Spelt Bake-Off (title changed from Spelt)

TeckPoh's picture

Note inserted on 10 April 2008:
The idea to change this thread to a bake-off was cooked up here. Let's share our experiences with spelt, what works and what doesn't. Teresa has a very helpful thread on her spelt experience. Nowonmai and bushturkey have started blogs...see here and here. Theoreticgal tells about her spelt starter here. There's lots of time for all to join in...20 days and counting. I may bake another loaf or 2.

Announcing....that spelt has finally arrived on our shores....Bob's Red Mill. It's expensive but I was so thrilled to finally see it here that I bought the lone packet without even glancing at its price. It was the only packet not because many bought it, the shop had only one packet because even they don't know anything about spelt and didn't expect anybody to buy it. I've put in orders for more.

Here's the fully sourdough half plain/half spelt loaf I made last week. I'm toying with the idea of making fully spelt. Shall I?

Thanks for looking.


444 users have voted.


Ginger's picture
Ginger 2008 April 18
I baked a loaf of 100% sourdough spelt yesterday and you can see pics of it on my blog www.freshginger.org  It turned out pretty good, a little flatter than I wanted, as usual.  I am going to try adding rice malt next time now that I have some (I can't eat wheat or barley malt).  Molasses worked for this round.

Ginger's picture
Ginger 2008 April 18
It appears that you all have a method to measure your starter and dough hydration.  This is certainly more scientific than I have baked, but I would like to learn more about it.  Hopefully I will have better bread!  So, how does one measure hydration?  Any simple methods for the home/hobby baker?
celia's picture
celia 2008 April 18

Ginger, hydration, as I understand it, is a % derived from dividing the total amount of liquid in the recipe by the total amount of flour.

So, say I have 320g water and 50g olive oil to my 500g flour, then my hydration would be 370/500 or 74%.

When you use a sourdough starter, it's a bit more complicated, because you have to take into account the amount of flour and water in your starter.  It's easy if your starter is at 100% (eg. it's been fed with 100g flour to 100g water).  To figure it out then, you have to add the amounts to the equation - eg.

100g starter at 100% = 50g flour + 50g water

So your liquids become :

320g water
50g oil
50g water in starter

and flour is :

500g flour
50g flour in starter

So hydration is 420/550 or 76.5%

Of course this isn't a real recipe, it's just worked as an example. :)
jacklang 2008 April 18
Hydration is in Bakers Percent, that is total weight of water compared to the total weight of flour.

In my loaf:

Starter: 200g flour, 100g water (50% hydration)
Dough: 400g flour, 320g water

Thus hydration of the final dough is (100+320)/(400+200) = 420/600 =70%

You can work this backwards. The dough was a bit wet. If I wanted say 65% hydration next time, using the same 50% hydration starter  starter I need 65%*600-100 = 290g water in the dough step.

Digital scales are wonderful!
TeckPoh's picture
TeckPoh 2008 April 18

I tried to follow your link but it doesn't work. It would be great if you could post the picture here; saves lazy people like me another click.

Besides spelt, what do you use to make bread? I'm beginning to like spelt a lot.
TeckPoh's picture
TeckPoh 2008 April 18

NOT! I didn't know what to name these super decadent buns. Nope, not sticky buns nor chelsea buns, no cinnamon, no raisins. So, my little one decided it's to be called Cheeky Buns! It's loosely based on Dan Lepard's chelsea buns in The Handmade Loaf. I converted it to fully sourdough and changed the flavour to entirely asian, or rather, malaysian which you can see from the ingredients.

200g white starter
350g wholegrain spelt
  50g plain flour
  80g milk
  80g water blended with 6 long pandan leaves to make juice
      2 eggs
  50g agave nectar
      1 tsp salt

Filling: 100g organic molasses sugar, 50g caster sugar, 50g butter, 4T nui coconut oil, 200g macadamia nuts, chopped

Edit to add: The idea was to drizzle butterscotch over the buns...but I wasn't watching and it became butterscotch brittle...not a bad thing at all!

I'm happy with my cheeky buns.

Ginger's picture
Ginger 2008 April 18
When not using spelt, I make gluten free bread using rice flour, sorghum flour, oats, chickpea flour and various starches as well as xan gum.  I much prefer the spelt!  I never baked much before I found out I had Celiac (gluten intolerance), as we have some great bakeries nearby that make a mean sourdough.
TeckPoh's picture
TeckPoh 2008 April 18

This link works better, Ginger. Thanks for your pix! If you could just link the bigger pix, like in your blog, it would be perfect! Talking about your blog, I'm getting real hungry...even after half a cheeky bun.

celia's picture
celia 2008 April 18

Ginger, I'm really surprised you can eat spelt.  I have several friends with celiac's disease, and they have zero tolerance to gluten, so even the spelt (which has gluten) is out ?
Ginger's picture
Ginger 2008 April 18
I didn't want to be a space hog, so next time will link to the bigger pix!  I am not that tech savvy, but am learning!  I am not sure why my link didn't work the first two times!  Thanks for the help!
celia's picture
celia 2008 April 18

TP, they look WICKED !  Well done, I've put on a couple of kilos just looking at those..  :)
TeckPoh's picture
TeckPoh 2008 April 18

I'm surprised I'm not knocked out by sugar overload today. The buns kept me going through a day filled with unexpected visits to the dentist and hospital. Ya think this can be neutralised by a potful of pu-erh?
nowonmai 2008 April 18
right, am online again and entering the fray! the only problem is finding my camera cable! have tried two spelt loaves, one with oats (in the form of porridge) and one with linseed. both successful, the linseed more so...very good chewy texture, pretty sour and tangy....the pics will be up soon as i find my cable!
Ginger's picture
Ginger 2008 April 19
I have discovered that some people with Celiac can eat spelt, and some cannot.  If I have the smallest bit of wheat cross contamination I react.  I have zero tolerance to wheat, barley and rye gluten.  But spelt is a little different and not often discussed.  Most are not willing to try it, but I am willing to take a risk now and then and see what happens.  Everything on the internet says: don't eat spelt!  So that is why most won't.  I will admit I was scared to try it at first.  The first bite was tough not knowing what reaction might entail.  I have no reaction when I eat it and have my antibodies tested every 6 months just to be sure.  The gluten in spelt is so much easier to digest (for everyone) and is so much older than the altered wheat that we are eating these days, that it makes a difference.  Spelt and wheat are genetically 98.5% the same.  Humans and monkeys are 98.5% genetically the same.  Most of the info out there says, we assume that spelt has the same.....as wheat, and that people with Celiac shouldn't eat spelt.  There is no definitive info out there so then it comes down to:  my body doesn't react to the gluten in spelt.

Whenever I blog about spelt I usually get a lot of reactions about Celiacs and spelt and that it has gluten in it and I hope I don't sound like I am on the defensive above.

I do hope that more people will try it, as my baking life is happier with it (oh, and it lowered my cholesterol by 18 point - at least I think it was the spelt, that was the only thing in my diet that changed in the last year) and  easier, once you figure out how to work with it.

Thanks for the question!

canadianmountaingoat's picture
canadianmountaingoat 2008 April 19
I made another batch of spelt. The loaf below was very nice; I don't have a crumb shot but it was similar to the last one, looking dense and tight but the texture is still quite light. Very nice nutty flavour. Again, nowonmai's spelt recipe - thank you!

celia's picture
celia 2008 April 19

Ginger, thank you very much for this !  I have several friends who are coeliacs, and I'm going to pass this info onto them.  If they're interested, I can even try and make some loaves for them...

Cheers, Celia
Ginger's picture
Ginger 2008 April 19
Celia, if your friends are interested, one thing to keep in mind is cross contamination.  I buy my spelt from Vita Spelt and know that it is safe and any wheat they process is in a different plant.  Since spelt legally has to be labelled wheat, there is not a way to tell if it was processed on the same machinery.  I have had pretty good luck with Bobs Red Mill too.  I wouldn't start them out with any whole spelt (whole grains (like cabbage)can give you some side effects if you are not used to them ) and I wouldn't want them to think they have been glutened when really it is just roughage that we celiacs can be unused to.  I would be happy to answer any of their questions too!
celia's picture
celia 2008 April 19

Many thanks, Ginger.  I've passed all that info on.  I'm so happy to hear that the spelt works for you - I know how hard my coeliac friends find it not being able to eat bread !
Ginger's picture
Ginger 2008 April 19
Wow, is that 100% spelt?  I need a lesson if it is!  Those look like what I am trying for but not succeeding.
canadianmountaingoat's picture
canadianmountaingoat 2008 April 19
*bows* I am quite surprised with the results myself actually. I think it must be the starter in this case, which I bought for 2$ from a local artisanal bakery, a full cup's worth! It's a whole grain spelt starter that was very happily bubbly and stringy when I got it. In fact, I would not be surprised if that bakery manages to make a whole spelt dough with it that is as pliable and soft as the one in the bakery video elsewhere in this forum (sorry - not good yet with links).

Thanks for putting up the link to the recipe, TP! I'll figure it out eventually...
celia's picture
celia 2008 April 19

... I especially love the S cut !

Tried my spelt loaf today using some of the ABA white spelt flour - bit by bit, the crumb is improving.  Really happy with this loaf, and with spelt flour in general.  No malt in this loaf, so it's whiter than the others.

TeckPoh's picture
TeckPoh 2008 April 19

What lovely loaves! I haven't had such lovely spring for a while.

I think it's because I haven't been giving TLC to my starter (yet to find a name...:( or rather names...I have around 4 jars in the fridge). While my starter used to be triple its volume at its peak, it's now only double. I need to go through the whole feeding constantly rigmarole, I guess. No shortcuts.

TP, full of envy
jacklang 2008 April 20
"Health" bread:
Sourdough wholemeal organic spelt with 50% "Omega" mix:
Sunflower seed, pumpkin seed, dehulled soya beans and pine nuts, rich in Vitamin E. Satisfying and filling bread - good for diets.

65% hydration, Handling easy compared to the all white spelt.

On the peel before baking:

Jeremy's picture
Jeremy 2008 April 20
I just got a box of spelt matzoh, going all out and making all the Pesach goodies, chicken liver,(chopped of course), gefilte fish, (home made), Matzoh ball soup and some coconut macaroons, of course they are really French Rocher!

Happy holiday's
jacklang 2008 April 20

A slice, increased contrast.
TP: Nothing was soaked first. 100% spelt, including spelt sponge.

No Ascorbic acid either.It doesn't make much difference to wholemeal.
Spelt was from Glebe Farm http://www.glebe-flour.co.uk/, about 15 miles from here.

Jeremy, wot no cinnamon balls? Sort of cinnamon maccaroons, being flourless, are traditional in my family this time of year

Jeremy's picture
Jeremy 2008 April 20
No cinnamon balls, as my Mother is a Borgia, (Ceasare and Lucrezia), I am not 100% Jewish, though with a name like Shapiro and looks of a Russian Jew, well I guess the lord above can give me some space?

Try soaking those grains, makes a difference!

Thank you, TP!
gul_dekar 2008 April 21
Well here's my effort. It's based on Hamelman's whole wheat multigrain. It was a bit underproofed and the shaping's a bit off, but I'm working on it!

Spelt multigrain

I just used muesli for the soaker and added some flax seeds because I like 'em. It was quite tasty (finished it within 2 days and it was a 1.5kg loaf).

Here are a couple of pictures of the flour I used. It was half whole wheat and half white spelt flour...

The whole wheat on the left and white on the right:

Although I don't think I'll be baking with spelt too much because it's double the price of the regular wheat stuff!!! (6 euros for the two bags as opposed to 3 euros if I were to get normal wheat flour).

theoreticgal's picture
theoreticgal 2008 April 21
I am drooling over my keyboard after checking out all the posts and pics in this thread. I am working with a 100% spelt starter due to DH's wheat and baker yeast issues.
My second loaf turned out ok very more-ish

100% spelt flour and cooked in a dutch oven.
Recipe was straight off the sheet I got from homebread along with my San Fransisco starter.

I might have to try adding some gluten as the results looked great.
I am an absolute beginner at this sourdough business but it's fun to experiment.
I was also interested to find out where Australian people are buying their spelt from. I don't need a tonne but since I hopefully will be baking heaps so  I don't want to keep paying the premium price and buying in 2kg lots from my local organic store either.

Edit: forgot to add my hydration was around 65%

TeckPoh's picture
TeckPoh 2008 April 21

Jack: Gosh, that's chokeful of seeds! How did you manage to pack them all in?? Very, very nice to chew on, I'm sure.

Gul: Underproved or not, that sure is one mighty fine loaf. With your banneton prints (love 'em), your bread looks like a sea cucumber. Yeah, spelt costs twice as much here too. I like Peter's multigrain loaf too; did you convert it to fully sourdough?

theoreticgal: Wow. I can see you're really getting the hang of making sourdough. Well done!

celia's picture
celia 2008 April 21

I think we're all very clever.  What about different shapes in spelt, people ?  There's still 9 days left in April.. :)

Theo, I bought some really nice organic spelt at $4/kg from http://santostrading.com.au/ .  Unless you're happy to buy it in 25kg bags, you won't really do much better than that, I think.  They also sell Kamut there, which might be of use to you ?
theoreticgal's picture
theoreticgal 2008 April 21
I think we're all very clever.  What about different shapes in spelt, people ?  There's still 9 days left in April.. :)

Theo, I bought some really nice organic spelt at $4/kg from http://santostrading.com.au/ .  Unless you're happy to buy it in 25kg bags, you won't really do much better than that, I think.  They also sell Kamut there, which might be of use to you ?

I actually just popped in a smaller order  (~20kg) with them today to try out the spelt and kamut, plus get some rolled spelt for more anzac biscuits.

I used to use 50/50 spelt/kamut in my baking until it became hard to find kamut.
I'll post on the forums when I get experimenting with them.
I have a newborn so sometimes baking gets sidelined but night feeds make it easy to keep an eye on the dough, a plus side to those 3 hourly feeds :-)

Tonight I am trying a 680gm spelt loaf in an old loaf pan.
Wonder if I hint enough whether I'll get a Banneton for mothers day ;-)

gul_dekar 2008 April 21
The banneton is a nice wicker basket I got from a cheese shop nearby. The owner asked if I was using it as a gift basket and I told him it was for proofing bread. And he went, "yeah, but will you put other gifts in it as well?" :P

Yeah it was fully sourdough, using a liquid starter since that's what the recipe called for. Although I'm not too sure how different it would taste with a stiffer starter which is what I keep in the fridge and for regular baking.
TeckPoh's picture
TeckPoh 2008 April 22

Celia, I've been admiring your epi(s?) for a while. Perfect!

My freezer is packed with bread at the moment, so I'm not sure if I'll do another spelt soon.

Does anyone notice that eating spelt promotes great....er...bowel functionality? Jack says, rather, it's sourdough.
celia's picture
celia 2008 April 22

...I rang all my neighbours and said "I'm in a baking frenzy at the moment, and my freezer is full - will you take some frozen bread, so I can bake some more ?"


Haven't noticed any changes to bowel functions, but the spelt is certainly tasty !  Though Jack's last bread would certainly keep you regular !
Ginger's picture
Ginger 2008 April 22
Ah ha!  I have been wondering that too.  I think it has more soluble fiber in it, that combined with sourdough?  I didn't realize that sourdough had that power (until the other day when I ate 1/2 loaf!), perhaps it is just like sauerkraut.  Made a nice spelt sourdough loaf riddled with parm, fresh rosemary and cracked pepper.  Will post a pic later this eve, must hit the road for work today.
nowonmai 2008 April 22

my god....well done CMT!!! although i hate to admit it, your loaves look a hell of a lot better than mine, an its my recipe! absolutely stunning, and now you can tell me how you did it....i have a lot of catching up to do i think!
SourDom 2008 April 23
Hi guys - you have been busy in my absence.

I am way behind the pack, but will hopefully bake this weekend!!

Ginger, Celia,

I don't want to disappoint anyone, but I would be very cautious about recommending spelt to someone with true celiac disease. This is not exactly my field of expertise, but I thought that I should provide a note of caution.

It is worth distinguishing between people who are 'wheat allergic', or 'wheat intolerant' and coeliac disease. Coeliac disease is a disorder of the immune system in which the body produces antibodies that chew up lining cells of the bowel when sufferers eat a diet containing gluten. If they eat products containing even a tiny amount of gluten they can develop serious complications (including lymphoma). Barley and rye are also prohibited.
People who are wheat intolerant can have a variety of symptoms which are blamed on eating wheat. They may be able to tolerate other strains of wheat (including spelt), as well as rye, barley etc

The reason for my caution is that lab-based studies show the same sort of immune response to spelt proteins as to wheat proteins. There is not much data in humans (as you point out). There is one highly relevant case study

Hogberg L, Stenhammar L.
Is spelt wheat toxic to those with celiac disease?
J Pediatr Gastroenterol Nutr. 2000 Sep;31(3):321.
A 20 year old woman with clearly diagnosed celiac disease wanted to try introducing spelt. After a year and a half there were changes in the lining of her bowel indicating that her immune system was reacting to the gluten in the spelt. The important thing to note is that from the sound of it, the only definite way to show this was by having a small bowel biopsy (which is invasive and a pretty big deal).

This does not prove that all patients with celiac disease will develop reactions to spelt, but it obviously can happen, and can be hard to pick.


Ginger's picture
Ginger 2008 April 23
Thanks for your concern and the article mention.  I will look it up.  My gastro doc said that spelt is a grey area and that it hasn't been studied enough.  I started eating spelt last June and am trying to monitor it with my docs, but I am watchful and trying to learn more so that I can be safe.  I often think that I know more about the risk I am taking than they do.  I did have a biopsy last August but that was after only about 5 weeks of eating spelt.  Since I have celiac, I am aware that things may change and I am always looking for research so that I can make the best decision.  I may have to simply give it up someday, but I sure hope not.  If anyone else has more info on spelt, please send it my way.  I google it all the time, but perhaps am not getting articles from Canada, England or Australia.

celia's picture
celia 2008 April 24

...and waiting in anticipation for your spelt loaf !  Seven days still to go... ;)

I dreamt about TP's sticky spelt buns last night...hmmmm...wanted to try a version.

Wise people, if I want to convert from yeast to leaven, is there a formula ?  So far I've just been making it up.

Thanks, Celia
Jeremy's picture
Jeremy 2008 April 24
Celia darling, A wonderful friend of mine, Mick of Bethesdabakin fame helped me figure out the same query your asking, sometime ago, converting from straight dough to sourdough!
Get out the calculator and well it works!

"If you intend converting the recipe to using a naturally leavened starter (sourdough), this is the way I do it.

It assumes you have a starter at 100% hydration (equal quantities of flour and water) and refresh it twice before mixing your dough. This calculation assumes a starter at 15% of dough weight (not baker’s percentage). You might want to increase that as high as 30%.

Take your yeasted recipe and add up the total amount of flour and the total amount of liquid, add the two together and call that the dough weight. Assuming you want to use starter at 15% of dough weight, calculate what 15% is, halve the amount and deduct that from the flour and from the liquid.

For example, say the recipe has 1000g flour and 600g water – dough weight = 1600g (forget about salt, etc.). 15% of 1600g = 240g = weight of starter (which is made up of equal weights of flour and water). So deduct half of this, 120g from the weight of flour = 880g, and the same for the water = 480g.

So your recipe becomes: flour 880g + water 480g + starter 240g = 1600g.

Then work your starter back two refreshments. If you use the same

method as me - 1st refreshment = 1 starter + 2 flour + 2 water; 2nd refreshment = 5 starter (total of 1st refreshment) + 5 flour and 5 water = 15. Divide the starter in the final dough, 240g, by 15 = 16g.

So it works out as:

1st refreshment – starter 16g + flour 32g + water 32g = 80g.

2nd refreshment – starter 80g + flour 80g + water 80g = 240g.

Bloody brilliant that – I worked it all out myself (took a week to recover)."

Best wishes,


Please tell Mick how wonderful he is and surely he will do just about anything to make your baking experience a good one!

The guy is good!

Extra baggage from transit edited off by TP


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