A No Knead Bread With Zea Flour

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the crumb of a zea and white flour loaf of bread

A couple of years ago, I had the opportunity to taste spaghetti pasta that was made with Zea flour and enjoyed it very much. I had never heard of this grain before and so I did some research and discovered it is a grain that has ancient roots, and is making a come back in Greece and other places. This grain is apparently often confused with spelt, but it is more closely related to “emmer.”

Further research discovered that zea flour has some big differences with traditional wheat flour including:

  • Higher protein content by weight: 14%
  • Lower in calories by weight, with 100 grams containing about 338 calories

Generally it has a high nutritional profile as it is rich in minerals including magnesium, zinc, and iron. These minerals are vital for various bodily functions including immune response, oxygen transport, and enzyme activity. Zea flour provides B vitamins, particularly niacin (Vitamin B3) and thiamin (Vitamin B1), which are essential for energy metabolism and nerve function.

It also has a nice rich and fulfilling nutty taste.

So recently, when I saw that I could purchase zea flour, I wondered what it might taste like not as pasta, but as something baked into a loaf of bread. I bought a small amount and thought to try my “go to” method (No Knead Bread), realizing that with it being lower in gluten it might not turn out the same. This method is a 18 hour ferment using a small amount of yeast and no kneading.

The first time I did this, I was not unhappy with the resulting bread, but it was a bit heavy and there was not much rise to it. But I thought I might try again, but with some added Canadian Robin Hood flour to see what would happen.

But I Screwed Up And Added Too Much Water!

My plan was to mix two cups of Zea Flour and one cup of the Robin Hood all-purpose flour along the same lines of the recipe for my regular no-knead bread, along with 1 1/2 cups of water, 1/4 teaspoon yeast, and tablespoon of salt (which some think is too much, but I like it).

I am not entirely sure if I accidentally added more water than the 1 1/2 cups, or perhaps zea flour won’t “absorb” as much, but I ended up with a very wet dough that was too wet.

So I made adjustments by adding more white flour until I got a dough that I was happy with. So I’m estimating that the resulting ingredients included:

2 cups of all-purpose flour
2 cups of zea flour
2 teaspoons salt (I cut back this time)
1/4 teaspoon instant yeast
Unknown amount of water.

18 Hour Fermentation

Approximately 18 hours later, the dough had risen nicely and dimples covered the surface.

dimples on surface of fermented zea and all purpose flour dough

However, when I turned the dough out onto a floured surface, the dough still seemed a bit too “soggy” for my liking, so although technically it was supposed to be a “no-knead” bread loaf, I did end up gently kneading in some more all-purpose white flour until I was happy. Then I let it sit for about an hour, before turning on the oven to 450F with the cast iron dutch oven heating up inside, as well.

The dough went into the dutch oven with the lid on for half an hour then spent another 10 minutes in the oven with the lid off.

And this is what came out:

loaf of bread baked with zea and all purpose flour

How Did It Taste

It’s hard to let a loaf of bread cool down for 20 minutes; it’s so tempting to cut into it right away and let some butter melt into a slice…. but I did let it cool before slicing. My partner Kyriaki was very excited to give it a try so she got the first slice. She took a bite and declared, “Ian, seriously, this is the best tasting bread you have ever made! You need to bake it again!”

“Sigh…. I’m not sure I can duplicate it precisely as I am not really sure of the exact measurement of the ingredients I used.”

I enjoyed the bread as well (although I don’t think it was ‘the best’ as I enjoy various styles of bread and can’t really pick one as ‘the best’).

But I will definitely try to replicate what I did, and experiment with other zea flour recipes that I might come across. Since making this, I’ve seen some that add olive oil to the ingredients, which seems interesting to me.

Have you ever baked with zea flour? Let us know in the comments below.

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