Monday, October 14, 2013

Bread - Number 34: Falling in Love with Spelt

Bread #34: Long fermentation = amazing depth of flavor

In the arbitrary determination of a do over, I made a 100 percent spelt bread from the Wild Sourdough book twice and drastically changed everything but the ingredients the second time. Though called a wholemeal sourdough sandwich bread, neither the recipe nor the final product struck me as particularly connected to sandwiches.

I cut the recommended starter amount from 250 grams to 10 - no kidding - because I wanted a long overnight rise during a Washington, DC, October heatwave in which the house stayed at 80 degrees all night (26.7 degrees for the Celsius folks). Than I added 125 grams each of flour and water to substitute for the reduced starter amount. Also, it takes me four days to a week to build up so much starter and I did not have anything near the requisite amount on hand.

The next departure from the recipe was to autolyse all of the spelt flour and water before mixing the dough. The second time around, I did not even knead. I used stretch and folds. The result was perhaps the best bread I have ever made.


295g water - 67 percent
445g spelt flour - 100 percent
10g starter (mine is a rye right now) - 2 percent
1.5 tsp salt (I never weigh it) (probably 2 percent) (I have to admit it was the bottom of the salt box with much smaller crystals, which resulted in a somewhat saltier bread, though not too salty. I should start weighing the salt as well.)

[Later note: I generally now add about 2 percent salt, so for this nine or 10g of salt.]


Mix the water and flour thoroughly. Let stand for 20 minutes. Cover with plastic.

Mix into the water/dough mixture the starter and salt. Cover with plastic. Let stand for 15 minutes. Do the first stretch and fold. Do another stretch and fold, 15 to 20 minutes later. Cover in the interim.

Shape and leave to rise overnight. This was a warm kitchen - 80 degrees all night. I left the dough out for 11.25 hours. Cover with plastic.

Baking preparation

When the dough is at or just past peak, ready for baking preparation, there is still about an hour and fifteen minutes before the dough goes in the oven. 

Take the dough out of the bowl. Do a stretch and fold on a well-floured board. Leave for 15 minutes to rest. Make sure the dough is covered so that it does not get dry or at all crusty.

At 15 minutes, shape the dough and put it in a well-floured towel or on parchment paper in something that will hold the shape. This is not a big issue because the hydration percentage is 67 percent, which is not too wet. Cover the dough and let sit for an hour. Some say 90 minutes.

In this situation, I generally bake my doughs after letting the shaped dough sit for an hour. Somehow I have never mastered the finger dent test, which is supposed to indicate when the dough is ready to bake. Some say doughs need 60 to 90 minutes, but I always get wonderful oven spring with just 60 minutes. My kitchen is warm because of the warm climate for six months and, even in the winter, when I have the oven blasting at 450 to 500 degrees, heating up, this makes for a toasty kitchen - a nice, comfy place for a dough to have that final rise before baking.

An hour before baking, preheat the oven to 455 degrees. I heat the top of the la cloche or the whole oblong la cloche in the oven as well so that it is hot when the dough is placed in the oven.

Place dough on baking peel in the hot oven. Best if cover with top of la cloche. After 15 minutes, reduce heat to 420 degrees. Total oven time of 45 minutes. There is not much lovelier than the sight of a good oven spring and the excitement and anticipation of the couple of hours while the bread cools.

Breakfast of fresh bread
Maybe it was the nice, leisurely morning of hot water, butter and bread. Maybe it was the look of the pretty bread. Maybe I am a secret spelt lover. Maybe it was just that trusting my instincts resulted in a beautiful loaf. This bread was OMG incredible. With my husband away, over the course of a few days I ate this loaf all by myself and I was glad not to have to share it. Absolutely loved it and will have to make this again soon.

I did not slash the dough or put brush the top with water and it still came out so well. Maybe I don't need the cross on top.

1 comment:

  1. Just came across this lovely post while looking for suggestions about making spelt bread. Here in France the local baker has beautiful spelt bread that I've tried to duplicate, without success thus yet. Your result sounds every bit as wonderful, with a recipe and evocative baking story to go along with it! The more I learn about baking bread, the more I want to do it. Thanks for your contribution!