A Perfect Spelt Loaf

Spelt loaf 3

Spelt is one of the oldest grains. It’s been used in Britain since before the Romans landed on these shores but fell out of fashion and was replaced by wheat. It’s lower in gluten than wheat and supposedly helps to protect against bowel cancer. All of which makes it sound like its going to produce a loaf like a brick, hence whilst I’ve used both white and wholemeal spelt in loaves, I’ve shyed away from just using spelt. Then I came across this during one of my Waitrose outings.

Spelt flour

Sharpham Park specialise in spelt flour. As well as white and wholemeal they also do a 60:40 mix they call Baker’s Blend. It sounded appealing and the recipe on the back of the pack looked straightforward enough so I decided to give it a go. However I didn’t follow the method as, according to Paul Hollywood, spelt is prone to spread and so I decided that a loaf tin was the best way.

I mixed 500g of the Baker’s Blend with 1 tsp salt,1 tsp easy blend yeast, 2tblsp olive oil and 300g warm water. As its lower in gluten I decided to mix it into a rough dough and leave it covered for 15 minutes before kneading.

I then gave it a quick 10 second knead on an oiled work surface before leaving it another 10 minutes. I repeated this twice more before adding a touch more water on the second knead as it seemed a bit too dry (I just dipped my hand in water so it was damp before kneading the dough).

lt was then given a light coat of olive oil and left covered for about an hour in black bin bag.

By this time it had risen quite a bit. I floured the work surface and turned it out, padding it into a small rectangle. This time I decided to devote a bit more time into shaping it rather than just plonking it in the tin. I didn’t take photos of the process but if you have the River Cottage Bread Handbook it’s essentially the stubby cylinder in there.

Spelt - pre prove

After another hour it looked like this. As you can see it had risen a lot and was very “bread” shaped! I clearly need to shape it properly in future.

Spelt loaf - post prove

I preheated the oven to 220C with a roasting tin in the bottom. When the loaf was ready I gave it a decent topping of flour and slashed it before putting it in the oven before quickly pouring boiling water into the roasting tray.

It was then baked for about 30 minutes to produce this.

Spelt loaf 2

This is probably the prettiest loaf I have ever baked! All it needs is Hovis imprinted on the side. I am completely in awe of the amount of oven spring it got, the way it kept its shape, the colour… Seriously I didn’t even want to cut into it, it was so pretty.

But cut into it I did. It had a good crunchy top crust and a sandwich worthy crumb.

Spelt loaf - sliced

Tastewise it’s difficult to describe. It’s not wheat – it tastes “softer” than that, but it’s not so different that it’s hugely noticeable. In fact LSH has been eating it for the last couple of days and hasn’t noticed that he’s been eating a “health food” (well not til he reads this anyway!) I would definitely make this again – my only worry is that on the website it is listed as sold out. Hopefully I’ll still be able to get this from my supermarket. I may have a go at making my own “Monday Baker’s Blend” and see if I can replicate it.