The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

100% sourdough spelt bread

George Q's picture
George Q

100% sourdough spelt bread

100% whole grain sourdough with a three stage levain

George Q's picture
George Q

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George Q

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George Q

SeasideJess's picture
SeasideJess

Why did you take it out of the fridge in the middle of the night? And your note says 'bulked fast'... was that before, after, or during the fridge time?

It's a great looking loaf of bread. Especially for 100% whole grain...

George Q's picture
George Q

Thank you for the compliment !That is when I awoke in the morning is around 2:30 am. I have baked 100% spelt freestanding loaves and have a feeling for how quickly the dough rises during the sequence of stretch and folds.   This one seemed to rise more surely than others. This one uses a muti-stage levain and I've been experimenting with this for taste primarily  and I was noting that this dough seemed to really rip along fermenting even though it was not very warm in the kitchen.  This one also uses fresh ground Maverick spelt and if you look close you can see the spelt bran in the closeup photo of the crumb....Looking at the following sequence of three photos, you can observe an evolution of the methods/starter until this one(above) and others like it.

George Q's picture
George Q

A little ear too on this one

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George Q

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George Q

zachyahoo's picture
zachyahoo

Wow! This is an amazing job!

Would you mind sharing your thinking on using a 3 stage build like this? It’s clearly working.. but why?

And what do you notice being different than a single stage build?

George Q's picture
George Q

Thank you !  This last March was the first time I used spelt and I fell in love with the flavor. The recipes I found seemed to use it as a flavoring or with remarks that it is weak/lacking in gluten(and it is) so use bread flour or bake in a pan.  So I started out using a 50/50 recipe with spelt and bread flour and there the levain was a liquid starter of bread flour or spelt or some had a stiff starter. So the more I baked, the more I felt that spelt could stand  alone and I tried to push it using different recipes to see the limitations of spelt.  For example, I read some German recipes for spelt using scalds and I found they were easy to do, but the payoff was only slightly incrementally better. Simultaneously I went to a stiff levain  of spelt and felt that I could go forward with this, had better flavor and I felt also more and more that the levain was the key to making really good spelt bread---my motivation was taste and texture. ... When I lived in Vermont I knew Gerard Rubaud as he lived only a few miles away and I'd see him all the time and I remembered he used a multi-stage levain for his bread. So, I wondered why this approach was used.  I came across this discussion with Dr. Debra Wink and Shiao-Ping and I thought here was missing insight that I needed:http://www.thefreshloaf.com//node/13525/my-imitation-chad-robertson039s-country-sourdough#comment-83047 So I began to understand  how to use a pure spelt levain for better texture and keeping quality and flavor with this three stage build, which is very easy to do.  

  
George Q's picture
George Q

In my oversight I did not include the recipe of the three (or two, depending on how you count stages) levain, but rather I just duplicated the recipe for the main dough by mistake. I have corrected this above and here is the missing piece:

George Q's picture
George Q

In my oversight I did not include the recipe of the three (or two, depending on how you count stages) levain, but rather I just duplicated the recipe for the main dough by mistake. I have corrected this above and here is the missing piece:

semolina_man's picture
semolina_man

Looks great!

George Q's picture
George Q

Thank you-

julianv's picture
julianv

Many many thanks, was looking for a long time for such a recipe with great potential :)
Tried your recipe and worked, although with some mistakes and modifications. I’ve mixed in the salt at the beginning instead of waiting for an hour, my bad. Added soaked spelt grains 10% 
Could not find the recipe for 3 stage levain, appreciate a reference. I used my starter 100% whole spelt, boosted twice to 1:2:2 before the mix. 
Still fighting the quirks of spelt over/under fermentation and its unwillingness to be shaped ... 

George Q's picture
George Q

I am so sorry, I meant to include this page above and I will correct it.  I found this levain is a better performer than a two stage for reasons I wrote above.  Others have tried it too and had good results for a freestanding , 100% spelt. The fermentation will move along quickly for spelt so this is why the third stage helps so much as it boosts the yeast production right before the mix.   I found it that spelt responds best to a gentle mixing and not over kneading.  Here is a copy of this:

Crumb Control's picture
Crumb Control

My recent attempts with 100% were complete disasters... Your loaves look amazing, I'll be sure to give it a try!!! 

George Q's picture
George Q

Thank you! I made a mistake in the recipe and only gave a duplicate copy of the recipe for the main dough and did not include the recipe for the 3 stage levain.  If you try it , use this the recipe too for the three stage levain that is here for you too. 

julianv's picture
julianv

The spell for spelt is now complete, finally the last piece of the puzzle fell into place.
The fact that this is hand-written (and you can't find this by a google search) only adds a mystic aura akin to unobtainium.

Thank you, oh great wizard ;-) 

George Q's picture
George Q

Thank you Julian-your comment made my week if not the month!

Please give this a try. And there are adjustments only you can make.The time scale maybe different for you because of room temp. Yesterday I made this bread again and I had doors and windows open in the kitchen and was 78 degrees F. and I thought I could see the dough rise when I watched it.   The time scale was much shorter by around half an hour before in the fridge and I wanted it to cool off  before it over fermented. Also, a word of caution of retarding with spelt.  I've had it over proof in the fridge, so after I put it in, I keep rechecking it to make sure the expansion is slowing down. My fridge is cold-36 degrees F, and in some cases, I had to bake it the same day because the cold did not stop it.  Once you make your own adjustments, it will work for you. ...tell me how it goes for you!  George

julianv's picture
julianv

Should say that I'm a newbie to SD baking, I'm still learning basic techniques and for sure making mistakes. 
So, first run looked good up to the fridge retard. My kitchen is quite hot 26C and my fridge is constantly used by family so it does not go below 7C.
I reduced the initial rise time to 2.5 hrs, fridge retard time 5 hrs. Added total of 75gr of seeds and soaked spelt grain together with the salt.
Got virtually little to no oven spring. Elasticity was not there, although for the first time I got a roundish boule out of the prove basket and not a lava puddle. Out of the fridge the dough was OK but still sticky, it did not really form tight walls. Used a German slitted proofing basket, wrapped in a plastic bag that trapped quite a lot of moisture getting out of the dough (is it OK?). I can't say I have a good feeling for what is under/over proved. I checked the dough a couple of times and decided to take it out because it seemed almost x2 volume and I saw it bubbling underneath a thin skin.
The dough pushed back a bit when gently pressing a finger to it. 
I also fear I did not work the dough good enough - should have kneaded it a bit more and folded it wider (letter envelope style)
My working and fridge temperature is high, although I timed shorter I still might have overproved.
I baked with a DO, might be too big and not enough side support for the dough to push up. Still my best SD to date, tasty compared to the previous trials. 
Will try again in the next few days, hoping to improve folding and work temp. Exciting and frustrating at the same time :-)
Test run #1
 

George Q's picture
George Q

Hi Julian,  

I think you are not too far away from where you want to be.  I think you are on a good path.  One variation that you might try is reserving 10% of the water to possibly be added back in later-if the dough needs it.  I know what you mean about seeing the bubbles under the thin skin so you know that it is fermenting well. But the other side of this is that the gluten that is in spelt is degrading too. So, there is a balance that you have to find ; once the fermentation really starts to move along it is hard to slow down enough so it does not overproof.  The notes / recipe above may not work exactly for you as the hydration for your flour may be different and so if the hydration is too high for your flour, the fermentation can really take off too fast too.   Just looking at your photo and the fact you said that it nearly doubled in size has me thinking that it may have over-proofed some on you. Next time, reserve 10% of water, add back if needed, and don't let it get to be double in size-say 50% larger and bake it.  See some of my remarks below with Jess about retarding as you do not have to do this and in some cases, it will lead to over-proofing too.  I hope this helps you. George

julianv's picture
julianv

Success! Well at least partially :-)
Tried 10% less water and watched over the proofing cycle tightly. As I do not trust my fridge I've proofed in my cellar for about 3hrs @ 22C. 
There was an oven rise, yet it did not "split" the crumb into ear. 
I got a fluffier bread, a lighter texture. 
I should say that I have kneaded thoroughly the dough after the mix and folded as Patrick shows here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d3qDLrpQh10

Note: Contrary to other recipes I've tried your method yields a bread that is well baked inside. Previous attempts yielded a nicely baked on the outside, yet after cutting into slices it would always leave some sticky dough traces on my knife.

I'm a techie nerd so I've baked your recipe into an excel file that I can figure out start to end schedule  

George Q's picture
George Q

Hi Julian,

Great news! Your results are certainly very positive.  I'd like to see photos if you took them.  But how did the bread taste and texture?  I really like the taste of spelt and do not get tired of it.  ... You can get a sourer spelt by a retard and  even then you have to make sure  that it is not over proofing by watching it initially.  I think it takes time to make these adjustments based on the spelt flour you use. George

julianv's picture
julianv

Wife used it with a breakfast with friends and was devoured like instantly! Super popular dipped in the Italian classic mix of olive oil and a balsamic reduction.
Surprisingly enough, whole spelt sourdough bread has become the family default choice and even my kids fell in love with the taste and texture. The crunchiness in the crust gets fantastic with a few minutes in the toaster. I slice and freeze my bread typically, too hot kitchen pantry
Planning to do some variations this week and will certainly post pics !
Date syrup (silan)
Orange juice 
Olive oil
Herbs

George Q's picture
George Q

You know you've succeeded with this overwhelming response!!!!

Benito's picture
Benito

George your spelt hearth loaves are all very impressive, such a great crumb.

Benny

George Q's picture
George Q

Thank you Benny.  I really like the taste of spelt and I wanted to get the texture  and taste right too. In the close up of the crumb you can see the reddish bran from the spelt too. George

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mwilson's picture
mwilson

Credit where credit's due. That is a fine bake indeed!

I was wondering about the levain build since you posted, so thanks for the update. I really like the way you developed the levain over those stages (I only see two btw - A & B). Firm starters and levains are very much my game and they make sense with delicate (weak) flours like spelt.

Really nice bloom on that bake too. This is front page material in my mind!

Well done and thanks for sharing.

Michael

George Q's picture
George Q

Thank you Michael,

I see you understand the necessity of these two stages or three if using it to leaven the dough. 

The gist is this: coming into this recipe, someone will have seed starter of some sort and so the first stage is to get the seed adjusted to spelt and the hydration right and consistent with that in the dough, which in my case is around 65-70%. (For a spelt flour that requires a higher hydration level, then one could adjust the hydration level of the levain accordingly.  I've actually done this using sprouted spelt flour which needs a higher hydration level and when I kept the hydration at 65% but dough needed 80%+, the levain did not perform right; but making the adjustment in hydration in levain  for higher hydration required for sprouted spelt, then things worked much better)For these reasons this first feed is 4 times the  weight of the seed in flour weight.  And the second feed is to get the yeast a head start in the spelt fermentation; the reason this is important is that (I think) the spelt seems to ferment so fast due to the LAB that the gluten there is in spelt degrades so fast that there is no oven spring, it just seems not to bloom in the oven.For this,the second feed , the hydration level is held constant and the levain weight is just about doubled and this fermentation time is short-just a few hours depending on temperature.  This small feed favors the development of the yeast over the LAB, but the LAB will catch up anyway. George

DanAyo's picture
DanAyo

You wrote, “ This small feed favors the development of the yeast over the LAB, but the LAB will catch up anyway”.

Why is this, and can you explain that? I have never considered seed to flour ratio as a method of developing the relative yeast/LAB percentages.

Danny

inquiring minds want to know...

George Q's picture
George Q

hi Danny!

I was looking at frequent (or small meal) refreshment favoring yeast over LAB.  

Here I am quoting Wink;"Reducing sourness can be accomplished by shortening the refreshment cycle, not because of aerobic vs anaerobic, but rather by taking advantage of the disparity in lag phases between yeast and lactic acid bacteria (LAB). Bacteria reproduce faster than yeast, but yeast have a shorter lag phase. The lag phase is that time between refreshment and the start of population growth (reproduction). The organisms need a little time to sense their environment and re-orient themselves to the change that refreshment brings (pH, nutrients, waste products, etc.) before they begin growing again. For LAB it takes longer, so yeast start growing first. Each time you feed, it starts a new lag period. If you stop the refreshment cycle short, so as to keep the LAB from taking off, you give the yeast a little advantage in the race by cutting the LAB off at the knees."  This is from http://www.thefreshloaf.com//node/13525/my-imitation-chad-robertson039s-country-sourdough#comment-83047 .  George

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Benito

That is interesting George, I’ve read a lot of people here to believe that to really flavour the yeast in your starter prior to making a levain, feed it a really good size feed, like 1:6:6, but what you’re saying actually makes sense and a large feed of 1:6:6 taking 12 hours to peak would eventually favour LAB.  I might have to start changing my starter feeding protocol before building my levain.

Benny

George Q's picture
George Q

Hi Benny,

What I found is that doing a refreshment of 1 to 4 (seed to flour)with an adjustment for 66% hydration is that the levain was acidic enough to degrade the spelt by the time it was fermenting; the little gluten in spelt was so weak it would pancake out when baked.  So, I started using the levain early, but then..why don't I use yeast too? First of all, I didn't have any, second of all, it did not seem to be the right thing to do. That is when I remembered about yeast favored by small refreshments and I saw this used in muti-step rye recipes too; that each stage favored different aspects of the levain.  So, why not try to give yeast a bit of a head start? How could I do that ? That is when I reread Wink's posting here  and saw that this little meal might be a sensible approach and then to I remembered Rubaud too.  Anyway, that was my series of thoughts.  But when I tried it, the dough rose a bit earlier and the dough did seem better conditioned too.  I tried it with fresh ground spelt too and this seemed to work better than just a simple 1 to 4 feed.  Spelt is such a strange thing to work with too.  So, why not an adjustment??   Thanks, George

Edit for spelling

SeasideJess's picture
SeasideJess

Thank you, George!

You have inspired me to try a sourdough spelt. Normally my only 100% spelt loaf is a yeasted bread with a bit of treacle added (which is very nice.) But I want to try this method now. The only real stumbling block is the retard...there is just no way I can make room in my refrigerator for a shaped loaf of bread in a banneton. Do you think I can give it a final proof on the counter with maybe a quick chill in the freezer for 10 minutes to help with turning out and scoring right before it goes in the oven? Or should I just not bother trying to make this bread if I can't refrigerate it? Everything else seems very doable. I love the multi-stage levain build to give the yeasts a head start. It's always so dicey making sourdough with fresh-milled flour and trying to get it to proof before it turns to goo. I am not ashamed to admit I sometimes put a pinch of yeast into the bulk. But I will try your method next time. 

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DanAyo
SeasideJess's picture
SeasideJess

That is a neat idea, Dan! Thanks for sharing. I'm sure it will help someone. Right now, I'm sheltering in place with my husband and three 19-year-olds. Two are mine and I picked up a spare over Spring Break. The fridge is just jam-packed full of groceries and leftovers all the time to keep everyone fed. In the fall, though, when two of the three youngsters goes back to school (God willing and the creek don't rise) I will have room in my fridge again. For now, it's bench proof only. 

I have a chest freezer and sometimes I pop a banneton in there for a few minutes just to cool the dough a bit before turning it out and baking. I'm always careful to take it out just when it cools, so as not to chill the wee beasties too much and put them off their game.  

George Q's picture
George Q

Hi Jess,

I am too sheltering in place and limited room in the refrigerator and I have trouble finding space.  Earlier in the year I used my garage or outside as my cooler. But now it is too warm for that.

You do not have to do a overnight retard at all. Just let it sit out for half an hour to an hour or so and get it cold for exactly the reasons you mentioned. The day I made it , I started late and I had other things to do, so I retarded it. But if I was not so busy I would have just baked it that evening by letting it rise for some time maybe an hour(depending on temp) and then cool it as the oven heats up,as you suggest and then bake it.  I found that if I do retard it, I've got to watch it in the fridge  because if the fermentation is strong during the bulk it will overproof in the fridge (and my fridge is at 36 degrees F. )  So, no matter what, you've got to watch it as I am sure you  know.  Please give this a try . Spelt has such flavor that the dough is worth the babysitting !  George

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mwilson

I always try to avoid discussion on LAB and and yeast ratios since it's not something we as bakers can measure. We can only infer from our observations and then make assumptions about what is happening at the microbial level.

While I'm sure LAB do encounter longer lag times compared to yeast, bear in mind that the higher the inoculum the shorter the lag..

I did find a paper that looked at the cell numbers of LAB and yeast during the refresh cycles of lievito madre done for panettone production. The starting ratio from storage was 10:1 (LAB:yeast). After each of the short-time (4 hours) refreshes the ratio shifted towards 100:1 (LAB:yeast). So based on that evidence this high inoculum (small feed) and short duration didn't favour yeast at all, it favoured LAB.

Feeding this way cuts back on acid, that's what it really does. LAB have no problem holding their own and will typically always outnumber the yeasts.

100:1 is a standard and stable ratio.

George Q's picture
George Q

Thank you Michael for posting your remarks.  This is precisely why I thought showing these bakes of spelt on TFL would give me some interesting feedback and you are making some good points.  The point about feeding this way cuts back on initial acidity is certainly true .   Yet, I noticed (unscientifically) tasting the bread with and without the third feeding had a pretty consistent taste but the behavior of the dough and the more consistent rise was noted with the last feeding.  Thanks again for your comments -George

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

Fascinating!  I second the motion to give this post prime posting.  I love spelt. 

Q: levain B,  where does 175% come from?  Not 191%? 

George Q's picture
George Q

Good question !  I am considering the Levain A and Levain B to have separate  Baker's % recipes. In Levain B, the 105g of Levain A is another ingredient where the Baker's % is calculated relative to the flour weight. Levain A is = 105g/60g=175 % of the spelt flour of Levain B which is 60g.  

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

is given a 30 minute soak to absorb the water before adding in levain and eventually salt?  Instead of kneading at the 10 minute mark?  

George Q's picture
George Q

time---action--all mixing by hand

0.     --mix levain and water and honey together, put flour on top and mix using soft scraper to a rough ball

10m----knead by hand to develop gluten, dough very loose

1:00h-- fold dough

1:10 h--add salt and mix in gently

1:20h-fold dough and it is firming up from salt

2:10 fold and put into a preshape of a batard and see how it is as it ferments(I think I am off 10 minutes in notes-I subtracted wrong)

3:00h-fermentation going strong ,go directly from pre-shape to shape and put in banneton and put in fridge right away as dough was fermenting fast and kitchen was at 74 degrees F, not usual 68 F.

 

 

George Q's picture
George Q

This will work fine and I have done this other times too to see if there is any difference. I could not detect anything different.  I try to handle dough as gently as possible as I think it is possible to overmix with spelt and then the crumb is rather tight.  So as long as the salt is added last and alone you are ok.  Even then, if you mix it all together , salt included , you may find as I did that you get the tightening up of the dough at the same time you want to develop it and the dough tears a bit, which you are trying to avoid.

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SeasideJess's picture
SeasideJess

George, each of these is more beautiful than the last. I'm pretty sure you're a wizard, like Julian says.

Did you find that the scald improved the keeping quality of this bread? Was it worth the trouble?

Lastly, is walking the dog a key component of the recipe?  I might have to get one just so I can make this bread!

Thank you for the reply above about the retard not being necessary.

Seriously though, I can't help being taken aback at the bloom and crumb of these loaves. I don't remember seeing another 100 whole grain sourdough look like this, spelt or otherwise. It makes me realize what is possible, and that I really need to work on my dough handling... I have tendency towards roughness and overkneading and to over-tightening and tearing the gluten cloak in shaping. I appreciate how eloquently you convey the idea of being gentle with the spelt dough at each stage. Thanks again for taking the time to share with us.

Jess

 

 

George Q's picture
George Q

Jess-You are very kind!

As far as the few times I used a scald I thought that it did help with the keeping quality of the bread.  The way I do the scald is painless: put spelt and water in heatproof bowl and put in microwave.  Stop the microwave every 30 seconds or so and check temperature and remix the spelt and water and do this until 155 degrees F and stop, take it out and remix again  and you have spelt pudding.  Then add it to the ingredients of the dough after the water and spelt mix has fallen below 85 degrees or so.

Walking the dog is important to my dog and letting the dough rest between the folding and mixing is important.  Besides, how can anyone resist these eyes?Not me! thanks again-George dog

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Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

What a wonderful way to wake up and smell the coffee!   Lovely crumb shots and recipes.  I was just about to dive into dough this morning, now, don't know which one!  (Smile)

George, has it occured to you that perhaps the dough is rising higher with the two step levain because you slowed down the yeast?  Often with a fragile gluten matrix, too much yeast can rip the matrix apart during the rise.

George Q's picture
George Q

This did not occur to me at all. Interesting idea-but I just do not know!  Spelt is mysterious !

 

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

with a rye starter (105g) instead of a spelt starter and sure enough about three + hours into the ferment, the spelt dough is tightening up with a folding so nicely!  Did it in the bowl because until now the rye has made it is so sticky.  But the dough is behaving itself now.  I dont plan on a retard.  

George Q's picture
George Q

I frequently put it in the fridge just to calm down the fermentation before I bake it--I may have said this to you.  Did you use a scald too?? I made one yesterday with a scald , a three step levain and using fresh ground Maverick spelt-which has a reddish tint:

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

Im afraid to show you my little loaf.  I've been playing with an old rye starter and had 105g of slowish rye starter at peak.  I should have given the dough more time another fold before trying to shape it.  Ill go make a photo before the loaf is gone.  It is tasty.  Nice sharp edges with the bread cutting machine.  Moist and flexible firm crumb. Top did not open much. Flour fine spelt. 

 

George Q's picture
George Q

You did get full fermentation and I think that if you use your rye starter to provide the seed for the process of creating the levain, you'll get better lift and also, try to underproof the spelt and you'll get more of an oven spring.  It takes a bit of time for changing over one starter to another when one is rye and you are using in spelt. By just going through the process in three stages, you'll be all set.