I love working with ancient grain flour. To me, there’s a certain romance to working with grain that bread makers have used for thousands of years. To think that I’d be working with flour made from grain that bakers from ancient civilizations used makes my mind wander back to those ancient times and what it would have been like to bake back then.
Kamut, which is the commercial name for Khorasan wheat is an ancient grain that I discovered several months, but with which I only started recently baking. Its exact origin is unclear, but it is named after a historical area called “Khorasan” which was a region in what is known as the Fertile Crescent in the Middle East. The predominant civilizations that occupied that area were the Mesopotamians and Sumerians. If they were cultivating and using that grain, we’re talking about a grain that was used thousands of years ago! And we’re talking about 5,000+ years ago. I don’t know about you, but to me at least, that’s incredibly exciting!
But other than the romanticism I’ve assigned to the grain, baking with Kamut flour is incredible. Similar to durum flour, it absorbs water slowly, so it requires an autolyse period. And like durum flour, once hydrated, it forms a luxurious, highly pliable dough. And again, like durum or other whole grain flour, it absorbs a lot of water. Most of the bread I make with it is in the 78-82% hydration rate range. Even at those levels, the dough is very workable and not too tacky.
Interestingly enough, Kamut has a lower protein content than durum and whole wheat. The Kamut flour I use from Azure Standard, is rated at 11.7% protein, which is along the lines of King Arthur or Bob’s AP flour. So I often mix it with a little vital wheat gluten to get the protein content to around 14%. The reason for this is that even though it is milled to a super-smooth consistency, it still is a whole grain and will tend to cut the gluten strands. Admittedly, I’m still experimenting with how much vital wheat gluten I add.
As far as baking is concerned, see the loaves in the picture above? They were all made with 40% Kamut flour. The baguettes used 20% high-extraction and 40% AP Flour, whereas the batards used 10% whole wheat (from the starter), 30% high-extraction, and 20% AP Flour. For the batards, with that much bran in the dough, I wasn’t expecting large holes. But look at the oven spring of those loaves! It’s absolutely incredible. The batards exploded in the oven. The crumb, though not possessed of big holes was still really light and airy. And the texture – OMG, the texture – was absolutely fabulous!
And don’t get me started on the taste. Kamut flour adds a slight sweetness and a definite nuttiness to the flavor of the bread. Even though it’s whole grain flour, you don’t get that grain-forward taste. The taste is akin to macadamia nuts, and it’s addictive. I gave one of the loaves to a friend who brought it over to her aunt’s for a small luncheon. The ladies loved it so much they ate over half of it at lunchtime, then according to my friend, they polished it off at dinner. That loave was not small, weighing in at over 2 1/2 pounds.
It also helped that the sourdough was made from a nectarine botanical starter I had just cultivated. The fruity notes in the starter definitely integrated well Kamut’s nuttiness. Even my family who has gotten pretty used to having artisan bread around loved that loaf. Many sandwiches and avocado toasts were made.
Along with durum, Kamut flour will most likely be a regular blending flour for me. Technically, I could do 100% Kamut, but it’s relatively expensive at $1.57/pound. Contrast that to Durum, which is $0.94/pound. I’ve got to stretch it to make it last. Plus, I can only get it in 25-lb bags, which is a bummer. I’d love to be able to get 50-lb bags. But Kamut has limited cultivation in the US, so it’s definitely not as available as other flour.
I’m so glad I discovered Kamut. Like I said, It’ll be part of my regular flour blend from here on out!