100% whole grain einkorn wheat sourdough bread

Do you know the feeling when you have a picture of what something should be but life and reality take their own spin? It's what happened to me this winter when I bought my first bag of einkorn wheat berries. I admit, I had some expectations about einkorn. I thought einkorn should at least have some of the characteristics of the modern wheat. Well, not really. The dough made out of freshly milled einkorn wheat flour is very sticky (similar to rye) and unless you plan to spend more time washing your hands than enjoying your bread, I advise you to touch the dough as less as possible.

So, what is einkorn wheat?

Einkorn wheat (Triticum monococcum) is one of the first forms of wheat cultivated by humans. The word einkorn comes from German and it literally means one kernel. Einkorn has the single kernel per spikelet, or husks containing kernels on the head of the grain plant. For comparison, modern wheats have at least four kernels.

As spelt, einkorn is also a hulled wheat and thus requires an extra processing step which is called threshing and in which the hulls are removed. The hull has an important role: it can protect the grain from stray chemical contamination and insects making it an easier grain to grow organically.

Einkorn wheat berries and flour

Left: Einkorn wheat berries. Right: freshly milled eikorn flour.

And why is einkorn wheat good for you?

a) Being a diploide species, einkorn has 14 chromosomes while modern wheats have 42 and thus making it more friendy to our gut.

b) Einkorn has less starch, namely less amylopection (amylopectin + amylose = startch) which is responsible for blood sugar spike.

c) Studies suggest that the gliadin protein (gliadin + glutanin = gluten) is not as toxic as with modern wheats making it easier to digest.

When tasting bread, I try to be aware of the feeling it leaves in my stomach. Without exaggeration, I found the einkorn bread to be the most digestible of all gluten grains sourdough breads. Try it for yourself and let me know how it worked for you. And now, let's hop to the recipe.

100% whole grain einkorn wheat sourdough bread
Yields: one small to medium loaf

Baking schedule:
This bread was mixed in the evening, left to rise for 3 hours at the room temperature, shaped and then put in the fridge for 11 hours. It was baked in the morning of the following day.

Ingredients:
400 g whole grain einkorn wheat flour (I used freshly milled flour)
265 g water + 10 g water
100 g active rye sourdough starter (100% hydration)
8 g fine sea salt

Instructions:

1. In the evening, first mix 265 g of water, 100 g of active rye sourdough starter (I fed mine in the morning), and 400 g of whole grain einkorn wheat flour. Mix until all ingredients come together. Leave to rest (autolyse) for 30-60 minutes. The dough will be quite sticky. It helps to have wet or greased hands to handle the dough easier.

2. After the rest you will notice the dough has relaxed a little bit. Add 8 g of salt and 10 g of water. If the dough fills stiff, add more water. Knead the dough for couple of minutes. To prevent sticking, wet your hands from time to time and use knuckles.

3. Leave the dough in the bowl for another 2.5 hours at the room temperature (if it's too cold, you might put the bowl in a slightly warm oven). Cover the bowl with a kitchen cloth to prevent the surface of the dough from drying out. In the meantime prepare the rising basket and flour it well. I lined my rising basket with a kitchen cloth and floured it with whole grain rye flour and white wheat flour.

4. After 2.5 hours, the dough should look slightly risen and alive. Take the dough out on a lightly floured working surface. Pinch the ends of the dough together in the middle and transfer the dough to a rising basket. Work fast, as the dough will stick to your hands. Sprinkle some more flour on the top and cover it with the rest of the kitchen cloth. Put the basket in the fridge. Let the dough ferment until noticeably risen in volume and when the indent you make with your finger springs back slowly and not all the way up.

5. This is how the dough looked in the morning. It has been fermenting for 11 hours. If you want the dough to rise slower, add less starter to the dough and if you want it to ferment faster, add more starter or leave the dough at the room temperature for half an hour after shaping it.

Proofed einkorn bread

Einkorn bread ready to be put in the oven.

6. When the dough is ready (or just before you think is ready), put the dutch oven (or a baking stone) into oven and heat it to the maximum temperature of your oven for at least 30 minutes. In the meantime, keep the bread in the fridge to prevent overfermenting.

7. When dutch oven is preheated, take it out. Put a piece of parchment paper and a chopping board over the rising basket and turn everything upside down. Score the bread and transfer it to a dutch oven.

8. Bake the bread for 20 minutes with the lid on at 240°C/465F°F and 20-25 minutes with lid off at 230°C/445°F and until bread gets nice golden color.

Einkorn bread

Cool on a cooling rack before cutting for at least 2-3 hours, otherwise the crumb can be gummy.

Einkorn bread
Einkorn bread crumb

Einkorn is my favorite grain and it has learned me a lot. Especially to observe and take everything as it is and as it is unfolding in front of you, since this is all you have at that moment. Expectations are just illusions.

Have you tried baking with einkorn wheat? What was your experience? Tell me in a comment below.

Einkorn description reference found here.

18 thoughts on “100% whole grain einkorn wheat sourdough bread

  1. Congratulations on being a saveur food blog awards finalist! I tried making a sourdough bread with 100% whole grain einkorn flour a couple of weeks ago but wasn’t really happy with the result, it was very dense and sour. I’ll have to try this recipe isntead! :)

    1. Thank you so much, Thea! :)

      Hope it works for you, the taste of this bread was quite sweet and the crumb felt light despite being baked with freshly made einkorn flour.
      Do you think the bread could be underproofed? (my breads had these symptoms for very long time :)) What was the hydration level?

      Natasa

  2. This recipe was far too high hydration for me. My dough was like soup, completely unworkable. I think 68% is too high for einkorn, myself….

  3. I take it back! The bread came out the oven looking terrible, like a shiny hockey puck, but when I cut into it, the texture was excellent, full of large air holes, one of the best loaves I’ve made!

    What I might try next time is proving the dough in the refrigerator, to make it easier to handle.

    1. Hi Trudie!

      So sorry to hear about the dough and happy that everything turned out good. Like with other recipes on the blog, I should’ve written that it is important to pay attention to how much water your flour absorbs and that is is better to start with less (55%, 60%), leave the dough to rest for 10 minutes (autolyse process) and then to continue to add more if you see your handles more, because our flours can differ a lot.

      The einkorn flour I use handles very little water considering being freshly milled and it is also very sticky when mixed with water, just like rye. Putting the dough to rise in the fridge is therefore very good solution.
      Or you could also handle the dough with wet hands (wet shaping technique).

      Let me know if you need any help in the future ;) Hope you try one more time this einkorn bread, it is really delicious and digestible :)

      Love, Natasa

  4. Hi Natasa,
    You have intrigued me and I am planning to try 100% Einkorn sourdough on the weekend. I started making sourdough in January of this year and struggled a lot in the beginning. Thanks to your tips & tricks, I now have a routine and recipe (using wheat & rye flour) that works for me. When trying the Einkorn bread, should I stick to the proportions of water and flour that I have been using or should I modify? In other words, when using Einkorn, do i use less water (sounds like it from your chat with Trudie)?
    Thank you for your great site!
    Nada (from The Big Apple)

    1. Hi Nada!

      I am so happy to hear your sourdough routine works for you and that you find tips from my blog useful, thank you so much, it means a lot! :)

      Regarding the einkorn flour – what kind of einkorn flour are you using (white or whole grain) and what is the hydration level you usually go for? – Flours in US are generally higher in protein and thus absorb more water compared to European ones. I usually use freshly milled einkorn flour, so 68% hydration is quite low for whole grain flour.

      I would definitely advise you to start with less water (60% or more if you see that the dough feels stiff in the first place), leave the dough to rest and than building up from there until the dough consistency feels right. This is always my routine when trying out flour for the first time. As the dough gets hydrated and gluten starts to develop during the rest phase, the dough would often soften, so too much water in the beginning can lead to a pancake.

      Hope it turns out great, looking forward to see your bread! And let me know if you need any help along the way ;)

      Wish you a nice day,
      Natasa

      PS: I’ve just returned from NY yesterday and I’m already thinking to go back :) Would love to meet you next time! From which part of NY are you from?

      1. Hi Natasa,
        The Einkorn flour I bought said it is 80% whole grain. It looks pretty white, though. Based on your (very helpful!) guidance I stuck to my general routine and replaced just a portion of the wheat with Einkorn to give it a try. I used white bread flour for the remainder. The dough was a bit tackier than my normal dough but it was OK to handle and shape. When it came out of the oven, it had a nice crumb and a crisp crust. I was a bit surprised by how white and light in texture the bread is – but it is still far from any commercial “white bread” and as you said, seems to be very well digestible. Tastes great, too! Next up, I’ll increase the portion of Einkorn flour in the dough :)
        Thank you again!!
        Nada
        P.S. I live on the Upper West Side in Manhattan. Let me know when you come to visit again!

  5. Einkorn is the only wheat to have never been hybridized (unlike modern soft and durum wheat), and to have only 2 sets of chromosomes. This is real wheat, the way it was meant to be.
    This wheat makes wonderful sweet bread like zucchini and banana.
    As well as scones.

    1. I agree, einkorn is very special grain, very tasty and so easily digestible. It deserves more attention.

      Will try einkorn scones soon, thank you for your suggestion! ;)

      Natasa

  6. Natasa, I strictly followed your recipe for my first try with sourdough and it was a complete flop. It stayed formless till the very end, almost didn’t grow in size, though the final taste is pleasant. The crumb is very dense, however with some holes. Maybe I should have started with less water because I couldn’t shape it till the very end. It had even stuck to my cotton towel.
    Here are two pictures for reference: https://drive.google.com/open?id=0B3JDoN_1falSbVhmTkR0ZjJFVUE
    https://drive.google.com/open?id=0B3JDoN_1falSd3FLV0p1Zkp5SGs

    I would appreciate any comment or hint on your side.

    1. Hi Eva!

      Apologies for late reply and sorry to hear about the bread.

      I believe your flour couldn’t handle so much water as you say and the bread is underproofed as seen from the crumb. Was your flour freshly milled and completely whole grain?

      May I ask where do you come from? Einkorn flours are so diverse – when I see einkorn breads from US they look like made from bread flour, Jovial Einkorn flours is mostly used.
      This is why it is better to start with less water and add it more later if necessary, like you say.

      My dough was very very sticky, almost impossible to shape it into ball so I just transfered the dough batter into rising basket. Despite being sticky, the dough was not runny, it held shape well as it can be seen from the photo where it is risen and ready for the oven. If the flour wasn’t so sticky, it would be easy to shape.

      It is unusual that the dough didn’t rise. Was your starter active? What was the consistency of your dough?

      Natasa

      1. Hi again!

        First, I’m from Bulgaria and einkorn used to be the staple flour here before they introduced fine-mixing and baking machines that needed only special white flours. Einkorn is going through a revival for the past several years and is one of the most popular wholewheat flours at the moment, providedby a number of farmers, mills and shops.
        My flour was freshly milled the same day. I guess it was the starter.
        I did a second loaf 2 days ago. It looked good after 11 hours bulk fermentation at room temperature until I tried to shape it for the final proofing. It was soooo sticky and gluey and runny that finally I just poured it in my Ienna glass pot, but by that time I had managed to ruin all the big nice airpockets inside. The result – no ovenspring at all! And because I baked at really high temperature at the beginning, the crust is quite thick and inside there are still some holes, but it’s really strange.
        Next time I won’t take my chances with shaping, just pour it in my loaf pan so that it grows there and I can have soething looking like bread in the end :)

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  8. I have tried baking with 100% einkorn. I use a 100% einkorn sourdough starter, and mill my own grain. So far, I don’t get much rise, and my loaves come out more like a dense cake than bread. I have tried at least 6 different ways to do the bread, and it just won’t rise. However, it does still taste fabulous! But, is there any way to get more of a rise, without adding any yeast?

  9. I don’t have time or equipment to bake my own bread. Can einkorn whole wheat sourdough bread be purchased from local bakeries or online? Several yrs ago I switched to eating mostly sourdough bread and like the way I feel. I’m sure going to einkorn sourdough would be that much better. What’s been done to the American diet is criminal.

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