Written by Carla Bartolucci in an effort to create a solid collection of recipes for her daughter, who is sensitive to gluten, Einkorn: Recipes for Nature’s Original Wheat is a refreshing alternative to fully phasing out wheat for health reasons. Einkorn acts similarly to regular wheat in recipes, but has been proven not to bother the digestive systems of those who are sensitive. Since it is not 100% gluten free, this is not a book for those living with celiac. While all wheat is a descendant of wild einkorn, the einkorn available to consumers today is the same that was available hundreds of years ago, as it’s the only wheat that hasn’t been hybridized. Essentially, hybridization is the crossing of two different species of wheat form a new variety. These new hybridized strains of gluten can be rougher on the stomach, while others do offer comfort to those with gluten aversions. We’ve all heard of spelt at least in passing, right? It’s one of those “miracle” grains for those with gluten sensitivity. Well, spelt emerged as a result of the hybridization of emmer and wild goat grass. Since emmer was already a hybridized wheat, spelt contains six sets of chromosomes. Since einkorn only has two, it’s often been ignored by farmers in favor of higher-yielding varieties. Science aside, einkorn is also a great new ingredient for cooks who are simply interested in making foods using alternative grains (hi.)
The book opens with a comprehensive history of grain (did you think I just knew stuff about wheat hybridization?) There’s a charting of the levels of protein the grain contains as opposed to its contemporaries, like quinoa, oats, spelt, and so on. An extremely intriguing passage was the discussion of why einkorn’s gluten is different. The grain is not lower in gluten; in fact it has comparable or even higher levels than modern wheat. However, einkorn’s gluten is lacking in the –to use Carla’s excellent phrase– “extreme stickiness” of normal wheats used in baking, particularly of bread. Basically, the gluten-forming proteins in einkorn don’t act in the same manner as they do in standard wheat, and as a result, those with gluten sensitivity can often handle the levels of gluten in einkorn. There are other sections that explain the basics of bread-baking, the correct way to begin sourdough starter, and how to properly sprout and flake wheat berries.
The recipe chapters of Carla’s book are full of a great variety of sweet and savory recipes that essentially swap standard wheat for einkorn. But this is not a book of simply altered standards. The recipes are original and innovative (olive oil & wine cookies, spiced wheat berry custard tart, tomato rosemary focaccia) with a few classics thrown in for good measure (sticky buns, pizza.) I’m particularly fond of the “Street Food” sections, which boasts wheat berry arancini, Korean dumplings, and crêpes. A few of the recipes involve sprouting/soaking einkorn wheat berries for several hours, so make sure you read the recipe closely (basically, don’t be me and get extremely pumped for einkorn veggie burgers TODAY and then realize the recipe takes well over 24 hours to come to life. Sadness. I am v impatient sometimes.)
Even though there is a shop section of Carla’s website where one can purchase einkorn products, I will say that the book could have benefitted from a sourcing section. I couldn’t find einkorn products at my local Whole Foods, A&P, or Kings. I didn’t try Shop Rite, Trader Joes, or the larger Whole Foods in a neighboring town (but I bet the latter would have it,) so I ended up purchasing the wheat berries on Amazon. It didn’t really change my life, other than the fact that I had to wait for the two-day shipping.
Einkorn Porridge (from Einkorn: Recipes for Nature’s Original Wheat; serves many by the bowlful)
1 1/2 cups einkorn wheat berries
1/2 teaspoon salt
desired fixins: milk, syrup, jam. nutella, honey, shredded coconut, chia seeds, toasted nuts, dried fruit, sliced avocado + olive oil (sounds weird, but was definitely my favorite)
Soak the wheat berries in 3 cups water overnight. In the morning, drain the wheat berries in a fine mesh seive and rinse thoroughly under cold water for 5 minutes. Place the rinsed berries in a food processor. Pulse until the wheat has cracked (resembling steel cut oats) and then add 1 cup water. Process until the mixture is coarse and creamy, about 30 seconds.
In a medium-large saucepan, bring 5 cups of water to a boil. Add salt and ground wheat berries/ return to a boil, stirring constantly, then lower heat to a simmer. Cover and cook for 12 minutes, stirring occasionally. Turn off the heat and let the mixture stand for 10 minutes. Serve warm with desired fixins. This recipe makes a lot, so luckily it keeps in the fridge for up to three days and is easily reheated with a bit of water or milk. If you’re planning on being the only one eating this, I’d recommend halving the recipe. If you’re feeding a group of 3+ you’ll be good to go.