Panis Farreus: 100% Einkorn Ring

Panis Farreus


The idea of this loaf came to me reading about a traditional ring-shaped bread, the Cucciddatu, which still survives in some areas of Sicily. The cucciddatu is made out of durum wheat but appears to have its origins in a very ancient Roman bread, Panis Farreus, that was indeed based on Farro, as the name suggests. Panis Farreus is one of the few Roman breads we know about, and this is due to the fact that this bread was linked to a very special occasion, the Confarreatio (meaning “with Farro”), the only religious wedding ceremony the Romans ever had. This ceremony was initially practiced by all Roman nobles, but later on remained in use only among those nobles who wanted their kids to make a career as religious officers of some sort. The use of sharing a loaf of farro bread during the wedding ceremony carried the bread forward for centuries (and in its durum version, for millennia).

Panis Farreus

Alright then, all I had to do was a bread ring made of… farro. Right, which means? Romans used to call farro three different types of cereal -how much in dept should I go here before you think I am a maniac?- the first type of farro which became available to the early Romans was farro piccolo, id est, triticum monococcum, id est… einkorn! I was so surprised to learn that in early Roman times farro was nothing else than einkorn, that very einkorn I got a bag of during my last trip to Rome (I see some type of weird coincidence here, some form of serendipity). Later on, einkorn was left behind for the easier to bake with (and to grow) farro medio, or triticum dicoccum, or… emmer, which is the one still cultivated in Italy nowadays. It is pretty sure that late Romans also used farro grande, id est triticum spelta, id est… spelt! By the end of the (Roman) Republican period, anyway, common wheat (triticum aestivus) was already starting to become popular. Farro, in all of its forms, became less and less common and, by the end of the Roman empire, only emmer (farro medio) continued to be cultivated in a limited number of areas.

But let’s go back to Panis Farreus. Was that made of einkorn, emmer, or spelt? I was so going crazy about this question, which none of the sources I consulted could answer, that I wrote to someone I knew could help. Nico Valerio, who wrote a book (currently out of print) on how the Romans used to eat and who is still very active and very keen to answer food-related questions. From our discussion it came out that einkorn was probably the farro used at the beginning of the Republic and earlier. Later on einkorn was substituted by emmer. As Nico pointed out, Romans started to see einkorn as a mediocre cereal with mediocre baking qualities (only very tough bread could be made out of it) so it was left behind as soon as other types of wheat became available.

Nowadays, as most of us know, einkorn has been re-discovered. This has happened due to modern breeding techniques of our beloved common wheat (the one that was selected by later Romans because of its superior baking properties). Such techniques have transformed our common wheat is something difficult to digest to many. Einkorn instead has been spared by modern selection, since it wasn’t grown at all, until recently. And because of its genetic properties, this ancestor of common wheat is tolerated by most. However einkorn does present with some baking challenges. We will talk about this diffusely in the future.

Panis Farreus
Back to our reconstructed Roman bread. So… gathering all the information I could gather just sitting at my laptop -rather than flying to the Vatican or to the British museum- I concluded (and this is just my own conclusion) that when the Confarreatio cerimony started to be practiced -maybe something like 2500 years ago- einkorn was the cereal used to make Panis Farreus. So here it is. I had the flour at hand… what more was I waiting for?

Panis Farreus

You need
500 g einkorn-based 60% hydration active sourdough starter
700 g einkorn flour
400 g water
10 g marine salt

How to
Dissolve the stiff starter in the water. Add flour and knead energically for about 8 minutes. Add the salt dissolved in 20 g water. Let rest covered for 2 and 1/2 hours in a warm spot (I used the oven with the light on and a crack open). Transfer on a floured surface and gently shape into a long log. Cover a large round basket (or a medium-sized round tray) with kitchen towels and heavily coated with flour. With the floured linen, create a little hill in the middle of the basket, and place the log in the basket, all around the “linen hill” (see picture below). Let rest, covered for 3 to 3 1/2 hours at room temperature. Bake in a very hot oven (I preheated to 250 C/480 F degrees) for 10 minutes, then opened to let the steam out and lowered the temperature to 200 C/390 F and baked for a further hour.

*note: if you are wondering where to find einkorn flour, here is the one I used in this bread.

Panis Farreus

Panis Farreus

Panis Farreus

Panis Farreus

Panis Farreus

Panis Farreus

L’idea mi è venuta leggendo di un pane a forma di anello, il Cucciddatu, tutt’oggi realizzato in alcune aree della Sicilia e che sembra avere la sua oringine in un antichissimo pane romano, il Panis Farreus. Il pane siciliano è fatto con semola di grano duro, ma l’originale era a base di farro, da cui il nome. Il Panis Farreus è uno dei pochi pani romani di cui abbiamo qualche notizia, e questo è dovuto al fatto che questo pane era collegato ad un’occasione molto speciale, la Confarreatio, che significa appunto “con Farro”. La Confarreatio era l’unica cerimonia nuziale religiosa che i romani abbiano mai avuto. Questa cerimonia era inizialmente praticata da tutti i nobili romani, ma in seguito è rimasto in uso solo tra quei nobili che volevano che i loro figli facessero una carriera come funzionari religiosi di qualche tipo. L’usanza di condividere una pagnotta di pane di farro durante la cerimonia nuziale fece si’ che questo pane di farro sopravvisse per secoli (e nella sua versione a base di grano duro, per millenni).

Bene dunque, tutto quello che dovevo fare era un anello di pane fatto di … farro. Gia’, e che significa? I Romani chiamavano farro tre cereali diversi. Il primo tipo di farro che fu disponibile ai primi romani era farro piccolo, ossia, Triticum monococcum, ossia… enkir. Successivamente, il farro piccolo lascio’ il posto al farro medio, ossia triticum dicoccum, ossia… farro, come oggi e’ chiamato in Italia. Il farro (dicocco) era piu’ facile da coltivare e maggiormente panificabile del monococco. E’ quasi certo che in epoca piu’ tarda i romani usassero anche il farro grande, cioe’ il Triticum spelta. Entro la fine del periodo repubblicano in ogni caso il grano comune, ossia Triticum aestivum, cominciava gia’ a diffondersi e finira’ col soppiantare gradualmente il farro, in tutte le sue forme.

Ma torniamo al Panis Farreus. Insomma, era fatto di enkir, farro, o spelta? Nico Valerio, che ha scritto un libro (attualmente fuori stampa) sugli usi alimentari degli antichi romani mi ha aiutato a chiarirmi le idee. Dalla nostra discussione è venuto fuori che l’enkir era il tipo di farro utilizzato all’inizio della Repubblica e prima ancora. Quindi… la mia personalissima conclusione e’ stata che quando la cerimonia della confarreatio cominciò ad essere praticata -forse qualcosa come 2500 anni fa- l’enkir era il cereale usato per fare il Panis Farreus. Guarda caso avevo un pacco di enkir a portata di mano e del lievito naturale che scalpitava… cosa stavo aspettando?


Ti Servono
500 g di pasta madre attiva al 60% di idratazione
700 g di farina di enkir
400 g di acqua
10 g di sale marino

Come Fare
Sciogliere la pasta madre nell’acqua. Aggiungere la farina e impastare energicamente per circa 8 minuti. Aggiungere il sale disciolto in 20 g di acqua. Lasciar riposare coperto per 2 e 1/2 ore in un posto caldo (io ho usato il forno con la luce accesa e una crepa aperta). Trasferire su una superficie infarinata e dare delicatamente la forma in un salsicciotto lungo. Coprire un grande cesto rotondo (o un vassoio rotondo di medie dimensioni) con canovacci infarinati. Con uno dei canovacci creare un rialzamento nel mezzo del cesto, e posizionare il salsicciotto nel cestino sigillando i lembi con le dita (vedi foto sotto). Lasciar riposare, coperto, dalle 3 alle 3 ore e 1/2 a temperatura ambiente. Ho cotto in forno molto caldo (250° C) per 10 minuti, ho poi aperto per far uscire il vapore e ho abbassato la temperatura a 200 gradi e cotto per un’altra ora.

Panis Farreus
CONSIDERATIONS This bread rose much more than I would ever have expected from a 100% einkorn and it was delicious with soup and, of course, as the Roman did… dipped in some wine, possibly sweet. Happy baking!

Panis Farreus
With this bread I participate to Panissimo, a monthly bread showcase created by moi and Sandra, author of the blog Sono Io Sandra and hosted this month by Sandra. You can submit your breads, Italian or not, here.

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Barbara Elisi

Hi there! I am the "soul" behind Bread & Companatico. My main interest is the preservation of bread tradition and craft, with an eye to health. I hope you are having a good time reading this blog, and please don't be shy to connect with me through comments or emails and do keep on bread-ing! 🙂

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8 replies
  1. Cathy (breadexperience)
    Cathy (breadexperience) says:

    What a great story Barbara! I love learning about the history of wheat and breads! I too have been confused about the various forms of Farro. I like your conclusion that einkorn was the farro used in this loaf. I’ll go with that! I definitely need to try this one. Thanks for the inspiration!


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