Recipe: 25% Kamut Baguettes With Kamut Poolish

Kamut flour has become a staple in my flour blends. It adds a nuttiness to the flavor of the bread and as it has a different kind of gluten than wheat gluten, provides a softness to the crumb that is very pleasing. You don’t get a really open crumb with Kamut since it is a whole-grain flour, but as it has under 12% protein, you’ll still get some very nice oven spring and expansion.

For baguettes, my flour blend is as follows: 50% AP Flour, 25% Bread Flour, and 25% Kamut. I use half of the Kamut (unsifted) to make a poolish and I sift the other half for the final dough. Let’s get to the recipe!

Formula

Flour100.00%
Water75.00%
Salt2.00%
Yeast0.38%
Total %177.38%

Poolish

Kamut Flour (unsifted)105g
Water105g
Yeast @ 0.3%0.31g
Note: This is more than what’s needed just to make sure there’s enough.

Final Dough

Kamut95g
Bread Flour191g
AP Flour381g
Water @ 95°-100°F477g
Salt15g
Yeast (instant)3g
Poolish @ 25% of Total Flour191g
Total Yield1353
4 X 335g loaves
Total Flour763
Total Water572

Make the Poolish. Combine the ingredients and mix well, then cover and set aside, until poolish about doubles. It’ll be ready when it passes the float test. This can take up to 6 hours on cool days. With a Kamut poolish, you won’t see a lot of bubbles on top, but you will see lots of bubbles on the sides and bottom of your container.

You can also make the poolish the day before and stick it in the fridge. This will allow the organic acids to really develop. Not only will you get lots of flavor from this, but it will also add extensibility to the dough.

Mix. In a separate bowl, combine all the dry ingredients (yes, even the yeast and salt) and mix well until everything is nicely distributed. Add all but about 50g of water and make a shaggy mass that has no dry ingredients. Cover and rest for 15 minutes, add the reserved water, and work it into the mass. Once all the reserved water has been incorporated, mix until you have no large lumps in the dough.

Bulk Fermentation. About 1 1/2 – 2 hours. Look for about 50-75% expansion (not doubling)

Folding. Fold the dough twice within the first hour.

Divide and Preshape. Scale-out 335g pieces. Shape either into taut balls or roll into jelly rolls, then set aside on a well-floured couche. Rest for 20 minutes.

Preheat your oven to 500°F

Shape and Final Fermentation. Shape into baguettes and place onto a well-floured couche. Check the loaves at 45 minutes. When you poke test, the hole should fill in slowly.

Bake. Bake with steam at 460°F for 12 minutes. Remove the steaming container, and reduce oven temp to 400°F. Bake for 15-20 minutes to harden the crust and bake out most of the water from the crumb.

My Love Affair with Kamut Flour

As I’ve shared in the past, I’ve been baking bread for over 40 years, but it wasn’t until the pandemic lockdown that I had the time to devote to developing my artisan bread baking skills. And looking back over the last almost two years, it’s daunting to think that I’ve literally spent hundreds of hours mastering the craft; and I still consider myself a mere fledgling artisan bread baker.

Like many during the lockdown, my initial instruction came from Ken Forkish’ excellent book, Flour Water Salt Yeast. Though not very technical it helped me start getting a feel for the dough development process and for that, I’m ever grateful. I still refer to it for recipes.

On one such occasion recently, I revised the section where Ken wrote about making a dough you can call your own. I wrote about that a few months ago and while I still make lots of bread with my reference flour blend, soon after I wrote that article, I started making more and more use of Kamut flour.

Kamut is actually not a type of flour but a brand. The actual wheat type is known by its common name of Khorasan (Triticum polonicum) and is an ancient grain that can trace its roots to ancient Mesopotamia in an area known as the Golden Crescent. The kernel of this grain is roughly three times the size of most modern wheat varieties. And while it contains gluten, it’s of a type that is much more digestible than other wheat varieties and it is packed with B-vitamins.

Health benefits aside, Kamut has a wonderful flavor when incorporated in a flour blend. The bread that results has a slightly nutty flavor and when risen with a natural leaven presents a lovely fruity aroma. The crumb of bread made with Kamut is soft yet springy with a wonderful chewy texture. And as it is a rather thirsty flour even after a full bake (as shown above), the crumb retains a bit of moisture. Bread that I make using Kamut are among my most favorite.

But the main reason I love making bread with Kamut in the flour blend is that it is super-hard with which to work. The gluten that is formed with Kamut is incredibly delicate. And even though the Kamut flour I use has about 12% protein content, which you’d think could accommodate higher hydration, the delicate nature of Kamut’s gluten can a bit of an inhibitor to taking it above 75% hydration.

In light of that, Chad Robertson says in Tartine No. 3 that he takes his 60% Kamut dough past 90% hydration. But looking that the pictures, I believe he compensates by making smaller loaves though his recipe implies making 1-kilo loaves. Based on experience, medium-format loaves with that kind of hydration using that much Kamut will not have much vertical rise. You’ll get nice holes – which is what Tartine bread is known for – but not much vertical rise. For example, look at the pictures from Tartine No. 3 of the 60% Kamut bread below:

You’ll notice that there’s not much vertical rise in the cross-section. It’s a beautiful crumb that’s consistent with a highly hydrated dough. And though I don’t know how big those loaves are from the picture, I have made this recipe and experimented with 93% hydration for the 1-kilo loaves. Even though I built up lots of dough strength, they still spread out a lot. So I’m thinking that the loaves shown in the picture to the left above are significantly smaller than 1-kilo loaves so they retain some vertical rise.

As for me, I do a 40% Kamut, 30% Bread Flour, and 30% High-extraction Flour. The hydration is 75%. That blend and hydration offers the best balance of flavor and dough strength to give me great oven spring and a reasonably open crumb.

And given that Kamut’s gluten is so delicate, I’ve taken to final proofing at 39-40°F for up to 36 hours to allow plenty of time for the gases to expand in the dough. I’ve also learned to bake very gently during the first 20 minutes with steam at 400°F. Once I remove the steaming container, I up the temp to 425°F and bake for 35 minutes until I get a nice tri-color crust.

I mentioned above that I love working with Kamut because it’s a difficult flour with which to work, but I think another big reason is that it has taken me so long to master this blend and make consistently good loaves with it. And that in itself has been a revelation into the intricacies of bread baking. There are so many variables. And while it’s possible to establish methods that are common to many different kinds of bread, working with Kamut, I’ve had to make slight adjustments to my basic methodologies to accommodate the flour.

But I have to say that mastering this blend has given me an immense amount of satisfaction. And that satisfaction is what keeps me going and keeps me exploring!

Happy Baking!

Know Your Flour!!! Dammit!

I made the loaf above a few days ago. It tastes great. It has a great texture. It is flat! Flat! FLAT!!! F$%k!!! The worst of it is that I knew it would turn out like this because it was WAY too hydrated for the protein content of the flour I used. Well… serves me right for following a recipe without compensating for the ingredients I had on hand.

That loaf is Chad Robertson’s 60% Kamut loaf from his Tartine No. 3 book, which focuses entirely on baking bread with whole grain flour. In his recipe he mentioned, “Due to the high protein in Kaumut flour, this dough can take a lot of water.” Stupid me, I took that at face value and made the bread straight from the recipe before checking on the actual protein content of the Kamut flour I have.

My Kamut flour is only 11.7% protein, the same protein content as AP flour. And I upped my hydration to 92% based on his notes in the book that say he usually takes the hydration up past 90%.

STUPID! STUPID! STUPID!

I’m actually laughing as I write this because it’s SUCH a rookie move. And I admit that I probably let my excitement over Chad Robertson doing a recipe with one of my favorite flours get the better of me. And in my zeal, I pushed through the process and didn’t spend enough time studying. Oh well, lesson learned.

This time around, there are a few things I’m going to do to make this a successful bake:

  • I will use vital wheat gluten to up the protein content of my flour to provide more mechanical strength. I did some research and I saw Kamut flour ranging in protein content from 15% to 17%.
  • One thing I missed in Chad Robertson’s instructions was that he does a fermented autolyse in that he performs his autolyse with the starter incorporated into the flour and water. I will do that this time around. That will really get the yeast in my starter going!
  • I will also stick with his basic 85% hydration to start out with. If the dough is still a little stiff at this level, I will do a bassinage in one of my folding sessions to give time for protein to build up first.

As much as it is frustrating, I love the learning process. I may swear a lot in the process, but damn! A good finished product trumps any failures!

Happy Baking!

Recipe: 40% Kamut Flour Sourdough (Updated)

As I mentioned in my previous entry, I love baking with Kamut flour! It’s such a dream to work with and most importantly, it just produces damn good tasting bread! In light of that, I thought I’d share my formula for making sourdough with 40% Kamut flour. With that in mind, here is the overall formula:

Overall Formula

Flour (40% Kamut, 10% Whole Wheat or Rye [from starter], 50% Any other combination of flour)100%
Water78%
Salt1.8%

Notice in the formula, there is no entry for the starter. This is because the starter’s flour and water are always figured into the overall hydration. It is NOT a separate ingredient.

Final Dough

Flour809
Water611
Salt16
Levain180
Total Yield1616g
2 X 800g loaves with some extra for process loss
Optimal Dough Temp76°F
Total flour is about 900g

Make the Levain. Make a 100% hydration levain. I use a hybrid scrapings method of leftover mature starter from my fridge and botanical starter and whole grain flour (for me it’s usually white whole wheat but I will use kamut at times).

Mix. Reserve about 50g of the water and dissolve the salt into it. Mix the flour and remaining water and autolyse for at least 30 minutes (you can autolyse longer if you want). Once autolyse is finished, fold the starter into the dough, then add the salt water and thoroughly mix until everything is well incorporated.

Bulk Fermentation. 1 1/2 – 2 hours (or until 25%-50% dough expansion)

Folding. 2-4 folds at half-hour intervals. You want to be gentle with the folding since you’re using a whole grain flour. Windowpane test after each fold to determine dough strength. If at any point it’s sufficient, stop folding and let bulk fermentation complete.

Divide and Pre-Shape. This recipe yields 2 X 800 gram loaves, so scale the pieces out then shape into rounds. Once shaped, bench rest for 20-30 minutes until the dough has relaxed.

Shape and Final Fermentation. Shape into rounds or ovals (I love to free-form batards). Once shaped, you can let the loaves proof for 1-2 hours at room temp, or pop them into the fridge for 8-16 hours. Note that if your fridge is particularly cold or your yeast really slows down in the cold, it may take longer.

Bake. Bake at 485°F/250°C for 15 minutes with steam. Remove steaming container or purge steam, then bake at 425°F/220°C on convection if you have it; otherwise, 435°F/225°C for 25-30 minutes. Bake until the bottom half of the loaves is a nice mahogany.

I Love Baking with Kamut Flour!

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!