The Fresh Loaf

A Community of Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts.

Pain au Levain with cracked Spelt

Franko's picture

Pain au Levain with cracked Spelt

Continuing along using sprouted spelt flour as a key ingredient for the last few bakes, this time I decided to up the grain percentage by adding a soaker of cracked spelt to the mix. I'd forgotten I'd even had the stuff until I re-discovered it rummaging around in my storage bin of various grains for something else. The soaker adds more texture and tooth to this loaf over previous spelt loaves I've made, and is a step in the right direction for increasing the overall flavour as well. The mix is a pretty basic levain type with the exception of an extended (3-4 hour) autolyse. The long autolyse is just an experiment on my part to see what, if any benefits can be had from it. In terms of the crumb appearance it doesn't seem to have much impact, but the texture or mouth-feel is softer and creamier than similar type doughs made in the past using a much shorter autolyse period. Spelt tends to have a drying effect on the crumb, even at a relatively low ratio such as this loaf has, and my intention was to see if an extended period of water absorption for both the AP and sprouted spelt flours would mitigate the effect to some degree. Too early to say right now, but I'll monitor the eating quality over the next few days and see how it fares. As far as flavour, the bread has a medium tang to it, surprising given the nearly 16 hours the levain fermented for, but the overall the flavour is reminiscent of Hamelman's Pain au levain, with lots of toasty, wheaty notes to it, supported by the rich flavour of the crunchy crust. There really aren't any changes I'd make to this formula for the next bake, it's just a good everyday loaf of bread to use for sandwiches, and for toasting. Having recently received a gift of lovely homemade preserves from a good friend, this particular bake couldn't have been more timely.

Sourdough with Cracked Spelt%Kilos/Grams
Organic AP Flour100.00%99
Mature Starter -Rye-100%20.00%20
Total weight188.50%187
Ripen for 15-18 hours @ 72F/22C   
Cracked Spelt Soaker  
Cracked Spelt100.00%55
Total weight250.00%137
soak overnight  
Final Dough -enter desired dough weight in yellow cell 1000
Organic AP Flour60.0%249
Sprouted Spelt Flour – Organic40.0%166
Cracked Spelt Soaker33.0%137
Sea Salt2.8%12
Total weight240.9%1000
Autolyse the flours using all the water for 3-4 hours pre final mix.  
Bulk ferment for -2-2.5hours @76-78 with 3 stretch and folds.  
Overall Formula Kilos/Grams
Total Flour100.00%579
Organic AP Flour60.14%348
Medium/Dark Rye Flour1.71%10
Sprouted Spelt Flour – Organic28.68%166
Cracked Spelt9.47%55
Sea Salt2.01%12
Total weight/yield172.74%1000
Total Pre-fermented Flour18.83%109
Estimated Hydration64%368


  • Mix ingredients for the levain and ripen for 15-18 hours. Note: Whatever type of starter you have on hand can be used. The small percentage indicated in the formula will have little effect on the final flavour.

  • 3 to 5 hours prior to the final mix, autolyse both the flours of the final mix and keep covered at 70-75F-21/23C

  • Mix all the final ingredients except the salt until uniform, then add the salt and continue mixing on 1st speed, or by hand, until the dough is smooth. Mix on 2nd or 3rd depending on mixer speed until the dough has come together and clears the sides of the mixing bowl, or by hand, slap and fold the dough on the work surface for 5-6 minutes, or until a window pane can be achieved.

  • Bulk ferment at 75F/23.8C for 2-2.5 hrs with stretch and folds every 30 minutes for the first 90 minutes.

  • When the dough has fermented enough that it's gassy and has some spring to it, take it out of bulk ferment and round it gently, leaving it for 15 minutes to relax, covered with a bowl or sheet of plastic, cloth.

  • Shape the dough as desired, being careful not to de-gas it, at the same time drawing the dough taut.

  • Final proof at 75-78F/23.8-25.5C for 90 minutes with 65-75% humidity if possible. Proof to 10% less than double the original volume.

  • Preheat the oven and baking stone to 485F/252C forty five minutes prior to baking and have steam system ready.

  • When final proof is complete, slash as desired and load in the oven.

  • Bake for 10 minutes, remove steam system and vent oven. Continue baking for 8 minutes, then rotate the loaf/loaves for even colouring. Remove parchment paper if using. Check colour, lower oven temp to 460F/237C and continue baking in 8 minute intervals till the crust shows good colour and the internal temperature is 206-210F/96-98C.

  • Cool on a rack for 60 minutes, wrap in cloth, and let sit for 5-6 hours before slicing. 

The week before last my wife and I wandered up to one of our neighbourhood blackberry patches and picked almost a full bucket in 45 minutes, the brambles just teeming with beautiful, succulent, and free fruit for anyone who doesn't mind a scratch or two. While I was picking away I gave some thought to how I might use them, a tart perhaps? Hmm..., then I thought of the perfectly ripe and juicy nectarines we'd bought at the market earlier in the day and a visualization started to form in my head on how to combine the two fruits in a way to showcase their very different but complimentary flavours. This is what I came up with.

From the bottom up the cake is composed of a layer of almond sponge cake (Joconde), Bavarian cream flavoured with a nectarine puree and slices of whole nectarine. Next is a disc of almond Daquoise (thick, baked meringue with almond meal) topped with whole blackberries and then filled with a white chocolate mousse flavoured with Pisa , an Italian liquor that has similarities to Amaretto but not as sweet. The deco for the cake is made from almond nougatine, in essence an almond brittle that can be poured and shaped in a variety of ways. For the top deco, triangles were cut from a disk of nougatine, then laid pointy end towards the cake center and supported at the back by glazed blackberries. In a bit of a rush to finish it and get it over to my son and daughter in-law's, while my 11 month old Grandson wasn't snoozing, I regret not finishing it properly with one or more glazed blackberries in the center. Oh time.

Below is a smaller version of the same cake that my daughter and I shared after her visit and dinner together later that same week. Rebecca loved the crunchy nougatine, and we both enjoyed the light texture of the cream fillings with the pure and natural flavour of the fruit and berries at their peak.

Cheers all, and happy baking,



breadsong's picture

Hi Franko!
Your storage bin is a gold mine  - so are the local blackberry bushes!
Your cracked spelt bread looks like a blooming flower, very eye-catching with the flour pattern and scoring,
and it's just as lovely on the inside.
The cakes are elegant, each component beautifully made and showcasing the fresh, seasonal fruit.
Outstanding baking, displaying so much finesse and creativity!
:^) breadsong

Franko's picture

Hi breadsong,

Being that you're the good friend that sent the gift of preserves mentioned in the post, I thought I'd show you a photo of how I enjoyed them with this morning's breakfast.

Toasted Spelt bread with strawberry, raspberry and chocolate balsamic jam. Your jam is incredibly tasty breadsong, thanks so much for sending me a gift of it! If I'm able to make this jar last for more than 5 days I'll consider it a major test of my willpower. Your very generous comments on bread and cakes are greatly appreciated as always breadsong, thanks so much. :^)


breadsong's picture

Hi Franko,
Thanks for taking the picture :^)
*So* happy you liked the taste of that jam -
I unexpectedly found a farmer still producing strawberries on everbearing plants - and unexpectedly found the chocolate balsamic.
Very grateful for the way things worked out for this jam, and that I could share some of it with you!
:^) breadsong

Syd's picture


Your cake is stunning.  Beautifully presented and the list of ingredients so exotic and enticing.  I would love a bite of that!  

And lovely coloring on the crust of the pain au levain, too.  

All round, great baking.


Franko's picture

Hi Syd, good to hear from you!

I'm gradually getting back into making desserts, so your praise for the cake is very encouraging and appreciated, many thanks. I'm quite happy with the way the loaf coloured as well without having to extend the normal baking time. The crust is my favourite part of this bread for it's flavour contribution.

Cheers Syd, all the best.


Mebake's picture

5 star products, franko. The ingredietns you use are of top quality, you are a talented baker.


Franko's picture

Thanks Khalid!

I try to use the best products available to me whenever possible. When nature provides a gift like the local blackberries it's a bonus I simply can't ignore. Our own blueberry bush is providing lots of possibilities right now for future desserts of some kind as well. Thanks again for your kind comments my friend!


ananda's picture

Hi Franko,

Breadsong has it with the "outstanding baking display" comment here.

You promised to put more work into your cakes and pastries; these here are superb.   I'm not much of a dessert eater, but I'd love to tuck into any of these!

And you keep on throwing out amazing spelt loaves too.   Apart from the lovely sprouted spelt you brought to the UK, everytime I use the stuff, I just think it tastes bitter.   And it costs a small fortune too.   Gotta keep trying as the market is still there for Spelt.   But it's a limited one, and I need to be happier with my product for sure.

Yours is wonderful, and I can imagine the cracked grain will impact very well on texture of the loaf.

Great stuff, as ever

All good wishes


Franko's picture

Hi Andy,

Not sure if I mentioned it during our visit but when I first started out baking professionally it was as a dessert cook for a restaurant. The pay was dreadful, but the work was the most enjoyable I've ever done. Glad you like these cakes and consider it high praise indeed from one who doesn't normally eat desserts of this type. I was never much of a fan of spelt  flour before the sprouted variety became available, and agree that the unsprouted type does have that bitter characteristic to it. Maybe if you made an enriched loaf of some kind it might work out better, the downside being the added cost to the bottom line. I'm sure you'll work something out that your loyal customers will enjoy.

Hope you had a relaxing vacation Andy, and thank you for your ever generous comments!




dabrownman's picture

soaks for whole grains.  4 hours is the minimum and many times do 8 hours in the fridge.  I'm even doing 2 hours for the white flour.  A medium tang with no retards for levain or dough  is pretty good I would think. The cracked spelt sure looks like a winner inside and out,

The free blackberries are the treat for cold and the snow - not that you get that in BC.  Love the cake, your desserts make me want to try a fancy one but alas, no patience ....!

Happy baking Franko 

Franko's picture

Hi dab,

Well the bread is still quite moist but it's been less than 24 hours since baking so we'll see in another few days if the long soak helps to keep it moist. I'm cautiously optimistic that it will. The medium tang is just right for this bread it seems although my original intent was for something stronger. In hindsight I'm happy to have missed the mark on that.

We do get lots of snow and cold in B.C., just not much on the South Coast usually. Rain....and more rain for weeks at a time is pretty typical from November to April. I've a hunch we may get a dump of snow this winter though as it's been a few years since the last big snowfall. If the blackberries are one of the treats for putting up with a soggy 6 months I guess it's some consolation at least. Thanks for your kind comments on the bread and cakes dabrownman!

All the best,


golgi70's picture

Just gorgeous Franko.  The bread is absolutely stellar inside and out and I bet cracked spelt is quite nice.  I'll have to play with that idea as I love cracked wheat but I'm all about spelt flour these days.  The cake is fantastic.  I really like the dobos torte style design on the first pic.  And who doesn't want some bavarian cream?  

Very Nice Baking


Franko's picture

Thanks Josh!

The cracked spelt adds a really nice texture to the loaf and ups the flavour slightly as well, definitely worth trying in one of your fine spelt loaves. It's funny, as I wasn't consciously thinking of a Dobos torte when I was doing the deco, but yes you're quite right, it does have a similar look to a Dobos. Good catch! I appreciate your compliments Josh, very nice to hear from you!

Best wishes,


Isand66's picture

Beautiful baking Franko.  Your bread looks perfect with excellent scoring and crust and crumb.  That cake just added an extra inch to my waistline just looking at it :).  I love spelt to but have not tried sprouted version yet.  Did you sprout it yourself and grind it or purchase it from a miller?


Franko's picture

Thank you Ian!

The sprouted spelt flour I've been using for several months now is a product from One Degree Organic Foods, a local B.C. company. The grain is actually grown here in B.C. as well which is a rare treat as our Province isn't really known as a grain producer compared to the Prairie provinces. I know that Whole Foods carries One Degree products in some of their stores, in fact David Snyder was able to find the Sprouted Whole Wheat flour in his Whole Foods in Fresno just recently. Whether that would be the case for you in Long Island I don't know, but it's worth having a look, the flour is top notch. Regarding the just have to focus on all the healthy fruit that's in it and put the heavy cream and white chocolate out of your mind while eating least that's what I did. 18 holes of golf the next day eliminated any residual guilt I may have hung on to. :^) 

Appreciate your comments Ian, all the best.


Song Of The Baker's picture
Song Of The Baker

Hey Franko.  Absolutely a beauty!  I love spelt now, and to see it made into such a great loaf is great!

Cake looks too good as well.  Dang, my post dinner sweet tooth is aching much more now.


Franko's picture

Hi-ya John,

Spelt flour has a some distinct tolerances for mixing, hydration and fermentation from typical wheat flour. If you think of it as being quicker to ferment, and needing more development than wheat flour, the payoff in flavour can be significant. It is after all in the same genus as our modern wheat varieties, lending its particular flavour characteristics and enhancing the overall flavour of a typical wheat based mix.The two key points I've learned so far experimenting with spelt are to keep the overall mix on the acidic side to help strengthen the weaker gluten of spelt, and to give it plenty of time to absorb water.Water take-up for spelt is much slower than wheat flour. If you try to rush it the dough will throw the water off. Trying to re-incorporate the water into an already weak gluten structure is pretty much a crapshoot as to what sort of dough you'll wind up with in the end. Even for a low percentage spelt dough (30%-) I'd recommend giving the spelt flour a good soak of 2-3 hours or more before your final mix. Spelt has it challenges, but you've risen to similar challenges in your previous bakes of mixed grains, notably rye breads, and I'm confident you'll do likewise with a spelt mix.

Thanks for your compliments John, all the very best.


dmsnyder's picture

I keep forgetting to pick up a bag of the One Degree Organic Foods sprouted wheat! I better add it to my shopping list right now!

I do love the stellar scoring pattern, and yours looks just perfect. And I know it doesn't get to look like that if everything else isn't perfect as well.

I have nothing but admiration for the kind of cake designing and execution skills shown in your blackberry dessert. <sigh>


Franko's picture

I'll pick up a bag of the 00 on Friday, (if it's on the shelf) and I'm just as interested to hear your thoughts on the sprouted wheat flour as you are mine regarding the 00 for pizza dough.The scoring pattern for this boule is a favourite of mine, taken from "Bread" pg 129. Although not near as pretty as JH's, it's one of the more attractive patterns I've seen for a boule. Pleased to know that you like it David, thank you!

What ever pastry/cake design and execution skills I may possess are for the most part self taught, other than my basic college training. I definitely need some professional training and would love to do a full session of pastry and confectionery instruction at SFBI at some point in the future to have a better hands-on understanding of modern design and decorating techniques. Much as I love bread making, the range of creative possibilities in this sub-set of baking offers far more room for personal expression to me than the confines of bread baking. Where this might lead to I'm not sure but I'm keen to find out.

Many thanks David for your compliments, always a pleasure to hear from you.

The very best,


SylviaH's picture

What a gorgeous loaf you have created.  It just glows.  Love your use of the sprouted flour.

Wow, and the cake is superb!  I love the combination flavors and , the nougatine adds just the perfect finish.  

The blackberry gathering, reminds me of my childhood in Texas.  Wild blackberries everywhere, just waiting to be picked along with sticking our little hands down frog holes and pulling them out to play.  

Do you lay a long board across the top of blackberries bushes to pick the center ?  I remember doing that visting friends in Oregon.

That is a very  special and delicious looking jam from breadsong and, her expression of your baking is thumbs up : )



Franko's picture

Hi Sylvia, and thank you !

Of all the spelt inclusive breads I've made recently, this one is hands down my fave. It tastes great, is light and moist, (so far) has a nice texture from the cracked spelt, holds a sandwich well, and gets along nicely with either sweet or savoury accompaniments. Can't really expect much more from a simple bread than that IMO. Glad to know that you liked it and the cake as well, as I hold your opinion on any sort of baking in high regard.

For blackberry picking, instead of the plank method and because we're just taking enough for fresh baking rather than for preserves, I just hammer a nail into a long skinny piece of wood and use it to hook the deeper brambles in close for picking.

Breadsong's strawberry, raspberry and chocolate balsamic jam is just crazy good! Never had any preserve quite like it, a truly elegant blend of natural fruit flavour and sweetness balanced perfectly with the light acidity of the chocolate balsamic vinegar. Easily one of the best taste experiences I've had so far this year.

So good to hear from you Sylvia, all the best.




hanseata's picture

I just baked Forkish's "Overnight Brown" with spelt instead of whole wheat (40% spelt), and found the taste better than the whole wheat version. I'd like to try your recipe (and your pretty scoring pattern!)

What do you exactly mean with "continue baking in 8 minute intervals? Checking every 8 minutes?

And what a wonderful torte!



Franko's picture

Thank you Karin!

The 8 minute interval thing is just something I've been doing with our particular oven. I find that if I'm not checking it regularly and rotating the loaf/ loaves they tend towards uneven colouring. You know your oven so ignore that part of the procedure, it's just included from my notes during the bake. Hope you try the formula out.

All the best,


bakingbadly's picture

I haven't had the pleasure of baking with spelt. It simply doesn't exist where I live... Nonetheless, that's one fine, delectable loaf you have there. 

Happy baking,


Franko's picture

Hi Zita,

Sorry for the late reply, just wanted to thank you for your compliments on the loaf. Shame you can't lay your hands on some spelt, particularly the sprouted variety, however you're doing some great things with the flours you do have and making them work for you.

All the best,


PiPs's picture

Cakes and bread look just top notch Franko,

Have never seen any kind of sprouted flour for sale here or cracked spelt ... you are very lucky to have these on hand. I know I could make these myself ... just never seem to get around to it :)

All the best,