Farro is another ancient grain, like quinoa, spelt or kamut berries, that have been around for centuries. A grain of farro looks and tastes somewhat like a lighter brown rice. It has a complex nutty taste, with undertones of oats and barley, and a firm, chewy texture. Farrow is versatile. I like using farro to make soup with beef bones or oxtails, making something similar to a beef barley soup, but with a richer flavor, more elegant than earnest. Farro also works well in salads. Toss it with grilled lettuce or kale brings instant luxury to otherwise simple dishes. I made some saffron crumbs using the farro porridge-hazelnut bread and toss them with grilled zucchini and fennel. (See this recipe in a separate post.) What a phenomenal combination of taste and texture packed in super nutritious food all on a single plate!
To prepare the porridge, combine two-and-a-half to three parts water and one part of whole pearl farro in a saucepan over medium heat. To make approximately 500 grams of cooked porridge, use 500 grams of water to 200 grams of dry grain. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the grains soften and become creamy, about 30 minutes. Season with salt. Spread the cooked porridge in a thin layer on a baking sheet to cool before using it in a bread recipe. This technique comes from Chad Robertson’s Tartine Book No.3.
The first time I prepared the farro porridge, there was too much water left in the porridge at the end, which resulted in a very high hydration dough. It was sticky and difficult for me to handle and shape properly and the outcome was not pretty. The second time, knowing I needed to take a different tack, I prepared the farro in a rice cooker and let it do its magic. It couldn’t be worst than my first attempt. As it turned out, water was totally evaporated and the farro was looking more like cooked rice. Combining the cooked farro into the bread dough worked just like adding other dry add-ins. Clearly, I was more successful using the rice-cooker approach. Without a rice cooker, I’d cook the farro longer until it attains the texture of cooked rice rather than that of porridge and leave as little water in it as possible.
Let’s not forget the hazelnut, the other star ingredient. The taste of toasted hazelnuts elevates this bread to another level of rich nuttiness, front and center with every bite. If you like the taste of hazelnut, this bread is heavenly!