All grains contain peptides that mimic morphine or endogenous opioid substances. This is where I deal with my latest loaf craving. Get your bread-based exorphin fix here.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

How is that Spelt?

Spelt Loaves

I like the subtle taste of bread made with spelt, but I have a lot of questions about how to make a good spelt bread.

Here I made a couple of mostly spelt loaves, to use up the wholegrain spelt flour I had on hand.  I had 679g of spelt, so added 321g of ww to bring the total to 1000g.  With my ww sourdough starter of 200g, I began making this bread in the Tartine style, with a 75% hydration.  I found that the large amount of spelt in the dough caused it to rip while stretching, even though the dough seemed overly sloppy and wet.
There is gluten in spelt, an ancient grain that is some consider one of the ancestors of wheat, but spelt flour is different in feel to wheat flour.  The bonds of the gluten are not as strong, so the dough cannot be mixed or handled the same way.  Some confusion exists, because spelt has higher protein, but less gluten (which is also protein), than our typical bread wheat.

While Germany grows quite a lot of spelt (dinkel or Triticum spelt) for human consumption, the rest of the world does not.  And this is partly because spelt's kernels are harder to clean: they do not fall out of their husk as easily as wheat.  I can find spelt here in Canada, and it is becoming a bit more popular, but it remains expensive (I suppose because it must be cleaned well, and demand for it isn't yet large).  And we have to admit that wheat is more versatile due to its stronger gluten.  Still, we find some people who cannot tolerate wheat can tolerate spelt, and this alone is increasing spelt's popularity.

As for baking with spelt, some books (e.g. Nils Schöner's "Brot") will say that spelt soaks up more water, so you had better hydrate it more;

"Make a wet dough. Because spelt has high water retention, it is recommended to use hydrations greater than 70%."  

Other books (e.g. Paula Figoni's "How Baking Works") say just the opposite:  

"Spelt has a lower water absorption value than wheat, so less water is needed when forming batters and doughs."  

My (small) experience here with a spelt and ww mixture and a ww sourdough starter, is that Figoni is right; but Nils also suggests that some fat be added to a spelt dough (either butter or lard), and that trick might allow for a greater hydration, which he claims is necessary for spelt because it bakes to a dry crumb.

A CT Scan of this bread would reveal a vast sulcus or fistula
where the dough flopped over on itself and the outside became the inside.


I had trouble with this loaf at this hydration.  First of all, I used the wrong flour in my banneton, all-purpose flour is not good for this purpose, but I used it because it was at hand.  The overly sticky dough stuck to the banneton when it was time to go into the dutch oven, and so the boule flipped over on itself.  It is supposed to be a boule, but turned out to be more of a fat batard.  There was external flour on the inside of the loaf, therefore, and the bread turned out unsatisfactory.  I couldn't give this ugly loaf away, and was forced to eat both of them myself.

Tasted fine, though.  And I like the way it toasts.  Although it did stale rather quickly.  Chickens got some of these loaves.

Notes to Myself
  • Next: Try a spelt sourdough starter.
  • Start off with less than 70% hydration (try 60-65%) in doughs with large amounts of spelt.
  • Add add some fat in the form of butter or oil. In one of Nils recipes containing some spelt ("Spelt-Einkorn bread with coriander") he uses some oil in a ratio that looks like 2.67-3.26% (depending on whether or not you include the coarse starter in the flour total, and I'm not sure that you should). For another recipe with spelt ("Dinkelvollkornbrot"), he does not include any fat.
  • Spelt should not be eaten by those with clinically diagnosed celiac disease.
  • Just to confuse matters further, Spelt is grown in Italy, but Italians will call Einkorn, Emmer and Spelt all by the same name "Farro")

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