Tips on Baking with Einkorn
by Sarah Shilhavy
Health Impact News
Einkorn, literally meaning “single grain” in German, was first cultivated five to ten thousand years ago.
Einkorn is an ancient grain that is not yet commonly known in the western world, but used often in the Mediterranean region and in the mountainous areas of Europe. This grain is slightly finicky, completely delicious, good for you, has a slight yellowish tinge, and smells (and even looks) a little like corn flour.
Unlike modern wheat which has a long history of hybridization, einkorn is a “diploid”, containing only two chromosomes unlike the modern cousin, which contains six, making it a “hexaploid”. Einkorn is packed with nutrition. It is a rich source of the beta carotene lutein, a powerful antioxidant. Einkorn has the highest amounts of lutein of any other variety of wheat. Einkorn is also a rich source of tocotrienols and tocopherols, powerful antioxidants and forms of Vitamin E. Compared to modern wheat varieties, einkorn has higher levels of protein, crude fat, phosphorous, and potassium. (Source .)
To use this flour in baking, it’s best to keep a few helpful hints in mind to avoid kitchen disasters and a very irritated chef:
1. Use More Flour When Baking with Einkorn
Einkorn is not as absorbent as modern wheat, but in some recipes with high water content, einkorn can act as though it is much denser. To work around these differences, use the amount of flour called for in the wheat flour recipe being used, but be prepared to add up to 50% more einkorn.
However, start slow and know what your dough or batter should look like before you add any more flour. For most baked goods, texture is a big deal. Texture plays an important role in the overall finished taste factor, and the main deciding element in the final texture is the amount of flour used.
For chewy cookies, generally less flour is used and the dough will be softer. Only add more if the dough is looking more like a batter and can’t hold its shape when scooped up into a ball. Crispy or cakey cookies will have a much stiffer dough, and unlike their chewy counterparts, the dough will most likely not be sticky. These types of cookies will need more einkorn added to achieve the proper finished texture. The same goes for cakes, breads, scones, and other various breads. If the batter or dough is too thin, add a little more flour at a time. Start with approximately 1/4 measuring cupfuls, 2 ounces or 56 grams.
2. Don’t Stir So Much When Baking with Einkorn
Einkorn does not have a lot of gluten elasticity, and thus the “glutenization” process that stirring, kneading, or other forms of agitating the dough or batter activates is achieved much more quickly. Because of this, when working with einkorn try to limit the stirring to about half as much with recipes that must not be over-mixed, such as batters and flaky dough. Even if the mixture still looks lumpy with small spots of dry flour, it will be fine.
3. Make Einkorn Quick Breads
Because of einkorn’s lower gluten elasticity, it does not work as well in high-rising, fluffy yeast breads. Instead it will generally stay flat and dense, lacking the proper elasticity to fully rise and develop the right chewy bite texture to act like modern wheat.
Rather than setting yourself up for failure, try your hand at making quick breads. Quick breads start from a thick batter rather than a dough, and use baking soda or baking powder instead of yeast as the leavening agent.
Einkorn works very well in quick breads, needing only minor adjustments such as more flour and much less stirring time. If you want to make sure your bread will really get a good amount of fluff, add a little more of the called for leavening agent by approximately half and let the batter sit at room temperature for about 10 minutes before baking.
4. Try Einkorn in Baked Goods with a Tender Crumb
When it comes to einkorn, baked goods with a tender crumb work well. Besides quick breads, this includes cakes, cookies, scones, biscuits and the like.
As mentioned, just be prepared to add more flour, stir less, and add a little more leavening if you want a fluffier product. Einkorn has a very mild flavor, so you may notice a slightly sharp edge with some foods that have an open, mild flavor platform such as pancakes or biscuits, but this is a very sweet and pleasant flavor.
5. Mix Einkorn with Other Flours
Einkorn plays very well with other grains. Try mixing it with other ancient grains such as kamut, spelt, emmer, etc. If you really want to try it in yeast breads, make it with some whole grain hard wheat flours to make up for the gluten elasticity that is needed for rising. For starters, use a 1:3 ratio einkorn to other flours, and build up or take away depending on the end result that is desired or the types of flours being used.
6. Use both Whole Grain Einkorn and White Einkorn
Einkorn is available in both whole grain form and white, all-purpose type. For highly sensitive and fine baked goods such as cakes and most cookies, using the white flour will yield the best results (but will also increase your carbohydrate intake.) For everything else, experiment with all whole grain flour or a combination of the two.
Even in whole grain form, einkorn is very light and mild, lacking the hard, gritty, and strong flavor characteristics that most modern whole wheat flours have. This makes whole grain einkorn flour perfect for quick breads and even cookies that need a crispy bite or nutty edge.
Baking with einkorn for the first time is easy when you know how to keep an eye on the flour levels, avoid over-mixing, and what recipes to use the flour in. Experiment by mixing it with your favorite flours or swap out regular wheat for einkorn in your trusty baked good recipes that could use something different.