The Dough Whisperer Meets Einkorn Flour
I will never take freshly baked bread for granted again. The work and time it takes to produce the perfect crumb—raw dough gently massaged in the cup of one’s hands, back and forth, a gentle weaving rhythm—it’s an art, reaching that exact moment when the gluten strands achieve their perfect stretch, a smidge more flour if needed, until precisely ready to sit and rise. After attending an artisan bread-making workshop with Bay Area’s legendary Chef Maggie Cattell, I have a newfound appreciation for this ancient craft.
Chef Maggie is an inspirational dough whisperer and organic gardener living in Los Gatos. A California Culinary Academy–trained chef, she worked in Paris with renowned Chef Christian Constant at restaurant Le Violon d’Ingres (one Michelin star), and then returned stateside to work with Chef Douglas Keane at his Cyrus Restaurant (two Michelin stars) in Healdsburg and eventually as head baker at Piccino in San Francisco. Along with her fine-dining restaurant stints, she consulted in sustainable food practices, passionately exciting the community about healthy foods.
In recent years, Maggie turned her attention and skills to raising her two toddlers with healthy sustainable food. When Maggie’s son, Spencer, turned 1, he had his first taste of something sweetened with sugar: a birthday cake. Soon after, he had his first cookie and more sweets. Maggie noticed he was becoming a picky eater and always wanted sweets or processed carbohydrates. Frustrated by these new cravings, she drastically reduced her use of sugar in baking and started collecting and creating new recipes for treats using less refined sweeteners and processed flours. Her first gem of a discovery was an ancient grain: einkorn wheat flour.
Einkorn wheat means “single grain” in German, and has been out of mainstream production for close to a century because of its difficulty to harvest and mill. Mechanized cultivation in the 1960s allowed common wheat to be grown on a far larger scale than einkorn. Carla Bartolucci and her husband, Rodolfo, of Jovial Foods contracted with farmers in Italy to grow einkorn wheat after they discovered their gluten-sensitive daughter was able to tolerate this ancient wheat. Einkorn’s “primitive” gluten is set to secure its comeback because its gluten content is much lower, making it a healthier food for bodies to digest. Einkorn also has a higher percentage of protein than modern red wheats and is considered more nutritious with higher levels of essential fatty acids, phosphorus, potassium, pyridoxine and beta-carotene.
Western farmers—in Idaho, Washington, Oregon, California—are beginning to grow and offer einkorn along with other ancientgrain flours, and many local community markets and Whole Foods are beginning to carry it. Local bakers are also beginning to feature einkorn flour in a wide array of baked goods and breads. Manresa Bread, which sources its grains from California, offers a hearty focaccia einkorn bread that is a great way to taste this nutty flour for the first time with its oversized air pockets—perfect for spreading with salted butter or soaking up virgin olive oil.
Chef Maggie’s passion for baking healthy and tasty food for her family has found a new muse in this ancient grain. And she invites you to warm up the oven and bake one of her signature recipes: Einkorn Zucchini Bread. Savor & share!