Observations about Heirloom/Ancient Wheat

I’m starting this thread for people to share and debate about what they’ve learned along the way as they bake with heirloom and ancient wheats.

I’ll get the ball rolling…

Whole Grain Einkorn:
Doesn’t absorb as much water as other whole grain wheat flours
Seems to perform better without an autolyse or gluten development manipulations (stretching and folding)

Whole Grain Blue Tinge Emmer
More thirsty than other whole grain wheats
Good for pasta
(I haven’t made a 100% whole grain blue emmer bread so can’t speak to that)

Whole Grain Spelt
Very extensible
I can get a pretty open crumb with Sprouted whole grain spelt in the clay oval baker. Not sure why :slight_smile:

Whole Grain Rye
If more than 75% the total flour weight is rye, I don’t believe gluten building manipulations help. Better to bake in a loaf pan if 100% whole grain rye.
Rye dough rises better with sourdough than yeast because of the acidity of sourdough.

1 Like

@Fermentada Melissa, I have used the Whole Grain Rye berries that I grind in my Mockmill 100 to make a modified NY style rye bread. I have modified Eric’s artisan sourdough rye bread recipe that is on Breadtopia to make a rye bread more reminiscent of rye bread I grew up with. The ratio on the grain is 50% whole grain rye and 50% white bread flour. As stated in the recipe, I do a series of three “manipulations” of the dough, about 15 minutes apart from each one. I have been very pleased with the resulting rye bread.

I have also used, and really like, the Heirloom Turkey Red wheat berries that I grind in my Mockmill as the whole grain in Eric’s NK sourdough bread recipe. That basic sourdough NK recipe is my go-to standard for making an “everyday” loaf of bread.


Thanks for adding your insights, Leah. Have you posted your modified rye recipe in the Reader’s Recipe section? I’ve never made a traditional NY rye but i order rye toast whenever I’m at a diner :slight_smile: I should add this to my to-bake list

@Fermentada Melissa, I will write it up and post it! Thanks for asking. What I bake is probably not a “traditional” NY or Jewish rye BUT the flavor is close enough to what I remember eating as a child for me to enjoy eating it and there’s a strange satisfaction in knowing I’ve baked it myself. I’ve given loaves of that rye away as gifts to friends and they’ve all enjoyed it and ask for more.


Glad to add to this and would love feedback. Sorry for this long post but I thought the reasons for Melissa’s “Observations about Heirloom/Ancient Wheat” needed some reasons why and here it is I THINK:

I have Turkey Red, Einkorn, Durum, Kamut and some other grains not wheat. Have tried using all with mixed results and starting to get a feel for why. From all my reading on this subject not only is it important to know the name of the grain but where it cam from.

I read an article on another forum where a grower commented on their Turkey Red they grew as it was 13% protein and high in minerals but the falling numbers (FN) were a bit higher than normal bread flours (don’t remember the exact numbers.) Their neighbor grew the same Turkey and it was like 10% protein and very low in minerals. TR is grown in the Midwest and also in NY, NC and SC. It all has the same name. So far I have found only one grain supplier that will go the extra distance to get you this information. Is it necessary, yes! If a particular grain has a falling number of 400 and you want to bake with it you need to make significant changes in your methods to accomplish a reasonably decent loaf of bread. Will list some of these changes below. You may also need to add a small % (.1 to .3%) of diastatic malt powder (DMP) if it is a high FN. This addition would be a trial and error procedure as adding too much will result in a gummy crumb. Understand that a miller tests the flour, mixes various ones together, adds enzymes and vitamins to get you a product that will work, we don’t have this ability, BUT our ancestors made due and so shall we. Some manufacturers also use some pretty nasty stuff in the flour so that is why I won’t use it.

With that said without going into their details, if you purchased from both growers you would find both baked differently. Most recipes ARE NOT devised for home milled flour and one must learn to adapt. A recipe that defines “Breadtopia whole grain bread flour” means nothing as far as knowing how it will react when you bake it (of course unless we use it and describe the outcome.) Turkey Red and Red Fife are similar but not the same. Someone’s unknown Hard winter wheat will react HOW?

It is EXTREMELY important to know the protein content and the falling numbers (FN) of the grain as the FN will tell you the enzyme levels of the grain. Some grains will develop their gluten content differently when mixing and this knowledge will come from either testing or as feedback from readers like us. Example: Einkorn does not mix or bake like the other grains, the finish texture is different and from what I read SOMEWHAT the same for spelt and emmer as the three are ancient grains. The einkorn will only raise up about 20% or so and does little to develop gluten so over mixing and kneading will result in bricks. Made quite a few. :roll_eyes:

Home milled grain presents some challenges and the resultant bread will sometimes be different than what is made using AP and bread flour purchased, this is where I get frustrated looking at pictures of these perfect loaves as the baker used a portion of commercial blended flour to overcome the issues with the milled ancient or heirloom flour.

I recently made three 100% whole grain sourdough breads using Turkey Red and 3 different methods (methods used for commercial flour) to mix, form and bake in a dutch oven. ALL TURNED OUT the same with a sandwich style crumb and no oven spring. As a matter of fact the last which hydration was reduced from 90% to 62% came out slightly better. In each case the dough lost its ability to hold shape after pre-shaping and spread out horizontally even when cold. The dough lost elasticity (did the gluten get degraded?) Now if only to get my bread volumes to match my baking receptacles which will help in shoring up this issue but frankly is this not a crutch like using high hydration doughs to attempt to build spring using steam instead of C02?

Here is a list of items to look at when using Heirloom or Ancient wheat:
First when you have the following:
Coarse milled flour
Higher Temperatures
High Enzyme activity and or adding DMP
Extended long ferments

YOU DON’T autolyse as it does not always equal better dough.

Below are some ideas to help protect the gluten of weak dough:

  1. First don’t autolyse
  2. Add your salt right away when mixing as it inhibits the action of the enzymes. Because of the salt the fermentation will slow. Allow the dough to rest.
  3. Keep the dough cold during mixing. If milling grain let stand and cool off, then use either cold or icy water. Again this will slow the enzyme action. Remember what we are dealing with, these are not commercially blended flours or hybridized grains.
  4. For those of us that have a Mockmill we are in luck as the grain needs to be ground as fine as it will make it. Evidently smaller particles mean less damage to the gluten.
  5. Use less mixing and handling of the dough as this will minimize the damage of “slicing.” Doesn’t mean you can’t knead, just less, how much I DON’T know. If the dough sits and hydrates for 20 minutes and it forms gluten what is the need for all this extra work? If while mixing the dough it starts to tear, stop and let rest for 10 minutes. I found it may take 2 or 3 times to get all mixed without tearing the formed gluten. After mixing the flour water and salt and letting it hydrate for a short period only do UNTIL the dough starts to form gluten and then stop mixing whether 2, 3 or 4 times.
  6. If you will be adding anything like fats, seeds, nuts etc. do so after the gluten has developed, hopefully a “windowpane.” BE EASY WITH the mix try not to tear the dough.
  7. Cool dough if it needs slowing down. Chilling down before shaping will even out the temperatures of the dough.
  8. Mix or blend stronger flours with the weaker flours. I do this with my pizza dough (Turkey & Durum) for a perfect crunch and soft texture to the crumb. Blending commercial bread flours will definitely add to the gluten development but FOR ME is against my grain (no pun intended.)
  9. Shorten ferment time as the longer it goes the more enzyme degradation there is. HOW LONG, don’t know, guess that is where these trials, errors and observations will all help us “millers.”
  10. I have read that using a double or triple hydration technique to get strong gluten binding helps with these grains BUT I have no idea what this is and have not found the techniques yet.
  11. Be very gentle when handling and shaping the dough.
  12. Don’t spray a lot of water on the dough before baking as it weakens the crust. A fact I did not know, I started doing this with the DO and had poor crust formation, was not so in the Romertoph as I did not spray.
  13. Use a fresh levain (has stronger gluten) than a older I’ll call it broken down starter. I have found this to make a difference, so I can see why folks do it.
  14. This has been tried by others and some have said it did not make a difference (maybe because of their mill maybe because of when added?) Sifting out the bran and soaking in hot water then adding to the dough AFTER the gluten has formed. The after is the key here.
  15. Err on the side of under-proofing the final loaf. Maybe someday I’ll figure this out myself.
  16. Using ascorbic acid (vitamin c) in small amounts will help strengthen. Experiment using very small amounts as too much will actually have a detrimental effect.

From a baking perspective I have a minimal amount of experience with these types of grain/flours but still learning. Melissa does great experiments and her visual examples help a lot, something I need to do. For me it is in the detail. It has taken about 2 months of baking pizza every Friday to finally get the dough exactly the way we like it and the baking procedure for the outdoor grill. Even which burner and what flame height has made differences.

I have converted a refrigerator into a “retarder” and will post as I start 2 use AND HOPEFULLY have better results because it is all in the temperature, different temperatures for different procedures. I’ll try anything to get better results with these grains, and eventually it will happen WITHOUT using commercial flour.

I have been lax at taking pictures although I keep a bake log. I will start doing so as I have perfected some things they all are not FLOPS :smile: My rye (as far as I am concerned is to die for) and I use my problem child TR in it with a great crumb and crust.



Doesn’t like to be handled and 70% hydration seems to be high enough for a no knead type of a approach (or just tad when forming the dough) when well fermented.

So something like this…

  • 500g wholegrain einkorn flour
  • 350g water
  • 9g salt
  • 50g starter

Dissolve the starter in the water. Mix the flour and salt then add to the water. Form the dough. You can give the dough a bit of a knead but as soon as it starts sticking to your hands - stop! Cover and leave till it’s risen and looks very craggy on top. The dough by now should be very soft. Transfer to a loaf pan and smooth the top over (like a rye loaf) and final proof till a few holes appear on top.

P.s. the Einkorn available her in the UK https://www.dovesfarm.co.uk/products/organic-einkorn-wholegrain-flour-1kg seems to be a bit different to North American. Protein is lower and mineral content seems to be higher. This method works well for the Einkorn i’ve worked with.

1 Like