This recipe is intended as a substitute for regular wheat bread - the kind that families with kids will actually use on a daily basis, rather than a recipe which those of us who really appreciate something 'real but different' will use. If you have an issue with wheat, this could be one of many solutions available to you.
And then there is Khorosan - and that's another story which is not yet on the site!
Let's face it - people use spelt when they need to give wheat a break. The flavour of spelt does take a bit of getting used to - but once you have, you'll use it daily, because it's an aquired but delicious taste!
Daily Bread - a fitting analogy, really, because something very similar to spelt would have been in use in biblical times.
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It's practical and economical to provide recipes for spelt bread for home bakers too, because the spelt bread we buy pre made in the supermarket is expensive for daily use with families. If you can make it yourself, you will be saving money. A kilo of spelt flour will make about 2 loaves of bread. So I've called this recipe 'give us this day our...'
Daily Spelt Bread
This sourdough recipe will provide 2 large loaves of Spelt Bread. I generally slice and freeze them straight after baking - that way, the kids use it as toast every morning before school. If you are using it for sandwiches, it can be used frozen, and will thaw by lunchtime. You will also find that this bread will prove very popular, particularly if you can get your hands on a very light spelt flour.
Also, bear in mind that even white spelt flour, when used straight, still makes a quite wholesome bread - which means it's not as light as wheat bread. But with future recipes, I hope to show you a way to make really light pure spelt bread. However, while spelt isn't light, it's certainly is soft. Once you eat it often, other flours just don't seem as nice.
1.2 kg of white spelt flour.
White Spelt Flour behaves quite differently to wholemeal spelt, in that it softens more dramatically. For this reason, keep your dough tough - tougher than a normal dough. Be sparing when adding water!
300 grams of ripe sourdough starter. You can also use the pure spelt recipe for starter too. If your starter has been running on wheat, it can be transformed to spelt over a few feeds (It can also be transformed back if it doesn't seem to work as well).
500 - 600 mls of warmish water (some spelt flours hold more water than others!). I generally start at 450 mls and add a little at a time as required.
24 grams of cooking salt. If you can get salt flakes, I recommend these also.
Take almost all the water and pour it into a large bowl or a plastic box .
(Reserve about 50 mls for later.)
Mix through it the ripe sourdough starter, and sprinkle, a bit at a time, the spelt flour, stirring with a wooden or plastic spoon as you go.Get to about a kilo of the spelt flour and allow this amount to hydrate.
Stir in a circular motion until the flour is combined with the water, and you have a soft dough. Allow to stand for up to half an hour.
Now, spray the dough with water, and add the last bit of flour. Knead it into the dough with your fingers and then your hands. The dough should be quite stiff now.
White spelt flour, like all spelt flours, is deceptive. If you are used to making bread with wheat flour, you will have an idea of how a dough should feel. Throw this expectation out the window. A dough made with white spelt flour is different. All doughs made with white spelt need to be quite tight and tough. They soften over time quite dramatically, so if they are loose to begin with, you'll end up with pools of dough after they have soaked up the water. They will flop over the side of your bread tins and end up looking like muffins if you try for 'regular' dough consistency.
Important note: After working with various grades of spelt now for quite a while, the lighter grades of flour 'soften' more than the wholemeal ones do. Another point of interest is that spelt actually doesn't like a slow leaven - it seems to begin to break down very quickly after only four hours or less. I'm actually having more success with the spelt vienna recipe because it's quicker and the grain seems to prefer this treatment.
At the point where you have a single piece of dough that might be quite rough, stop kneading. That's enough for now! The delayed salt method is still the best way of making a dough by hand, and if you've already tried it with any of the recipes from this site, you'll know how workable it is. (Follow either link above for more information)
Let the dough rest for another half an hour or so, and then sprinkle over the salt. Work the salt through the dough until you can't feel it any more. You will notice that the dough is significantly softer than you left it earlier - it might possibly be too wet. That's the nature of spelt - it seems to hold water, but then it hydrates after an hour or so, and it actually holds less than you would think. I believe it's because of the different makeup of the actual spelt grain - the ratio of protein to carbohydrate is quite different to wheat, so there is less in the white spelt to hold water.
Now you have 2 kilos of spelt dough, give or take. Allow this to proof for 2 or 3 hours. If you are nearby, give the dough a turn every half hour or so, just to help it develop. Again, I use my large plastic boxes for this task - not only do they make a great mixing bowl, they also convert to a proofer without doing anything at all.
Spelt will not handle a long first proof - it will break apart pretty quickly. Better to get it into tins asap. It will hold a long time when it's in the final shape.
Now divide the dough into two even (rough) one kilo chunks. Round them and return to your proofing box or covered bowl, remembering to place the seam at the bottom.
This is their second or 'intermediate proof'. They 'gas' for about half an hour. They are ready when they do not resist a poke from your finger. You can see in the photo fingermarks in the dough where they have been tested.
This stage is critical when making spelt sourdough. Don't let it go too long here. The nature of sourdough is that it gradually acidifies as it ferments. Spelt's delicate protein simply breaks down after a while. If you can observe a 'stringiness' after a rest, get it into a tin as quickly as possible. It will rise very quickly now, so get your oven ready to bake - working time is limited at this point, so watch out!
Simply form the balls of dough into cylinders with the sides of your palms. Place them at either end of your bowl or box, spray with water and dust with Spelt flour using a sieve. You can slash them three times diagonally with a paring knife, or in another pattern according to your whim.
There is a whole art to slashing. I find the best way is to slash before tinning, while still in the box. Then I just lift the batards into the oiled tin. Nice and clean.
Oil up two small sized baking tins and place the slashed dough cylinders into them. The dough should fill the tins about three quarters to the top. Spelt doesn't rise as much as other bread, so I use a smaller sized tin; this still makes a reasonable sized slice.
I have found that the main things to remember with spelt are:
- get it into tins before a few hours pass.
- Once in tins, spelt can proof for a very long time, and won't necessarily collapse. If you are able to proof the spelt dough without it crusting up, you'll be surprised at how long it can proof.
- You won't get much oven spring with spelt unless it's being baked directly on the soul of the oven. Check out spelt vienna bread recipe for this..
- If you have smaller tins, it will help.
You can turn your box upside down and put the tins on top of the inside of the lid. Then place the base of the box over the tins. This is a handy proofer, because it keeps the dough from skinning up without the use of messy moist tea towels as is the usual thing.
Allow the dough cylinders to fully fill the tins, with some of the dough rising in a nice arch over the top.
When they are ready, before you turn on your oven, and make sure you read baking techniques and domestic ovens by following the links here.
This spelt sourdough recipe will make a beautiful, tasty loaf, which is relatively light and crusty, has great keeping qualities and really could become your daily bread!
Happy Sourdough baking!
Many of you have now reported success with this recipe, but some seem to be having trouble with the moisture level I've suggested. The dough shouldn't end up rock hard - it should be workable, but tight. If you can't tell, a quick and dirty test is if you can't get the dough smooth, then you don't have enough water in it. Try adding a splash at a time until it can be worked by hand like any other dough, but keep it tough!
The reason for making it tough is that Spelt hydrates quite slowly. I have made the mistake of using too much water, and having it turn into an overly soft dough, which collapses as it rises. It will soften as it hydrates, or that's been my experience anyway.You can see by the close up picture below of making a spelt dough too soft. This dough felt quite normal when I made it - but it hydrated completely over the course of a few hours.
The other thing is that there is quite a bit of difference between spelt flours. Not just between brands, but also consistency. I attribute this to the fact that most millers of spelt are small time, either using different sources of grain from different farms and locations, or milling 'on farm' themselves, with small capacity milling equipment. Both these things will have an effect on the amount of water the dough will hold.
Spelt is worth persevering with, and I have been. Stay tuned for new techniques for spelt in the porridge bread recipe section.
And many thanks to those of you who have taken the time to contact me to share their experiences. I'll always work on the recipes I've put here, and the more you share, the better they'll be. Like I keep saying, Rome wasn't built in a day! If you've got any feedback, or links you'd like to share, contact, please, contact!
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