The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Whole Spelt Autolyse

ghazi's picture

Whole Spelt Autolyse

Can anybody give me some advice on how long to autolyse whole spelt for. In the past I have just gone ahead and mixed without any autolyse with good results, now that I taste breads that have an autolyse I cannot go back to not doing one

The method I use is autolyse at 50% for 1 day in the fridge.

400g wholespelt

290g water

60g spelt starter 50% hydration

8g salt

Add starter, salt and water to dough and leave to soak until most of water is absorbed. Bring together and knead briefly to incorporate

I then did 3 S & F at 30 min intervals , noticed at the last s & f that the dough was getting holey and this is where I guess it all went wrong.

Can somebody please let me know on any success with autolyse and is there kneading involved or will this just add to my problems with this tricky grain

I love the flavor though have learned that this grain is the most sensitive of all and 1 little/tiny error it will give up.

Help much appreciated



AbeNW11's picture
AbeNW11 (not verified)

Whole Spelt needs to be handled very gently and doesn't need as much hydration as other flours.

You can do a short autolyse after forming the dough with everything but the salt for about 40min.

Then add the salt and proceed with your recipe.

Perhaps drop the hydration a little. You have about a 75% hydration in your recipe so maybe drop to 66% - 70%

And when you do the stretch and folds be gentle. Don't overwork it! Spelt is a sensitive grain, as you have said, but can work in your favour as needs less handling.

1. Form loose dough and Autolyse without salt for 40min

2. Add salt and proceed to stretch and folds

3. Bulk Ferment

4. Shape into banneton and final proof till doubled (won't take too long as spelt proofs quickly)

5. Bake in pre-heated oven


Remember that with spelt "gently does it"

dabrownman's picture

famous baker - Professor Calvell,  He said to autolyse the dough flour and liquid only - no salt and especially no levain - he was very specific.  If you add the levain it is now fermenting not autolysing.  The idea of the autolyse is to get the dough flour to hydrate as much as possible before the salt, which steals water, and the fermentation begins.  An hour autolyse for whole spelt is not too much and I have done it much longer.

Your hydration is 70.45% which is on the low side even for whole spelt.  I would get it to 75% - no worries but high hydration whole spelt isn't that difficult once you have tried Michael Wilson's 100% whole spelt at 100% hydration :-) If you are used to higher hydration dough, 75% hydration whole spelt won't be an issue for you.  If it is then go with 72.5% hydration.

The gluten in spelt is weak so make sure you develop it properly and don't over ferment or over proof it if you don't want it to spread.when it comes out of the form.  If you are worried about it, then do the final proof in the fridge and bake it after it warms up for an hour and half but still cool.

Happy spelt baking - it is one fo the fine tasting whole grain breads around.

ghazi's picture

Thank you for your replies. I was not clear above, I actually autolyse the flour/water @ 50% hydration in the fridge for 24hrs. Then let warm up and add starter, salt and water and leave to soak.

In this scenario should I knead dough for about 5 minutes, or just proceed with S & F? I have got good results before that was without an autolyse and good kneading with no S & F. Thing is I just don't know when to stop working the gluten with spelt, it tricks me all the time. It is a love/hate

I know I actually just saw a picture of your 100% hydrated whole spelt, it is unbelievable that you can work it from that gloop to a fine tight ball, realty takes skill .



dabrownman's picture

100% White Spelt Master here  and that is with much less thirsty white, not whole, spelt too.  Truly amazing.  Mine came out like a 'flat boule' or Frisbee :-)  The crumb was surprisingly open and the taste fantastic since I used shitake mushroom soaking water for some of the liquid and some spelt sprouts too.  Mine was flat for two reasons - over proofed and  proofing it in a form. Michael clued us into some of his secrets.  bake the bread early not at a normal full proof and don't proof it in a form if you are doing a boule.  Michael did an 80% hydration proof for 20 minutes and then added 10% more water for the first 20 minutes of gluten development and then added the last 10% and yeast booster after the 20 minute mark of gluten development. 

At 75% hydration and 100% whole spelt. I think 3 sets of slap and folds, 20 minute apart, for 10, 6 and 4 minutes should have the dough stop sticking to the counter sometime during the 3rd set - maybe earlier.  I think once the gluten is developed using slap and folds I would not do any stretch and folds.  Just leave it alone to bulk ferment and shape as a free standing boule for final proof - no form.  

I have a 30% white spelt bread in the works at 72.5% hydration for this Friday's bake but it has pistachios, sunflower and pumpkin seeds with 2 kinds of dried figs in it.  i expect it to be pretty sloppy too!  

ghazi's picture

ooh sounds like a good one to look forward too! Its nice how you really go healthy and versatile with your breads

I always thought Michael Wilson was a famous baker, I know now he is on this site.  The breads and advice he churns out are something else. So much respect for you guys who give us sound advice that would never be available otherwise

Thank you





dabrownman's picture

along with Nico and the king Italian SD stiff starter stored under water - very cool.  I'm really going to try and follow his directions for panettone this Holiday Season instead of Susan's at Wild Yeast - another great site and baker.  We are so lucky to have so many great bakers on TFL to draw from and learn from their experiences.

Lucy just started the autolyse for the 34% white spelt bread at 72.5% hydration and it is a little dry now but the larger 16% spelt levain at 100% hydration should thin it out enough to slap and fold it for gluten development.  I may take it up to 75%when i add the salt though.... if it still too stiff or just for fun since it has 66% KA bread flour that is very thirsty.

ghazi's picture

Yes its always fun working with a wetter dough, the challenge it brings is very rewarding. Also the bread keeps for longer so its great

Nothing like getting a tight mold on something so wet, there is truly something magical in that

Cant say I make too much of the sweet breads, have made brioche in the past but not as a routine sort of bread. Might give it a try this year although not really celebrating anything I could just be in the spirit of things:)

I really like the idea of slap and fold its terribly relaxing and for me a true kneading will always win over S & F. The flavor comes through with all that work, feeling the dough come alive right on your fingettips . Im going to give the 75% wholespelt hydration a go with my 50% starter.

The abundance of good information in and around this site is so helpful, people really want to nudge you in the right direction. Yes I can see who the veterans are they just seem to stand out, his underwater starter is very cool. No hard crusts anymore:)

Enjoy your weekend and of course your bread.

108 breads's picture
108 breads

Agreed that autolyse is only flour and water. Fermentation refers to a resting phase whenever starter or other yeast is added.

Love a 100 percent spelt bread. I use a 100 percent spelt recipe with a short autolyse that works perfectly.