One of the dishes we made at Rachel Demuth’s “Fast and Delicious” vegetarian cooking course was a spelt Irish soda bread. Before this, I always thought spelt was one of those grains that only gluten-intolerant people would appreciate (which just goes to show how much I knew at the time – spelt contains gluten; it’s a little different from wheat gluten, but it’s gluten all the same).
Gluten aside, it turns out spelt is pretty tasty, even to wheat-fiends like myself. It has a nutty flavor and tastes somewhat sweeter than wheat (at least I think so). Besides, I’ve been looking for alternatives to wheat in my diet – variety is the spice of life, right? The spelt loaf inspired me.
After this revelation, I went home bought a bag of Sharpham Park wholemeal spelt flour and set out to make some bread. There’s a surprising dearth of wholemeal spelt bread recipes out there (plenty of them call for white spelt flour, but few are made with the wholemeal stuff, and my earlier attempt to bake a wholemeal loaf using a white loaf recipe was a miserable failure). I finally found this recipe for wholemeal spelt bread buried deep in Fresh Loaf’s forum. This one’s definitely a keeper.
Word of caution: this is not a fast recipe, but it sure is delicious. This bread involves making an overnight “sponge”, then mixing more flour and yeast with the sponge, then letting the dough rise several times, kneading between rises, then baking, then finally waiting impatiently for the loaf to cool before diving in with a bread. But this is bread baking, after all – a task for the patient and a labor of love. And it was totally worth it.
The resulting spelt bread was light, fluffy and flavorful, both on its own and smeared with a bit of butter (but let’s face it, there aren’t many foods you could ruin with a smear of butter). It was especially good with this evening’s roasted tomato soup (another keeper from Bittman’s How to Cook Everything Vegetarian). Tomorrow, the spelt bread will make great sandwiches. Sandwich filling: TBD.
Wholemeal Spelt Bread
You can make this bread vegan by subbing the honey for agave nectar or sugar!
- 100g Wholemeal spelt flour
- 100g Water
- 4g Active Yeast
Mix the yeast and flour in a bowl and add water to dry ingredients. Stir into a dough and leave covered in a cool and draft-free place for about 10hrs.
- 275g Wholemeal spelt flour
- 175g Water
- 4g Active Yeast
- 5g Salt
- 15g Honey
- 15g Oil
- All of the above sponge
Mix the dry ingredients in a bowl. In a separate bowl, mix the water, honey and sponge, making sure the sponge is broken into small pieces.
Add the wet ingredients to the flour mixture, mix into a rough dough, add the oil and squidge it with your fingers. Cover and let dough rest for 10mins.
Turn the dough out onto a clean, oiled surface and knead for 15 seconds then return dough back into a clean and oiled bowl. Let rest for 10mins.
Repeat this twice for a total of 3 x 15 second kneads at 10mins intervals. Let dough rest for 15mins after the third knead.
Turn the dough out onto an oiled surface, press dough out into a rectangle and fold the top edge 1/3 inwards and the bottom edge over the top. Rotate the dough 90 degrees and repeat the 1/3 folds then return dough to bowl covered for 1 hour.
After the hour, repeat the above 1/3 folds and return dough back to bowl and cover for another hour.
After the dough has rested a second hour, make a quick slit into dough to check for a series of bubbles. If you see the bubbles, the dough can be shaped. If not, repeat the folds and check back after 1/2 hour.
When dough is ready to shape, oil an 8×4 inch baking pan and dust with rice flour. On an oiled surface, press dough gently into a rectangle and roll it like a tight jelly-roll. Tuck the ends in and place it seam-side down into the pan. Cover for another 1 hour or until, when lightly pressed, it leaves an indentation without springing back (use a wet finger to test this).
Meanwhile, preheat oven to 425F (220C) with a tray of water at the bottom. Bake for 10mins then reduce the temperature to 375F (190C) and bake till the dough lifts off the side of the pan and sounds hollow when tapped on the underside, about 30 minutes. Use a foil to cover the top if its getting too dark before the loaf is ready.