The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

July 22, 2007 - Help! My Spelt went Splat!

KipperCat's picture

July 22, 2007 - Help! My Spelt went Splat!

This is my first loaf from spelt flour. I wish I had pics of various stages to show you, as I'd love some ideas on why I got absolutely no oven spring from this loaf. The flavor, interior texture and crust were all good. The crumb wasn't as open as I would have liked, but not closed either. I followed the basic NYT/Lahey NK method. I've always used 1.5 cups of liquid for white flour and 2 cups for whole wheat. Knowing that spelt absorbed less flour than wheat, I used 1.75 cups for this loaf. I always got good oven spring using only 2/3's WW flour, but the only loaf that was 100% WW I baked in a pan - here - and didn't get a lot of oven spring either.

This is how I made this loaf.

1 pound whole spelt flour
1/4 teaspoon instant yeast
1 teaspoon salt
2 ounces plain yogurt
12 ounces water

Combine dry ingredients. Stir yogurt and water together, then add to flour mix. Stir until all flour is moistened, then knead briefly with heavy spoon in bowl. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and leave on counter for about 12 hours. (At this point I had bubbles on top of the dough and the gluten strands were quite visible on tipping the dough bowl.) Turn dough out on floured surface. Do a few stretch-and-folds. (At this point I may have let the dough rest an hour or so, followed by a couple more stretch-and-folds and a 15 minute rest. I just don't remember.) Round dough and put in colander to rise. After a few hours, it wast risen only half as well as the white flour dough in this pic. It wasn't even quite to the top of the colander but passed the finger poke test, so I hoped it was ready to bake. (That is, if I gently poked the dough, the indentation was quite slow to fill in - the test mentioned in Laurel's Kitchen Bread Book.)

Turn dough out on baking stone preheated well in a 500F oven. Remove at 20 minutes as the interior temp is about 210F.

This was the most extensible dough I've handled. It never did develop much resistance to my folding or shaping. Is that an indication that the gluten was underdeveloped? Should I have done a few more folds, until the dough felt a bit firmer? After baking, I remembered that I often added 1/4 tsp ascorbic acid (Vit C) and a tablespoon or more gluten to my whole wheat loaves. I had assumed that the Vit C was redundant with the yogurt and didn't even think about adding gluten. Also, salt should have been 1.5 teaspoons.


AnnieT's picture

Hi KipperCat, I made the spelt loaf some time ago but I had read on Eric's site that it didn't get a very open crumb so I substituted 1c of bread flour. It didn't rise as much as the usual versions but it did rise and the crumb was quite open. I guess if you want to use all spelt this isn't much help. I didn't alter the amount of water and seem to remember it was an easy to handle dough. I love the steelcut oats recipe but maybe I will dig out the spelt and try again - and report back. Good excuse to bake more bread? A.

helend's picture

Hi Kippercat

Sorry about your experiment

I never use the NYT method (I didn't enjoy the experience or result) so can't comment on your method but would offer the following obsevations:

  • If you normally add gluten to achieve a good result with wheat then you should with spelt
  • I don't ususally weigh water but your hydration ratio (75%?) looks very high for spelt

I am away for a few days but will give your recipe/method a go when I come back and see if I can help with adjustments.

Pan loaves always rise well although I realise I use a lot more yeast and a traditional kneading method so it might be worth trying out your spelt with Floydm's honey wholewheat recipe using 100% spelt - I have always had a great result with that.




rcornwall's picture

Spelt has a very fragile gluten content. You won't be able to get a good rise due to a weak cell structure. Try cutting some wheat flour or adding some wheat gluten. This should help.


KipperCat's picture

AnnieT, helend & rcornwall -

Thanks for the suggestions and pointers. I'll try this again with a bit less water and added wheat gluten. I'd like to keep the proportion of wheat as low as possible in this loaf, so I think the added gluten will be better than subbing wheat flour for some of the spelt.

If the dough still seems as soft when it's time to bake, I'll try using a container of some sort, which is, after all, the method prescribed in the original NYT/Lahey recipe.

The experiment may need to wait for a few days though as I'm about out of spelt flour.

AnnieT's picture

KipperCat, you mention using a container and I just remembered that I always line my banneton with parchment paper to proof the no knead bread. Makes it so much easier to transfer to the hot pan and less risk of deflating it when dropping it from some height. Hope this helps, forgetful Annie

KipperCat's picture

I've got a half batch on the counter now. I suspect I neither decreased the water enough nor added enough gluten, but we'll see tomorrow.  We had some of the first loaf with dinner tonight.  The loaf shape may not be pretty, but we do like the taste.  The crumb is much more tender than wholegrain wheat.