Spelt Sourdough

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Preparation info

  • Difficulty

    Medium

  • Makes 1.5 kg of dough or

    3

    loaves

Appears in

Bourke Street Bakery

By Paul Allam and David McGuinness

Published 2009

  • About

Spelt is a member of the wheat family but pre-dates wheat; many moons ago it was common in the fields of Europe. The main difference between the two is that the spelt kernel has a tough outer hull that does not come off when threshed. The spelt kernel is sent away to be threshed through a special machine, which is why it is unloved by farmers and consequently more expensive to purchase.

People often think that spelt loaves are gluten-free but this is not the case. The spelt sourdough contains a fair amount of gluten, although the gluten that it does contain is easier to digest than standard wheat flour. If you are seriously affected by gluten, a 100 per cent rye loaf is a much better option. Spelt is also low on the glycaemic index and a good option for diabetics. This loaf has a lovely caramel flavour and texture and if you close your eyes really tight you can almost taste the past.

Ingredients

  • 310 g (11 oz) white starter
  • 810 g (1 lb 12½ oz) organic white spelt flour
  • 360 ml (12½ fl oz) water
  • 15 g (½ oz/ tablespoons) sea salt

Method

To mix the spelt sourdough by hand, put the starter in a large mixing bowl with the spelt flour and water. Mix together with a large spoon until the mixture comes together to form a dough. Turn out onto a clean work surface and knead into a ball for about 10 minutes. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside to rest for 20 minutes. Sprinkle the salt over the dough and knead it for a further 10 minutes. Cover and set aside for 10 minutes. Knead well for a further 5 minutes, or until smooth and elastic.

If you are using an electric mixer, put the starter in the bowl of the mixer fitted with the dough hook attachment. Add the spelt flour and water. Mix on slow speed for 4 minutes, then increase the speed to medium–fast for 3 minutes. Cover the bowl and set aside to rest for 20 minutes. Sprinkle the salt over the dough and mix on slow speed for 1 minute. Increase the speed to medium-fast for 6 minutes, or until smooth and elastic.

To check the dough has the required structure, roll up a little piece of dough and stretch it out to create a ‘window’. If the dough tears at the slightest touch, it is under-mixed and you need to mix it more — what you want is to be able to stretch out the dough to transparency.

Lightly grease a container with oil spray and sit the dough inside. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside at ambient room temperature (approximately 20°C/68°F) for 1 hour to bulk prove.

To knock back the dough, turn it out onto a lightly floured work surface and press out into a rectangle, about 2.5 cm (1 inch) thick. Use your hands to fold one-third back onto itself, then repeat with the remaining third. Turn the dough 90 degrees and fold it over again into thirds. Place the dough back into the oiled container and continue to bulk prove for a further 1 hour.

Use a blunt knife or divider to divide the dough into three even-sized portions, weighing about 500 g (1 lb 2 oz) each. Working with one portion of dough at a time, continue to shape the loaves following the instructions for shaping a batard loaf.

Line three small baskets with a tea towel (dish towel) in each, lightly dust each with flour and place a loaf inside, seam side up. If you are using a traditional cane basket, you don’t need the tea towel and can simply dust the basket with flour. Alternatively, you can place the loaves on a baking tray lined with baking paper, seam side down. Place in the refrigerator loosely covered with a plastic bag for 8–12 hours.

Preheat the oven to its highest temperature. Remove the loaves from the refrigerator and let them rest in a humid place, about 25°C (77°F) — this could take anywhere between 1 and 4 hours — until each loaf has grown in size by two-thirds. If the loaves push back steadily and quickly when you push lightly into them with a finger then they are ready. Score the loaves and place them in the oven.

Spray the oven with water and bake the loaves for 20 minutes, then turn the loaves or trays around, and bake for a further 10 minutes, watching carefully to make sure that the loaves do not burn. Check the base of each loaf with a tap of your finger — if it sounds hollow, it is ready. Baking should take no longer than 40 minutes in total.