The Fresh Loaf

A Community of Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts.

Columbia with spelt recipe

ehanner's picture

Columbia with spelt recipe


For the last couple days I have been experimenting with the Columbia recipe from Glezer's book. At first I was trying to get the long cold ferment to work but I decided to try switching out the WW for spelt and take a different tack. I don't care for the flavor of the ww component called for in the original recipe. It could be the KA WW flour I'm using is a little course, I'll come back to that later.

So what I did is eliminate the WW and replace some of the 600g of the KA AP with 150g of spelt. I kept the rye and wheat germ for texture. This is what the component list looks like.

  • 275g levain from active starter as called for. I have been using 45g of starter, 70g water, 160g AP flour mixed and kneaded for inoculation of firm levain.
  • 450g King Arthur AP flour
  • 150g Spelt flour plus I added an extra 25g for the increased ability to absorb water noted here.
  • 15g Rye
  • 20g wheat germ
  • 20g Barley malt syrup
  • 450g warm water
  • 16g salt

I mixed the malt syrup into the final water and added the salt to the flours for better distribution of the salt. Mixing the final dough by hand using a dough whisk took just a few minutes, after which I kneaded maybe three times and did 3 French Folds. Place the dough into an oiled bowl, covered and fermented at room temp until doubled, about 4-5 hours. Gently divided, rested and formed into a 2# and 1# boule and placed into a coiled basket for final proof, about 2 hours.

I baked on a dusted cookie sheet preheated to 500f and reduced to 440 after loading/steaming. 15 Minutes of steam vent blocked in my ELECTRIC oven(do not EVER block a gas vent) and 15 minutes of dry heat. I tried propping the oven door open with a steel spatula for the last 3 minutes. I think the crust was perfect, my wife said it was harder to eat and to crispy. Today, the next day, it's dry and clear outside and the crust is no longer crispy. The bread is delicious however.

I would have liked larger holes but certainly the flavor was great anyway. My shaping and slashing were my usual "take a chance" results. I'm still trying to learn how to use the 1# coiled oval basket I recently bought. The round one was slightly better.

I added the spelt because I was interested by all the comments here about the great smooth flavor with nutty undertones and after taste. I'm not disappointed, the flavor is much better to my taste than the original formula with WW. The best way to describe the flavor is that there isn't an overwhelming distinct taste that comes out but rather it's the nutty sort of after taste that grabs you. The crumb is fairly soft and easy to chew with a very pleasant aroma. Keep in mind this is my first try at spelt so I will have to play with percentages and methods now to maximize the best flavors but I'm hooked. This is a keeper! The final cooked weights were 14oz and 1lb 14 oz.

One other thing I want to mention. I have come to learn that my bread tastes better if I cooked longer than I used to when I started this journey. It's NOT like popcorn, where if you burn just one kernel the whole batch tastes foul. The shade of golden or brown may be determined by the malt or sugars in the flour but overall, the bread needs to be started HOT, then reduced some and cooked for appearance as well as internal temp.. I worry less about internal readings than external color these days. If you use reasonable heat for the loaf you are cooking, one takes care of the other.


Susan's picture

You do good bread.  I'm going to have to break down and try some spelt.

Susan from San Diego

bwraith's picture


Thanks for such a detailed write-up. I do agree with your preference for more spelt and less WW for the whole grain components. My favorite combination lately has been 1/3 red WW, 1/3 spelt, 1/3 white WW for whatever part of my flour is whole grain. I've been very happy doing 100% whole grain with that combination. I'm thinking to move even more in the spelt direction after reading this.

I've also been baking longer lately, particularly breads with higher hydration. It seems to help, and I've realized that the internal temperature is not all that helpful with higher hydrations. Just letting the crust get dark brown is what has been working for me on those breads. I didn't check what the hydration you had in your recipe here, but I'm assuming it's somewhat wet, given the hole structure. The photo of the crumb looks great, by the way. I'm surprised you say you wanted bigger holes, as they look plenty large and varied. That's just how I like mine to come out. I've gone too far with the hydration and the Golden Buffalo flour on some of my ciabatta attempts, and you end up with air rather than bread in every mouthful. It's fun to look at, but I'm not sure it makes better eating.

One other question. Do you put the bread in a coiled basket as is, or is there a cloth lining? Do you dust it? I'm curious how you end up with the crust as it is. It looks great.


ehanner's picture

Thanks Bill for your kind words,

I do the final proof in a dusted coiled basket with no cloth. I think I could have let the final proof go just a little bit longer.




weavershouse's picture

I've been trying to decide what to use my fresh ground spelt with and you've given me the answer. I'm going to start this tomorrow night. Hope it comes out as nice as yours. It looks delicious.                                                                                  weavershouse

zolablue's picture

One of my favorites for sure.  Your loaves are really, really nice.  I am so interested in trying the flavor of spelt.

Did you toast the wheat germ?  That's one thing I think adds so much to this recipe.  I have to say I love the original recipe the way it is written but I substitute graham flour.  I am happy to find that you like the spelt and enjoy hearing about modifcations that work so well.

Who was it stated in ABAA that it is impossible to overbake an artisan loaf.  Ok, no doubt said with a bit of tongue in cheek but I found the comment interesting. 

You are making such consistently beautiful bread.  Thanks for letting us know about this one.

ehanner's picture

Zola Zola you are such an inspiration to me.  I was thinking about trying to add the potato as in Memo's formula. The dough feels similar and I'll bet the added starch will work with spelt as well. 

I didn't use toasted wheat germ, just plain but I have a container I'll dig out for the next batch. I tried another twist today by adding a Tablespoon of Olive Oil. Today's bake didn't get a picture. I gave the first loaf away to a friend who says white bread doesn't sit well with him and was thrilled to hear about the spelt. I formed the loaves into Batards and baked them to a caramel color (30 mins) at 430f.

I just put together a batch of Memo's using a 50/50 mix of spelt and AP. I followed your Memo's recipe except for the flour switch. It looks great and took a full 2 cups of extra spelt and 1/4 cup of extra AP to stiffen the dough during needing. I think it's to slack to free form so I'll probably bake in pans.


Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

to your loaves!  I would not be too worried about bigger holes, it's perfect!  I think I'll try something simular with my coarse spelt.  I think I might pick up a mini oven, just to bake outside, hate to warm up the house.   My son just turned in a report on "global dimming" for his English class.  He wants to try an earth oven in the garden and use grill charcoal so as not to smoke out the neighbors.   Mini Oven

BROTKUNST's picture

Very nice loaves, Ehanner. I like your rectangular banneton shape also very much ... I think this is something I will add to my proofing equipment.


I agree with you that the (KAF) whole-wheat may be perceived as kind of out of place in this formula. Yesterday I baked two Essential Columbia loaves, one in a 2lb round banneton and the smaller one freeform.


I used 35g of white barm for my levain, plus 120g KAF bread flour and 140g water.

For the flour in the main dough I selected :

300g Bread Flour (KAF)

250g First Clear (KAF)

105g High Gluten (Sir Lancelot, KAF)

15g Dark Rye Flour (Bob's Red Mill) ... other ingredients unchanged


I applied two folds within an hour after 1.5 hours and a total of 6 hours bulk fermentation. I proofed the doughs for about 4-5 hours at around 70F (basement). I bake the smaller loaf (photo) for 18 min 'en Cloche' and 7 min open with the door cracked open. The larger loaf baked 20 min 'en Cloche' and 20 min open.


Both loaves, especially the larger banneton version that had about 45 min more proofing produced an intense ovenspring. The banneton loaf has rather large ears - almost a bit too much. The loaves felt slightly 'springy' - like room temperature steak, just that your finger left with a faint indentation in the loaves.


Here is a picture of the smaller, freeform loaf. (The banneton loaf looks alot like yours so there is no benefit of posting a photo of that)


Essential's Columbia (Variation)

Essential's Columbia (Variation)


I like your 'Spelt Idea' ... definitely something I will try in this formula. 


ehanner's picture

Great spring for such a small loaf! I don't think I have ever had a huge spring from a barm starter on a 1# free form. I would like to see the crumb on those if you can post it. Your choice of first clear and sir Lancelot is something I want to look at. Can you smell the dark rye?

Nice post Brotkunst!


BROTKUNST's picture



I gave the smaller loaf to some late night friends yesterday, but we still have some of the larger (banneton) loaf.


I cannot honestly say that I smell the dark rye (<3%) but I do notice the taste of the rye and the toasted wheat germ. To me, the wheat germ is a bit more dominant than the rye though.


Here is a picture of the crumb ... very much like yours, I think.


Essential's Columbia Crumb

Essential's Columbia Crumb



ehanner's picture

I think yours is a little more evenly spread out. I've been trying to figure out what it is I am smelling and tasting. I don't know enough about how various things effect flavors so I'm trying to change things one item at a time. I do like the wheat germ and toasted variety. I used to eat the toasted variety raw on cereal when I was a kid and sometimes by the spoonful. Good stuff. I have had it in my head that wheat germ was more of a tactile addition than a flavor enhancer. I could be totally wrong about this but I thought it made a bigger differance in how it felt in the chew department. It sounds like you are tasting it, yes?


BROTKUNST's picture

I feel I do taste the wheat germ, Eric. I think I never had wheat germ on cereal and I am pretty sure I haven't had it 'by the spoonful'. So this scent and flavour is not that familiar to me and maybe catches my attention more than the rye. I, for my part, grew up with rye bread in all forms and shapes.


You see, I like wine and enjoy a 'good' wine tremendously. However , by all means I am not a connaisseur. Sharing a $100 bottle wine with me is probably like feeding your wedding cake to the pigs. (Not that I would not still enjoy it anyway .. neither would the pigs)



DakotaRose's picture

Spelts in breads is one of our favorite flours.  Right now we are not using it as it costs too much to purchase from the mill at this time, but as soon as the price goes down again I will be purchasing a huge bag for breadmaking.  I sort of stumbled on spelt in breads, but accidently putting it into a batch of bread.  I was tired and reached into the freezer for the white flour and instead grabbed the spelt.  What a pleasant surprise.  I did find though that spelt works best in breads that have a very short time used for mixing and kneeding.  Otherwise it seems to breakdown and the bread doesn't rise very well.  Just something we found here with the spelt we purchase.


Dragonbones's picture

I was looking at Eric's writeup at the top, but it seems some details on the starter are missing -- how long should that levain ferment? There's mention of a long cold fermentation but then Eric's procedure doesn't have any. I'd like to try this recipe but am slightly confused.

zorgclyde's picture

These are beautiful breads! I like how detailed your posts are.

One question I was curious about is how did you get such pretty patterns on your bread? (I hope it's not a stupid question...?)

3 Olives's picture
3 Olives

Pulled 2 loaves out of the oven a few hours ago. If they taste even close to as good as they look and smell I'll be happy!

3 Olives's picture
3 Olives

I've made the original recipe several times and love it. I substitute malted barley flour w/ an equal amount of water because I don't have the syrup.

Anyway, I tried to add 1/3 of all ingredients so I could make two 2 lb. loaves. The amount of water was way too little and adding while kneading didn't produce good results.

Any suggestions for an amount of water would be appreciated.

ehanner's picture

3 Olives,

I don't know exactly what you are asking. I haven't made this bread in a while but a quick look at the formula shows the water is 65-66% depending on the malt syrup. The use of spelt changes how the dough feels due to it's water absorption qualities. I haven't laid out the formula in bakers percents. If you need help with that, let me know and I will.

BTW, I think you could swap the malted barley syrup for molasses if needed. Your KA flour is already boosted with malted barley flour.


Chuck's picture

Your KA flour is already boosted with malted barley flour.

It's generally true that if a recipe doesn't explicitly say diastatic malt, it means non-diastatic malt (coloring and flavoring, but not enzymatically active).

The one key exception though is the ingredient lists on north american flours (not just KAF). The ingredients list printed on the flour sack probably just says "malted barley flour". Interpreted according to the usual rule, this would mean non-diastatic malt  ...but watch out. What north american millers add to flour is the right amount of diastatic malt (enzymatically active) to make a well-balanced flour.

ehanner's picture

I calculated the bakers math for 4.4 Lbs of dough which should deliver 2- 2 Lb loaves after baking. Here are the amounts.

The total flour weight, including the pre ferment is 925g. According to the formula in her book, 16% of the total flour is used in the PF. In this case that would be 148g and 95g water, also in the PF.

In the final dough, the amount would be 925 g-148g =777g of your combination of flours.

Water would be 620g-95g=525g of water in the final dough.

Wheat Germ and Barley Malt listed at 3% would calculate at 27g each.

Salt at 2.4% calculates to 22.2 g

If you like this bread, I highly suggest buying the paperback on Amazon. It's reasonable and has many excellent recipes and even better techniques. I've just recently purchased it and find it valuable, wishing I had done it earlier. At $15. it's a great value on a wonderful book.