For this month’s Bread Baking Babes assignment, Astrid, our queen of spelt, chose a whole grain bread based on the writings of Hildegard of Bingen, 12th-century theologian, writer, healer, nutritionist, and, according to Astrid, the Middle Ages’ own spelt queen. According to Saint Hildegard, “Spelt creates healthy body, good blood and a happy outlook on life.” We can’t ask for much more than that, now, can we?
(Well, I might ask for one more thing: Astrid mentioned that Hildegard was a proponent of the healing power of jewelry. This is very good news! I am going to investigate this further and see if I can get my health insurance to pay for a pearl ring, or maybe an opal necklace.)
But back to the spelt bread. I really love the flavor of spelt; it is nuttier and less bitter than whole wheat. Because this is a 100% whole-grain bread (60% whole spelt flour and 40% spelt flakes), and because its gluten is not as strong as that of its cousin, wheat, this is a dense bread. However, it is moist and flavorful, and a perfect accompaniment for winter soup.
I found packaged spelt flakes in the hot cereal section of Whole Foods. The whole spelt flour was in the bulk section, but it is also sold in packages online or in the baking section of the market.
The recipe is as Astrid presented it, with my notes in italics. The other Babes (links in sidebar) will also provide you with useful tips in case you too would like a healthy body, good blood, and a happy outlook packaged in a tasty little loaf.
Hildegard’s Spelt Bread
400 grams spelt flakes
600 grams whole spelt flour
15 grams salt
40 grams fresh yeast [I substituted 16 grams instant yeast]
200 ml milk, lukewarm [I used nonfat milk]
500 ml water, lukewarm
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon sunflower oil
Mix spelt flakes and spelt flour with the salt. Dissolve yeast in milk and combine everything to a sponge. Cover the bowl with a kitchen towel and let rest for about 15-20 minutes. [This was an extremely dry and crumbly mixture. Don’t worry about it.]
Add water and lemon juice to the sponge and knead for at least 15 minutes gradually adding the sunflower oil. [I mixed by hand on the counter, with a dough scraper to help keep things more or less neat. At first the mixture was a gloppy mess. Don’t worry about it; it comes together quite a bit with mixing.]
Form doughball and coat with warm water. [Mine was still too slack to form a ball at this point. I just plopped it into a bowl.] Cover again with kitchen towel and let double in size. [I left it for about an hour.] Knead for another 2-3 minutes.
Cut dough in 2 equal halves and place each in a baking pan. [At this point the dough had enough body that I could pat it out into rectangles on a floured counter and roll them up into logs. I used 9 x 5-inch pans but 8 x 4 would have been better, yielding taller loaves.] Cut the surface of both breads about 5 mm deep and let rise again until doubled in size. [I left it for about 30 minutes, which was slightly too long.]
Bake the first 15 minutes at 200 °C [400F], then lower heat to 195 °C [385F] and bake for another 30 minutes.
– The longer you knead the dough, the more air will be incorporated – but be careful not to overknead the dough! [This is why I mixed by hand.]
– You can also soak the spelt flakes in the lukewarm milk a while before you assemble the sponge, if you prefer.
– Be careful that the dough will not overrise, especially at the last rising step. Spelt loves to overrise if you are not careful enough.
– It’s recommended to place a bowl with water into the oven for the first 15 minutes of baking. [I used my usual steaming method.]
– You can also brush the finished bread with some milk and let dry for about one minute in the oven.