Spelt. It’s an old word, clearly, and I’ve never quite had a visual picture of it in my mind. An ancient form of grain, a close cousin to wheat, but we don’t use it very much any more. Now why would that be? The Romans made bread from it, it was a staple for a few hundred years and then it sort of passed out of fashion.
A couple of years ago I had some friends who were very rock ‘n’ roll and made a habit of having their colons cleansed. They had spelt loaves. These were little tiny bricks of tasty but rather dense carbohydrate. Not big enough to make even one sandwich and lost in the recesses of the toaster. I liked the taste but couldn’t really see the point.
Time passed. Spelt loaves are now on sale in the deli, doing well but still rather tiny to my mind. I bought some flour and read up on the contents. Spelt contains more protein, fat and fibre than wheat. It also contains special carbohydrates called mucopolysaccharides, which play a decisive role in stimulating the body’s immune system. Its cultivation was widespread until the industrial revolution, when new technology led to a preference for the easier to thresh common wheat. Its gluten composition is different to that of ordinary wheat and apparently it has an intense flavour. But most importantly, and I’m very glad I read this, it rises fast, and you particularly have to watch the second proving.
The flour I bought said wholemeal on the packet. Thinking ‘brick’ I decided to sieve out some of the bran. I only got about a dessertspoonful and I wouldn’t bother another time. I made up the dough with:
500g wholemeal spelt flour
10g fresh yeast
Two tsp sea salt
1 tbsp grapeseed oil
I rub the yeast into the meal and salt, and add the grapeseed oil and enough warm water to make a soft dough. It comes together noticeably easily into a dough, with a lovely rosy terracotta hue. Already I am thinking of
I was surprised at the oven temperature – bread is usually cooked at a higher temperature – but that’s what the flour bag said, 180º. I used a baking stone under the tin and the bread cooked for 35 – 40 minutes.
I did manage to wait until it was completely cool to try it, and I was amazed. Wholemeal anything is asking for trouble. This had nothing added to it to detract from its wholemealness and it is light and delicious, with a warm nutty flavour, a good close texture and the most beautiful colour. You could toast it, make brilliant sandwiches, and I think it would be quite delicious with the addition of walnuts too.