I’ve worked with whole grain einkorn flour in the past and had delicious but “low volume” bread as a result. For example, here are two whole grain einkorn breads from my No-Knead Wins with Whole Grain Einkorn Experiment.
A few weeks ago, I bought bolted einkorn flour, expecting to make lofty bread from it given that it has less gluten-disrupting bran. For my first bake, I used 67% bolted einkorn, 33% bread flour, 78% h2o, 2% starter, 1.8% salt.
I had surprisingly dismal results. Not only was the bread flat, it had a “flying crust” where the top of the bread separates from the crumb.
This bake inspired photograph fun and intense bread research.
I suspected the problem was mostly with the formula, which had only 2% or 10g starter — a microlevain/small inoculation requiring a bulk fermentation of 24 hours at room temperature. This method was popularized by @yohanferrant but I wondered if it was ill-suited to einkorn flour.
Upon seeing my flying crust, @tugaysbrotbackerei referred me to a German baking manual pdf Perfekte Brotqualitaet which lists possible causes of different crumb issues. I determined that my flying crust was likely due to a weak (micro) fermentation paired with a flour that has a lot of enzymatic activity.
A quick “Yay!” here for the several years of German classes that enabled me to type the German words from the manual into Google Translate more quickly 😉
I also did additional reading on dough and enzymes in this Scientific American article: Enzymes: The Little Molecules that Bake Bread and filed away this idea:
Too much protease activity would break up the gluten, destroying the network that forms during kneading. A little bit, however, softens the dough and makes it more workable.
A few weeks later, I was reminded of my bag of bolted einkorn when I read another baker’s Instagram post about einkorn and enzymes. @artisan_bread_monkey noted that he has learned to treat whole grain einkorn dough similar to rye: cold water, cold bulk, cold proof, no autolyse, salt added at the beginning. All to limit enzymatic activity.
This inspired me to give my bolted einkorn another try but fermenting the dough much faster by using 20% sourdough starter as well as a hefty amount of active yeast water. Read more about yeast water in my blog post here.
I also figured I might learn more if I made a second dough of only 20% sourdough starter. In a somewhat imprecise way, I wanted to test if yeast water makes a difference or just heavy inoculation makes a difference in the end result.
I mixed up the doughs at the same time, and because of the amount of bread flour in them, I gave them some Rubaud mixing and two stretch and folds.
|Sourdough (S)||Sourdough and Yeast Water (SY)|
|250g bread flour||250g bread flour|
|250g bolted einkorn flour||250g bolted einkorn flour|
|385g water||135g water|
|250g yeast water|
|100g sourdough starter||100g sourdough starter|
|9g salt (1.5 tsp)||9g salt (1.5 tsp)|
Looking at the formulas now, I think I should have used 2 tsp salt to tighten the gluten more.
At 1.5 hours, the two doughs looked and felt about the same (very sticky).
At 2.5 hours, S looked more bubbly on the surface, but SY felt more crackly (little bubbles popping) when stretching and folding. S was also a little more sticky and regained it’s shape more quickly after stretching and folding (more extensible).
At 4 hours, I put SY in the refrigerator because it looked more developed than the S, and I didn’t have time to preshape/rest/shape it. I used the cold to bring the two doughs to the end of their bulk fermentation at the same time.
This changed the experiment conditions for one dough, and makes my conclusions more speculative, not only because I added a variable of temperature change to SY only, but also because SY was still a bit colder during shaping and at the start of its final proof.
About 5 hours into the bulk, I scraped the doughs out of their bowls, preshaped, rested and shaped them for their final proof.
S was crazy sticky and extensible. Almost as bad as my microlevain 66% einkorn dough. It spread during the bench rest, stuck to my counter despite extensive flouring, stuck to my hands during shaping, stuck to my counter and hands again when I tried to transfer it to a basket. I shaped it twice over, and then stitched it again in the basket.
SY was a little sticky but manageable, no redoing the shaping or scraping it off everything. It had a skin.
Both doughs proofed at room temperature for 30-40 minutes, in my upstairs refrigerator for 1 hour, and in my colder basement refrigerator for another 9.5 hours.
Doughs at the end of the final proof.
Sourdough and Yeast Water (SY) had more oven spring and bloom, and it is darker in color due to the darker yeast water. The crust is darker in color too, which I always find to be the case with breads containing yeast water, even when the yeast water is light in color.
Sourdough only (S) was more sour in flavor.
The crumb texture and openness was similar in both, with a cool almost-wet custardy crumb.
Sourdough Only is always on the left; Sourdough and Yeast Water is on the right.
The crumb of the two breads indicates a similar degree of fermentation, but the extreme stickiness and extensibility of the S dough (Sourdough Only) indicates it may have had greater enzymatic activity.
In addition to adding yeast to a dough, fermented fruit water has fruit sugar and a vinegary acidity to it.
Maybe the additional sugar in the SY dough limited the enzymatic activity and gluten breakdown by providing more readily available sugars to the yeast and bacteria.
The initial lower PH of the SY dough from the yeast water also could have limited the enzymatic activity and gluten breakdown. In rye bread, dough acidification is known to limit the rye amylases (enzymes) from breaking down gluten. That said, the distinctly more sour flavor of the S bread is something to consider in hanging our hats on this theory.
Finally, that forty minutes of refrigeration likely impacted the enzymatic activity of the SY dough in addition to it’s manageability during shaping, but doesn’t explain why SY was less sticky and extensible even before refrigeration.
There is a lot to consider here, but I think it is safe to say that using yeast water with a flour like einkorn is beneficial to the dough handling and final product.
Some ways to further investigate this include:
- Two einkorn sourdough doughs, one with sugar or honey and one without
- One commercial yeast einkorn dough; one sourdough einkorn dough
- Two sourdough einkorn doughs, one cold-long fermented and one warm-short fermented
- Two yeast water einkorn doughs, one cold-long fermented and one warm-short fermented
- All of the above but with at least 50% rye flour.