The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Help! I have a question about grain.

edh's picture
edh

Help! I have a question about grain.

Hi all,

As a result of my 9 yr old's interest in ancient Egypt, we're trying to re-create the bread they baked. After one disaster involving whole spelt (the disaster was my mess-up, not the spelt's!), we did a little more research and found that, in addition to my overproofing, we had the wrong grain. What we should be using is emmer wheat, not spelt.

That's all well and good, but the only source I found (I haven't gone online for it yet, that may be next) was a wildly expensive bag of italian farro from my co-op catalog. I ordered it, to the tune of almost $6.00 for a pound, and it arrived last week. Now I'm not so sure about it. The bag says "semi-pearled italian farro," and includes directions for cooking it as a sort pilaf. It sounds yummy, but it ain't bread, and I'm starting to wonder about this semi-pearled stuff. Does anyone know what that means? I'm afraid it's been partially cooked, or roasted, and when ground won't act like plain wheat. I'd hate to waste it if that's the case; I'd rather make the pilaf and try to find plain emmer online.

Any help from all you whole-grainies would be deeply appreciated; I'm working my way slowly towards 100% whole grain, but I'm not there yet!

On another note, I tried the BBA's Anadama bread yesterday, and it was outrageous! I used a mix of spelt and bread flour instead of just bread, but otherwise stuck to his recipe. I highly recommend it!

edh

subfuscpersona's picture
subfuscpersona

When a child is interested in learning how "bread" was made 4000 to 3000 years ago, I think s/he would learn more by being exposed to the techniques and tools of the era rather than concentrating on the actual grain used.

> explore flat breads; ovens required knowledge to build and operate and required more fuel to heat, so oven-baked bread was the perogative of the rich. Most people cooked over an open flame and had no access to an oven.

> explore milling; even in ancient Egypt, grain was often ground by individuals (often women) as well as by larger millstones driven by human/animal power. This statuette shows a woman grinding grain into flour using a grindstone on an oval slab. It is from the Pyramid district of Gîza, 6th Dynasty, c. 2200 B. C.

If you're willing to spend $, you can buy a similar "mortar and pestle" that looks somewhat like this

and let your child see how long it takes him/her to manually grind a cup or so of grain into something resembling flour. Progressive sifting (to remove the coarser bran) is allowed. Take a look at Bread in Ancient Egypt

> explore sourdough; commercial yeast was only introduced in the middle to late 1800s. Before that, everything was naturally leavened.

As far as grain goes, we know that ancient grain did not have the gluten producing ability of modern wheat cultivars. Spelt would be an acceptable substitute for emmer if the aim is education, not historical accuracy.

Alternatively, you could purchase kamut, a grain genetically related to grains that originated in the fertile crescent (an area which runs from Egypt to the Tigris-Euphrates valley). Kamut is relatively easy to find (especially in flour form, though whole grains are harder to find) and may be less expensive than emmer. I can sometimes find pre-packaged whole grain kamut in a local health food store. The package I have now is sold by Shiloh Farms - email for them is info "at" shilohfarms.net or see http://www.shilohfarms.net/. A 15 oz package of organic kamut whole grain cost me (retail) $2.40

pumpkinpapa's picture
pumpkinpapa

There is a farm run by Brooke and Sam Lucy in Washington which grows Emmer, and they sell Emmer flour online. Plus it's organic too and is much cheaper than the Italian stuff :) 

http://www.bluebirdgrainfarms.com/products.html

goetter's picture
goetter

It's nice to see some love for Brooke and Sam here.  I'm proofing a Vollkornbrot made with their rye this morning.

susanfnp's picture
susanfnp

Hi edh,

I'm not sure but I believe that pearled grain has had the outer layer (bran or hull, I think, depending on the grain) removed. So I guess semi-pearled would mean partly removed. I'm guessing it would work OK but would not technically be whole grain if that's what you're after.

Thanks for the anadama recommendation; there's a bread I haven't had in years but I think it's time to make it again!

 

Susanfnp

http://www.wildyeastblog.com

subfuscpersona's picture
subfuscpersona

susanfnp on August 4, 2007 wrote:
I believe that pearled grain has had the outer layer (bran or hull, I think, depending on the grain) removed.

The hull or husk of a grain seed is an outer covering which is removed from grain before it is milled. Whole grains sold to home bakers on a retail level will *always* have the hull / husk removed. What remains is a grain seed with the outer covering (bran layer) containing the starchy part of the grain (endosperm) and the germ.

Pearled grain is whole grain that has the outer bran layer removed, usually entirely but, in some cases, only partially. It should inculude the germ.

In commercial milling, the extraction rate or extraction percentage indicates how much flour per pound of grain is produced, given an input of husked grain. If the entire, husked, wheat kernel is milled, there is obviously an "extration rate" of 100%. However, commercial mills normally produce the desireable "white" flour, which excludes the germ and all of the bran.

The outer bran layer of a grain of wheat actually is composed of multiple layers, and there are milling processes that include some of the inner bran layers.

browndog's picture
browndog

Wish I could remember where I heard or read this slightly tangental bit of ephemera. I can't hear 'ancient Egypt' and bread in the same sentence without thinking of it: The teeth of Egyptian mummies generally show significant wear, even among those who died young, because it was impossible to keep sand out of their flour and bread. So, edh, if you really want to be archeologically precise...

subfuscpersona's picture
subfuscpersona

From what I've read, you're correct.

The issue is how hard the milling stones were. Softer stones would incorporate fine grit into the milled flour. Additionally, if the grinding / milling technology was exposed, fine grit or dust from the atmosphere would naturally be incorporated into the flour. Over time, and across centuries and physical locations, efforts were made to use very hard milling stones that would not contribute their own grit to the flour.

This thread started with an inquiry about reproducing breads made with technology used 4000-3000 yeaars ago as an educational process. The point is not to produce edible bread (as we would understand it) but to explore the process of transforming seed to flour and flour to bread.

If edh & child even partially attempt to produce bread according to ancient methods, the probable result is that the bread produced will be totally unpalatable to contemporay tastes. This is really the lesson. The art of bread making is both ancient and continuing.

 

bluezebra's picture
bluezebra

shows on Egyptology on Discovery alot. I seem to remember this also. I also read somewhere else that our early ancestors her in the states also had significant teeth wear and tear. I think it was attributable to eating more of the "whole grain" in breads and the grinding necessary to break it down? I think they used quite alot of rye flours? But again this is shady memory on my part from many many years...

susanfnp's picture
susanfnp

Completely coincidentally, I just ran across this article on emmer. This website is, I believe, maintained by Tod Bramble of KAF.

Susanfnp

http://www.wildyeastblog.com

subfuscpersona's picture
subfuscpersona

Thanks, susanfnp, for your link to www.straightgrade.com

This is a very interesting site. I've bookmarked it. Thanks again for the reference.

SourdoLady's picture
SourdoLady

Everything you would need to know about recreating ancient bread in Giza is written in Ed Wood's book, "World Sourdoughs From Antiquity". He acutally did this in 1993 in conjunction with Reader's Digest. That book has since been replaced with the current "Classic Sourdoughs" and I would assume that it still contains the same information. I have a copy of the first book. He also goes into great detail about the different flours, and says that the earliest breads were unleavened flatbreads made with barley flour (no yeast and no gluten).

edh's picture
edh

Wow! That's a lot of, well, food for thought!

You're right subfuscpersona, I'm pretty sure Egyptian bread would stick in the gullet by today's standard. And while this is an educational/research project, it is also summer vacation, and the grain did cost $6.00/lb. I'll be doing everything I can to keep it edible! (Though as I said, that didn't exactly work out on the last attempt)

My present sourdough trials and tribulations not withstanding, that is the route we'll be taking; my son takes details very seriously, and I had to pull some serious rank to avoid the inclusion of grit for the sake of authenticity (he'd read the same thing about the contents of most breads).

I was also unwilling to get involved in the making of a stone morter and pestle mill, or to foot the bill to purchase such a thing. I'm such a stick in the mud. He spent this afternoon using our (metal!) hand mill to grind up the emmer for tomorrow's bake.

I think I'm having serious overproofing problems with my sourdough, so we'll be doing a shorter ferment to see if that helps.

Thank you all so much for your responses! Those were some fascinating links, and I'm going to have to look up the sourdough history book soon.

Thanks again,

edh

christi's picture
christi

christi  Is there any evidence that they used unleavened sprouted bread? Or is there no real way to know?

I can barely microwave, let alone bake, but I found this site for almost the same reasons as edh. My 11 year old daughter is studying Mesopotamia.

If we try to duplicate their bread, and want to use a clay oven or kiln or whatever you pros call it, how do I find someone in Phoenix who has one? I am not building one in the backyard.

Believe it or not, we do have borrowing rights to a mortar and pestle. 

goetter's picture
goetter

Bake it in a covered clay casserole on top of embers.  That'd be historically accurate per http://www.touregypt.net/featurestories/bread.htm .