Whole Spelt Sourdough

When you think of 100% whole grain spelt bread, what images come to mind? Bland 1970’s era health food? What people with dietary restrictions must resort to? Lots of hard and challenging work? A door stop?

Those were largely my impressions until I found this spelt bread recipe to be as delicious and easy to make as it is nutritious. So when the inspiration strikes to get virtuous with your eating habits without sacrificing sensory pleasure, give this one a whirl. You’ll enjoy that flaky, buttery croissant all the more when you rotate this spelt recipe through your bread baking line-up now and then.

A bit about spelt: Spelt is an ancient variety of wheat with its roots in the Fertile Crescent some 9000 years ago. It is more widely used in Europe where it’s known as dinkel in Germany and farro in Italy. While higher in protein than commonly used wheat varieties, the nature of its proteins results in less gluten formation when making bread dough. Spelt is renowned for its health benefits. Many people with wheat allergies or sensitivities can enjoy bread made with spelt flour. What really helped make a fan out of me, however, is the mellow nutty flavor that spelt delivers. Read more about the Wonders of Spelt.

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The Ingredients:

530 grams (about 5 cups well fluffed up) whole spelt flour
350 grams (~1+1/2 cups) water
10 grams (1+1/2 tsp) salt
3 Tbs honey or sugar or 2 Tbs agave
1/4 cup sourdough starter
Follow the instructions in the video.

Bake at 450 for 45 minutes or until internal temp is 195-200.

Whole Grain Spelt

Spelt/Kamut Variation

Miscellaneous Notes: I’ve baked this bread several times since making the video and have found a few things you can vary in order to adapt the recipe to your time schedule.

Spacing the stretch and folds out by as little as 10-15 minute works just as well as the 30-60 minutes mentioned in the video. Three or four stretch and folds at 15 minute intervals seems pretty optimal.

Most of the time I mix up the dough in the evening, let it sit out overnight, and bake it the next morning. But I’ve also mixed up the dough in the morning and then immediately refrigerated the dough in a covered bowl until just before bed time. I then took it out to proof at room temperature until morning. This worked very well too.

You could probably also leave the dough in the fridge for up to a two or three days until you’re ready to bake. Since the dough continues to proof in the fridge (just very slowly), you’ll want to be careful not to let the dough sit out too long after removing from the fridge or it may over-proof. Since I haven’t tried this yet, you’ll have to take a good guess on the timing and let us know your experience.

Another relatively minor thing I’m doing differently now than when I shot the video, is I’m leaving the lid on the baker for the entire 45 minutes. I find the crust gets plenty brown and crusty this way.

Wheat Berries

Wheat Berries

Recipe Variations: There are, of course, endless ways to vary the recipe. A mix of spelt and kamut flour also produced an excellent loaf. Kamut is another ancient variety of wheat known for its nutritional value and naturally sweet and nutty flavor. The “official” kamut web site has some very interesting information.

Kamut flour has different moisture absorbtion properties than spelt, so if you’re playing around with different combinations of grains, you’ll also have to adjust the amount of water used. The following worked well:

300 grams spelt flour
230 grams kamut flour
360 grams water
Same as video for everything else.

August 2011 Update: Thanks Brent for this Spelt Bread Recipe variation and how to make it into sandwich loaves. Great picture too!

Feb 2012 Update:┬áCheck out Phil Dellinger’s post for Dutch Crunch topping.

 

{ 558 comments… read them below or add one }

Maggie October 7, 2014 at 9:38 pm

First off, thank you for posting such wonderful, informative, and simple videos. There is so much overwhelmibg and conflicting information out there about sourdough starters and bread baking and you just make things beautifully simple and easy to follow.

After numerous failed attempts at making a really good European-style sourdough bread, this recipe worked out amazingly well for me. I can’t tell you how grateful I am. The bread not only has a delicious flavor but the texture is so much better than any bread I have baked in the past (they were typically quite brick-like). The crust on this bread crackles like bread from a bakery and the inside is airy and not too dense. I couldn’t believe something so beautiful came out of MY oven! I sincerely thank you for posting a recipe for truly great bread and for recording the process it so there are no mysteries about how it’s supposed to be done.

I do have one question I was hoping you could give me some guidance on. I do not (yet) own a clay baker and improvised by using two ceramic baking dishes instead. In one of the dishes I put the dough and the other i turned upside down and placed on top of the one with the dough in it in hopes that it would work like a baker. This method worked out ok except that the bottom and sides of the bread burned a bit. The top of the bread turned out fine. I left the bread in the oven for 40 minutes at 450 and the temperature came out to 195 per your video instructions, but i’m guessing maybe the ceramic doesn’t do as good a job at baking the bread evenly? If that’s the case, do you suggest I bake at a lower temperature to prevent burning or keep it at 450 and bake for a shorter duration? The long term solution will be to purchase a clay baker BUT since I just splurged on a new komo mill (which I purchased from you and love like a first-born child) I will need to hold off on buying any more baking paraphanelia for a while until my husband recovers from my komo purchase ;) I would greatly appreciTe any suggestions you may habe on how to prevent the burning issue with the ceramic baker.

Thank you!

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Dean October 8, 2014 at 6:35 am

Here’s how I avoid a burned bread bottom Maggie. At the very bottom of the oven, place a “diffuser,” something to prevent the heat from rising directly from the burners. I use a 14″ cast-iron pizza pan, but a cookie pan or whatever you have with a large surface area may work just as well.

I discovered this by accident – one day I took the bread out of the oven and the bottom wasn’t burned at all (which it usually was). I couldn’t figure out why – until I realized I had inadvertently left the pizza pan in the oven after having made pizza the night before. Now that pizza pan never comes out of the oven.

Dean

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Maggie October 8, 2014 at 3:14 pm

Yay for happy accidents! Thanks for sharing it, I’ll definitely give that a try!

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Tiffany October 8, 2014 at 9:25 am

I place mason jar rings on the bottom of my Dutch oven then a price of parchment paper and then my dough to prevent burning. It works like a charm!

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Maggie October 8, 2014 at 3:18 pm

Mason jar rings, very inventive! I love the parchment paper idea, that’ll help prevent sticking too. Thanks for the tips :)

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sarah October 2, 2014 at 1:41 am

Hello,
I’ve been using this recipe for months now and absolutely loving the bread. But I must say, my loaves do not look that great – they are pretty flat. Here’s where I might be going wrong: 1) I am not scrupulous about measuring out 1/4 cup of starter – I usually use more than that. 2) I live in Switzerland so my spelt flour ,”farine d’epautre claire” is probably different . When I tried making it in the States with American spelt flour the dough was much drier. 3) I’m always bothered by the fact that on my scale there’s a big difference between 350 grams of water and a cup and a half. I usually split the difference.

My big problem is that the dough is always so wet that I really can’t handle it even if I dust with a lot of flour. I tried one time to put it in a proofing basket and have never gotten the bits of dough out. I usually have to bake it without getting a nice gluten cloak on it. I guess as I write this, the answer would be to cut way back on the water till I get a dough that looks more like yours in the video!? P.S. in studying the bag of “farine d’epautre” I see a recipe that I should try. It calls for flour, water, salt, yeast and 20 gr of yogurt! Thank you for any advice on my sticky dough. Sarah

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Dave October 2, 2014 at 7:52 am

I’ve found that the spelt flour I grind at home works perfectly at the recommended hydration level (530g/350g). I have bought spelt flour that required up to 410g of water to achieve the desired consistency. I’m not sure why. There could be variations in the spelt grain and also variations in the milling process. My suggestion is to experiment with using less water. I would try 20-30g less water and if that doesn’t work well reduce again by another 20-30g.

Dave

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Dick Eastmure October 2, 2014 at 9:50 am

Hello,
I have been making the spelt bread for a couple of years now and as Dave, I grind my own spelt. I have noticed the spelt berries do vary from one year to the next. I’m not sure if it is different farms or the type of summer. They do vary quite a bit in hydration levels. Sometimes by 30 grams or more. Right now I use 360gr spelt and 340 water with my present batch of berries. Flatness or ‘pan caking’ I find is mostly caused by over proofing. Adjust the water and try backing off on the proofing times would be my suggestions.

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Donna Davey September 30, 2014 at 3:08 pm

Covered moist dough. 60 min. Later stretching moist dough with floured fingers is difficult. And further times also. Should my dough be dryer?

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Dave September 30, 2014 at 3:45 pm

What I do is just wet my hands before each of the stretch and folds. It works a lot better for me.

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Marian Hale September 23, 2014 at 5:35 am

I have been looking on your website to find a recipe sent in by Lori a few years ago which I can no longer find.
It contained white vinegar, and malt it was retarded in the fridge overnight and baked the next day.
It was a fantastic recipe which unfortunately I didn’t write down, is it still somewhere to be found in your archives?
If Lori reads this email could she please repost it as I really want to make it again.
Many thanks
Marian.

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