I’ve fallen in love with the ancient grain Einkorn so I jumped at the chance to attend a workshop to learn more about baking with it. The event was hosted by Jovial Foods, and the setting was a beautiful villa nestled in the hills of Tuscany.
I wanted to get more practice making different types of bread using Einkorn, and what better way to learn than to go to the source, the source of the wheat, that is.
Jovial Foods is the main grower of Einkorn wheat. Currently, their wheat is only grown in Tuscany. They also produce Einkorn pasta products and olive oil from ancient olive trees as well as gluten-free products.
Carla (one of the partners and our host at the workshop) has recreated almost all types of breads using Einkorn. This interested me because that’s what I’ve been trying to do. I got to learn from her trials and errors.
I have a lot more experimenting to do, but while I was there, I had the opportunity to immerse myself in the beauty and history of Tuscany and learn more about this ancient grain.
Making Pasta with Einkorn
The first evening, we learned how to make pasta. The owner of the factory that produces Einkorn pasta showed us how to mix the dough and run it through the pasta machine to produce long sheets of pasta. The long sheets were placed on the table to dry, then run through the machine again to cut the dough into the appropriate shaped noodles. Then the noodles were placed on the table to dry until it was time to boil them for dinner.
We made regular egg noodles, whole wheat noodles, Swiss chard pasta, and potato gnocchi; all with Einkorn flour. I had never made pasta before. I was amazed at how easy and fun it was to prepare. Of course, it always looks easy when someone else is showing you how to do it, but now that I’ve seen how to do it, I’m going to take the plunge and try it myself.
The gnocchi was soft, like a light and feathery marshmallow that you could flick across the room. I was pleasantly surprised to find out that forming the grooves in the gnocchi didn’t require any special tools. We just pressed a piece of gnocchi dough down with our fingers and slid it across the tines of a fork. Then we gently flicked the piece of dough onto a baking sheet.
We worked late into the night making the pasta and gnocchi and enjoying the fellowship of new friends. When we finally sat down to eat, I was too tired to take any photos of the finished pasta and sauces, but trust me, it was good.
Eating and Loafing Around
The next day, we learned how to create different types of loaves using Einkorn. We prepared the dough for sandwich bread, whole wheat bread, ciabatta, and no knead bread.
As we were mixing the dough for each type of loaf, Carla (our host) would give us tips and insight into the nuances of each bread. I watched, listened, participated and soaked up as much knowledge as I could.
I volunteered to work on the whole wheat dough so I could use their European grain mill to grind the grains into flour. After grinding the Einkorn berries into flour, it was time to mix the dough in one of their beautiful ceramic bowls. When the mixing was complete, we covered all of the bowls and left the dough to bulk ferment.
Once the bulk fermentation was complete, Carla demonstrated how to shape the loaves, then the loaves went through the final proof and were baked and left to cool.
Carla is working on a cookbook of Einkorn breads so these loaves were used in the photo shoots. There was so much going on that I didn’t get photos of all of the loaves, but I did get a shot of the Ciabatta and the crusty no-knead boule.
After the photo shoots were finished each day, we got to taste test the breads. In addition to the loaves we prepared, Carla also made muffins, Tuscan bread, bagels, crackers and a few coffee cakes, among other things. All of the breads and cakes I tasted were great!
Baking Pizza in the Food-Fired Oven
I love Pizza so my favorite session was making the pizza dough and baking it in the wood-fired oven.
After we made the pizza balls in the kitchen, we took everything outside to the brick oven. Each of us prepared our own pizza using the toppings of our choice. Then Clay (29Villa San Lorenzo) would bake the pizza quickly in the wood-fired oven.
I made a marguerita-style pizza. It seemed only fitting since I was in Italy. I forgot to take a photo of it, but it sure tasted good.
I’ve always wanted to learn how to use a wood-fired oven. However, after seeing how it’s done, I think I’ll wait a little while longer before I try it myself. I’m not sure my recovering tennis-elbow arm is strong enough yet to handle the long paddle (or the fire) without getting burned. For now, I’ll stick to pizza-on-the-grill or on the baking stone.
It was interesting to watch Clay handle the wood-fired oven. He’s a pro at it. In fact, I heard it through the grapevine that he has a pizza cookbook coming out soon. He’s also a renowned photographer and took all of the photos for Carla’s Einkorn Bread Book which will be coming out next year. I don’t know the titles of either book but look for them soon.
Spending time in Tuscany was a great way to recharge and recalibrate. The fact that I also got to learn more about baking with Einkorn was icing on the cake. It was a delightful and informative learning experience. I plan to do a lot more experimenting now that I have some more insight into how to work with Einkorn.