In search of wheat: We bake einkorn bread

With the assistance of dietitian and health educator, Margaret Pfeiffer,MS RD CD, author of Smart 4 Your Heart and very capable chef and breadmaker (previously, before she gave up wheat), we made a loaf of bread using Eli Rogosa's einkorn wheat. Recall that einkorn wheat is the primordial 14-chromosome wheat similar to the wild wheat harvested by Neolithic humans and eaten as porridge.

The essential question: Has wheat always been bad for humans or have the thousands of hybridization experiments of the last 50 years changed the structure of gluten and other proteins in Triticum aestivum and turned the "staff of life" into poison? I turn to einkorn wheat, the "original" wheat unaltered by human manipulations, to figure this out. While einkorn wheat is still a source of carbohydrates, is it something we might indulge in once in a while without triggering the adverse phenomena associated with modern wheat?   

Here's what we did:

This is the einkorn grain as we received it from Eli's farm. This was enough to make one loaf (approximately 3 cups).

The einkorn grain is a dark golden color. I tried chewing them. They taste slightly nutty. They soften as they sit in your mouth.

Here's Margaret putting the einkorn grain into the electric grinder.

We tried to grind the grain by hand with mortar and pestle, but this proved far more laborious than I anticipated. After about 15 minutes of grinding, this is what I got:

Barely 2 tablespoons. That's when Margaret fired up the electric grinder. (I can't imagine having to grind up enough flour by hand for an entire family. Perhaps that's why ancient cultures were thin despite eating wheat. They were just exhausted!)

We added water, salt, and yeast, then put the mix into an electric breadmaker to knead the dough and keep it warm.

We let the dough rise for 90 minutes, much longer than conventional dough. The einkorn dough "rose" very little. Margaret tells me that most dough made with conventional flour rises to double its size. The einkorn dough increased no more than 20-30%.

The einkorn dough also distinctly smelled like peanut butter.

After rising, we baked the dough at 350 degrees F for 30 minutes. This is the final product.

Because I want to gauge health effects, not taste, the bread we made had no added sugar or anything else to modify taste or physiologic effect.

On first tasting, the einkorn bread is mildly nutty and heavy. It had an unusual sour or astringent taste at the end, but overall tasted quite good.

Next: What happens when we eat it? I'm going to give the einkorn bread (I've got to make some more) to people who experience acute reactions to conventional wheat and see if the einkorn does the same. I will also assess blood sugar effects since, after all, hybridizations or no, it is still a carbohydrate.

Margaret Pfeiffer's book is available on Amazon:

Comments (6) -

  • Jim Purdy

    6/12/2010 1:41:24 PM |

    " I'm going to give the einkorn bread (I've got to make some more) to people who experience acute reactions to conventional wheat and see if the einkorn does the same."

    Who knows?  You may have a promising and prosperous future as an einkorn baker.

    Jim Purdy
    The 50 Best Health Blogs

  • Anonymous

    6/12/2010 1:52:29 PM |

    Mortar and pestle are not the best implements to grind flour. It's no wonder you couldn't get it done. Take a look at this. I have played with this kind of grinder in my childhood and its eminently doable and good exercise.

    Please post on the blood glucose effect findings.

  • Anna

    6/12/2010 2:47:33 PM |

    Have you considered incorporating wild yeasts and long fermentation time (as in days days, not minutes or hours) instead of using a single commercial strain of yeast?  In addition to the wheat having changed in recent generations, so has the yeast.  While this bread may have an ancient strain of wheat, it still seems pretty modern in other ways.

    Long fermentation times with wild yeast sourdough starter allows for fuller breakdown of the gluten protein.  Many, if not most sourdough breads on the market aren't truly sourdough fermented, but merely enhanced with sourdough starter or sour flavoring.  Commercial yeast is still used to speed dough rising and production times.  

    I haven't yet tried the "bread man's" bread below (as I also have to consider the CHO/BG issue in addition to the gluten) but if I was going to eat wheat bread again, this is the kind of bread I would try to make (he does conduct workshops, btw).  This year I drive  through LA regularly so if the timing works out on one of my trips, I may stop and try the bread sometime.

  • DogwoodTree05

    6/12/2010 3:13:30 PM |

    $24 + labor to yield one loaf of bread.  One would have to be a diehard bread lover to spend that time and money.  When I consider the flavor and nutrient opportunity cost of that loaf in the form of pastured meats, fresh cream, ripe berries and cherries all deliciously in season right now, that golden brown loaf doesn't look so appealing.

    I am interested in knowing how your subjects react to einkorn wheat.

  • David

    6/12/2010 3:16:56 PM |

    Fascinating experiment. I'm looking forward to seeing more on this.

  • Anonymous

    6/15/2010 2:01:42 AM |

    Too bad you didn't try making sourdough bread with it instead of conventional yeast bread.