Grünkern bread recipe (green spelt grain)

 

Browsing the local delights of the Naturladen (organic shop) in my home town in Austria, I picked up a bag of Grünkern. The greenish grains looked pretty unique on the shelf! Grünkern are unripe spelt kernels harvested predominantly in Southern Germany. Although mainly used for soups and vegetarian burgers, I wanted to incorporate some of this unique grain in a sourdough Grünkern bread.

Grünkern sourdough
Grünkern sourdough

What is Grünkern?

Grünkern (German for ‘green kernel’) is spelt that has been harvested when half ripe (usually end of July) and then dried. Historically, harvesting spelt so early and before reaching full ripeness was a reaction to periods of adverse weather, which destroyed crops and resulted in poor harvests. It was a way to prevent crop failure.

Grünkern
Grünkern

The grains are harvested when the starch isn’t fully developed and the kernels are still soft and juicy at about 50% moisture content. Grains are dried over a beechwood fire or in hot air dryers – right down to a moisture content of 13%. Once dried, the outer husk is removed. Have a look at gruenkern.de for more information around the harvesting process, then and now.

The dried kernels smell aromatic and a little bit like fresh hay. The aroma remains uniquely pleasant and hearty when cooked with water, so it became a tradition to harvest a portion of the spelt as Grünkern. Grünkern doesn’t tend to be made into a flour; instead it is available as whole grains or chopped grains.

If this sounds similar to another grain, called Freekeh, then you are right. Freekeh is also harvested green, then roasted. The difference? Freekeh is made from green unripe durum wheat and dates back to the ancient regions of Egypt, Lebanon, Jordan and Syria while Grünkern is made from spelt and is still mainly produced in certain parts of Germany.

How Grünkern was made

Where to buy Grünkern in the UK?

I’ve only seen Grünkern on Amazon in the UK.

Grünkern bread recipe

This recipe uses Grünkern as whole kernels which are integrated into a wholemeal spelt sourdough loaf. Adding black treacle enhances the flavours, but you can easily leave out the treacle if you would like a purer version of spelt bread and a purer Grünkern flavour.

Grünkern bread
Grünkern bread

Ingredients

For the sourdough

For the Grünkern soaker

  • 175g Grünkern
  • 350g water

For the main dough

  • 220g spelt flour
  • 50g water
  • 14g salt
  • 1 tbsp malt extract

How to bake Grünkern bread

Day 1

  • Prepare the sourdough by combining your spelt starter with the spelt flour and water. Mix well in a bowl, cover with a lid and leave to stand at room temperature for 16 – 24 hours.
  • Combine Grünkern and water in a pan, cover and leave to soak overnight.

Day 2

  • Drain the Grünkern and bring to a boil in a pan with 350g water. Simmer over a low heat for about 15 minutes. Drain any remaining water.
  • In a large bowl, combine 440g of the sourdough (the remaining 25g go back into the fridge for your next bake) with the main dough ingredients.
  • Form a dough and knead for 10 minutes.
  • Add the Grünkern to the dough and knead until evenly distributed.
  • Place the dough back into the bowl, cover and leave to rest for 1 hour at room temperature.
  • Prepare a baking tin (23 x 11 x 9.5 cm) by lightly oiling it. I use a silicone brush to do that.
  • Place the dough into the tin and prove for 2 – 4 hours depending on the temperature in your room. The dough should rise visibly, filling the tin to the top.
  • Preheat the oven to 250°C.
  • Place the baking tin on the second layer from bottom up and bake for 15 minutes, then bake for a further 25 minutes at 180°C and a final 10 minutes outside the tin at 180°C.
  • Cool on a wire rack.
Grünkern spelt bread
Grünkern spelt bread

Zwieback crackers recipe

 

I love crispbreads and tend to make a batch every few weeks. Usually, I bake savoury crispbreads, but I’ve been wanting to make an old childhood favourite of mine, Zwieback crackers, a lightly sweetened crispbread. My mum didn’t bake this herself, but bought an industrial version called Feldbacher Zwieback. It was generally on the menu when I wasn’t feeling well as it’s easy to digest, a kind of sick kids treat. Here is my recipe for baking Zwieback crackers at home.

Zwieback
Zwieback

What does Zwieback mean?

The name Zwieback translates as “twice-bake” and is a result of the baking process whereby the bread is baked twice. Once as a loaf, and the second time in slices.

Zwieback Crackers Recipe

Zwieback is easy to make at home. The ingredients include wheat or spelt flour, water, yeast, butter, salt, honey or cane sugar. After the first bake, the ‘Einback’ (“one-bake”), the bread is allowed to cool, then cut into slices. The second bake toasts the slices. This is were the flavour develops and the Zwieback cracker gets its typical aroma and brittle structure. While standard bread has a moisture content of about 45%, Zwieback will have 3 to 5%.

Zwieback Einback First Bake
Zwieback – First Stage: Einback (First Bake)

Zwieback ingredients

  • 500g flour
  • 265g milk
  • 7g dried yeast
  • 50g butter
  • 30g sugar
  • 5g vanilla sugar
  • 1 pinch of salt

How to make Zwieback

  1. Combine all ingredients in a large bowl and form a dough.
  2. Knead for 10 minutes on your work surface to produce a smooth and elastic dough.
  3. Place the dough back into the bowl, cover with a lid and leave to rest at room temperature for about 60 minutes until significantly increased in size.
  4. Punch down the dough and knead for a few seconds.
  5. Shape into a tight log (this will ensure a fine crumb structure) and place in a baking tin (no need to oil or butter the form) – I used a large form at 12.2 x 8.6 x 31 cm.
  6. Cover the tin with a clean kitchen towel or wrap in a polythene bag and rest for another hour in the tin.
  7. Bake in a preheated oven at 180°C for approximately 60 minutes.
  8. Take the loaf out of the tin and cool on a wire rack.
  9. Rest for 24 hours.
  10. Cut the loaf into 7mm slices.
  11. Lay them out on a baking tray and bake at 100°C for approximately one hour until golden brown.

Store in an airtight container to ensure the Zwieback remains dry and crisp. Keeps well for weeks!