Sunday, January 28, 2007


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
Warm water

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 Hadrian’s Wall and the legions. Put to rise in a warm place it had doubled in size in an hour, with pinprick holes appearing on the surface. Preheat the oven to 180º now. The dough went into the warm 2 lb tin to prove for what I thought would be half an hour, but in fifteen minutes it was up to the top. Blimey!

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.


Anonymous said...


I've only just found you as a link in the news section of anothr site - The fresh loaf - do have a look. Originally from south Gloucs I am marooned in the midlands so your comments about the West Country struck a particular and poignant note with me.

Anyway as to spelt - I have used nothing else for the last 2-3 years having discovered it as a solution to my "normal wheat" intolerance - part of an auto-immune condition which has also led to me becoming diabetic - interestingly spelt supports the diabetic condition well!

I now bake all our bread, cake and pastries using both wholemeal and white spelt, the latter rather difficult to find but Google Glebe Farm and you will find the wonderful Rebecca Raynor. I also use Bacheldre Mill and Whissendine occasionally for wholemeal spelt.

Breadmaking is particularly rewarding - as you note spelt is easier to knead and raise and resonds well to a gentler touch by hand and oven temp and the flovour is superb. Today we're eating a slow ferment tin loaf made with a rye and wholemeal spelt starter completed with white spelt and very pleased I am with it too! I would be happy to share any recipes but do most of my blogging on The Fresh Loaf. You're right about the warm nuty flavour and it makes a FANTASTIC walnut loaf.

All the best HelenD

June said...

Hello Helen
How very nice to hear from you. I was happily surprised by spelt and will be doing a lot of bread making with it from now on. I'm very interested to hear about the slow fermented loaf - I usually make bread with an overnight rise and I wasn't sure how the spelt would react. I will certainly check out The Fresh Loaf, and will link to it. Sharpham Park offer organic spelt, and I think they now have a white version. Best wishes, June

Welshcakes Limoncello said...

What an interesting post. The bread looks wonderful and I want some NOW!

June said...


I think I'm going to make spelt my normal wholemeal bread from now on - it has a low GI and the great benefit of not turning to brick pudding in my hands. And as it light in texture I think it can take additions without turning into a four course meal. See Helen's comment for more and do check out The Fresh Loaf. Can you get spelt in Sicily?

lindy said...

I'm going to try this for sure. I can't believe that crumb in a whole meal bread! I haven't tasted spelt, so I guess flavor will be the deciding factor-and it seems like everyone likes it. "Nutty" sounds good to me. It looks like a perfect sandwich bread.

June said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
June said...

Hi Lindy
Please do try this, it tastes so good and practically makes itself. Also it is strangely satisfying and apparently incredibly good for you. I made another loaf this morning - not such a soft dough as I wanted to prove it in the banneton and bake it without the tin. The second rising took a bit longer than the tin method but was still fast. See Helen (above) for more info. I continue to be amazed!

Lynn D. said...

I have made the famous 18 hour no-knead bread with one third spelt and was very pleased with the results. Your loaf looked so gorgeous I had to try it. It was fabulous! Did you knead yours?--I didn't bother. The taste was incredible. Where has spelt been all my life? Thank you.

June said...

Hi Lynn
I thank you, the loaf thanks you, the universe thanks you! I'm very interested to hear that the long rise bread works well with spelt, and am now completely torn between that method and the usual method, which works so much faster with spelt. Did I knead it? Sort of, in a rather half hearted fashion. It didn't seem to require much effort. It was more an assembly job really. Glad to have another convert! I think a handful of rye would be good too - see Helen above - will try it next time.

susan g. said...

Hello Helen
I have just found your site. Spelt seems to be the answer to my wheat allergy thing. I have a couple of questions to ask (1) can I use dried yeast and how much ?? (2) can I use any other oil apart from grapseed ?? (3) what is a starter???

Looking at some of the comments here, there is also a lovely man called Mr.Tom Russel from Shipton Mills in Glous. who has told me all about spelt and other flours and tells me I am do not to eat the mass produced wheat free bread in the shops ythat tastes like cardboard...

Susan G. Cornwall

June said...

Hello Susan

Not sure if you are writing to HelenD or to me. If you are allergic to wheat then spelt is not for you as it is a close cousin to wheat. If however you have a wheat intolerance then you will probably be fine with it.
Dried yeast - always use as little as possible, the less you use the longer the rise will take but it won't make that much difference, whereas too much dried yeast will give you a very dry loaf. Use about half to one tsp for a 2lb loaf.
Grapeseed oil. You don't have to use oil at all, and I don't usually, but it gives a good texture to the loaf. Any oil that doesn't flavour the bread is fine.
Starter - don't bother about this just yet! It's a couple of breadmaking steps down the line. It's a way of making bread without commercial yeast and it's what is commonly referred to as sourdough.

susan g. said...

Hi June
Your reply most welcome at the minute I feel as though I'm in a minefield of information which this site seems to cut through. Its a wheat intolerance with me, so Im hoping spelt will do the trick. I will be making my first loaf tomorrow after delivery of flour. You wouldnt happen to know about a hot cross bun recipe, cant have a Good friday go by without them..

Susan G.

June said...

Hi Susan
I don't see why you shouldn't try spelt hot cross buns, in fact I would think they would work well! Make the dough a bit slack, add some fruit and spice, and probably let them rise just once. Bake for ten to fifteen minutes. I'm sure the Fresh Loaf web site will have a good recipe. Good luck!

Ben Spragge said...

.. That's 180º Celsius right? And not Fahrenheit. I'm trying out your bread, looks great!

June said...

Ben - Yes, Celsius. Good luck! June

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