I’ve been toying with several ancient grains, including spelt. Using freshly milled flour for baking is an adjustment because their differing properties affect the end product. Considering the health benefits of using freshly milled flour, and the preparedness benefits of storing grain, it’s worth every experiment.
According to Sue Becker’s must-have “The Essential Home-Ground Flour Book,” spelt “has adequate protein content for gluten development,” and “it can be used successfully as an alternative to wheat when making yeast breads.” Spelt also has higher moisture content than wheat, so 25 percent more flour should be used in recipes. Of course, when baking bread you need to read the dough to check for tackiness and gluten formation, and not blindly add the extra flour.
With origins in Mesopotamia, spelt has a nutty flavor with a less bitter taste than wheat. Becker recommends when using spelt for cookies, muffins and the like, the grain should be milled finer.
This recipe uses a couple of ingredients you might not be acquainted with yet – dough enhancer and vital wheat gluten. The dough enhancer is optional, but it does improve the texture and crust, giving you a fluffier result. Dough enhancer is all natural – I even contacted the maker of Barry Farms who sells the dough enhancer I purchased and asked him about the ingredients. Someone was asserting on a blog dough enhancer had chemicals, so I emailed William Barry to ask. He actually got back to me right away, and listed the ingredients as Vital Wheat Gluten, Sweet Dairy Whey, Diastatic Malt Powder, and Ascorbic Acid. No chemicals. Glad I checked because I really enjoy this product.
Vital wheat gluten helps breads to rise, and can even be a binder for burgers. I always use vital wheat gluten in my breads made with freshly ground flour with low protein. According to the website US Flour, “The vital wheat gluten is made by hydrating the wheat flour to activate the gluten (protein in wheat) and then processes it to extract everything from it except the gluten. Finally, it is dried and ground back into a powder.” So this is another natural tool in your bread baking tool kit. Unlike dough enhancer, which is ideal but not necessary, I consider vital wheat gluten in some bread recipes necessary to prevent a very dense loaf.
In this recipe, I used half spelt, and half hard white wheat. I doubled this recipe for four loaves, but know a Kitchen Aid cannot handle this amount. I made four loaves using a Bosch, which is a sturdier machine.
Spelt Sandwich Bread
Yield 2 loaves
2 cups of warm water
2 cups of spelt flour, divided (extra may be needed)
2 cups of hard white wheat flour, divided (extra may be needed)
1/4 cup oil (I use avocado)
2 TBSP of honey
2 TBSP vital wheat gluten
2 tsp dough enhancer
1 TBSP instant yeast
2 1/2 tsp salt
Mill your grain.
Add together warm water, and 1 1/2 cups of spelt and 1 1/2 cups of hard white wheat flour, and the oil through the yeast.
Incorporate for about a minute, then add the remaining flour and salt. Mix, and gradually sprinkle extra flour over dough about a tablespoon at a time until the dough on the bowl’s sides are off. Mix for about 5 minutes, and stop mixer.
Take a piece of dough, and stretch it up to a light. When you can see through the dough without it tearing, the gluten has formed.
Put dough on a clean, lightly greased counter.
Divide in two. Roll dough into a rectangle, then roll up tight, and pinch opening closed, and also on sides. Place in greased baking pans and cover. Let rise for about 30 minutes while oven pre-heats at 350.
After the dough has risen, brush the tops with beaten egg. Sprinkle tops with oats, bran, or any topping you desire. Bake for about 30 minutes, or until done.