Why haven’t we heard of this ancient grain until recently? In part, because there were only a few hundred acres of einkorn being grown worldwide and the grain was on the threshold of extinction — which made the relic grain hard to find.
Einkorn hasn’t been widely produced for many years because it’s more difficult to harvest and yields only one fifth as much volume compared to modern wheat. But interest in einkorn has grown rapidly as awareness of its great nutritional advantages has spread.
The protein content of einkorn is 30-50% higher than in modern wheats. In addition to its high protein content, einkorn contains large amounts of essential fatty acids, antioxidants lutein and beta-carotene, minerals phosphorus, iron, zinc, potassium and manganese, and vitamins A, B2 and B6. Einkorn also contains 30% less starch than modern wheat.
Einkorn is a diploid grain, meaning it has two sets of its seven chromosomes for a total of 14 chromosomes, whereas modern red and white wheats, and spelt, have six sets of seven chromosomes, for a total of 42 chromosomes. The simpler genetic structure of einkorn makes it easier to digest than modern wheats. Many people who experience gluten sensitivities are able to enjoy baked foods made with einkorn flour, but since einkorn does contain gluten it isn’t recommended for people with Celiac disease.
Einkorn berries can be cooked for a side dish or hot cereal, or ground into flour and used in a variety of baked goods. Whole grain einkorn flour can be used in place of any other type of wheat for breads, pasta, pancakes, biscuits and more!
Bread dough made with einkorn flour is less elastic than dough made with modern wheat, and because there isn’t a lot of elasticity to develop, einkorn dough can be fully kneaded in a very short time. Einkorn bread dough can easily be mixed and kneaded by hand. The gluten structure of einkorn is less strong than that of modern wheat, so to preveent falling while baking, it’s important not to let einkorn over-proof.
Einkorn flour absorbs less liquid and takes a little longer to absorb liquid than modern wheat flours do; this should be taken into consideration when substituting einkorn flour for modern wheat flour in yeast bread recipes. A good place to start when converting yeast bread recipes for einkorn is to use ⅓ less liquid than the recipe calls for (eggs and butter shouldn’t be considered a liquid).
Whole grain einkorn flour can usually be substituted in equal measurement for modern wheat whole grain flour in quick breads, pancakes, cookies and cakes, but generally you’ll need to reduce liquid by 10-15% in these recipes. Einkorn doughs and batters will be a bit stickier to work with than those made with modern grains, but baking results are not adversely affected. We recommend The Einkorn Cookbook as a great resource for tasty, wholesome einkorn recipes.
The word einkorn is German and means “one kernel”, referring to the single floret in a spikelet of einkorn grass; modern wheats grow 3-5 florets per spikelet. Einkorn is also known by other names including farro piccolo (Italian), shippon (Hebrew), and le petit épeautre (French).
You can find more information about einkorn here.
A few tips for baking with einkorn flour:
- You may want a kitchen scale to bake with einkorn flour. It’s an important tool to have because it’s more precise than measuring by volume.
- All-purpose and whole grain einkorn flours are not to be substituted cup for cup because whole grain flour will absorb more liquid than all-purpose flour.
- With a grain mill or high-speed blender you can grind whole einkorn wheat berries, or sprouted and dehydrated wheat berries, into whole grain flour.