Last Wednesday I made my weekly bread with 50% wholemeal Khorason flour instead of the normal 50% wholemeal, and it was a seriously strange experience.
Khorason, by the way, is an ancient strain of wheat that has remained unchanged for thousands of years – its origins are unknown, but it seems certain that it predates the Pharaohs. It is though to be a variant of Emmer which, itself, has been dated back to 7,000 years BC. The grain for my flour comes from the Khorason region of Iran, from which it takes it’s name (not Iraq as I might have said in an earlier post or Tweet).
Khorason is grown commercially in the US under the Kamut brand, but it’s just Khorason with a dubious legend tacked on to it. Originally it was recovered from an Egyptian tomb, spirited off to the US where it was tagged “King Tut’s Wheat” – despite the fact that it was doubtless being grown across the Middle East at the time. It was grown commercially for a while, generated zero interest, and vanished, only to reappear some years later, branded as Kamut
Like Emmer and Spelt, Khorason is an unmodified wheat – that is, it hasn’t been intensely and continuously hybridised like modern wheat varieties. All wheats have been hybridised to some degree, as they all derive from grasses, but with these ancient grains, that ended once an acceptable result was obtained, at a time lost in prehistory. For this reason, the gluten structure is very different to that of modern wheats, making it useful to those who are intolerant of wheat. Whether this extends to coeliacs, I don’t know. I’ve read that it does, but have found no hard medical evidence to support the claim.
The flour smelt wonderful, when tipped into the bowl, but looked like a mix of sand and golden sawdust – an appearance that turned out to be just a tad too prophetic.
I normally use 60% hydration, with 30ml of cider vinegar added (to retard mould – I don’t mind stale home-made bread (and it stales fast, so to slow that down I keep it in a plastic bag – 2, in fact, as plastic is micro-porous), it’s still good, especially with soup, or toasted. Thinly sliced, with cheese, it’s fine too. Mouldy bread, though, is fit only for the bin.
Commercial bakers use distilled vinegar, and industrial product, to retard mould, so I figured cider vinegar would do the same job, and it does, the bread remaining sound for almost a week. There is not taint from the vinegar in the finished loaf.
Anyway, 60% water plus 30ml vinegar gives me a moist but easily-handled dough. However, when I made my yeast starter (with flour, water and malt extract), I noticed that the Khorason absorbed very little water and, rather than binding together, had the texture of wet sand, which was worrying.
When I’d added the starter, the rest of the water, and the oil to the flour, and run the mixer for a few minutes, it was obvious that the Khorason had absorbed little water, and the dough was like thick porridge. I let the mixer run a little longer than usual, then let the dough sit in the bowl for 10-15 minutes to allow the Khorason to hydrate if it was going to. It made no difference.
So I tipped it out onto the floured counter, and kneaded in a couple of handfuls of white flout to at least stabilise the sloppy mass enough to handle, with the aid of my bench knife.
I left it to prove covered in clingfilm and a towel, as usual, when it spread outward more than upwards. After which I knocked it back, and divided into two portions. I’ve a good eye, and can usually divide dough into two portions with no more than 20 grams difference (less than an ounce). That day I was on form, and got it to within 3 grams, so I called it quits – it was too sticky to bugger about weighing and reweighing it until they were equal.
I rolled each piece into a sausage, folded the ends to the middle, and pressed them in the tins, seam-side down.
They proved again without any drama, though they looked a little saggy as they rose above the tins, so I quickly floured and slashed them, and got them into the oven. 43 minutes later I had two perfect, golden, loaves – for some reason, loaves fresh from the oven appear to glow with an inner light. Once cold they lose this. I’m at a loss to explain it, but I’ve seen it too often for it to be anything but real.
Surprisingly, the texture was excellent, open, but even, with no large holes – perfect bread for cheese in my view – and the colour a dark golden shade. The taste was a mystery, as acid reflux the previous night had wiped out my taste buds, and they’re only now recovering. The flavour is a little more intense than the standard wholemeal which, like the white flour, is a mix of organic Maris Widgeon wheat and an unspecified Canadian organic wheat, but the texture is where it really scores, for me, at least.
I was a bit peeved with the hassle, but I think if I persevere, and change my technique, Khorason will make a useful addition to my bread-making armoury.
Next time, I’ll make a starter using all the Khorason flour and all the water, plus the yeast and a teaspoon of malt extract, and let it ferment slowly in the fridge for 24 hours, which might encourage it to take up the water better.
Watch this space…