Chances are you’ve never heard of einkorn.
I know it was new to me — until I received a sample of the intriguing flour, along with the new cookbook, “Einkorn: Recipes for Nature’s Original Wheat” (Clarkson Potter).
The cookbook is by Carla Bartolucci, who started growing this ancient grain known as einkorn with her husband at their home in northern Italy six years ago. Today, they are the largest growers in the world of what is purported to be the most ancient species of wheat and the only variety of wheat that’s never been hybridized.
Why is that important?
Because, Batolucci writes, not only is einkorn is much more nutritious than modern wheat (with 30 percent more protein to boot), but genetic testing has found that it lacks certain gluten proteins that people with wheat intolerances cannot digest.
That is not to say that einkorn is gluten-free. It has about as much gluten as modern wheat. The makeup of its gluten is different, however. It lacks high molecular weight proteins, making it tolerable to people who are gluten sensitive, but not for those who suffer from celiac disease.
As such, Batolucci’s daughter, who suffers from gluten insensitivity, is able to eat pasta, bread, crackers, cookies and other baked goods made from einkorn with no problem whatsoever.
Einkorn used to be very hard to find because only a few hundred acres were growing worldwide. That is, until Batolucci started growing it. She also founded Jovial, a line of organic foods that includes flour, cookies and crackers made from einkorn.
I’m lucky enough not to suffer any ill effects from gluten. Still, I was eager to try this wheat that has such a sense of purity to it.
You have to play around with einkorn when baking to get used to it because it absorbs liquids and fats more slowly. Over-mixing it can cause it to be quite sticky, too.
Fortunately, Batolucci’s cookbook is a great way to acquaint yourself with the flour. I chose to make the “Classic Cream Scones” because this recipe includes only the very basics of ingredients in order to let the flavor of the einkhorn shine through.
The scones bake up buttery, crumbly and barely sweet. I can’t say I’ve ever necessarily analyzed the flavor of flour before. But I will say there was a slightly nutty taste to these scones even though were are no nuts in them. There was also a nice toasty flavor, as well as a clean taste to them in that you chewed, swallowed, and were left with no lingering aftertaste, which I’m not sure is true with all other flours.
Give einkorn a try to see for yourself, especially if you are sensitive (though not intolerant) of gluten.
Classic Cream Scones
(Makes 8 large or 12 small scones)
3 cups all-purpose einkorn flour, plus more for dusting
1/4 cup sugar, plus 1 tablespoon for dusting
1 tablespoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
10 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-inch cubes
3/4 cup plus 2 teaspoons cold heavy cream
Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
Mix together the flour, 1/4 cup sugar, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl. Work in the butter with your fingers or a pastry blender until the mixture resembles coarse meal but still has some larger chunks of butter. Pour in the 3/4 cup cream and squeeze the dough through your hands until the dough barely holds together. Knead the ball of dough 5 to 10 times until the flour is absorbed but the dough is very shaggy, not smooth.
Lightly flour a piece of parchment paper and transfer the dough to it. Dust the top of the dough and place another piece of parchment paper on top of the dough. For large scones, use a rolling pin to roll the dough into an 8-inch circle that is 3/4-inch thick. Cut the circle into 8 triangles with a sharp knife. For small scones, use a rolling pin to roll the dough into a 6-by-9-inch rectangle that is 1-inch thick. Cut the rectangle in thirds lengthwise and then in half crosswise. Cut each rectangle in half diagonally for 12 small wedges.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and place the scones on it, spaced about 1 1/2 inches apart. Brush the tops of the scones with the 2 teaspoons cream and dust with the remaining 1 tablespoon of sugar. Bake for 18 to 20 minutes until lightly golden.
Remove the scones with a metal spatula to a plate and serve warm, or let cool before serving. Store in a sealed plastic bag for up to 2 days, or freeze for up to 1 month.
From “Einkorn: Recipes for Nature’s Original Wheat” by Carla Bartolucci