from one generation to the next
My sourdough bread baking journey began over 2 years ago. Finally I’ve arrived.
Motivated by digestive issues that necessitated the exclusion of all bread except slowly fermented sourdough spelt from my diet, I began questioning bakers I came across in the blogging world about their experience. Many had dabbled combining spelt into their conventional wheat flour loaves but none had done a total switch to spelt flour. Their responses were sprinkled with doubt and caution. I was advised that the bread would be dense, the loaves wouldn’t rise much, the dough needed to be super wet, the starter would be sluggish, and so on. I took it all on board and ploughed on regardless. I found a 100% spelt bread recipe, unfortunately loaded with jargon, and beetled on for a few months accepting my brick heavy loaves as the best I could expect. The bread I made wasn’t worth the effort so I gave up.
Inspired and buoyed by the results from my recent attempt into the sourdough bread world using 100% spelt flour I’d now like to debunk the myths attached to the notes of caution I mentioned above. Spelt bread, slowly fermented using an active spelt sourdough starter, and baked under the right conditions will produce a loaf comparable to any artisan sourdough wheat bread. The crumb will be moist and open, the crust thin and crisp, the flavour slightly sour but with a deliciousness nuttiness not found in wheat bread. My dough is not super wet and there is no fancy footwork on my part during the kneading process.
In the short space of time since I wrote the post “Breadbaking Tips for Beginners” my 100% spelt sourdough loaves have leapt way ahead in quality thanks to a change in my fermentation regime. I was happy with my loaves 2 weeks ago, now am over the moon. I have to thank Sarah @ Say! Little Hen for her guidance with timing and a flare in my arthritis for the change in the way I handle the dough.
Sarah and I both live in Queensland, where the summers are long, hot and humid. I had already decided to experiment with slowing down the ultra rapid room temperature fermentation by reducing the proportion of starter in Sarah’s fabulous recipe when she posted the instructions for proving the dough in the fridge. My first overnight loaf was incredible, my second a downright miracle. It was exactly like a loaf I’d have paid big money for from one of Melbourne’s top notch artisan bakers. “Wahoo!!!!!!!!!!”
In the interest of sharing the spelt sourdough love…..( I wrote this on St Valentine’s Day)
Converting your sourdough wheat starter to spelt is simple. The proportion of wheat will diminish significantly with each bake if you only feed the starter spelt flour and bake with spelt flour. I kept a small portion of active wheat starter aside for a few months as insurance until my spelt starter was able to prove it had longevity and resilience.
I had been advised that the proteins in spelt flour may not keep the starter active. While the starter usually needs 2-3 feeds to make it intensely active in preparation for baking, it has proved to be resilient. If your starter seems sluggish, keep feeding it every 4 hours or so with 1/4 cup each spelt flour and filtered water until it becomes very bubbly. If you need to leave it overnight, feed it a cup of spelt flour and a cup of filtered water and that will keep it happy until the morning when it will be ready for use.
If you don’t have a sourdough starter and would like some dried flakes of my 100% spelt starter to get started, leave me a message in the comments.
Activating your spelt sourdough starter
Take 160g of stored spelt starter, mix in 1/4 cup spelt flour and 1/4 cup filtered water. Cover the bowl and leave the it in a warm place for 2 hours. Small bubbles will begin to form on the surface. Whisk in another 1/4 cup spelt flour and 1/4 cup filtered water, cover and leave to rest for another 2 hours. The starter will look aerated by the end of this time which indicates it is ready to use.
Set aside 160g in a covered container in the fridge for your next baking session. Feed it 1/4 cup spelt flour and 1/4 cup filtered water every week to keep it alive or alternatively bake bread every week.
Overnight Spelt Sourdough Bread
200g active spelt sourdough starter
325g organic white spelt flour
2 teaspoons sea salt
170mls of filtered water
8-9pm Measure the ingredients into a large mixing bowl in the above order. Mix to a shaggy dough, cover loosely with plastic and put in the fridge for 20 minutes.
After 20 minutes, tip the dough onto a well floured bench and knead it just enough to bring it together into a smooth ball. Stretch the dough into a large thin oblong then fold it in 3 in both directions. Lightly oil the bowl, add the dough, turn it over to coat it in oil then return it to the fridge for 40 minutes.
After 40 minutes, tip the dough onto the bench, but don’t use any flour this time. Stretch the dough into a large thin oblong, then fold the dough in 3 in both directions. Return the dough to the fridge overnight.
The next day, remove the dough from the fridge, tip it onto the unfloured bench then stretch it into a large thin oblong. Fold the dough in 3 in both directions, then fold in 3 again so you have a tight thick sausage. Place it join side up in a well floured (rice flour) bannetton and leave to rise, loosely covered for 1 1/2 – 2 hours. My kitchen is about 25C most of the day even when running the aircon.
After 1 1/2 hours, preheat the oven to 225C.
When the oven reaches temperature, tip the dough onto a sheet of baking paper and if you like, spray it with water, sprinkle with seeds, or else just slash the top of the loaf with a serrated edged knife.
Lift the loaf on the paper into a covered roasting pan and bake at 225C for 20 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 180C and remove the lid of the pan. Bake for a further 25 minutes until the loaf is golden brown and sounds hollow when you knock on the crust.
Cool on a wire rack. Slice when cold