Kernza Bread (Episode 5)

Episode 5 Recipe + Notes

What does climate change have in store for wheat? And will we need new or different grains because of climate change? Those are the questions at the heart of this episode – and what we learned called for some baking trials with a perennial grain called Kernza.

Scroll down for a recipe (or three!) for perennial bread, and order your own Kernza flour at

You can buy Kernza flour to bake with on
The Kernza trials!!

Kernza Country Loaf Recipe

25% Kernza flour | Makes one loaf


  • 500g flour
    • 125g Kernza flour from
    • 375g bread flour (I used King Arthur)
  • 375g water (or up to 400g)
  • 15g active starter
  • 10g salt


The starter

  • The night before you’re ready to make the dough, prepare your starter. I follow the Tartine Bread method, mixing a tablespoon active starter, 200g water, and 200g flour (mostly strong bread flour, maybe a quarter whole wheat). Leave your starter on the counter overnight. 
  • In the morning, test your starter’s readiness by dropping a teaspoonful into a glass of water. If it floats, it’s ready. (If it sinks, let it sit another hour on the counter, and then try again. Wait until it floats.)

The dough

  • Add 350g water to a large bowl. Add 100g starter to the water, and then mix using a whisk until fully combined and frothy. 
  • Add 125g Kernza flour and 375g flour to the water/starter mixture. Mix well with your hands. Mixture may be dry – that’s ok for now. Let the mixture sit for 30 minutes before adding in the salt. 
  • After 30 minutes, add 10g salt and mix it in with your hands until evenly distributed (this requires some squeezing and squishing). At this point, add about 25g water (or up to a maximum of 50g total) to the dough, and mix in well. There’s no hard-and-fast rule about hydration in bread doughs. If it’s too wet it’ll be hard to work with, but if it’s too dry it won’t be pliable enough to knead. But you do not want to see any dry flecks in your dough – if you do, you need to add a bit more water. 


  • After you’ve added the salt and water and mixed well, let your dough rest, covered with a damp tea towel, for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes elapses, do a set of 4 ‘folds’ of the dough in the bowl. (Using a method like this one, if you’re not familiar.) Cover again and let it sit. 
  • Do 5 additional sets of folds at 30 minute intervals, for a total of 6 sets of folds over 3 hours. Do the last 2 sets very gently to avoid pressing gas out of the dough. 
  • After the final fold, let the dough rise for one hour. 


  • After the hour has elapsed, remove the dough from the bowl and shape on a cutting board or kitchen counter as desired, such as into a rounded boule. Let sit, covered, on the counter or cutting board for 20 minutes. 
  • After 20 minutes, shape again, and then place prepared, shaped dough into a lined or floured proofing basket. 


  • Depending on the temperature of your kitchen, your proof time may vary. Typical proofing time ranges between 2-4 hours at room temperature. In my ~69 degree kitchen, I start with 2 hours at room temperature, and then stick the basket in the fridge overnight for a long, slow fermentation, which allows me to bake in the morning (and cold dough scores easier). 

Score and bake

  • Note: Feel free to bake according to your preferred method. Below is mine.
  • A half hour before you’re ready to bake, preheat your oven to 500 degrees, and stick your dutch oven in the oven, as well as its lid off to the side. They should pre-heat at least 20 minutes so they’re super hot. 
  • Remove the banneton from the fridge, remove the loaf from the banneton, and score it as desired. Carefully remove the preheated dutch oven and lid from the oven, add the dough carefully to the Dutch oven (I like to use a parchment paper sling cut in a diamond shape), pour in a little water if you’d like to trap some steam, and then cover with the lid. Be very, very careful here and skip this step if you’re uncomfortable: the water will sputter and steam. 
  • Put the dutch oven in the oven and bake at 500 degrees for 30 minutes. 
  • After 30 minutes, remove the lid and bake an additional 18-25 minutes uncovered at 450 degrees, until the top is hard and a medium-dark brown (but not burned).
These recipes are adapted from the Tartine Country Loaf recipe. Their cookbook is a fantastic sourdough instructional if you've got a bit of knowledge and want to improve your sourdough.
The 25% Kernza loaf in all its crackly-crusted glory. I scored an Eiffel Tower (sort of, lol) on the top since I baked this about a week before I moved to France for culinary school!

Kernza Country Loaf – 50% and 75% Versions

The 50% version, and the 75% version | Each version makes one loaf

50%: These are two great variations. For the 50% version, follow the same exact instructions, but use a 50/50 blend of the Kernza flour and bread flour. You may need 10g or 20g more water since the Kernza absorbs a lot. Follow all other instructions the same, but watch the baking time: You may need to turn the temperature down to 425 on the second leg of baking since the Kernza darkens quickly.

75%: For the 75% version, use a 75/25 blend of Kernza and bread flour. Note that the dough will be much weaker, and “folding” the dough may be more like stretching, breaking, and molding back together. It’s an experiment! Because the dough isn’t as strong, it’s not going to shape into a boule of its own accord as well. I found it was best to shape the dough into a rough log, and bake in a 9×5” baking tin lined with parchment paper. It still got an okay rise, and this bakes into a beautifully moist loaf. For baking, bake at 475 degrees for 25 minutes, and then at 425 for 20-25 more minutes.

The 50% Kernza loaf
The 75% Kernza loaf

Episode Summary

Cakes, pies, bread, you name it – there’s perhaps no ingredient more central to American baking than flour. But what does climate change have in store for wheat? And are we going to need new or different grains because of climate change? Host Caroline Saunders investigates, talking with Dr. Stephen Jones of the WSU Bread Lab and Dr. Tessa Peters of the Land Institute. And she shares a recipe for perennial-grown Kernza bread, available on

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Art by Megan Woodruff