Whole Emmer Sourdough Bread

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Melissa, thanks for not only the great recipe, but for all the clear, instructive photographs and detailed information. I was especially grateful to see the shape of a slice. The bread I bake most often is 100% whole spelt sourdough and while the loaves are delicious, I’ve always wondered if the flattish shape was due to some failure on my part or was what I should expect from a loaf of this type. My best loaves have the same profile as yours, so now I can relax! I also appreciate that you noted the room temperature. It can make a huge difference in the length of time it takes to proof, but most recipes only say room temperature. For me that can range from 64 in the winter to 78 in the summer. I have some emmer grains in my freezer, so I’ll definitely be giving this a try very soon.


I’m so glad you enjoyed the photos and instructions and found them helpful.

I can relate to the loaf height worry, but I do think most tall loaves we see are part whole grain and part white or high extraction flour. I was pleased that the crumb was open on this bread, though less so when I reduced the honey. At some point, I’m going to make a 50/50 emmer/bread flour loaf and see how different it is.

Your house temp range is the same as mine. :slight_smile:

Good luck with your emmer bake - I’d love to see pics of the results.


Yes, I’ve found that even 15% white flour makes a noticeable difference in rise.

I’m really interested to hear that adding honey affects the crumb. Do you have any idea why? I’ve always assumed that it’s only function was flavor. I’ve never used it in my spelt bread, so I’ll add some next time and see what happens.

I’ve never posted a photo before, but I’ll give it a shot when I try the emmer bread.

Eric’s whole spelt recipe calls for honey/agave, so I was working from that, but I did want to know if there was a reason for it besides flavor.

I did a bunch of internet reading, which led me to believe that sugar/honey/agave helps yeast activity in some of the less glutinous flours.

It started with a forum post saying emmer flour doesn’t have the malt present in most bread flours, and that malt provides an enzyme that makes flour easier for yeast to digest. The person then said to add sugar if you don’t have malt.

But the science says that only diastatic malt (sprouted grain, dried and ground) makes the enzymes that can convert starch to sugar, and make bread rise nicely.

Nonetheless, people’s experience seemed to say that sugar of any form helps too. That was my experience, too, though my experiment design wasn’t perfect by far (different days, not a side-by-side process).

I’d love to hear someone with more of a biology/food science background weigh in on this :slight_smile:

Wow, great info! Thank you! I will definitely be adding honey the next time. Interesting to know that barley malt is added to flour. Since I grind all my own, my flour is all malt-free. Hmmm, I have a jar of barley malt syrup in the fridge - another science experiment! Isn’t it amazing how endlessly complex and fascinating the combination of 4 or 5 simple ingredients is?

Melissa, Thank you for the good illustration! I’ve made myself several loaves
Of Spelt SD bread and it’s fantastic. But how this Emmer flour reads
With its sweet nutty taste sounds great plus the good idea of adding
A spread (Cream Cheese and Jam), This sounds like it could be part
Of breakfast~mmm

Thanks for the recipe! Glad to see there is finally an official Emmer loaf recipe available. Some time ago I posted a request for such a recipe on this forum. I didn’t get the desired feedback, so I decided to try and make up my own. Being a little bit of a purist, I didn’t use any sweetener. Just freshly milled (on the finest setting) Emmer flour from Breadtopia hand-sorted grain, water, salt and an Emmer starter. I did soak the flour overnight, something I do with most of my loaves; otherwise I used a basic Tartine-like process with 73% hydration. The loaf was one to be remembered, a nutty flavor that competes with Spelt, complex taste that somewhat reminded me of butter croissants. If you can’t grind the flour fine enough you probably won’t get quite such a rise. But I think there’s hope for those purists out there, the taste should be there. Below is the picture of my loaf.

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Four_hundred, you’re welcome! I hope you enjoy it when you make it.

Dan, that loaf is beautiful! It’s great to see what a nice loaf you can get without sweetener and with emmer starter!
I think I saw your request-post when I was doing my research. :slight_smile:

Call it beginner’s luck. Or maybe it’s because I didn’t know P. Reinhart’s opinion you mention in the recipe to scare me off. Or both.:slight_smile:

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I love natural levain, ancient grain breads. It’s wonderful to have a head start on some of the mystery in baking with these ancient grains. Thank you for this addition to Breadtopia’s sourdough recipes. If you’re up for another challenge I’d like to propose one for Einkorn whole-grain. Chad’s Tartine 3 book includes one for this grain but it relies heavily on bread flour. I’m wondering how far you can push the Einkorn whole grain or bolted percentages before it becomes too sticky or slack? What other varieties would mix well with Einkorn ( Red Fife, Emmer, Spelt, Kamut? ) and provide some needed strength to the dough but not overpower its flavor profile? Thanks again, I’m looking forward to giving your Emmer recipe a try!

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You’re welcome. I’d love to see your future Emmer creations. I recently worked my way through a big bag of Einkorn. Great flavor. I don’t think I ever made 100% Einkorn bread, but did do some mostly Einkorn loaves. Below is a pic of what was probably 2/3 Einkorn (next to a white loaf). I agree it would be fun to compare gluten and crumb structure with 100% Einkorn and other ancient and heirloom grains you mention.

Hi Dan, This is a beautiful loaf!! I have been doing some of the Tartine Steps (love Lewis Kelly on YouTube) and I read that you soaked your flour overnight. So, am I understanding that in your recipe you take your flour and water (mix) and let sit 8-10 hours? Tell me more!! I usually just let mine hydrate for 45 minutes before adding the rest of the ingredients. I have just begun to mill my own flour (with a Royal Lee Mill) and I have used the finest setting which produces flour like silk. The problem I am having is the taste of my loaves. Too tangy. I feed and divide my starter every 12 hours to keep it less acidic and that worked great before I started milling my own flour to use whole grain in the recipes. I am wondering…is it the bran in my whole grain milled flour that I am not enjoying after it has been fermenting in the recipe process? At the fine setting of the Royal Lee, there are no particles to be seen. Would you be willing to post your recipe if you have one recorded for the pictured loaf?? Thank you in advance!

Hi Tamara,

The process I followed is described at length here:


It’s good to see the video, but please read the text also. In particular, note the long fermentation time and small starter inoculation. And, if you didn’t visit Trevor’s website before, make sure you do look at the other recipes as well. All I changed from his recipe/approach is the use of 100% Emmer flour (obtained on a Royal Lee at the second finest setting) and the increased hydration, 73%. It did come out a little difficult to work with, next time I’d probably try around 70-71%.

Emmer is considered the ancestor of durum wheat. It is harder than other grains; the overnight rest develops the gluten while hydrating this hard grain flour very well. As for your sourness problem, remember that whole grain flours and in particular freshly milled whole grain flours will ferment much faster since they contain more enzymes, yeasts etc. I’m still a beginner, but when I was even more of a beginner I thought I should just keep adding flour to my starter for a feeding. Then it would just turn sour very fast. Now I learned that a refreshment means to just keep a tiny little bit of the old starter in the fridge and feed it lots (i.e. 4-5 times its weight) fresh flour. It is up to you how you prepare and maintain your starter and I won’t elaborate since it would be a lengthy discussion, but for my loaves (some of which are for friends, so adjusted to their taste rather than mine), most of the time, here’s what I do: about one teaspoonful of mother starter from my fridge mixed with 20g water and 20g flour (whole wheat or AP depending on the loaf) then held at room temp, about 68-70F in my case, for 8-12 hours. Less if you want less sour, of course. This weighs at about 50g in the end, and I use it for a loaf made of 400-500g of flour. So starter is about 10-12% of flour weight. Tartine recipes may use more if I remember correctly, but I found this and a longer bulk fermentation of about 6hrs at 76-78F give me a wonderful crumb with almost no effort. It may all be quite different for you, depending on where you live.

As a final note, let me say I envy you for that sour taste. On my side, I can never have my loaves sour enough…but you know, many people dream of San Francisco sourdough while the French consider it spoiled bread because it’s too sour for their taste. They may have had their tastes compromised by that wonderful, tasteless white bread made with too much yeast-:slight_smile:


I am just making this now. I am confused about the amount of water to put in because 360 grams of water comes to slightly less than 1 3/4 cups (unless my scales are off but they have been working well for me up until this minute) and your recipe says this should be 1 1/5 cups. So which is right?
Thank you for your help.

Excellent catch. That’s a typo. It should read 1 1/2 cups. For me, 360 g is 1.5 cups. Just double checked though I’ll have to do some tests to make sure my scale isn’t off. Hope this didn’t slow you down too much. Thanks for pointing out the error!

Well I went ahead and used the greater amount before I caught your reply. It was getting late and I had to move on. As you can guess I ended up with a VERY wet dough. I simply added a little more flour with each stretch and fold. The dough is sitting now for its over night proof. It’s still very wet but I think I can handle it. I’ll let you know and maybe post a picture of it…if it turns out :smile:

360g should get you where you want to be. My fingers are crossed! I baked with weight, just added volume for people who might not have a scale.

According to “the internet” :slight_smile: 1 c water is 236.59 g.
That makes 1 1/2 cups = 354.885 g Close to what I meant to write. Far from 1 1/5 for sure.

I’m eager to hear how it turns out.

I wanted to bake another loaf of my plain sourdough that I make regularly with unbleached bread flour before I submitted my Emmer Bread results.

My Emmer bread turned out SO dense that it looks like and even has the taste and texture of a Danish Rye Bread (Rugbrød). Because it didn’t rise much I was fearful that I had maybe ruined my starter by feeding it Emmer flour for 2 days before making the Emmer bread. My fears were relieved when I fed my starter with some white flour yesterday and baked the other loaf this morning. You can see by the photo the major difference between the two loaves.

I don’t know why my Emmer loaf refused to rise very much. It’s still good if I slice it very thin like Rugbrød. It actually has a very pleasant sourness to it.


I’m glad you like the taste of the emmer bread, and I’m so glad your starter is not messed up.

I don’t think your crumb is much tighter than mine was. You’ve got fewer random “big” holes, but as you can see from the blog pics, my crumb was pretty tight and the loaf pretty flat. It’s the nature of the wheat.

To make a guess at why yours is a bit tighter, I’d say it could be a combination of the extra flour you added and your starter being close to 100% emmer. My starter was AP flour, which means my loaf had about 40 g of AP flour in it.
so 7% of my flour had good gluten formation capabilities

I am intrigued that your bread is sour because mine wasn’t, even the second loaf I made with less honey. I’m guessing that is also attributable starter differences: type of flour and a million other maintenance variables.