Emmer wheat is an ancient grain that’s high in protein and absolutely delicious, but it’s not often used for bread because of its lower gluten strength. However, emmer was actually the dominant wheat throughout the Near and Far East, Europe, and Northern Africa from about 10,000-4,000 BC, according to this research paper. A few years ago, I wrote a recipe for 100% whole grain emmer sourdough bread. It was delicious and also fairly dense, partly because of the low hydration. This time, I wanted to try a much higher hydration dough that was half white bread flour and half fresh-milled whole grain emmer flour. Another emmer recipe you may want to check out is this 30% emmer sourdough cinnamon raisin swirl bread.
I decorated the crust of this emmer sourdough bread with emmer flakes that I made with my Mockbake Flaker, but this coating is optional of course. Likewise, the process I outline below is fairly simple, with no autolyse and only three rounds of stretching and folding, but feel free to add more or less complexity if you want e.g., do an autolyse or skip all the stretching and folding.
Preparing to press the dough into the emmer flakes
Emmer wheat is actually farro or, to be precise, farro medio in Italian. Farro grande is spelt and farro piccolo is einkorn. Imported Italian farro has long been translated as “spelt,” but the actual grain you’re buying is Triticum dicoccum or emmer, not Triticum spelta or spelt. This common mistranslation goes back to ancient Rome and Biblical times.
Farro is usually sold “pearled” for cooking whole as a grain dish or an addition in soups and salads. Pearled grains have no husk or bran for faster cooking and softer flavor, but this also means they have less fiber and nutrients.
I was pretty excited to make a “farro pilaf” as well as bread with my new bag of emmer wheat berries. Since working on this Pastiera Napoletana recipe, I’ve been exploring cooked wheat berries, and this latest dish blew me away me with its tastiness. I also found the texture to be perfect in its un-pearled state.
I cooked the emmer in an electric pressure cooker (similar to an Instant Pot), 15 minutes on the “pressure” setting, followed by a slow release. For about 6 servings, I used two cups (330g) emmer berries with 2 liters of water. After it was cooked, I strained out the extra water, spritzed the grains with olive oil, and added a couple of pinches of salt.
50% Emmer (Farro) Sourdough Bread
Emmer wheat aka farro is so tasty and also high in protein. Paired with bread flour and plenty of water, the dough is manageable and yields a lovely crumb. You can try a textured crust by rolling the shaped dough in flaked emmer or leave the crust smooth.
1 hour, 5 minutes
Mixing and Bulk Fermentation
Mix the dough ingredients together in a large bowl and cover.
After a 20-30 minute rest, stretch and fold the dough with damp fingertips. You can transfer the dough to a straight-walled container at this point if you want. Cover, let the dough rest another 20-30 minutes.
Do two more rounds of stretching and folding with a 20-30 minute rest in between.
Let the dough bulk ferment until it has almost doubled in size. At warm temps (low 80s) my dough needed about 5 hours to double. In colder temperatures or with weaker starter, the dough will need more time.
Shaping and Final Proof
If desired, flake emmer berries for the bread’s crust.
Flour your work surface and scrape your dough out of your bowl or bucket.
Shape the dough into a boule, batard, or oblong loaf to suit your proofing basket and baking vessel.
Evenly spread the optional emmer flakes on your work surface in the shape of the dough (round, oval, oblong). Brush or spray water on the top of your dough and flip it onto the flakes to coat the dough surface.
Place the dough flake-side down in your proofing basket. Scoop up some of the extra flakes and “drizzle” them down the edges of the dough to further coat it and prevent sticking.
Cover and let the dough rise again for about 30 minutes at room temperature and then refrigerate it overnight (8-16 hours). You can also leave the dough at room temperature for longer (1-2 hours) and bake it without the refrigeration stage. My dough bulk-fermented past doubling, so I refrigerated it immediately after shaping and baked about 8 hours later to compensate.
Preheat your oven and baking vessel to 500F for at least 30 minutes.
Flip the dough out of the proofing basket and onto a sheet of parchment paper or onto the base of your hot baking vessel. Score or scissor cut the dough, then cover and return the vessel to the oven.
If your baking vessel is a ceramic cloche, bake at:
500°F for 20 minutes, lid on
450°F for 5 minutes, lid on
450°F for 10 minutes, lid off
If your baking vessel is cast iron, bake at:
500°F for 15 minutes, lid on. At the 15-minute mark, place a baking sheet directly under the cast iron on the same shelf. This will prevent the base of the bread from burning.
450°F for 10 minutes, lid on
450°F for 10 minutes, lid off
When baking is complete, the bread should have an internal temperature of at least 205F and it should sound hollow when you knock on the bottom of the loaf.
Let the bread cool for a couple of hours before you slice it.