The current state of bread is our biggest complaint – believe us, we have several – when it comes to the industrialized food system. Fortunately, after much research we’ve found a solution. And we’re happy to explain the benefits of einkorn flour, plus how it just may help you love baking again.
Twelve years ago, my family experimented with our first allergy elimination diet when our son was diagnosed with Molluscum Contagiosum. His pediatrician told us it could take up to two years for the warts to completely heal. That wasn’t a prognosis we could handle, so we sought alternative care through a Naturopathic doctor.
She said his immune system was compromised. That’s why he contracted molluscum in the first place. And while he’d never shown any signs of food allergies (but he did suffer from bouts of eczema) she advised us to commit to an allergy elimination diet for two weeks.
At that time, we were eating more healthily than the Standard American Diet, but our meals often contained a mainstream bread and generally a dessert if you ate all of your veggies. So, taking grains, sugar, dairy, corn, peanuts, soy, gluten, and eggs away from a 6-year-old was no picnic.
Learning From an Allergy Elimination Diet
He was pretty agreeable with the diet and taking a cat’s claw supplement to help boost his immune system. And during those two weeks, the warts started to heal. In fact, he was completely wart-free 5 weeks and 3 days from the time we walked into the Naturopath’s office!
The reintroduction phase showed us that my son was sensitive to dairy and grains. It wasn’t a total allergy, but give him a grilled cheese sandwich, and he’d have a minor eczema flare up. He was also sensitive to sugar on an empty stomach.
His results were at the top of our list of concerns, but slowly I began noticing how beneficial the diet was for me. My skin was clear – as in no pimples, no redness, and smaller pores. I didn’t have any weight to lose at the time, but my belly was flat and my overall digestion better.
Later I read Dr. William Davis’ book Wheat Belly and understood why.
During reintroduction, I discovered that grains and dairy caused bloating and skin issues for me. Going without dairy is easy for me, but no bread is similar to how I felt on my first Whole 30 when I asked my husband, “Does a life with no sugar still have meaning?”
Out of necessity (and sanity), I began researching alternative flours and ancient grains.
The Problem with Modern Grains
Today’s grains aren’t the same variety our grandparents ate. We no longer see “amber waves of grain” when we look at today’s farms. Instead, there’s a dwarfed grain that’s been hybridized and genetically modified to create a greater yield on less acreage.
Being shorter, the wheat crop also gets less sunlight. And the mineral content – zinc, magnesium, iron, and copper – is lower in these new varieties.
In some cases, it’s actually toxic. Sarah Pope of The Healthy Home Economist explains:
Pre-harvest application of the herbicide Roundup or other herbicides containing the deadly active ingredient glyphosate to wheat and barley as a desiccant was suggested as early as 1980. It has since become routine over the past 15 years and is used as a drying agent 7-10 days before harvest within the conventional farming community. According to Dr. Stephanie Seneff of MIT who has studied the issue in depth, desiccating non-organic wheat crops with glyphosate just before harvest came into vogue late in the 1990’s with the result that most of the non-organic wheat in the United States is now contaminated with it.”
If that’s not enough to worry about, there’s this head-scratcher from Robyn O’Brien’s article, Do Your Buns Contain Yoga Mat? “Azodicarbonamide is a chemical used in the production of foamed plastics. It’s used to make sneaker soles and gym mats. In the United States, it is also used in our food, as a food additive and flour bleaching agent.”
Some food chains have recently announced they’re removing this chemical. But we’re still baffled about why it was there in the first place.
One way to avoid the modern wheat conundrum is to eat ancient grains instead. These are grains that have experienced little or no changes due to selective breeding over time. Some of the most popular ancient grains are spelt, millet, barley, farro, and einkorn.
Over the past several years, I’ve experimented with each of these and have found einkorn to be the most versatile and family-friendly.
What Is Einkorn Flour?
Einkorn in German means “one grain”. It get its name because it literally has a single grain attached to its stem, while most of the other grains we use have four. Archeological findings show that humans in the Fertile Crescent gathered wild einkorn wheat during the Paleolithic Era.
Einkorn wheat was cultivated more than 10,000 years ago, and is one of the first plants ever domesticated by humans. It has been around in the wild much longer than that.
It is the only variety of wheat we use today that has never been crossed with other species.
While einkorn is not a gluten-free flour, it doesn’t have some of the proteins people who are gluten-sensitive can’t digest. So if you are moderately gluten sensitive or just want to reduce the amount of it in your diet, einkorn is a viable alternative. Many people with gluten sensitivities can easily digest einkorn with no allergic effects. To be clear – einkorn does contain some gluten so is not suitable for people with Celiac Disease.
Einkorn Flour vs. Modern Whole Wheat
Because einkorn is a pure wheat and not a hybrid, its genetic composition is different and it is easier to digest. This is really helpful if you’re a nursing mother. What you eat, your baby eats. If what you’re eating is easier for you to digest, it’s going to be easier for your baby to digest (think less spitting up and more nutrition).
So many processed flours have additives to make them easier and faster for the manufacturer to process; we are ingesting those additives as well. Einkorn flour has none of those. It is one of the most pure flours you can use.
Modern wheat grains are marked with a crease, which signifies genetic modification and the choosing of seeds that delivered more gluten and higher yields that are ideal for large-scale production and distribution in larger farms. Einkorn doesn’t contain this crease, because it hasn’t been hybridized.
Einkorn contains more carotenoids, which can help in preventing serious diseases like cancer. Carotenoids are harder to find in modern whole wheat.
Einkorn Flour Nutrition
Ancient grains are inherently more nutritious than modern varieties. During processing, einkorn maintains a greater percentage of nutrients and it also contains…
- Thiamin, essential dietary and trace minerals
- Protein, iron, dietary fiber and a number of B Vitamins
- A significant amount of the powerful antioxidant Lutein
- Higher Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity (ORAC) than durum and bread wheat
- Higher content of proteins, tocols, and carotenoids than other species of wheat
How to Use Einkorn Flour
Not only is einkorn pure, easier to digest, and just plain healthier for you… it also tastes great. Its flavor is much richer than run of the mill bread.
You can substitute einkorn for wheat flour in most recipes. Einkorn is a softer and smaller grain so be prepared to sift your flour twice. When it comes to baking, I’ve found Einkorn is a much easier swap in my favorite recipes. To me, it’s better than almond (too dry) or coconut flour (too crumbly). Einkorn dough rolls and rises nicely, although not quite as high as dough made from other flours.
Another difference is the way einkorn flour absorbs fats and liquids. It will absorb less fat than other wheat flours, and it absorbs liquids more slowly due to the size of its grains. It also has a rich, buttery yellow color and a nice silky texture. Regular flour feels one-dimensional after you get used to einkorn.
You can ease your way into using einkorn flour by making waffles or pancakes. If you haven’t tried it, the easiest to use and best-tasting einkorn flour we’ve found is made by Jovial Foods. Founder Carla Bartolucci, an American foodie living in Italy, became suspicious that her daughter Giulia’s health problems were related to gluten intolerance.
She began experimenting with einkorn flour, which was difficult to source at the time. Bartolucci noticed that Giulia’s symptoms seemed to disappear when they were eating foods made with einkorn flour and reappear when they switched back to common wheat flour.
She talks more about it – and includes some mostly simple recipes in her book Einkorn: Recipes for Nature’s Original Wheat.
Here are some of our favorite einkorn flour recipes:
If you’ve used ancient grains, we’d love to hear your experience and your best recipes. Feel free to tell us or share links in the comments.