simplicity of real food: the food our bodies can actually recognize, digest, and use for fuel.
Einkorn wheat is one such food. It is what we call an ancient grain. Its make up is simple, in fact, it sort of resembles a vegetable. It has not been tampered with genetically. A lot of people who have gluten sensitivity can tolerate einkorn even though einkorn has gluten (it is a wheat, after all), and einkorn is very nutritious. It all sounded good to me, until I went on the web to learn how to make sourdough bread with it. There was so much information and technical jargon, I felt I had been run over by all the bits and bytes and left bruised by the wayside.
Our ancestors didn’t have all this super highway info, yet they knew how to make sourdough bread without all the tech-gadgetry and terms. They knew what it looked like while mixing, what it was supposed to feel like in their hands, and what it smelled like while baking. They knew their food. Can you imagine on the trail during the great migration of wagon trains to the Wild West someone shouts out at the end of the day, “Hey, honey, what’s the hydration rate of this starter, and where’s the digital scale? Hey, did we bring batteries?” So I began to focus on getting to know the special character of einkorn wheat, and I found something magical happens when you begin to get in tune with your food.
I basically figured out what worked for me in my kitchen and with the climate relevant to Upstate SC. First, I knew I wanted sourdough bread because of the fermentation process which is critical to the breaking down of phytic acid in the grain. That meant making a starter. I wanted easy so I made my starter from rye flour, which is an ancient grain also, and I think a sort of cousin to einkorn. It makes the process of doing a starter amazingly easy. This step took a couple of weeks to really get a good starter going.
Second, I took several months to learn how the dough should look, feel, and smell. During the summer months, it’s very humid so I found out the proofing times were much shorter. During the winter the proofing times were longer. At first I made a lot of flops, but the weird thing was the bread was always edible so nothing was wasted, and I stopped worrying too much about the hydration ratios of my starter. I’ve figured out what we like so I keep doing it the same way which is about a 100% hydration rate for the “mother” starter which I keep in the fridge so I only have to feed it once a week. When I want to bake, I take out about 1/2 cup and feed it 3 times over a two day period at about a 125% (which basically is just a little more water than flour like 10g water and 8g flour. 10 divided by 8 equals 125).
Third, I learned leave the darn einkorn dough alone. Don’t rush it, heavily mix it, knead it, or freak out because it looks like a sticky mess. Just let it do it’s thing. Einkorn absorbs water more slowly so give it a chance to do just that. I weigh out my ingredients, but I discovered if you use the same utensils each time, you begin to recognize how much to measure out. And it’s just a guide anyway. On any given day the amounts can vary depending on room temperature, the time of year, and humidity levels. That’s why it’s important to know your dough just like our ancestors. And it does not take a lot of your time. It’s easily prepared in a few minutes each day until baking day. The rest is proofing and baking times which you can plan your bread to be baked on a Saturday morning if you work during the week. Super easy!
Go to your local library and look up books on einkorn. One book in particular I like is The Einkorn Cookbook by Shanna and Tim Mallon. But remember, you still have to get to know your sourdough as your kitchen conditions and where you live plays a role in your food.
So if you think you’re ready to try it, here is a link to get einkorn flour at a really terrific price. https://thrivemarket.com/brand/jovial
Any questions? Please comment!