Sourdough Wholegrain Spelt Loaf

I love spelt and I love eating whole grain.

When I first started teaching myself sourdough baking, I was determined to work with this nutty, ancient grain and not leave out any of its bran. I wanted a well-risen, easy-to-make, wild yeast loaf which was soft in the middle and crusty on the outside.

After a few months, I had beautiful loaves that tasted great, but they’d go stale very quickly. Experimentation led me to adding a scald – a portion of flour cooked in water – to the dough. This made the bread even softer, and stopped the problem with it going stale.

SInce then, over 18 months ago, I have made this bread every week. it has become a joyful, delicious staple in our home. It is wonderful fresh, slices really well, keeps and can be frozen.

The basics

You will need a 1kg loaf tin and an active sourdough starter. (See my post How to Create a Sourdough Starter for guidance if you need it.)

I build my sourdough levain for this bread the night before I want to bake. I then make the scald and mix the dough the next morning, ferment during the day and bake that afternoon. These timings can be played with depending on your schedule and the temperature of your house.

The night before:

Build your sourdough levain

45g wholegrain spelt flour

32g non-chlorinated water

13.5g active sourdough starter

Mix these well and leave them in a warm place overnight. (If you need help, check out my article called How to Keep Your Sourdough Starter Warm.)

The next morning:

Make the scald

48g wholegrain spelt flour

192g non-chlorinated water

Put both of these ingredients in a saucepan on medium to high heat and stir the mixture continuously, with a whisk or wooden spoon, until it starts to really thicken. Turn the heat down to low and continue to stir well for another few minutes – you are looking for a thick mixture that is not lumpy. Protocol suggests this mixture should reach 65C/150F. In practice I have found that cooking for 4/5 minutes will do this. Once done, leave this to cool.

Make the dough

507g wholegrain spelt flour

11g salt

196g non-chlorinated water

optional: 1 tbsp honey

Mix the salt into the flour in a large bowl. Add your sourdough levain (which should be peaking or have just peaked), the water, the optional honey and the cooled scald. Mix until well combined using your hands.

Cover and leave to bulk ferment in a warm place. The dough should increase in size by sixty to seventy percent. In the summer, for me, this takes three hours, in the winter, five.

At the end of the bulk ferment period, grease and flour your baking tin. Gently tip the loaf out on to a floured board and shape it to fit your tin. Place into the tin, cover and leave to prove in a warm place until visibly risen. In my warm house this usually takes between an hour and an hour and a half.

Baking

If baking in a metal loaf tin, preheat your oven to 230C/445F. Brush the loaf with water and cook at 230C/445F for fifteen minutes, then reduce the temperature to 210C/410F for another fifteen minutes, finally turning the temperature to 190C/375F for a further thirty minutes. After this time, take the loaf out and check whether it is done by either tapping the bottom and listening for a hollow sound or using a probe thermometer and looking for a temperature of c. 90-95C/194-203F.

If baking in a ceramic loaf tin with a lid, preheat your oven to 210C/410F. Brush the loaf with the water and cook at 210C/410F for fifteen minutes, then reduce the temperature to 190C/375C for the remaining cooking time of c. forty-five minutes. After this time take the loaf out and check whether it is done by either tapping the bottom and listening for a hollow sound or using a probe thermometer and looking for a temperature of c. 90-95C/194-203F.

Sharing it:

I want to see and hear about your process: your ingredients, how you got on with baking, the finished bread, how you eat it and who you share it with. I post pictures on Instagram @ancestral_kitchen, if you’re there, post using the hashtag #ancestralcookup and tag me (@ancestral_kitchen). If you don’t have instagram, please do comment at the bottom of my blog post – you can upload your pictures there too.

If you want to give my recipe a go, I thank you. I’ve been looking for a community of cooks for a while. If you help make it more than just me in my kitchen, you’re guaranteed to make me smile!

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