Spelt grain belongs to the wheat family of field crops. It is often described as being an ancient grain or a heritage grain. Interest in these heritage grains has increased in recent years, both on the part of consumers and amongst researchers into crop genetics with an eye to maintaining a gene reservoir for breeding programmes. The ancient grains are credited with being more adaptable to poor soils and harsh climactic conditions as well as having attractive nutritional attributes.
Spelt contains gluten and is not suitable if you have coeliac disease. It is claimed that some people find it easier to digest than bread made from more modern wheat; this is something that I am not qualified to comment on. I personally find rye bread easier to digest than wheat bread, but maybe that is because I ate a fair bit of it when I was a child, who knows?
I remember our first encounter with spelt flour vividly; Brian bought a bag home one day and said he was going to make Roman Centurion slipper bread, this was in the days when we really hadn’t done any bread baking at all at home and this was the recipe on the side of the bag. I can’t even remember which brand it was now. We mixed the dough and produced some very flat and rather strange bread that we didn’t like very much, deciding that Roman Centurions probably used it in their boots for extra liners, and the bag of flour disappeared onto the back of the shelf.
Recently I was asked by a friend if I could make them an all spelt loaf and I had to say that I wasn’t very good at making them, so I asked Andrew at the Loaf in Crich for his formula (having seen a lovely photo on Twitter of his loaves, looking all nicely risen with good open slashes) and he kindly shared the recipe and here it is for all to try.
Like so many of the breads and cakes I make I don’t make them over and over again until I get them absolutely right before I write about them here. I am not that sort of blogger. To a certain extent for me, every loaf is a bit of an experiment, I learn (or re-visit the same mistakes!) each time I add water to flour. Even though I have been baking for a handful of years now, the number of loaves I have actually made is probably less than a professional baker would make in a few days.
So after all that preamble – here goes!
Andrew Auld’s Spelt Bread (from the Loaf in Crich)
Andrew’s formula uses a rye sourdough starter to start the whole process off, which he calls a ‘rye sloppy’. If you only have a wheat starter then you can convert a small proportion of this to rye over a few days by feeding it with wholegrain rye flour and water instead. I keep both a wheat starter and a rye starter going, I refresh them once a week if I am not using them for baking and keep them in the fridge unless I am planning doing a lot of baking over a period of a few days. If you are not worried about a small proportion of wheat in your bread then just use your wheat starter.
The day before you want to bake
Mix a biga with
- 24 g rye starter
- 80 g water
- 100 g white spelt flour
- 100 g wholegrain (wholemeal) spelt flour
Leave in a covered bowl to ferment. The time this takes will depend on how warm it is. I left mine overnight.
- 640 g white spelt flour
- 160 g wholemeal spelt flour
- 80 g orange juice
- 12 g honey
- 12 g salt ( I upped this to 15g as I felt it was a bit low for my taste, I wonder if the low salt contributes to the faster proving times, that is something to bear in mind and salt is very much a personal preference)
- 440 g water
- 300 g biga (as from the first stage)
Mix all the above together well and leave for three hours to prove, folding the dough twice during that period.
Shape the dough as you like, I proved these in bannetons. I made three smallish loaves of around 550 g each, then leave for a shortish final prove. I baked these after 45 mins proving in front of a radiator – a much shorter time than I would usually leave a sourdough loaf on its final prove – and I think that has been my mistake in the past, leaving spelt too long on the final prove, Andrew’s note to me indicated that might be a good way to go.
When experimenting with a dough that is unfamiliar, do make notes, I would try and remember if it was hot or cold, if possible have a little temperature gadget in your kitchen. I have one from the Science Museum in London that is very useful. Note the ambient temperature and the times the dough has sat in prove (be honest here, if you forgot it, then write it down regardless!) and if possible take photos to jog your memory. Keep making the same dough and either shorten or lengthen the proof times and you will get a result you like in the end.
I baked these smallish loaves at 220 ºC for about 20 minutes and then reduced the temperature to 200 ºC for another 20 minutes and that seemed about right. I tend to bake my bread longer than many people do. I see commercially that bread seems to be baked for shorter periods of time, maybe a commercial oven is different but I prefer a ‘well-baked loaf’ nearly always.
My small thoughts : handle this dough gently, don’t knock the air out of it when you fold it, and be kind to the dough when you come to shape it; try and preserve the air that is in the dough from the first fermentation stage. The folding process stretches the bubbles that are forming and traps them in the dough, and they help to give the dough some structure.
Don’t spend a long time staring at the dough once you have turned it out prior to baking it. Slash it simply with one long angled cut, slightly off the centre line as if you are slitting an envelope – the more cuts you make on the top, the more the dough will lose surface tension and flatten out. Decide what you are going to do before you turn it out and be quick and decisive and get it into the oven nice and speedily. An old slashing post of mine here might give you some ideas here.
Spelt flour is also lovely in biscuits and cakes, so you can always use it that way too.
I guess I should be thinking about festive baking… I have been reading lots of lovely blogs full of exciting projects, but I haven’t lifted a festive finger yet, no shopping, no crafting, nothing has happened here. This is not to say there won’t be any but don’t hold your breath!
If any other spelt fans want to share their tips and thoughts on baking with spelt I am all ‘ears’ !
Thank you for describing this formula so clearly, Joanna. I am glad you have enjoyed baking it. Andrew
Thanks again Andrew
I still prefer baking with wheat and rye but it is great to have got somewhere with the spelt after my various failures xx
I have read about spelt flour but never used it, this seems a good place to start.. though i cannot guarantee not to turn out boot liners for my new gumboots!! c
Bread bootliners are always handy on long walks :)
I haven’t had a lot of success with spelt in raised bread- I use it in a flat bread with quinoa and like it very much. Your loaves are beautiful and the crumb is delightful They make me feel very festive! :D
I might do something a bit festive at the weekend, I’m looking at that Swedish cookie book that is on the table… few days to go still, you never know xx
Well now, I see you have your ‘self effacing’ hat on today! I loved your comment re not waiting until you perfected a loaf before posting about it – Ha! I sense that most of my bread posts are related to ‘what not to do’.
I’ve never done a spelt loaf, although I did spend some time recently tracking down some spelt flour in one of our fancy, smancy markets – my restaurant supply source would not have spelt! I found it interesting that perhaps for the very first time in my life, I found that the price of spelt in bulk was actually more expensive than the spelt in bags! Strange.
I guess I beat you to the Christmas baking – I’m in the middle of getting cookies ready for mailing to my girls and for neighbor giving – I let the dough for some butter cookies get too warm before popping them in the oven yesterday, and they spread out too much – that will give us some personal snacking goodies over the next few months! More butter cookies on tap today – and colder dough. I’m saving your recipe for gibassier for Christmas morning. No panettone this year.
You make me laugh so much Doc, I am not being self-effacing, just brutally honest. I read so many blogs where people say they have made the same loaf over and over to get it just right. And then I feel overwhelmed with a sense of inadequacy if I don’t get a grip on reality.
I have tried maybe four times in as many years to make an all spelt loaf, so that puts it all in perspective, this is the very first one that didn’t get turned into breadcrumbs. The others were either pancakes or bricks. Hee hee.
Spelt is one of my favorite new flour discoveries.. I like adding it here and there because it has such a pretty nutty flavor. This looks like a great bread recipe, it turned out just perfectly.. I’m with you, who has time to make the same recipe over and over to perfection. I think you’ve achieved perfection on the first go! xx
That’s very kind of you Barbara, and it is a good recipe, I was very pleased with myself :)
You are completely safe with me! Most of my breads are made once, with the exception of Lepard’s white levain bread and a few of Hamelman’s, that I go to all the time. I tend to feel inadequate quite often when I visit other food blogs, and sometimes ask myself what the heck am I doing? ;-) Then, I smile at myself and answer “I am just having fun”. Should be enough.
I baked with spelt but never ventured into the 100^% level – you have such a great skill, your crumb is always very open, no matter how much whole wheat you add to your dough. Very impressive! BTW I will be blogging on the drunk Emperor’s bread on Saturday… giving you all the credit, dear! ;-)
One day I will dig out some of my bricks and flying saucers and plaster them all over the blog for your delight :) I make fewer of them these days. Looking forward to seeing your Emperor xx
Never used white spelt flour before. Sue, my wife, used to make spelt loaves as she thought she was intolerant of wheat flours. However, she has found that she can eat my sourdoughs without problem. I have used spelt more sparingly Mick Hartley’s five seed loaf uses it more for its delicious flavour.
Not feeling remotely festive yet :) I hope to do Hadjiandreou’s chocolate sourdough recipe again for Christmas and Sue will be soaking fruit for a stollen this weekend. We are home alone this Christmas and will be preparing a vegetarian Indian feast as an alternative to turkey. :)
I had tried once making a loaf with all white spelt and it was incredibly uninteresting but this combination of flours seems to work well. The whole intolerance to allergy to coeliac stomach digestion thing is something that a lot of people have very strong opinions about. I currently take the view that fermented foods are partially ‘digested’ or broken down and therefore easier to digest overall, provided that one doesn’t have specific triggers that set off discomfort, pain etc.
A vegetarian Indian feast sounds just great! Are you going to make dosas? Those are my favourites. We had some wonderful food the other week at the Thali Café in Easton. Happy Holidays Ray!
What lovely looking bread! I like the flavour of spelt but have only used wholemeal and raised with yeast – produced very “healthy” loaves which tasted nice but made one feel rather virtuous while eating. Must get some of the white variety and haul George out of the fridge and maybe feed him some rye. He’ll enjoy that – he likes a bit of rye now and then!
The white spelt (I keep typing splet) is quite expensive here but it did seem to work, so worth a try one day for sure. I am sure George would love some rye for Christmas !
Bread that contains orange juice and honey sounds very appealing and your loaf looks terrific – any homemade bread is yum, even just the baking smell of it makes me feel as if I can cook! I finally bowed to the need to get festive yesterday and took the day off to enter the temples of the merchants, clutching my lists. I parked the car at the station and when I returned the car thermometer was reading 36c! It kind of knocks the crisscross crackerations out of one.
I have been (since I wrote this) to the retail temple and came home with some pjs for my nephew and some cushions (why?). I have just ordered a whole bunch of things from a lovely site called Objects Of Use. I am trying to get going here, but I am always late and it has been fearfully cold here. 2-3 C all the last week, though yesterday it became wet and windy and the thermometer jumped up to a more normal sort of 9 C. 36 C is not for me either. I am a temperature wimp. xx
Can I use only wholemeal spelt flour for this bread ?I don’t have the white one in my kitchen and will take too long time to receive it .
Thank you for a prompt reply.
Hi Adriana, I would say try maybe sieving some of your wholemeal spelt to get a lighter flour; white spelt isn’t that easy to get hold of. You can use the bran to top dress the loaf or to rub into your cloth or banneton. It won’t be as light as using white spelt from s mill but it should help. all best wishes, Joanna
Joanna, thanks for doing this post. I still haven’t used white spelt yet, just the wholemeal, and it’s a fair proportion of the white used in your recipe. I might try sifting like you’ve suggested to Adriana, to get some of that lightness. Just thinking too…I wonder if I did a loaf like a rye, not a lot of handling and in a tin whether that might help with a slightly lighter loaf? Saying that, I don’t actually mind the heavier loaves, but I’m curious now and want to play :-) (Although all kitchen frolics will have to wait for now, until I get back to a kitchen.)
Things to muse on anyway, thank you lovely lady. xxx
It’s quite a lot of white spelt. I thought the same when I first read the formula and it took me a while to find it in the stores. However, I have done the sieving thing in the past when I wanted a finer dark rye, something akin to the standard German rye flour and it helped a bit. I know Celia gets fantastic results with her spelt loaves.http://figjamandlimecordial.com/tag/spelt-sourdough/ I am not sure if the spelt she uses is wholemeal or white or something else. You might ask her when you are in touch as she has definitely cracked it!
HI Joanna! That loaf of bread is beautiful. LOVE all the holes in it! I have been mixing spelt flour in with my wheat & white for a few years. Just nice to use another grain from time to time. Brian’s frittata from a few posts ago looks fantastic. I always tend to make quiche. I really really need to make a frittata one day.
Lovely to hear from you Emily, you will be pleased to know I hacen’t tidied up the garden too much as every time I cleared a pile of leaves a toad or froggie jumped out, so I have the perfect ecofroendly excuse to leave it as it is. It’s great to vary the grains ! x Jo
Congratulations! I’ve nominated you for the Beautiful Blogger Award – check it out here:
Rachel, thank you – I don’t do blog awards, but it’s kind of you to think of me.
What a great looking bread. My naturopath is anti wheat in your diet but he approves of spelt. xx
Thanks Charlie!. I am just eating the last of these now.
They look great and co-incidentally I have both white and wholemeal spelt flours. I tend to use my wholemeal spelt half and half with strong white, using yeast too, which seems to work well for me. Perhaps it’s time to use my starter again instead of just feeding it. Perhaps I’m just not wanting sourdough though! It always makes me slightly nervous when someone makes something from my blog – they’re almost always the first time I’ve made something and therefore partly an experiment. I don’t feel too bad if it’s my recording of a published author’s recipe, but if I’m making it up as I go along…. a whole other story!
This is very ‘earnest’ bread and I don’t think it is to everyone’s taste to be honest. I am a great believer in making what you want to eat or the people you bake for want to eat with the occasional experiment, but no point in making something because it sounds right, but no one likes it much :) I have come to the view that if people make something from a blog then they take their chances, bloggers are as prone to errors as cook books, and we are free of course :)