Einkorn

Einkorn yum

Anyone who knows me and who needs to get my attention could just call out “einkorn!” and I’d be looking in their direction! This grain and its flour thrill me.

Einkorn is known to be one of the oldest cultivated grains, most likely originating in the Fertile Crescent.  It had fallen into obscurity, so when rediscovered in the early 1990s it was still in its original, pure state. As it had been left alone for several thousand years, einkorn has never been hybridized. Farmers & crop scientists breed crops via natural selection to develop specific characteristics.  This group has bred modern-day wheat to be short (easier for combine harvesting), to have enormous endosperms (where white flour comes from), and to resist problems that arise with vast monocrop plantings (think easy smorgasbord for pests & disease). Since this ancient grain is still in its ancient, simpler form, many people find it easier to digest. Einkorn is still a member of the wheat family so cannot be digested by anyone suffering from Celiac Disease.

The name einkorn is the German title for either the wild Triticum boeoticum or the domesticated Triticum monococcum, and means One Seed. In Italy einkorn is known as Farro Piccolo. Einkorn can flourish in areas where other wheats do not and until recently was primarily found in the mountainous regions of Morocco, France, Turkey and parts of the former Soviet Union. Hard to process, this little wonder grain hasn’t had commercial success except through smaller farms and mills, those dedicated to connecting einkorn with humans once again.

My favorite whole grain preparation is that of Farroto, einkorn’s version of risotto. This dish can be structured for any season: with spring peas or summer tomatoes or the ever-present Winter squashes. You will see einkorn’s primary differences as flour. Traditionally, millers & bakers classify wheat flour by the amount of protein present. This protein equals the level of gluten. Gluten in a dough provides the ability for that dough to stretch like elastic, and to stay put after rising (as in bread dough) during baking. Einkorn has a high level of protein, and while that gluten can stretch, it doesn’t have the strength to keep raised bread products standing tall and proud throughout baking. There are work arounds. I’ll write about those another time.

I primarily use einkorn for pasta and pastry. The most readily available einkorn is produced by Jovial Foods. Stores in my area carry it but it can also be purchased online. They sell whole grain einkorn flour and an all-purpose version. Jovial mills their all-purpose flour as whole grain, then sifts off a portion of the germ/bran after milling. With a fine enough sieve, you could perform this task yourself but it’s tedious and messy. My favorite whole grain einkorn flour comes from Bluebird Grain Farms in northeastern Washington. They’ve named the grain they grow and mill Einka.

In baking, using einkorn or einka take a bit of tweaking. This flour doesn’t need as much liquid and it takes longer for the flour the absorb that liquid. If I’m converting a recipe to einkorn, I usually reduce the liquid by 25%. If the liquid only comes from eggs, I may need to add a bit more flour depending on the recipe. It is also more difficult for einkorn to absorb fat so I reduce that by 25% as well. Doughs made from einkorn benefit from at least a 30 minute rest before forming/baking. This is common practice for any pie pastry or pasta but that is usually for the gluten in the dough to relax after mixing. Rest time for einkorn is for liquid absorption.

Another einkorn dough difference is that the more you work the dough, the stickier it will become. I learned to cream/mix everything really well before adding the flour. Flour should be mixed just until the dough starts to come together. It can be advantageous to finish any mixing by hand. I will have upcoming posts specifically for pie & pasta but today it’s to bring you my now favorite chocolate chip cookie.

EINKORN CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES makes about 2 dozen

Prep time: 10 minutes   Chill time: 30 minutes     Bake time: 8-10 minutes

8 tablespoons (113g) butter

2 ¼ cups (254g) einkorn flour, whole grain or all-purpose

1 teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon salt (add another ½ teaspoon salt if using unsalted butter)

1/4 cup (50g) sugar

3/4 cup (150g) brown sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 egg plus 1 egg yolk

1 cup chocolate chips (or 8 oz good chocolate cut into 1/2-inch chunks)

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Melt the butter in a small pan. Transfer to the bowl of a stand mixer and let cool until butter is 80 degrees or less.In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda and salt until thoroughly combined. Set aside. When the butter is cooled, add the sugars, vanilla, egg & yolk and mix at medium speed for 2 minutes.Add the flour mixture and mix on low until it JUST starts to combine, then add the chocolate chips, mix only for a few seconds. Cover with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator for 30-60 minutes.Use a cookie scoop to transfer dough to prepared baking sheets.Bake for 9-10 minutes, or until bottoms begin to brown, rotating pans for even heating.Remove from oven and pull parchment paper onto a cooling rack.

 

 

 

Neighbors

Next door is very close to our door. Next door finally has some love. Next door got some curb appeal, which doesn’t take much in our little ‘hood. Next door radically upgraded the backyard, the property we have a view of. The backyard has a maintained small-child play area, a red paver patio between house and play area, a patch of moss-dandelion-buttercup-free green grass lawn, and a stretch of vegetable beds, the area of which matches my own.

12 years of bamboo growth screening the yard someone finally cares about.
12 years of bamboo growth screening the yard someone finally cares about.

Next door has chickens, which we welcomed, ourselves being aficionado of all things Gallus. And, next door has a rooster-not welcomed by the surrounding neighbors, the town officials, nor us when awakened pre-alarm clock. Next door are relatively new to the neighborhood and may have chickens because we have chickens, perhaps not checking city guidelines for backyard poultry. Next door does not speak English as a primary language. We’ve chatted a few times. We’ve talked chickens and gardens a bit. We’ve waved and smiled a lot. I, despite many fizzled attempts otherwise, am primarily, well, only, an English-speaking person. I do, however, speak cookie.

2 flours, 3 sugars, an egg, and other sundries.
2 flours, 3 sugars, an egg, and other sundries.

Today I am going to stop by and find out if they are aware of the Rooster Restrictions. I will bring cookies. I hope they like them. A few are just oatmeal, but the rest contain chocolate-covered raisins I found in the baking drawer. I tested one pre-treadmill. It was really good.

Yum.
Yum.

Here’s how I made them today.

Oatmeal Cookies Makes 14 3-inchish cookies

Ingredients

1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour

1/4 cup white unbleached flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1 1/2 cups rolled oats

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, room temperature

1/4 cup coconut palm sugar

1-2 tablespoons dark brown sugar added to the coconut palm sugar to make 1/3 cup total

1/3 cup evaporated cane juice sugar

1 egg1 teaspoon vanilla

1/2 cup raisins (or chocolate covered raisins)

Directions

Preheat oven to 350F

In a small bowl, whisk together the flours, salt, baking soda, cinnamon, and oats.

In a mixing bowl, cream together the butter and sugars. Beat until it looks like a smooth paste.

Add the egg and vanilla. Mix until combined. Scrape down the mixer paddle or beaters, the sides and bottom of the bowl.

On very low-speed, add the flour mixture. Beat on low-speed just until it looks mixed in. Scrape the bowl again, turning the dough over to find any unmixed flour.

Still on very low, add the raisins and mix only until they and the flour are completely mixed in.

Use a spoon or 1-ounce cookie scoop to place mounds of dough onto a parchment-lined baking sheet pan. (You should be able to fit 12 cookies, spaced evenly, on a standard size baking sheet.) Flatten the mounds a bit with your fingers held flat or use the bottom of a measuring cup.

Note: at this point, you can put the pan of uncooked cookies into the freezer, freeze then put in a Ziploc bag. They can be pulled from the freezer and baked at a later time.

Place the pan of cookies into the pre-heated oven.Set the timer for 10 minutes.Check the cookies and continue baking a few more minutes if they look really raw.It is better to under bake cookies than over bake.

Let cool for a minute or two, then slide the cookies onto a cooling rack. Repeat the scooping, flattening, and baking until all dough used.

To Go

Sometimes the best dinners are never eaten at home. For my niece’s birthday, we met at Edmonds Beach and picnicked on oven-fried chicken, green bean/cherry tomato/shallot salad, cold sesame noodles, carrot sticks, just-baked sourdough bread with grass-fed butter, crisp not-too-sweet walnut sandies, and Theo’s 85% cocoa chocolate. The company, the beach, the sunset, ferries and freight trains made it a lovely way to celebrate this beautiful human I’ve known since the minute she took her first breath.

IMG_2649
My niece dining with a dino
The T-Rex is still enjoying the chicken
T-Rex still enjoying the chicken
Cozy
Cozy
Farewell!
Farewell!
Edmonds Beach
Edmonds Beach

Walnut Sandies

2 sticks butter, at room temperature
1/4 cup coconut palm sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon Annie’s bourbon vanilla extract
9 oz emmer flour
1 cup walnuts, coarsely chopped

In a medium bowl, using an electric mixer, beat the butter, sugar, and salt at medium speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.
Beat in the vanilla, then beat in the flour at low speed, scraping the side and bottom of the bowl, until the dough just comes together.
Add the walnuts and beat just until they are incorporated and lightly broken up. Divide the dough in half and form it into two 2-inch-thick logs. Wrap tightly in plastic and refrigerate overnight.

Preheat the oven to 350°.
Line 3 baking sheets with parchment paper.
Working with 1 log at a time and keeping the other one chilled, cut the dough into scant 1/4-inch-thick slices, arrange them on the baking sheets and sprinkle them with sugar(optional).
Repeat with the second log of dough.

Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until the cookies are lightly golden around the edges and on the bottom, shifting the baking sheets halfway through.

Let the cookies cool on the baking sheets for a few minutes, then transfer them to a rack to cool completely.

Necessity

Early in my cooking life, I found myself intrigued with gadgets, gizmos, and trendy must-haves for any kitchen, many of which are now stowed away, given away, or garage-saled away.  The few things I love and use regularly are: tongs, whisks, sharp knives, swivel-head peeler, zester, stainless steel bowls, glass stacking bowls, wooden spoons, metal spatulas, immersion blender, Kitchen Aid mixer, and my digital scale. Of these, the one thing from which I’d never want to part is the scale.

Taylor Compact Digital Scale
Taylor Compact Digital Scale

Measuring implements are not created equal. For that matter, vegetables are not created equal either. When recipe calls for: 1 onion, chopped, how much onion is that? If a recipe is developed for cups of white, all-purpose flour, how can I know the type of measuring cups used? Is it possible to substitute other flours using the same measurement? I have an assortment of measuring cups. If I use the one-cup measure from Set A, will using the half-cup measure from Set B give me the correct ratio? All of these dilemmas can be removed by using a scale. A pound is a pound, whether of flour, fruit, or flesh.

When I began making sourdough bread, which requires ingredients to be measured by weight, I gradually switched many of my baking recipes to pounds & ounces. I know the pizza dough requires 12-oz of flour, the cheesecake requires 2-lbs of cream cheese, the ganache requires 13-oz of heavy cream, and the pancakes are happiest with something closer to 11.5-oz of milk. Somethings, like pancakes, don’t always require the weighing of flour as the batter, thick or thin, is a matter of preference, but in a commercial kitchen, consistency and cost control dictate that all recipes be scaled. Thanks to my secret lover Excel, I can know how much made-at-home pizza costs vs Pagliacci delivered.

All that being said, I get lazy. I find new recipes, I make substitutions, the end results seem fine. For a while now, I have used a chocolate chip cookie recipe from Cook’s Illustrated The Best Recipe. This recipe calls for melted butter, lots of sugar (brown & white), all-purpose flour (2 cups + 2 tablespoons, usually a give away that the original recipe formulations used a scale), an egg plus egg yolk, and the other usual baking bits. From the get go, I used only evaporated cane juice for the sugar, and of that I reduced the recipe amount by half. I usually replaced half the flour with whole wheat, and when I was grinding the sprouted flour, I replaced the white flour completely. Eventually, I stopped adding the 2nd yolk,  just using 2 whole eggs instead. Most recently, I’ve switched to using coconut palm sugar, which is very different from sugar sugar or ECJ.

So, last night, after the successful einka pasta, I thought some einka chocolate chip cookies were in order. Knowing that the einka flour was looser than regular whole wheat, and knowing that baking science is more exact than that of cooking, I measured one cup. It weighed 3 ounces. I grabbed a cup of white flour and it came in at 4.6 ounces. I would need to scale recipes when using the einka.

Even though I did throw in too many chocolate chips (I found a bargain on 42% cocoa rather than my preferred 65%)  which upped the total sugar content and sweetness level, the cookies are delicious.

einka, coconut palm sugar, backyard eggs, grass-fed butter, annie's bourbon vanilla, and fair trade chocolate
einka, coconut palm sugar, backyard eggs, grass-fed butter, annie’s bourbon vanilla, and fair trade chocolate