Spelt bread

It has been almost a week since my last post… where has the time gone?  Life has been busy, but I have been cooking (lots).  I just haven’t managed to sit down and write about it, so deciding which adventure I should share with you first was difficult.   I (or should I say we, as I don’t seem to do much cooking without the help (?) of little hands) have been cooking chelsea buns, brownies, chocolate cupcakes (decadently decorated, as only a three-year old can manage), pizza and cabbage and potato gratin.  However, this bread is something I am very proud of.

I think I am becoming a bit obsessed with bread.  Last year I blogged about my success with a loaf of white bread, after many years of trying.  Since then I have been practising and experimenting on a regular basis.  My aim is to become so good at making bread that I never have to buy a loaf again.

I won a £5 Amazon voucher over Christmas when I pulled a virtual cracker sent to me by Made Media (thank you Made) and so took the opportunity to buy a few more cookbooks (it was the perfect excuse!).  In my haul was the River Cottage Handbook No. 3 on Bread by Daniel Stevens and it is a great book; full of really good advice on how to achieve the perfect loaf.   There are lots of pictures accompanied by excellent descriptions to walk you through the process.

Since finding the Chocolate Log Blog I have been inspired by Choclette to use ingredients that I have never previously used, including spelt flour, hence the inspiration for this loaf.

Spelt flour is low in gluten so I followed Daniel Stevens’ advice and mixed it with strong plain flour to make a lighter loaf than a pure spelt loaf would be. The spelt is deliciously nutty and just adds that extra bite to the bread, making it taste like homemade bread should. I was really pleased with the result and Mr OC complimented me on it, so it must have been good. The loaf rose a little unevenly, so there is room for improvement, but I am looking forward to continuing practising and moving towards the holy grail of homemade bread.

300g strong plain flour
200g spelt flour
1 sachet (7g) fast action yeast
10g salt
300ml warm water

Extra flour for sprinkling ( I used rye)

Method

Mix the flours in a large  bowl, add the salt and the yeast and pour in the warm water.  Mix with your hands to a soft dough.  There should be enough liquid to easily pick up all the flour in the bowl, but it shouldn’t be too sticky. Take the dough out of the bowl and on to a lightly floured surface (preferably wood).  If you are right-handed hold the dough with your left hand and using your right hand push half the dough away, trying to stretch it a full arm’s length away from you.  Then fold the stretched dough back on to that left in your left hand and repeat the kneading process making quarter turns of the dough every other stretch. (If you are left-handed then please substitute that hand for the right-hand).  Continue in this way for about ten minutes until the dough feels more elastic and you can’t really stretch it very far when you are kneading.  Fold the dough under so that it forms a ball.

Rinse the bowl clean, oil lightly, and place the dough into the bowl and cover with cling film or a large plastic bag. Leave in a warmish place, free of draught, until the dough doubles in size. The time this takes will depend on the temperature of the dough and of the room.

Preheat the oven to 250°c (gas mark 10) and Daniel Stevens’ tip is to buy a paving stone that fits into your oven to use as a baking stone and heat this in the oven and then use a bread peel (a flat board with a handle, like the one they use for placing pizzas into a pizza oven) to place your loaf directly onto this. I had a bit of a daft revelation in that I realised for the first time that if I placed the loaf directly on the floor of the roasting oven of my Aga I would achieve the same effect. I have always baked my bread on the tin that I have proved it on before and I think this new technique has helped.

Gently flatten the dough with your fingers, rather than punching the air out (again a change in technique for me) shaping it into a square.  Roll the dough much like you would a swiss roll and then using your fingers seal the join very well. Stretch the dough lengthwise until twice as long.  Fold over one-third to the middle and then fold the remaining third on to the top. Flatten again into a square with your fingers and roll up again as before, sealing well and then rolling gently into an evenly shaped baton loaf.  I then sprinkled mine generously with rye flour.  Leave to prove for about twenty minutes.  This time you want it to get bigger but not double in size again.

Slash the tops gently.  Place on to the baking stone and bake for ten minutes without looking.  Check the loaf and adjust the heat of the oven, if the crust is still pale then turn down to 200°c (gas mark 6), if it is already browning then 180°c (gas mark 4).  Cook for another 20-30 minutes. I left mine on the floor of the roasting oven of my Aga for thirty minutes.  It should sound hollow when knocked.

Leave to cool completely before slicing.

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18 responses to “Spelt bread

  1. I love that it’s lopsided. It looks beautiful, amazing!

  2. Just add butter!

    So glad it turned out well. Thanks for linking to my blog. So what’s next – sourdough?

  3. Looking forward to seeing the cupcakes!

  4. Wonderful…….I am having another wave of aga envy beacuse as you know I grew up with a Mum who baked bread in the aga and there is nothing like it really.
    You should be really proud of yourself, it looks beautiful.

  5. Tracy, thank you, not sure it compares to your baguette yet.
    Choclette – I think I will take your advice and add some butter next time, and yes I am very tempted by sourdough, how is yours going?
    Rachel, thank you and sorry to cause you Aga envy again.

  6. I meant – spread the butter on each slice and sink your teeth into it. Sourdough is delicious, despite perfection not yet achieved. Have done 3rd batch now. 1st batch crust came away from loaf, 2nd batch burnt the top and 3rd batch not quite done. It’s getting to know how my oven works with bread – 4th time lucky I hope!

  7. I too suffer from aga envy having also grown up with one.

  8. I’m so pleased your loaf was such a success, lopsided or not! It was a lovely surprise to see this post as Daniel is a friend of mine and I worked with him on this book . It’s great to see that it’s being used and enjoyed – he’ll be thrilled.

  9. Pingback: Chelsea buns « The Ordinary Cook

  10. I love that book! I got it as part of my birthday present last year and made crumpets… must try the spelt bread now. Lickedspoon – tell Daniel it is a great book and a great read!

    • Hi, I must give crumpets another go, I didn’t quite get the temperature right last time and burned the bottom before the middle was cooked. I don’t think using different shaped cookie cutters was a very good substitute for uniformly sized crumpet rings though so will have to try and purchase these first.

  11. I agree that Spelt is delicious. I made a loaf today using my normal recipe:

    600 gm Sharham Park Organic Stone Ground Spelt flour
    330 gm water
    1 tsp quick yeast
    10 gm salt
    1.5 tbsp olive oil.

    It rose extremely well and made a beautifully light and tasty bread, showing that it is not always necessary to add strong white flour. There is said to be a wide variation in the quality of gluten between different cultivars of Spelt which could explain why some people have difficulty with it. (And no, I don’t have any connection with Sharham Park!)

    • Hi Angus, that looks like a good recipe. Do you knead it well, as you would for a white loaf, or is there less kneading involved? I sometimes make a pure spelt loaf, but it’s not as light as I would prefer it to be. Although, having said that sometimes a denser loaf is very nice indeed. Kath

  12. Thanks! During many years of breadmaking I’ve found that lengthy and elaborate kneading just isn’t necessary, and I didn’t give the Spelt loaf any special treatment.
    I use a similar kneading method to the one in your recipe but don’t stretch it as much, pushing into the dough with the heel of my hand until it is just long enough to fold in half. Then I turn it and repeat until it is completely smooth without any dry or flaky bits, which usually takes only a few minutes.
    IMHO, the reason your loaf wasn’t as light and even as it could be might have been due to the gentle stretching and folding before the second proving. I simply bashed the gas pockets out of my dough as usual and chafed it to fit a tin. It was baked for 15 minutes at 230C (gas mark 8) plus another 15 minutes at 200C (mark 6)

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