Recipe: 40% Kamut Flour Sourdough

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%

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

1. Make the Levain

The first step in this process is to make the levain. Depending on how much flour you’re going to use, the levain’s flour will constitute 10% of the total flour. So if you have a 100% hydration starter and you’re going to use 500g of flour, then your total starter yield should be 100g (10% of 500 is 50g for the starter’s flour).

Since I work with larger batches, I usually make 1:5:5 levain; that is, 1 part starter to 5 parts flour to 5 parts water. This will keep hydration at 100%. But you can use any hydration starter you want. You just have to bear in mind the flour and water content.

When I make my 1:5:5 levain, I usually put it together the day before as it takes about 8-10 hours to be fully active (though that’s changing with the warming weather). No matter, I wait until the starter volume has at least doubled before I subject it to the float test. If it passes, then I move on.

2. Make the Final Dough / Autolyse

  1. Thoroughly mix the different flour you will be using in a large bowl or mixer bowl. I usually like to do this step in a mixer with the paddle attachment.
  2. Measure out the remaining water you’ll need by first determing the total water you’ll need based on hydration rate, then subtracting the amount of water contributed by the starter. For instance, if your total flour is 1000g, you’ll need 780g of water in total. The starter water will be 100g, so your remaining water will be 680g.
  3. Mix water into the flour until well-incorporated and you form a shaggy mass.
  4. Autolyse for 1 hour.

3. Bulk Fermentation

Because Kamut is a whole grain flour, we need to be gentle with the dough at all stages.

  1. Add the starter and salt to the dough and mix thoroughly until fully incorporated. If you’re using a mixer, make sure to mix on low.
  2. Fold the dough three times within the first 1 1/2 hr. I highly suggest coil folding.
  3. Let rest covered at room temp (please don’t use a proofer here) for 1 hour.
  4. Put the dough in the fridge until it has expanded about 50-75%. This may take 18-24 hours. In my retarding fridge which I have set at 40 F, it takes about 12 hours to get to this point.

4. Divide and Pre-Shape

  1. Carefully remove the cold dough from your fermentation chamber and place it on a lightly floured surface.
  2. Divide the dough depending on how many loaves you’re going to make and gently but firmly shape the pieces into rounds,
  3. Bench rest for 30 minutes

5. Shape and Final Proof

Now is a good time to get your oven started. Set to 500F

  1. Shape the pieces into whatever kind(s) of loaves. You’ll want to make sure you develop a nice, taut skin without tearing.
  2. Place into baskets.
  3. Proof for 1.5-2 hours. This time is NOT exact. You need to take the dough out to about 85-90% proven. The finger dent test will help determine when the loaves are ready for baking.

6. Bake

  1. Bake at 500F (with steam) for 15 minutes.
  2. Vent and/or remove steaming container then turn oven down to 425F.
  3. Bake at 425F for 30-45 minutes or until the crust is a deep caramel brown.
  4. Remove from oven and place on cooling rack.
  5. Allow to cool at least 3 hours before cutting.

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!