Ready to learn more about monococcus, the “mother of all cereals”? Here, a breakdown of the benefits of einkorn, how to cook it, and why you’re about to see a number of nutrient-rich products made with this type of grain coming to market in the coming months.
What is the monococcus, exactly?
Also called small spelled in Italian, monococco is a member of the same wheat family as spelled (medium spelled) and spelled (large spelled). The difference is that spelled and spelled are the result of natural crossings. And while most other grains have crossed naturally with other plants or were selectively bred for large-scale agriculture, einkorn has remained entirely genuine.
Thanks, in large part, to Carla Bartolucci, the late founder and president of Jovial Foods, and her sister company, Bionaturae, the monococcus is still around today. Bartolucci and her husband started growing einkorn near their home in Northern Italy in 2009 and decided to help ensure that the ancient wheat lived in its unaltered state. Jovial is now the leading einkorn producer in the world, making einkorn products available on a large scale, including organic pasta, flours, wheat berries, crackers and biscuits. (Like FYI, einkorn is sold by a few other companies, often under the name spelled small and not in the same scale as Jovial.)
Health Benefits of Einkorn
The evolution of wheat and industrial agriculture has not only transformed the way our wheat grows, but also the nutritional value of the grains themselves. For one, modern wheat is three times larger than einkorn kernels, which means there is a different ratio of bran, germ, and endosperm; this is what gives it its unique protein content. Einkorn, in fact, contains about 30 percent more protein than modern wheat, and most of the protein of any other cereal, as it has 15 percent less starch.
As Giulia Viola, daughter of Bartolucci and now co-owner of Jovial, says, “the monococcus is a balanced cereal”. The benefits go on and on: spelled contains over 200 percent more antioxidant lutein than modern wheat, 75 percent more manganese, 50 percent more riboflavin, 40 percent more zinc and 20 percent more percent or more of magnesium, thiamine, niacin, iron, vitamin B6, and fiber (… Talk about a drop mic.)
While many modern wheat products may contain some of these micronutrients in large quantities, this is because they have been fortified.
Sensitivity to monococcus and gluten
There are several reasons why einkorn is more easily digested both in general And for those who are intolerant to gluten. Some publications claim that einkorn has a lower gluten content, but this is actually not true: Einkorn actually has higher levels of gluten due to its higher protein content. Rather, it is the unique gluten composition (and weaker gluten structure) of the einkorn that makes it so different from that of modern wheat, as well as what makes it more easily tolerated by many people who have a sensitivity to wheat.
“Einkorn lacks the high molecular weight proteins that make modern wheat difficult to digest,” says Viola. Speaking from personal experience, she shares that she completely avoided gluten as a child due to her intolerance of hers. But when Viola’s parents reintroduced gluten into her diet in the form of einkorn, she remained symptom-free, just as she had on a gluten-free diet. Viola can now enjoy pasta, a cultural food in Italy, as never before. before now.
Einkorn also has a simpler genetic makeup than modern wheat, as well as a different starch makeup. These two factors also help make einkorn easier to digest without the blood sugar spikes that can result from consuming more refined forms of grains or wheat.
How to use the monococcus in the kitchen
Einkorn can be found as a whole berry or it can be ground into a flour, which is used to make a variety of wheat-based products such as pasta or crackers. Its flavor is often described as slightly nutty and sweet. Maria Speck, wholemeal expert and award-winning author of Simply Ancient Grains And Ancient grains for modern mealspraises the “extraordinary starchy fleshy and delicate chew” of the monococcus. Its deliciously tender texture, he says, works beautifully in his recipe for maple pudding with small spelled (find it below!).
Einkorn’s unique protein and nutrient composition means it reacts differently when incorporated into recipes, especially when used as a flour in baking. Like other forms of wheat, einkorn can be ground into a whole wheat flour or refined into an all-purpose flour, which means that some of the bran and germ have been removed. Both can be used in cooking, depending on your preferences: whole wheat will have a more nutty flavor.
“When making dough, the einkorn’s weaker gluten structure requires more gentle handling, such as the stretch and fold technique, rather than traditional dough,” explains Speck. When using einkorn flour for the first time, Speck recommends only substituting half (or even a third) of the all-purpose flour instead of going all-in. “This is how you can begin to familiarize yourself with how the monococcus behaves,” he says. “Also, keep in mind that einkorn is easier to use in pancakes, muffins, and other quick bread recipes, especially if einkorn is new to you. That’s because these baked goods don’t just rely on strong gluten strands for texture. “If a recipe relies on stronger gluten than an all-purpose flour, such as in a cake, bun, or muffin, Speck suggests. to add an extra egg to compensate for the weaker gluten in the monococcus.
In Bartolucci’s cookbook Einkorn: recipes for nature’s original grainpoints out that einkorn also absorbs liquids more slowly than other flours, including liquid from a source of fat, so the dough may require a little more liquid (or more standing time) to soften and get the better final consistency.
To start cooking with einkorn, look for high-quality produce from Jovial Foods, Bluebird Grain Farms, Anson Mills, Marsh Hen Mill, and Maine Grains. Then try the delicious Speck Maple Pudding with the small spelled recipe below.
The recipe for maple pudding with small spelled by Maria Speck
It serves 4
For the small spelled:
1 1/4 cups of water
1/2 cup small spelled (stump)
1 cinnamon stick (2 inches).
For the pudding:
1 1/4 cups half and half, plus more if needed
3 tablespoons of maple syrup, preferably the darkest grade B, or more if needed
2 (3 inches) strips of lemon zest
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon of fine sea salt
Soft cream, for serving
Cinnamon powder, for sprinkling
1. To make small spelled, add the water, small spelled and cinnamon stick to a medium-weight saucepan and bring to the boil. Lower the heat to keep simmering, cover and cook until the kernels are tender with light chew, 25 to 35 minutes, depending on the type. A good portion of the kernels should burst and show their starchy centers, and there will be some water left (do not drain).
2. To prepare the pudding, add half and half to the spelled, two tablespoons of maple syrup, lemon zest, vanilla and salt. Bring back to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring a few times and pressing on the lemon strips to release their essential oil. Lower the heat to maintain a slight bubble and cook, uncovered and stirring occasionally, until the pudding thickens to a creamy consistency and the kernels swell, about 20 more minutes. It should still be a little sloppy.
3. To finish, remove the saucepan from the heat and remove the cinnamon stick and zest. Add the remaining spoonful of maple syrup, or more to taste. Pour into individual dessert bowls or bowls and serve hot. Or, pour the pudding into a medium bowl and press a piece of parchment paper or cling film over it to prevent skin from forming. Cool to room temperature and chill for about two hours. The pudding will continue to thicken – you may need to add a little half-and-half before serving to loosen it. Pour into individual bowls.
4. Garnish each bowl with a dollop of whipped cream and sprinkle with cinnamon.
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