Friday, January 31, 2020


Best Blog Tips

It's taken me some time to get this blog post done and I'm pretty thrilled with this bread! Let me tell you-- spelt has a wonderful nutty flavor! I've been experimenting with spelt flour in yeast breads because it has a lower glycemic load than wheat.  I had success with Quick & Easy Spelt Burger Buns in my last blog post. But I really wanted to make a tasty, crusty bread, like the French loaves I used to make.

My first spelt loaf was a disaster, because I hadn't done my homework!  It came out like a rock. I didn't know that you need to use less liquid with spelt flour, and that kneading the dough like a wheat loaf is not a good idea! That sent me to the computer to do some research.

For one thing, spelt is more water-soluble than wheat and it also has a higher level of gliadin, the protein that makes dough stretch-- another reason to use less water than with wheat dough. The high gliadin content makes the dough more fragile, which means that vigorous mixing and/or kneading should be avoided in spelt yeast breads.  Some stretching and folding takes the place of kneading.

The following recipe is a good place to start-- there's a long rise at the beginning, but that can happen overnight, or during the day while you do other things.  The rest of the breadmaking process goes quite fast, and the reward is a delicious, crusty artisan loaf!
Happy Bread Baking!

Printable Recipe (with photos)

Makes 1 loaf, but the recipe can be multiplied with good results.

NOTE: I do not advise using sprouted spelt flour in this particular loaf. If you do, the loaf will be crusty on the outside, and tasty and moist on the inside, but with a tighter crumb-- without the open and irregular crumb (the holes) of, for instance, a French loaf. See what I'm referring to below:

Here's the recipe:

1 cup whole grain spelt flour (fine grind if available, stirred before measuring)
2 cups white or "light" spelt flour (stirred before measuring)
Optional, but I used it: 1 Tbsp vital wheat gluten
1 1/4 tsp table salt
1 1/4 cups lukewarm water (OR you can use 1 cup water + a generous 1/4 cup of sourdough starter (refrigerated is fine)
1/4 tsp instant baking yeast
1 Tbsp agave syrup, or maple syrup

In a medium bowl, stir together the two flours and salt. In a smaller bowl or 2 cup measuring cup, mix together the water, yeast and syrup until combined. Add the liquid mixture to the dry ingredients and, using a wooden spoon or spatula, mix until the dough comes together. Now, use your hands to mix the dough until the flour completely mixed with the liquid is a bit sticky. 

Cover the bowl with a towel and let sit at room temperature until bubbley and the dough has just about doubled. ***(7-8 hours depending on your room temperature).

When this first rise is complete, place a heavy cast iron pot and lid, or a medium-sized Granite Ware roaster with a lid into your oven. Turn on your oven to 500 degrees F. Position the rack in the lower third of the oven. (***The pot needs to pre-heat for at least 30 minutes.)

Generously dust a work surface with spelt flour. (I cover my countertop with a baking or pastry mat.) Use a bowl scraper or spatula to scrape the dough out of the bowl and onto your work surface in one piece.

The Folding Process (this takes the place of kneading in spelt breads): Using lightly floured hands, gently pat the dough out into a rectangle. With your dough/pastry scraper or bench knife 
(pictures below), fold one short side of the dough into the middle and then fold the other short side on top. Then fold the dough in half the other direction. Dust lightly with flour, cover with plastic and let rest for 5 minutes.

(***While you are waiting, line a medium sized bowl with parchment paper, pushing the paper down into the bowl with one hand and using your other hand to crease the paper around the inside and top edge of the bowl.)

Repeat the folding process outlined above a 2nd time, then let the dough rest for 5 minutes, then repeat folding process a 3rd time.

Now, with lightly floured hands, pull the dough over on itself gently to form a ball or an oval loaf, pinching it together gently. Place it gently, seam-side-down, into the parchment-lined  bowl, large loaf pan or oval casserole, depending on the shape you want
). Cover the dough  and let rest in a warm spot for 20-25 minutes for the second rise. 

To test if the dough is ready, gently press down with the tip of one finger, about half an inch into the top of the dough. If the dent from your finger remains and springs back only slightly, the dough is ready to bake. If the dent fills in, give the dough another 5-10 minutes to rise and then re-test.

Remove the cover from your bread bowl. Using pot holders, carefully remove the hot pot that you have been pre-heating from the oven and remove the lid. Using both hands, lift the dough out of the bowl by holding all corners of the parchment paper, and lower it into the pot. The edges of the parchment paper will brown, but will be just fine in the hot oven.

Working quickly, spray a gentle mist of water over the top of the dough. Then dust the top of the bread lightly with spelt flour. Use a sharp pair of scissors to make 3-4 shallow cuts at an angle down the center line of the dough (see photo below). Cover the pot with the lid and place it back in the oven.

Reduce the oven heat to 450 degrees F and bake for 30 minutes.

After 30 minutes, remove the lid and continue baking for another 5-10 minutes until the bread is a crusty and browned. Using potholders, carefully lift the bread out of the hot pot (right in the baking parchment) and place it (without the parchment) on a rack to cool thoroughly before cutting with a sharp bread knife. 

The round loaf on the left was baked in a heavy enameled cast iron lidded pot; the
oval loaf on the right was baked in a covered oval Granite Ware roaster.


Sunday, January 12, 2020


Best Blog Tips

It's been over a year since I wrote a new blog post!  I just didn't seem to have the drive or energy to experiment or write, as I had a long, drawn-out case of shingles and I'm still on medication for the resulting nerve pain. The nerve pain from shingles really drained my energy and ambition, and I was basically making simple food

But, the good news is that I am feeling much better and regaining my energy and interest in cooking and writing. (I hope to get back to writing a blog post every week!) As you may have read in past posts from the summer of 2019, back to March of 2018, I was diagnosed with pre-diabetes, which inspired my interest in a low-glycemic diet. My blood sugar levels are now just over the line into diabetic.  But, it's low enough that if I get back into dancing, walking and exercising more frequently, and 
keep learning about and implementing new information about low-glycemic living, I may be able to beat this.

Just one of the items of interest in my search is low-glycemic baking.  I have always loved baking bread and I don't intend to give it up!  For this last year or so I have been eating pretty much only sprouted grain bread (a Canadian brand from the Vancouver area called Silver Hills Bakery).  The sprouted wheat can be ground and kneaded into a strong bread dough (see this blog post). The miraculous thing is that (to explain it in a very simple way), when there are just little white "beads" showing at the point of the grains, the sprouts have used up most, if not all, of the carbohydrate in the grains, making the dough low-glycemic. I definitely want to get back into making that sprouted wheat bread now and then, but I'm also investigating other low-glycemic grains to use.

In muffins and quick breads I've been using mostly a mixture of chickpea flour and oat flour (often with added oat bran, wheat bran and/or bean puree for added fiber and protein, which displace some of the usual carbohydrates). But my experiments with non-wheat yeast breads didn't turn out so well, to put it mildly!  So, I have been exploring the world of spelt flour, which is a fairly low-glycemic relative of wheat, but one which many people who have problems with wheat, but aren't really allergic to gluten, are able to tolerate.

My first spelt bread, which I made using methods generally used for wheat breads, came out like a rock!  So, I did my research, and learned that the glutens in spelt are different from wheat, and you have to use different methods than with wheat baking.  1.) You need to use less liquid per cup of flour than wheat.  2.) The dough should be soft-- even pretty wet, in some cases.  3.) You should not knead the dough for longer than a minute or so.  And. 4.) Spelt dough
 doesn't need as much rising as wheat dough.  All of this makes spelt yeast bread baking quite easy!

One of the first spelt breads that I successfully made was spelt burger buns.  I made them when our neighbor came over for a casual dinner, because she suffers from IBS or something  similar, and spelt is often a good option for some folks with stomach issues. The buns were so easy 
and quick to make, as well as being very tasty (spelt has a very pleasant "nutty" flavor) and having great crumb and crust.

This week I'd like to share the burger bun recipe with you! (Next week I plan to share a delicious crusty spelt bread recipe with you.)

Printable Recipe

Makes 7 buns-- can be doubled

NOTE: You may want to use sprouted spelt flour (though it's more expensive than non-sprouted spelt flour). If you do, you may have to use up to a third more of it than you would of ordinary spelt flour.

Flax Mixture (Let sit while you prepare the rest of the ingredients.)
3 T. water

1 T. flax meal (brown or golden)
Flour Mixture:
3 1/2 cups spelt flour (I used half brown spelt flour and half light spelt flour)
1 T. vital wheat gluten powder (optional)

1/2 T. salt

Liquid Mixture:
1 cup lukewarm water
1 T. instant yeast
1 T. brown sugar
1 T. oil

Mix the Flax Mixture with the Liquid Mixture in a medium bowl. Stir in the Flour Mixture with a stout wooden spoon or a dough whisk (see photo just below) for just a couple of minutes. Flour the dough lightly and pat it out into a long rectangle on a floured mat. Cover and let rise for 15 minutes.

Preheat your oven to 400°F.

With a knife or dough cutter, cut the rectangle into 7 equal parts (weigh them, if you want them to be of even sizes). Form the dough into round buns about 4" across. Don't make them too thick-- they will rise just enough. In fact, I pressed down gently in the middle of each one with the the heel of my hand after shaping them, to prevent them from having a domed top. Place the buns on a baking parchment-lined cookie sheet, leaving some space between them. Cover and let rest for 10 minutes.

Bake the buns for 18 minutes.  Let the buns cool on a rack.