94% Sourdough Spelt Bread

Round Spelt Loaf

Well I have been working toward this moment- a bread made totally with Spelt flour. I am close this time as my innoculation starter was 3 oz and the rest of the dough is all Spelt, I have a cup of Whole Spelt and the rest of the flour is White Spelt. I didn’t actually know that they made white Spelt, but I asked hubby to bring me home a 25 lb bag of Spelt flour and he brought me home a 25 lb bag of White Spelt and a 10 lb bag of Spelt berries to grind.

Spelt flour, whether the whole or the white, feels very fluffy and soft and weighs less in a cup than wheat flour. I started in the morning and mixed 8 oz of water and 5 oz of the white Spelt flour. Then I added 3 oz of one of my sourdough starters. I let this set for six hours and then added another 5 oz of White Spelt and 8 oz of water.

Spelt Sponge

 I let this ferment for another six hours and then poured the mixture into a larger container and added 4.1 oz of Whole Spelt flour(approx 1 cup) , 12.8 oz of White Spelt flour(approx 3 cups) and no more water. I let this ferment overnight. Next morning I poured the mixture into my mixer (by the way I figured out the hydration of the sponge at this point and it was supposed to be 63 %, it looked 80%, so I knew that the regular way of figuring hydration was going to be a problem).

NO way was this 63% hydration! Here the sponge dough is after setting all night at room temperature:

Spelt Sponge # 2 

Then I added 1 oz of oil(2 Tablespoons), 1 oz of salt(4 teaspoons), and 21.1 oz of White Spelt flour(about 5 cups). I mixed this on low speed for just two minutes or so. I let it autolyse for 20 minutes but after autolysis, I picked up the dough and felt some stiff flour in the dough, so I took out the dough and gently worked in two more ounces of water. The dough felt soft, smooth and silky.

 Before adding the two ounces of water:

40 % hydration ??? No way! 

After adding the water, NO Way was this 40% hydration! I put the dough into a container to bulk ferment, here it is done fermenting after four hours:

No Way! 

40% hydration dough???No way!

 My hydration calculator (Thanks Ice !) said that the dough was at 40.4 % after I added the extra two ounces of water!! No way! You cannot figure out the hydration in the regular way. It felt like a 61 -62 % hydration. The dough had a slightly wet feel yet barely needed a dusting of flour to shape. I am gettin ahead of my story! After the dough was mixed up I let it bulk ferment for four hours and then shaped it. Here it is after bulk fermentation, you can see how well the gluten strands were developed:

Gluten strands for Spelt flour 

Although the protein level in Spelt is higher than Wheat flour, the gluten in Spelt is supposed to be a weaker gluten than Wheat flour. You need to handle the dough gently, no long or fast mixing, no punching. Slow, short mixing times, and gentle folding or pressing down of the dough is what Spelt needs to keep it’s gluten intact.

Here the dough is ready to shape:

Dough ball ready to shape

The dough made 4 lbs 10.5 oz. So I shaped three loaves, two weighing 1lb 12 oz and one weighing in at 1 lb 2.5 oz. I let the shaped dough proof in their bannetons for two hours.

Spelt loaves 

Here is the small loaf, at the beginning of proofing and at the end of proofing:

Beginning Proof

 End of Proof

 I baked them in the way I usually do at 450 degrees F with a cover over the dough for the first half of the baking time (I spray the dough once and cover it with a roasting lid). I then lower the oven temperature to 425 and take off the lid for the last half of the bake which totals 30 minutes. I suspected even before I mixed the dough that the Spelt flour might need diastatic malt as an addition to the formula because in the research I did online, I saw Spelt loaves and they mostly looked pale and too crusty. I looked on the bag of Spelt to see if the mill had added any malt but they did not. In the mills they test wheat flours and usually add malt to the flour, if it is needed, especially bread flours(look at the ingredients on your bread flour bag and see if they have malt as one of the ingredients).The Spelt flour was obviously not corrected for lack of enzymes (hypodiastaticity) I decided to experiment with the dough as it was and see if it did indeed need the addition of malt enzymes. My hunch was right, the flour is hypodiastatic and definately needs diastatic malt! The loaves all came out with thick crusts and were very pale, which are the signs of needing malt.

 First Spelt Loaf 


Long Spelt Loaf 

 Spelt Crumb

The flavor of the crust was interesting, almost like a buttery popcorn. The crumb was okay,(although it seemed a bit dry and leathery) but the flavor is blandish, just like others said online about their 100% Spelt loaves.  The Spelt dough had an interesting feel to it too. It was soft and silky but yet felt wettish and it was sort of rubbery, like it had low extensibility compared to regular wheat doughs. I felt that this experiment was very informative. I now know that the Spelt flours need diastatic malt, I have read that VitaSpelt is the only distributor of Spelt flours in the US. So that means virtually everyone in the US probably needs the addition of diastatic malt to make the dough work well. I think that a sponge would work well and then add the diastatic malt with the final mixing of the dough. The other interesting thing to note is that the Spelt flour alone was a completely different thing than when adding it to wheat flours. The breads that I have made with the Spelt as an addition to the wheat flours has the most wonderful aroma and taste. I would have to say that I expected more of the taste and aroma with the use of all Spelt flour … and it just wasn’t there. I wouldn’t even consider buying Spelt if I had used this experiment as my reason to buy more Spelt flour. Here is a few pictures of an experiment I made about a week ago using Spelt as an additon to wheat flour. It was a Spelt preferment with Spelt flour being about 1/4 of the total weight of the flour. I also added malt to the recipe so there wasn’t a problem with the hypodiastaticity of the flour (which there might have been because I also used motherdough in the recipe and there can be a problem with that in long cool fermented doughs also). Here are the pictures of the Sponge Spelt, which is what I called the recipe: 

Sponge Spelt (25 % Spelt flour)

Spelt Sponge 

Spelt Sponge Bread

 Spelt Sponge Bread

You can see by the thin crust and great color that diastatic enzymes weren’t a problem with this bread. To sum up, I think that there are some things to keep in mind when working with Spelt Flours. You need to use less water for your dough, on the bag of Spelt, it says to reduce water by 10 – 15 % they also say not to mix Spelt doughs for more than four minutes total. I think that is an excellent suggestion. Add some Diastatic Malt (available at brewer’s supply stores or online) Diastatic Malt is a very powerful ingredient so use it sparingly, like not more than 1%? of your dough total by weight. Treat dough gently with slow, short mixing times. Don’t rely on hydration calculations that are used for regular wheat breads.  Try starting out with just substituting some Spelt flour in your favorite bread recipes and see how you like it that way. I still need to redo this experiement and add the malt, but so far, I like Spelt best when added to other flours. It exels in that.

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Teresa L Greenway - Sourdough bread baker, author, teacher, entrepreneur. Join my baking classes at: https://tinyurl.com/nbe3ejd

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