The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Why use spelt, millet, barley

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Jo_Jo_'s picture

Why use spelt, millet, barley

I am just curious, and was thinking of trying some different things, but I can't find these in small quantities where I live.  I do not want a ton of flour sitting and not getting use.  I guess my question is, why do people use these other grains?  What does it give you flavor wise for breads?  Are they mostly used when people have health issues?  Do they provide a different flavor experience?  I understand rye, it makes a fabulous flavored bread, especially with caraway seeds too!  I am just not sure about some of the other flours I am seeing for making bread.

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

Many times I find millet (there are many varieties) and barley in local Asian markets.  The price is lower and products are often fresher than the wheat flour available.   

Variety is the spice of life.  Sometimes it's fun to try something new and different and not familiar.  

Spelt?  I like the flavor and it works well with rye.  I don't like spelt alone, at least not the loaves I can buy here.  Why?  no idea.  The bread tastes like it's missing something.  Spelt is excellent when combined with other flours.  It adds a springy softness extending the gluten matrix -- one has to be careful not to overproof the dough as it gives great oven spring.

Mini  :)

merlie's picture

Hi Mini and Jo_Jo_  The spelt bread as made by Franco is 100 percent spelt flour and is simply delicious - wonderful flavour ! I was surprised and delighted when (with his help) I eventually mastered it !


Jo_Jo_'s picture

It's time's like this that I miss living in Sacramento, we had so many different stores!  Co-ops, Asian markets, farmers markets, and so very many others.  Here in Oregon, we have to order most of our stuff and have it shipped in.  They carry "normal" & "standard" supplies, but even in the bigger cities they just don't have things like that.  I was thinking of ordering on, but I would really like to try the stuff first!  I do use a cereal mix in my multigrain breads, which contains millet, barley, oats, and a few other grains.  It's hard to tell though what each adds!  I will have to give this some thought.

mrfrost's picture

"There in Oregon", you have Bob's Red Mill. They have all that and more?

There are undoubtedly some stores that carry at least some of their products. Maybe you can use their website "store finder" to find a source that carries many of their items.

Chuck's picture

Are you going to take some sort of vacation by automobile this summer? If so, use it as an opportunity to poke into markets that aren't like the ones around your home and buy all sorts of unusual flours and nuts in small quantities. Then spend the winter baking and figuring out which ones you like. After that you can start searching out "regular" sources of the ones you like.

(To try to answer your question more directly: from what I can see folks have all kinds of different reasons for using grains other than wheat-- health, the baking challenge, the taste, variety, be different than the neighbors, anti-big-business, back-to-nature, only eating foods that are mentioned in the Bible, ...)

Jo_Jo_'s picture

Thanks, I think mostly I was looking for whether the taste is that much better or different when using these other grains.  I do have Bob's red mill at the local store, but they only carry certain products.  I can get my rye flour, oat bran, and an 8 grain cereal (I use this for my multigrain breads), but they don't carry things like spelt, barley, and millet.  I have spent a great deal of time in Boise Idaho, and still haven't found a store that carry's other grains.  In fact, most of the city stores don't even have Rye flour.

It's just so very expensive to order things to be delivered, and they want you to buy a large quantity.  I think I will just have to wait till I go visit family in the Puget Sound area, maybe they will have something up there. My sis-in-law will know where all the whole food stores are, so that will help.  That is if I can afford it after paying for the gas to get up north!

Understand when I say that I live in the boonies, which means that it is a 3 hour drive just to get to a town larger than what I live in, and my town is roughly 2,000 people.  In fact my county is one of the largest in Oregon and only has 5,000 people in it.  We have a single stop light in the middle of town, and if you drive out of town from that light in any of the 4 directions it takes approximately 3 hours to get to another stop sign or stop light and you only drive thru 1 town in each of the 4 directions.  I choose to live here because it's a great place to live, but occasionally it means I have to make sacrifices like certain things are just not available to me. My choice is to buy grains in larger quantities and have them shipped in, or wait till I go to areas that are more into carrying specialty items.  Oh well, life goes on!

Nummy, just made Wally's cheese bread, except I added green chili peppers for Cinco de Mayo.  It is really good, and not spicy at all, just a mild cheese flavor.  The pappers just take a background flavor to the cheese.  Definitely will make this again, bet pepperjack cheese would be wonderful in it!

uncle goosehead's picture
uncle goosehead

Being on the Canadian Prairies, we can buy large bags of just about any grain.  I have noticed that there is nothing with the good gluten of Canadian wheat flours, such that there is no point in buying so called 'bread flour'. It is all hard spring wheat here.  Barley and rye flours are also readily available.  Most producers would prefer the barley goes malting for beer and the rye for what we call "rye", which means whisky.  We've a producer growning quinoa near Kamsack , and it is good quality but expensive.  I'm using millet, sorgum, chickpea, lentil and soy flours in small quantities.  Mostly for taste and for fortification re nutrients.  Ground flax as a flavourant and good for the cholesterol.  I suggest using whatever is about in your area.

Jo_Jo_'s picture

Thanks all, for the time you have given me!  You are right Uncle Goosehead, I will probably just stick with what is available here, and when I go other places I will simply pick up small packages.  Maybe if I hear from friends heading up north I will ask them to look for grains for me too!  Anyway, I think that it sounds like it would give me a variety of flavors, but I think I need patience while I wait for my time to try these.  I use ground flax regularly, as it is one of the Bob's Red Mill products that IS on the shelves here.  I was really disappointed when I heard the local grocery store had fired all of it's stocking crew.  I had just put together an order and had sent my dear hubby in to give it to the person that orders.  Now they are all new people, and don't seem to know their head from their tail!  Oh well, life does go on...

Yerffej's picture

I would say that most commonly alternate grains are used for their flavor.


hanseata's picture

I buy small quantities of more "exotic" grains to indulge in my pleasure of trying new and different things. But spelt is one of my most used grains, I bake with it nearly as much as with whole wheat, rye and bread flour. The baking properties are very similar to wheat (though, indeed, it proofs faster), but the taste is nuttier.

I also like breads made with buckwheat for its very distinct flavor (buckwheat grows in Maine).

I just ordered Maria Speck's much praised book "Ancient Grains for Modern Meals" - to learn more about cooking with more unusual grains.


Jo_Jo_'s picture

Thanks!  What a great answer, definitely makes me look at spelt quite differently.  I hope I find some soon so that I can try it!

hanseata's picture

I hope you'll be able to get hold of some, Jo_Jo.

Here's a link to my favorite spelt bread:

Happy baking,