The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Kamut

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EricD's picture
EricD

Kamut

Hi all,

I've been hearing a lot of mixed things about Kamut lately, and I was wondering if anyone can help me with some of the differences between Kamut and grano duro, which I believe we call durum in America?

I've spent a good bit of time in Italy lately, and the jury seems to be split. In Italy Kamut is very expensive, and some say its simply another example of great American marketing, that these health benefits are a bit exaggerated. Others swear it can change your life. For example, I've heard of it recommended as an alternative for those with gluten or wheat intolerances.

Do you have any personal experience with it, or better, have you come across any hard research relating to the benefits of Kamut (other than simple nutritional facts)? 

Eric

nicodvb's picture
nicodvb

Kamut is variety of durum wheat and whoever recommends it for gluten intolerances is a criminal.

Generally speaking the gluten it forms is less elastic and more appropriate for bread making than the gluten of durum wheat (lower P/L, but still quite tenacious), but I find all those claims seriously exaggerated.

As far as I'm concerned it may as well be estirpated to be replaced with something else that doesn't carry a trademark.

AnnieT's picture
AnnieT

I was given a bag of kamut which had been grown and milled here on Whidbey Island, WA. I used it instead of rye in my usual sourdough recipe, 1/4 cup kamut and 2 1/4 cups bread or all purpose flour. Gave a good flavor and color. I have since found kamut in the Bob's Red Mill section of a local grocery store - the price was about the same as rye. I like it used this way but haven't made a totally kamut loaf, A.

Doc.Dough's picture
Doc.Dough

So far as I can tell, Kamut is just a large-kernel wheat that has been around for long enough to have been replaced by improved/locally optimized varieties.  Because of it's size, it makes a distinctive contribution to mixed grain medly but I don't use if for anything else.  If I want durum for pasta I use semolina (or sooji); if I want durum for bread I use chapatti flour; if I want a little less bran, I sift the chapatti flour to remove the excess.

clazar123's picture
clazar123

I bought a bag of Kamut wheat berries. They are large,golden and hard. They have great gluten but it is the very stretchy variety so I usually mix it with a stronger gluten to make a loaf. It makes great flat breads by itself but a boule won't hold its shape and if you put it in a pan, watch the proofing carefully. It goes from proofed to overproofed in just a few minutes.. The color is a delightful golden and it does add a nice flavor to the loaf. If you coarsely grind it, the resulting makes a very tasty porridge,upuma or hot cereal.

As far as a sub for wheat? It IS wheat-just an older variety.

Do people with gluten intolerance handle it better? NO! As mentioned-that is an AWFUL suggestion with nasty consequences.

Does it have miraculous healing powers? No more than any other whole grain.

Have fun but don't spend a fortune on it. If you want a blander tasting whole wheat-try white whole wheat. It is a variety that does not have the tannin in it that gives the characteristic whole wheat flavore (some people think of as bitter-I describe it as grassy). It has all the great bread making characteristics as long as you get the hard variety and not the kind  that makes pastry flour.

 

EricD's picture
EricD

Thanks for the info/advice. I've not yet used Kamut in my own baking, but I've tasted some Kamut produced breads and pizzas. I've never been wowed by it, and I unfortunately haven't yet gained any superpowers, so I was hoping to find some more comprehensive information. I will certainly try it out, because I like to give everything a chance, but I don't seem alone in my skepticism about it's supposed health benefits or elevated digestibility. Then again I suppose Kamut could become highly digestible if used with a preferments, sourdough, or other things which generally render breads more digestible.

Jame-L's picture
Jame-L

KAMUT® Brand khorasan is an organic, non-genetically modified, ancient wheat variety similar to durum. In 1990, “KAMUT” was registered as a trademark by the Quinn family in order to support organic farming and preserve the ancient khorsasan wheat variety. Under the KAMUT® Brand name, khorasan wheat must always be grown organically, never be hybridized or modified, and contain high levels of purity and nutrition.
Today, Kamut International owns and has registered the KAMUT® trademark in over 40 countries, and is responsible for protection and marketing of all KAMUT® Brand khorasan wheat throughout the world.
KAMUT® khorasan is grown on certified organic dryland farms primarily in Montana, Alberta, and Saskatchewan. The grain is prized by consumers who appreciate the grain for its high energy nutrition, easy digestibility, nutty/buttery taste, and firm texture. KAMUT® khorasan wheat is higher in protein, selenium, amino acids, and Vitamin E than most modern wheat and contains essential minerals such as magnesium and zinc. KI has third-party research available for specific questions.
The wheat is used as whole grain berries, whole grain flour, white flour, flakes, and puffs to make a variety of products. Some specific benefits of using KAMUT® khorasan are receiving more nutrients, protein, and taste than conventional whole wheat - plus supporting organic agriculture and helping to preserve an ancient grain.

There are many bakers using KAMUT(R)Brand khorasan wheat to bake beautiful loaves - more information is available at www.kamut.com

EricD's picture
EricD

Jame-L,

First, I'd love to see all of the third party research that may be available. If you were referring to the research section on the Kamut site, I've been there and begun to read the available information. The food sensitivity one isn't quite in depth, as it seems more an abstract than anything.

Second, I'd like to make clear that I have nothing against Kamut in general, and I have no doubt that it's a reliable grain, capable of unique flavors. I also have no doubt that if leavened properly, it's digestive qualities can be great. I'm more interested in why it's so special.

My experience with Kamut is incredibly limited, and I've only encountered it in Italy, as I've lived here the past few years. In Italy it's being recommended very often for people with a gluten intolerance, not gluten allergies. That said, it still strikes me as potentially reckless if the Kamut brand is marketing their product as an alternative to those with gluten problems even if it contains gluten. I'm also aware that most whole wheat/grain flour can be very digestible when compared to more refined versions (e.g. Italian 00), because it contains enzymes and minerals which assist the digestive process. 

Is Kamut simply an organic whole grain? Is it simply an organic version of Durum or any other variation of what in Italy is called grano duro, semola di grano duro, semolina, et cetera? Why is it different? They almost certainly come from the same genus (triticum). It's certainly not native to Montana, and I suspect most of these types of grains originated in Egypt, as Egypt pre-dates Rome as a "world" superpower, and remained incredibly important during both the Roman Empire and Republic due to its agricultural superiority. Without Egypt, Rome wouldn't have been able to feed its citizens. Rome used bread made from Egyptian grains as the petrol dictatorships today use oil royalties to keep their people happy. With that in mind, it doesn't seem that Kamut would be special because of its Egyptian roots, and Kamut (R) brand products certainly aren't being cultivated in their native land today.

I understand it has elevated levels of selenium, vitamin E, and proteins/amino acids, which are very important in the production of bread and pizza. I like organic, non-genetically modified food as much as the next person. I'm also a major proponent of capitalism, and I think effective marketing can do wonders for a product regardless of value. I'm not, however, a fan of irresponsible marketing that exaggerates the health benefits of a food due to either biased research or a lack of government regulation as to what you can and cannot say. I suppose one answer could be that it really isn't being pushed so much by the Kamut (R) brand as by third parties are exaggerating the health benefits in order to sell their products at a significant mark-up.

I am a couple months aways from opening a pizzeria, and I simply want to either have a sound reason as to why I don't have a Kamut (R) based dough, or I want to include it on my menu and be able to trumpet its benefits from mountaintops so that the masses will flock to me and pay extra to eat my super pizza.

Thanks again for your help.

Eric

Jame-L's picture
Jame-L

Eric:  Eric: Thank you for your questions and comments. To address your overriding concern that KAMUT® Brand khorasan wheat is merely a marketing scheme employing unsubstantiated health benefits to sell organic grain without any discernible differences; I beg to differ.

The grain was initially grown as a novelty crop because of its large head and distinctive black beard. The grain came to Montana in 1949 via a young airman from Fort Benton who had been stationed abroad and acquired the large humpbacked grain believing it had come from the tomb of an Egyptian pharaoh. Bob Quinn of Big Sandy became interested in the grain while pursuing a PhD in plant biochemistry at the University of California-Davis. He identified the grain variety as khorasan and identified the nutritional qualities that made it unique. After realizing its unique nutritional (see previous post) and particularly digestive properties, that is, people who normally felt bloated and ill after consuming modern wheat reported not experiencing distress after consuming KAMUT® wheat, Bob and his father Mack Quinn registered the term “KAMUT” as a trademark in 1990 (which means “wheat” from references found in an ancient Egyptian hieroglyphic dictionary) in order to preserve the ancient wheat variety and to support organic farming. The grain was first marketed as a health food until food connoisseurs realized it was good for making some really good pasta, bread, breakfast cereals, pizza crust, etc.

Numerous studies have been conducted to investigate the characteristics of the grain- I suggest the following four as a starting place:

Benedetti, Serena, et al. "Counteraction of oxidative damage in the rat liver by an ancient grain (KAMUT brand khorasan wheat)." Nutrition 28, no. 4 (2012): 436-441.

- Data confirms that bread made from whole-grain KAMUT® khorasan protects rats from oxidative stress better than bread made from whole-grain durum wheat, consistent with grain profiles (Benedetti et al. 2012).

Buiatti, S., P. Passaghe, and M. Fontana. "Problems related to gluten determination in cereal products." Tecnica Molitoria 61, no. 8 (2010): 857-869.

- Italian study to develop systems of detecting gluten. Documents problems and the most common way of identifying glutens – enzyme immunoassay (ELISA) (Buiatti, Passaghe and Fontana 2010).

Coda, Rossana, Giuseppe Rizzello, Daniela Pinto, and Marco Gobbetti. "Selected Lactic Acid Bacteria Synthesize Antioxidant Peptides during Sourdough Fermentation of Cereal Flours." Applied and Environmental Microbiology 78, no. 4 (February 2012): 1087-1096.

- Italian study from the University of Bari confirms that whole wheat, spelt, rye, and KAMUT® sourdoughs provide the best antioxidant qualities.

Pasqualone, A., A.R. Piergiovanni, F. Caponio, V.M. Paradiso, C. Summo, and R. Simeone. "Evaluation of the Technical Characteristics and Bread-Making Quality of Alternative Wheat Cereals in Comparison with Common and Durum Wheat." Food Science and Technology International 17, no. 2 (2011): 136 - 142.

- KAMUT® is scientifically analyzed alongside of spelt, and common durum and wheat for technical baking attributes. The researchers concluded that KAMUT® produces a similar bread, but with more carotenoids. Variability occurred with growing conditions.

The Kamut International website is directed towards the general consumer and not professional researchers. The general consumer will not often have access to academic and professional journals. Please contact jamie.lockman@kamut.com for more information.

The grain is grown on the US Great Northern Plains in Montana, Alberta, and Saskatchewan (and by one farmer in North Dakota). It does particularly well in this dry climate area that has long warm –to hot days and cool nights. (These are essentially the same conditions for durum). The stresses produce a rigorous plant with a high protein grain. In a year with good moisture, production yield will be up, but protein lowered; and conversely, when moisture is insufficient, production will be down, but protein will be high.

Italy is the largest consumer of KAMUT® wheat- Italian consumers have a more sophisticated discernment of grain (and food) qualities in general and those qualities that make KAMUT(R) Brand khorasan wheat unique. Italians use the grain for many products including bread, pilafs, cookies, and even milk, but mostly pastas and pizza. While not a familiar name to a lot of people, KAMUT® Brand khorasan wheat is exported from the US and Canada to countries in Europe, Africa, Asia, Australia, and South America. There is limited production in Australia and there have been test plots grown in Europe, Northern Africa, and South Africa.

To be clear, KAMUT® Brand khorasan is a variety of wheat and as such, HAS gluten. Khorasan wheat is a sub-species similar to, but distinct from the sub-species durum (It is has been proposed that khorasan wheat is a natural cross between durum and another wheat variety.) Just as there are many wheat varieties, there are many varieties of durum wheat (Yellowstone, CDC Falcon, Jagalene, Morgan, Bynum, Neeley, etc.) with different growing characteristics. Khorasan wheat as a whole does better in dry conditions because it is susceptible to mold. When irrigated, the plant is more likely to grow taller rather than produce more grain and end up with a decrease in protein.

Anecdotally, consumers have reported that when normally they have digestive problems consuming wheat, they do not have the same problems with KAMUT® khorasan wheat. There has been limited research done to understand this difference, but to date, there is nothing conclusive. Processing differences may indeed be part of the reason that people report easier digestion; however, in the US and Canada, flours tend to be more homogeneous without the specialty grinds available abroad.

To answer your question simply – Is Kamut simply an organic whole grain?

No. KAMUT® is the name of the BRAND, not the wheat. One of the biggest misconceptions about KAMUT® Brand khorasan wheat is that the name “Kamut” refers to the type of wheat, while in fact, KAMUT® is the trademark name.

Yes. KAMUT® wheat is always organic.

No. It is not always whole grain; KAMUT® white flour is available.

KAMUT® Brand wheat has not been hybridized, thus it retains paleo-characteristics and can be called an ancient or heirloom grain. Modern durum varieties include hybrids developed for specific growing characteristics. To put an evolutionary perspective on the difference; KAMUT® Brand khorasan wheat retains the characteristics that made early grain-gathering humans like it in the first place. Modern hybridized wheats (or any crop) have been manipulated by the producer to achieve the certain characteristics and to limit risks: large yield, uniform size, pest and disease resistance, etc. Additionally, KAMUT® Brand wheat has more desirable carotenoids giving it better color and more anti-oxidants.

“Grano duro is durum, and semola di grano duro, semolina” are specific grinds of durum (or KAMUT® Brand khorasan wheat) with varying amounts of processing that eliminates or retains portions of bran. It produces a superior product for pastas (great color, high protein, excellent taste - no bitterness); however, the process is expensive. Not only is the process of selecting particular elements for the semolina time consuming and challenging; the grain is very hard as the result of high protein and can be damaging to equipment.

KAMUT® Brand khorasan wheat is a premium grain that produces a premium product and the social benefits of supporting organic agriculture and preserving an ancient heirloom seed. I personally think it is difficult to make claims about any food; too much of anything is harmful, too little of something can also be harmful. I think the key is moderate consumption of high quality and healthy foods. That doesn’t mean I don’t have a fastfood burger every now and again.

So let’s hear more about your pizzeria –where will it be & why are you considering KAMUT® Brand wheat for your restaurant? Who introduced you to it?

EricD's picture
EricD

Jame-L,

Thanks for taking the time to supply me with so much useful information. I didn't intend to imply that Kamut (R) brand khorasan wheat had no discernible differences at all, but rather I was trying to discern what made it so damn special. It seems to me that all wheat is certainly not equal. All types of wheat have different nutritional values, so it makes perfect sense that some would be highly nutritional while others relatively poor. The Kamut (R) brand khorasan seems to be on the highly nutritional side, something I never wanted to refute. Different types of wheat also obviously have rather unique flavor profiles, whether a specific type tastes great or not seems to more or less due to personal preference.

My concern, which you have also addressed, was that the health benefits of Kamut (R) brand khorasan wheat are being exaggerated. If this comes from the brand itself, it's unethical. If it comes from the seller, in my case pizzeria, I think it can also be unethical, but obviously it's not the fault of the brand. I recognize that Kamut (R) brand khorasan wheat is a healthy wheat, and I think things that are truly grown organically are generally good as well. 

As for my pizzeria, it will be in Rio de Janeiro. We are considering all products, as we are many months from opening our doors. Our pizzeria, which will also sell bread on a limited basis, will have an emphasis on health and nutrition. Wheat flour is generally the main ingredient of pizza and bread, hence my interest in the Kamut (R) brand although I'm not sure I've encountered it in Rio yet.

I was introduced to Kamut (R) brand products in Italy, where I've lived for the majority of my (brief) adult/professional life. As you noted, the Italians have very sophisticated tastes regarding grain qualities. They are also obsessed with the digestibility of products, sometimes to the point of hyperbole. There are many pizzerias in Italy that push pizza produced with Kamut (R) flour as an alternative to gluten-free flour for those with intolerances. This still strikes me as potentially irresponsible on their part, but it's all about how you do it I suppose. There are, of course, others in the industry on the opposite end. These skeptics, if you will, are the ones who have called it simply a grano duro substitute with great "American" marketing. I have no personal experience with Kamut (R) brand, and I wanted to hear some other opinions before trying it. 

Doc.Dough's picture
Doc.Dough

What does it mean for any grain to be "more digestable"? 

And how might using a levain or a sourdough starter contribute to achieving that state?

 

Jame-L's picture
Jame-L

The grain is "more digestible" through anecdotal evidence - research is being undertaken to understand why but there is also the position that people find it is easier to digest because they are eating a higher quality, less processed food.  A lot of research is being done on Celiac Disease and gluten intolerance - Celiac Disease is a serious condition that can lead to death - It is not well understood or easy to diagnose. Since I am not a doctor, I suggest directing inquiries to health professionals. The term more digestible or perhaps better, more easily digested, in itself is relational. If you normally eat highly processed food loaded with fat and sodium and then switch to a healthy meal with whole grains and vegetables, you probably will find the second meal to be more digestible and you will feel better. I know for myself, if I have a donut or some other fat-laden food - I will wake up with greasy skin.  That doesn't mean I never eat these foods, it just means I eat them in moderation, because I really don't like waking up with a greasy face. 

And you are correct different leavening techniques could contribute to having a better experience digesting bread. I am sure there are all kinds of studies. But before digging too deep, it should be recognized that roasting, boiling, baking, grinding, drying, fermenting, and other processing methods are done in part to make food more digestible (and of course in some cases for storage purposes as well).

EricD's picture
EricD

I should absolutely have used the term more easily digested, it makes more sense. My understanding is that whole grain flour is often more easily digested than white flour, because of the enzymes and amino acids that are often removed during the refining process. These enzymes are located in parts of the grain which are removed, thus aren't present in refined flour. One Italian mill, Molino Quaglia, has actually developed a method where they mill their flour by stone, while still using modern technology to achieve certain levels of refinement. The stone milling process also allows them to make a whole wheat flour which actually uses the entire grain, retaining the natural oils and enzymes present in the parts of the grain which are often removed. I'm sure they aren't the only ones in the world doing it, but I've toured their mill, and it seems to be quite the process.

It would also hold true that all types of wheat, thus all types of flour are not created equal. Some will naturally have more enzymes and such than others. I suppose this could be where Kamut (R) brand khorasan wheat comes in.

It's also been explained to me that the acids which build up during the leavening of the dough help our bodies to then break the down the gluten structures upon consumption. A biga, for example, not only adds distinct flavors and crunchiness, but it also helps to speed up the digestion process. 

Surely there are other ways to render a product more easily digested. I am also referring to the feeling of being bloated we have after eating pizza when I refer to the "digestibility" of a pizza or bread. It just doesn't sit in your stomach the same if it is leavened for 24 hours or a preferment is used. Obviously different flours require different times due to their W, P/L, and other qualities.

I should also note that my social science degree means I've never studied organic chemistry, and I could have major flaws in my reasoning. My experience in the pizza industry is also relatively limited, so everything I say is subject to error.

nicodvb's picture
nicodvb

Do you trust stone milling? I don't. I read that tiny fragments of stone can end up in the flour and damage the teeth. Moreover stone milling overheats the flour.

I'm devoted to the good old steel roller.

EricD's picture
EricD

I trust stone milling from this mill, yes. I've never heard of anyone finding any stone fragments, and I've been to their mill. They've managed to integrate the stone milling process into quite the technologically advanced milling system. I believe they say they avoid overheating by using air and also briefly milling it multiple times, always removing the flour which has reached the desired state, but I could also have completely misunderstood. Below I'll link their English site if you'd like more information. I'm sure that they have a distriubtor out of NY, but I don't know who it is. Their flours are very flavourful when compared to the traditional Italian tipo 00, 0, or even 1 flours. Their whole grain (tipo 2), Petra 9, is really out of this world. I can tell you that these flours, along with sourdough, make mind blowingly flavorful bread.

I should also be noted that these flours cost more than most other Italian flours in Italy. They can also be more difficult to work with than normal Italian flour, especially for those looking for a weaker flour. Further, their English website makes a ridiculous claim that if you use their pizza flour you can use 30% fewer ingredients, because it's so flavourful. I don't think it's a legitimate claim.

I suppose the take away here is that it's all relative, be it a potential super food in Kamut (R) brand products, stone ground flour using 'ancient, yet adanced techniques,' wood fired vs gas vs eletric ovens, or any other variable thing. As long as we're making good and hopefully healthy bread/pizza, it's all good. 

Eric

As promised, here's the link: http://www.farinapetra.it/Benvenuto/Eng_Petra.html

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven
AbeNW11's picture
AbeNW11

If you want benefits of a wholegrain flour for someone who has gluten intolerances then try Einkorn. This is the only Wheat grain (that I know of) that could be beneficial for this purpose. Einkorn, along with Emmer (Farro), is the most ancient form of Wheat that has not been hybridised. In other words - wheat in its purest form. The gluten is weak which makes it more tolerable and as with many ancient grains has many more health properties than modern wheat. It is difficult to work with but once you get the hang of it Einkorn produces a delicious, more savoury, bread. The dough is stickier (don't make the mistake of adding more flour to counterbalance this) and has a shorter rising time than wheat. Because of the weaker gluten, if you proof it too long, it will collapse. My advice is a higher hydration than your normal loaf and a quick rising time. You'll have a delicious, healthy bread which will be better for gluten intolerance. However, those with coeliac disease, should NOT have it.

Khorasan, from what I understand, is also another form of ancient wheat. The benefits are very much the same as others e.g. spelt. Generally the less hybridised forms of wheat have more nutrients and are better tasting. I'm attempting to bake Khorasan for the first time this weekend. Any advice?