I’m briefly leaving the coast of Massachusetts and its burgeoning farmers’ markets, recent post inspiration, for Italy, because I can never stay too long away from that country.
I first learned about Jovial Organics Incorporated, based in Modena, Italy, a few years ago when I was researching gluten-free products. Gluten-free or not, the Jovial story, and einkorn wheat, for its heart and reinvention of an ancient food, is just a compelling food tale.
The “Mrs.” of Jovial Organics, Carla, was born into an Italian-American household with a mother who made homemade pasta and a father who cooked on the weekends. Her family’s homemade pizza was not what other Connecticut children were eating. Carla traveled to Italy as a young woman, fell in love with her parents’ homeland and an Italian man named Rodolfo Bartolucci, “Mr. Jovial.” They married, established a home in Italy, and started a family. When their young daughter developed various medical issues, consequences of gluten intolerance, like so many people struggling with this, the parents desperately searched for answers.
Italy being Italy, a solution lay in its hills. A neighbor of the Bartoluccis was growing einkorn, documented as the most ancient form of wheat. All modern wheat hails from einkorn. Einkorn has never been hybridized. When Paleolithic hunter-gatherers became Neolithic farmers of the Fertile Crescent, one of the wild seeds they corralled with agriculture was einkhorn. Einkorn doesn’t have less gluten, but when it is mixed with a liquid its structure causes less gluten to be produced. It is a satisfying, nutritious answer to bread and pasta for those who cannot tolerate modern wheat.
Even if you can sustain a slice of grocery store toast, know this: Einkorn has more protein than any other grain, and 15% less starch, which means it has far fewer carbohydrates. It has more flavor, and a lot more nutrition. Bartolucci says that the nutrition of einkorn is to modern wheat what an heirloom, farm-raised tomato is to a supermarket tomato.
Einkorn contains 200% more lutein than modern wheat, “the same antioxidant that makes egg yolks yellow,” Bartolucci says. For essential nutrients, einkhorn has 50% more manganese, riboflavin, zinc, and 20% more magnesium thiamin niacin, iron, and vitamin B6 than modern wheat. In fact, all of the above is what is synthetically added back to an “enriched” loaf of bread baked with modern wheat. In einkorn it never left.
When einkorn proved the precise solution to their daughter’s health, the Bartoluccis contracted with various Italian farmers to grow it commercially. Cue Jovial Organics Incorporated, producers of flour, pastas, and wheat berries, and now a cookbook, “Einkorn.” The “ancient” quality of einkorn always had more interest for me than its very genuine promise of bread to the gluten intolerant, and this cookbook is a baker’s read, not a medical “alternative.” Carla Bartolucci provides plenty of easy advice for working with einkorn. (Let pie crusts rest a bit before rolling so the einkorn can properly absorb the fat. Mix einkorn gently. Nothing overwhelming.) My starter is still growing, but from the looks of it, I understand einkorn makes a killer sour-dough loaf with a crust that Mr. Lahey of the famous No-Knead Loaf can envy.
Che bella!- is the recipe below, and so Italian. A combination of antipasto flavors tucked into an easy quick bread, this makes an easy, interesting portable appetizer, or a lovely housegift. If you are bringing it to a gluten-sensitive household you might wrap the cookbook up, too.
Einkorn Savory Antipasto Quick Bread
makes 1 loaf
2 cups all purpose einkorn flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/3 cup grated pecorino Romano cheese
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
2 large eggs
1/2 cup whole milk
1.4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for greasing the pan
2 tablespoons dry white wine
1 cup diced firm cheese, such as Manchego, Swiss, or Colby
1/2 cup diced salami or mortadella
1/2 cup diced ham or turkey
1/2 cup pitted and sliced green olives
1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Grease a 9×5-inch loaf pan
2. In a large mixing bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Mix in the pecorino cheese and oregano.
3. In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs until foamy. Whisk in the milk, oil, and wine until combined.
4. Fold the egg mixture into the flour mixture, and use a spatula to mix until the flour is completely absorbed. Add the diced cheese, and meats, and olives, mixing them into the batter evenly with a fork. Transfer the batter into the prepared loaf pan.
5. Bake the bread for 40 – 45 minutes until a toothpick comes out clean in the center. LEt the bread cook in the pan for 15 minutes, then uncomld the bread and let cool completely on a rack before slicing.