Monday, December 1, 2014

What I've Learned about Cooking with Einkorn Flour --And...Confessions of a Turkey Stuffing Disaster

As you may know, I've been doing some baking and experimenting with ancient grain einkorn flour*.

Baking with einkorn flour is a little different from using modern flour.  First, einkorn dough tends to get sticky easily so you need to reduce the water content by 30%, no matter what you're baking.  I learned this the hard way the first time I set out to make bread with einkorn and used my grandmother's bread recipe.  I got a big sticky mess that was impossible to knead.

Another thing I've learned about making bread with einkorn is that it requires less kneading and that it raises significantly less than modern flour.  The loaves I make are kneaded only for about two minutes. In fact, I actually count out 60 pushes or kneading motions.  During the raising process, I let my einkorn dough raise for long periods of time, such as a full day or overnight.  The dough never fully doubles in size but rather raises perhaps by half again.

Cooked Einkorn bread loaves are dense and heavy and what I would describe as "peasant bread".  They are sliceable and make great sandwiches, but if you are expecting a light, airy fluffy slice of bread, you'll be in for a surprise.

On the other hand, the flavor of einkorn bread made with sourdough starter is intense, rich and delicious, and becomes something that is ultimately very pleasurable.  It's just different from what we've all come to think of as bread.  This is the kind of bread people ate several hundred years ago, when bread was made from wheat before it was hybridized and modernized.  This was also before commercial yeast became the common leavening agent in bread-baking.  Up until a century or two ago, most bread was leavened with sourdough starter.

And by the way, if you want a really low gluten content in your bread, you'll want to use a sourdough starter, not yeast.  Although the gluten content is already low in einkorn flour, the sourdough culture eats up most of the remaining gluten during the raising process.  For information on making your own sourdough starter, see here.

In the week preceding Thanksgiving, I did some experimenting with gluten free turkey stuffing.  I made one recipe using Udi's gluten-free bread, another using a packaged gluten-free stuffing mix and finally, for what was to be the pièce de résistance, for our actual Thanksgiving celebration, I stuffed our turkey with stuffing made from a loaf of homemade einkorn sourdough bread.  

I was expecting deliciousness and fabulousness.  Actually what we got tasted good, it was just....slimy. We all made a lot of jokes about how the stuffing would make great spackle or tile grout, but in the end, everyone cleaned their plates of it.  The thing with einkorn is the sourdough taste is so yummy that you love to eat it. 

This ugly mess is what the stuffing came out of the turkey lookin like.  Yuck!!  Oddly, everybody ate it--that's how good sourdough einkorn tastes.

I'm not sure what to conclude about the einkorn stuffing other that when you're cooking with einkorn flour, don't expect the same thing you get with modern flour.  It's just different.  Be prepared for the unexpected.  

I don't think I'll ever make stuffing again with einkorn bread.  But I'll continue baking the delicious einkorn loaves.  We are addicted to them, especially for French toast*.  Also, the low-gluten sugar-free "Toll House" cookie recipe* I developed using einkorn is hands-down my very best sugar-free cookie recipe. Everybody loves it, and nobody knows it's low-gluten and sugar-free.  It's that good.  

I've also had good luck using einkorn for typical thickening purposes such as for a sauce or gravy.  It also works great for dredging foods before cooking such as in making a batter.  Anyone who's been cooking flour free for awhile will be grateful to be able to add einkorn wheat flour back into their repertoire of cooking basics.  It just makes life in the kitchen so much easier.  

Anyway, the einkorn flour experiment continues.  Later this week, I think I'll try making classic Christmas sugar cookies with it.  I'll keep you posted on how that works out.

See here and here for information about einkorn flour.  See here for recipes and cooking information about einkorn.

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