The Inspiration of UrbnSpice Series
I have wanted to challenge the art of sourdough from scratch for quite some time. The reason is simple: I have several family members who experience difficulty digesting wheat. Experimenting with recipes is something I have always enjoyed. My curiosity inspired me to develop sourdough bread recipes that would meet the needs of my family.
For the purpose of this article, I am working with a spelt sourdough starter – it has unusual characteristics but offers interesting opportunities to learn about how those characteristics affect the sourdough process. My background, which includes training in culinary school and working in bakeries, provides me with experience and skills to deal with the preliminaries of starters & a variety of bread
Most of my colleagues will agree that once you have worked with different types of dough, one develops a level of personal satisfaction that is difficult to describe. There is nothing more relaxing to me than standing at a floured baker’s bench kneading the dough in a rhythmic motion, which transforms a weighed amount of dough into a smooth boule, loaf or roll. The aroma and the taste of freshly baked bread is the reward that you keep coming back for. There is nothing like it!
I wanted to determine if I could produce a sourdough starter naturally in my home kitchen without the addition of commercial yeast or any other additives. My research for this project was extensive and I have acknowledged my sources at the end of this article.
This particular post will focus on spelt sourdough starter and spelt sourdough bread.
Did you know that it is traditional that you give your sourdough starter a name? That seemed to be an unusual thing to do, however after making my starter, the reason why became apparent. Checking, monitoring, feeding and repeating the steps that create a sourdough starter becomes second nature – it seems only fitting that it should be named after 14 days of close interaction. I named my spelt flour sourdough starter “Beast”.
I am reminded of the stone ground whole-wheat flour that I bought from the nearby heritage flour mills when I was living in Vineland, Ontario 35 years ago. There are a number of similarities between whole-wheat flour & spelt flour. Spelt is an ancient relative of durum wheat. The major difference is that it has never been hybridized. It is high in fibre and offers sources of iron and manganese. Spelt has high water solubility, which means its nutrients are easily absorbed into the body. Individuals who are sensitive to wheat can more easily digest spelt. Sourdough further enhances digestion as the sourdough bacteria pre-digests the flour through a slow fermentation process. Research indicates it takes longer for our bodies to digest sourdough, which in turn helps regulate blood sugar levels. Sourdough gives the bread an amazing texture and incredible flavour and an unbeatable crust.
While I enjoyed making my own sourdough starter, it is certainly not for everyone. The dietary restrictions of my family were my key motivation for developing these starters.
You can buy starter if you want to try making your own sourdough bread. Artisan bakeries will sometimes sell you a small amount of starter (you only need an oz. of starter to make a sourdough bread), or you can order it online (See Sources below).
I would like to acknowledge the excellent work of Halle Cottis from Whole Lifestyle Nutrition – her article for making a sourdough starter and sourdough spelt bread were wonderful resources and I encourage you to utilize if you are considering making a spelt sourdough starter and spelt sourdough bread. (Please See Sources)
After having developed my own starter, I can attest how the process challenges ones patience and time. It is an art form developing your own starter using the more unique grains and flours.
Like all good things, a starter takes time – one to two weeks for a good strong starter. Please refer to Halle’s site for a very detailed step-by-step process for creating your own starter.
SOURDOUGH SPELT BREAD
The following has been adapted from Halle Cottis’s recipe for “How to Make a Real Sourdough Spelt Loaf.”
- 350 g filtered water (1 ½ cups) room temperature
- 3 Tablespoons honey, melted
- ¼ cup active sourdough starter
- 530 grams of organic Spelt flour (about 5 cups )
- 10 grams fine sea salt (2 teaspoons)
- In a large non-metal bowl, combine the filtered water, melted honey and sourdough starter and mix well.
- In a smaller bowl, combine the spelt flour and salt together.
- Add the dry ingredients to the liquid mixture and mix well. It is a wet dough.
- Cover the bowl loosely with plastic wrap and place in a warm place for one hour.
CHEF TIP: I set the bowl in my oven with the light left on.
- After one hour, stretch the dough by flouring your hands and stretching the dough lengthwise and fold over itself; then stretch the dough in the opposite direction and fold over itself. Place the dough back in the bowl and place the bowl in a warm place for another 30 minutes.
- Repeat the step above two more times.
- Now the dough gets a good long rest (overnight) until it doubles in size – 8 hours or so
Option # 1: I kept my dough in the oven with the light on overnight to maintain a consistent temperature overnight.
Option # 2: Proofing the dough overnight in the fridge and next morning, carrying on the next step of pinching dough from outside to inside. This is the option that I prefer after having tried both. I find that I have more control over the dough and then I let the dough come to room temperature for an hour before I start the pinching and pulling toward the center process as outlined in the next step.
- The next morning, scrape the dough from the bowl onto a board liberally sprinkled with spelt flour (I used rice flour). Pinch the dough from the outside towards the center creating a round boule shape.
- Liberally sprinkle a light dishtowel with flour and place the dough onto the dishtowel. Gather up all four corners and place the towel with the dough inside a metal colander or basket. Proof in a warm spot for one and a half hours. CHEF TIP: The dough may not double in size but it will have expanded. It will expand further once it is baking in the oven.
- Place an empty covered Dutch Oven into the oven and preheat the oven to 450oF after the one hour proofing time is reached. You will note that my vintage Dutch Oven is oval, so this has determined the shape of my bread.
- Once the bread has proofed for one and a half hours (the dough has almost doubled now), carefully remove the very hot preheated Dutch oven from the oven and remove the cover. Tip the dough gently into the hot Dutch oven. Working quickly, with a sharp knife (or a lame, pronounced ‘lahm’, which is a baker’s blade meaning blade in French) make a few shallow cuts into the top of the dough as shown in the photo. Then place the cover back on the Dutch oven. A baker’s lame is on my wishlist, as is a banneton, to proof the bread, and a rectangular bread/pizza stone – all in good time. You do not really need any special equipment for baking bread. I use what I have on hand.
- Place the Dutch Oven into the oven and bake for 25 minutes.
- After 25 minutes, uncover the Dutch oven. Reduce the temperature to 400°F and bake uncovered for a further 15 – 20 minutes or until the bread reaches a temperature of 195o. What is happening now is the extra moisture in the bread will be released and the crust will begin to crisp up and brown. The darker the crust, the tastier the bread, in my humble opinion.
- Remove the Dutch oven from the oven. Remove the bread from the Dutch oven using two spatulas or wooden spoons and place on a rack to cool.
- Now, this is the hardest part: continue cooling the bread for one hour before slicing and enjoying with butter and homemade jam or a chunk of cheese. Keep in mind that Spelt is a whole grain and the density of the bread will reflect this. It is delicious and nutty with the typical chewy texture and crispy crust of a true sourdough bread.
Here is your visual step-by-step procedure How to Make Spelt Sourdough:
In summary, working with unique grains and flours to make my own starters and baking sourdough bread from those starters was an excellent exercise both from a learning standpoint but also the rewards of successfully creating delicious bread.
Please CLICK the link above to access my UrbnSpice LEARNING TIPS, which are listed alphabetically on the Learning Tips blog post under the following subheadings:
- Oven Temperature Accuracy
As always, if you give this recipe for Spelt Sourdough Bread a try, please come back and leave me a comment below with your feedback.
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Digestibility of Sourdough