Anyone who knows me and who needs to get my attention could just call out “einkorn!” and I’d be looking in their direction! This grain and its flour thrill me.
Einkorn is known to be one of the oldest cultivated grains, most likely originating in the Fertile Crescent. It had fallen into obscurity, so when rediscovered in the early 1990s it was still in its original, pure state. As it had been left alone for several thousand years, einkorn has never been hybridized. Farmers & crop scientists breed crops via natural selection to develop specific characteristics. This group has bred modern-day wheat to be short (easier for combine harvesting), to have enormous endosperms (where white flour comes from), and to resist problems that arise with vast monocrop plantings (think easy smorgasbord for pests & disease). Since this ancient grain is still in its ancient, simpler form, many people find it easier to digest. Einkorn is still a member of the wheat family so cannot be digested by anyone suffering from Celiac Disease.
The name einkorn is the German title for either the wild Triticum boeoticum or the domesticated Triticum monococcum, and means One Seed. In Italy einkorn is known as Farro Piccolo. Einkorn can flourish in areas where other wheats do not and until recently was primarily found in the mountainous regions of Morocco, France, Turkey and parts of the former Soviet Union. Hard to process, this little wonder grain hasn’t had commercial success except through smaller farms and mills, those dedicated to connecting einkorn with humans once again.
My favorite whole grain preparation is that of Farroto, einkorn’s version of risotto. This dish can be structured for any season: with spring peas or summer tomatoes or the ever-present Winter squashes. You will see einkorn’s primary differences as flour. Traditionally, millers & bakers classify wheat flour by the amount of protein present. This protein equals the level of gluten. Gluten in a dough provides the ability for that dough to stretch like elastic, and to stay put after rising (as in bread dough) during baking. Einkorn has a high level of protein, and while that gluten can stretch, it doesn’t have the strength to keep raised bread products standing tall and proud throughout baking. There are work arounds. I’ll write about those another time.
I primarily use einkorn for pasta and pastry. The most readily available einkorn is produced by Jovial Foods. Stores in my area carry it but it can also be purchased online. They sell whole grain einkorn flour and an all-purpose version. Jovial mills their all-purpose flour as whole grain, then sifts off a portion of the germ/bran after milling. With a fine enough sieve, you could perform this task yourself but it’s tedious and messy. My favorite whole grain einkorn flour comes from Bluebird Grain Farms in northeastern Washington. They’ve named the grain they grow and mill Einka.
In baking, using einkorn or einka take a bit of tweaking. This flour doesn’t need as much liquid and it takes longer for the flour the absorb that liquid. If I’m converting a recipe to einkorn, I usually reduce the liquid by 25%. If the liquid only comes from eggs, I may need to add a bit more flour depending on the recipe. It is also more difficult for einkorn to absorb fat so I reduce that by 25% as well. Doughs made from einkorn benefit from at least a 30 minute rest before forming/baking. This is common practice for any pie pastry or pasta but that is usually for the gluten in the dough to relax after mixing. Rest time for einkorn is for liquid absorption.
Another einkorn dough difference is that the more you work the dough, the stickier it will become. I learned to cream/mix everything really well before adding the flour. Flour should be mixed just until the dough starts to come together. It can be advantageous to finish any mixing by hand. I will have upcoming posts specifically for pie & pasta but today it’s all about my now favorite chocolate chip cookie.
EINKORN CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES makes about 2 dozen
2 ¼ cups (254g) einkorn flour, whole grain or all-purpose
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt (add another ½ teaspoon salt if using unsalted butter)
1/4 cup (50g) sugar
3/4 cup (150g) brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 egg plus 1 egg yolk
1 cup chocolate chips (or 8 oz good chocolate cut into 1/2-inch chunks)
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Melt the butter in a small pan. Transfer to the bowl of a stand mixer and let cool until butter is 80 degrees or less. In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda and salt until thoroughly combined. Set aside. When the butter is cooled, add the sugars, vanilla, egg & yolk and mix at medium speed for 2 minutes. Add the flour mixture and mix on low until it JUST starts to combine, then add the chocolate chips, mix only for a few seconds. Cover with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator for 30-60 minutes. Use a cookie scoop to transfer dough to prepared baking sheets. Bake for 9-10 minutes, or until bottoms begin to brown, rotating pans for even heating. Remove from oven and pull parchment paper onto a cooling rack.