Spelt Sourdough Bread is a delicious crusty loaf with a naturally sweet and nutty flavor. Spelt is a species of wheat that’s a great addition to any baker’s pantry, especially those interested in ancient grains. A little bit of bread flour adds lightness creating a delicate and airy bread that allows the natural sweetness and tenderizing qualities of spelt to shine. You’ll love this bread in sandwiches, smeared with salted homemade butter or just tear off a chunk and eat it on its own.
Spelt is one of my favorite grains. While breads made with 100% spelt flour tend to be a little bit denser, this recipe uses a combination of bread flour and spelt which results in a loaf that’s light with a creamy crumb that tastes a little bit like honey. This bread takes about 2 days to make, but the process is mostly hands off and the effort is totally worth it. The natural sweetness and nuttiness of spelt perfectly complements the tang of sourdough. Fermenting the dough for a long period results in an airy crumb that takes advantage of the softness of spelt.
What is spelt?
Spelt is a type of wheat. It's considered an ancient grain since it has been farmed in its present form for thousands of years and hasn’t been selectively bred for hardiness and productivity. Unlike white flour which only consists of the endosperm, spelt flour is usually not sifted and is sold with all parts of the grain; the bran and germ included. This makes it more nutritious and higher in fiber.
Try substituting spelt for whole wheat in your sourdough bread recipe for added softness and sweetness.
Spelt used to be exceedingly difficult to find, however, due to the growing interest in heritage and ancient grains, it's become more widely available. You can definitely purchase it online, at a specialty store or I've even found it in the baking aisle at my local grocery store!
Brands of Spelt Flour I love and recommend are Central Milling, Azure Standard and Bob's Red Mill
Yes! I tested this recipe using both store-bought spelt flour and freshly-milled spelt berries. Both worked great, but the sweetness and nuttiness was more pronounced in the bread made with freshly-milled flour. Fermentation tends to occur at a faster rate when using fresh flour, so just be sure to watch your dough to prevent it from becoming over proofed.
I purchased my spelt berries from Azure Standard and ground them using my Mockmill.
Curious about ancient grain and other types of flour? Check out this guide on the 12 Best Flours to Bake With.
Like all wheat, spelt contains gluten. It is quite high in protein, however, because of the molecular structure of gluten in spelt (it has more gliadin than glutenin), it forms weaker bonds that are more water soluble. This results in a dough that’s more extensible, stretchier and more prone to spreading. While spelt is easier to digest than conventional wheat, it is not gluten-free and may not be safe to consume for people with gluten intolerance or celiac disease.
What you need to make this bread
Bread flour - High-protein bread flour helps with gluten development imparting lightness to this loaf
Spelt flour - Spelt imparts a natural sweetness and softness to bread
Water - The main source of hydration
Active starter - Main leavener for this recipe, it allows dough to rise and imparts a tangy flavor
Salt - Enhances the flavor of these bagels and strengthens the gluten structure
Dutch Oven or Challenger Bread Pan
Time needed: 16 hours.
Combine only the bread flour, spelt flour and water in a large mixing bowl. Set aside for 1 hour.
- Mix the dough
Fold the sourdough starter and salt to the dough. Let the mixture rest for 30 minutes.
- Strengthen the dough
Perform 4 to 5 sets of stretch and folds in 30 minute intervals.
Let the dough rest untouched in bowl covered with plastic wrap for 1 hour.
Round the dough into a tight ball, cover and let the dough rest for 15 minutes. Preshaping will create additional tension and prepares the dough to hold its final shape.
Shape the dough and place it in the proofing vessel of your choice.
- Cold proof
Place the dough into the refrigerator overnight. This will allow your dough to further develop flavor while preventing it from becoming over proofed.
Cut a large gash on the dough to direct the release of steam and expansion of the bread.
Bake the dough in a Dutch Oven covered for 30 minutes and uncovered for 10 to 15 minutes depending on how dark you want your crust.
Need more detailed step-by-step bread making explanations? Check out my Sourdough Bread 101 virtual course!
Autolyse simply refers to the step in the bread making process where flour is mixed with water and allowed to hydrate before the remaining ingredients are combined. It kickstarts gluten development and allows the dough to build strength and extensibility before fermentation begins. Autolysed dough is usually easier to handle and a lot less sticky since it has already begun to build strong gluten bonds. It also has the added benefit of softening the sharp edges of bran in spelt flour which has a tendency to cut the gluten strands formed during gluten development. If you’ve ever baked with whole wheat flour you’ll notice that it has a denser texture. This is because bran can impede gluten formation, soaking your whole wheat flour in water softens bran and prevents this from happening.
Fermentation begins as soon as the starter is mixed into your dough. In my experience, spelt dough ferments a little faster than dough made with white flour. This step of the process usually takes about 4 to 4 and a half hours for me. However, this process is highly variable, depending on the activity of your starter and your environment. I’ll be giving time cues here but keep in mind that fermentation may occur at a different pace in your home kitchen. I like to start a 4 hour timer as soon as I mix my starter to my dough, then I observe my dough as the end of my timer gets close. If my dough looks airy, bubbly and has increased in volume then I proceed to shaping. Pay attention to how your dough is progressing, feel free to subtract or add time depending on how it looks.
Because of the structure of this dough, it requires more aggressive shaping.
1 Fold left side of the dough towards the center
2 Fold the right side over the left
3 Fold the bottom up towards the center
4 Fold the top of the dough over
5 Stitch the dough beginning with the center of the dough
6 Stitch the top and bottom
7 Fold the top of the dough and gently flip the dough over so the seam is in the bottom
8 Use a bench scraper or your fingertips to drag the dough towards yourself to gently increase the tension without tearing the surface of the dough
If you don’t have a banneton, you can shape your dough into a boule and proof it in a mixing bowl lined with a tea towel.
To shape a boule:
1. Gently flatten the dough into a rough rectangle
2. Fold the bottom towards the middle
3. Fold the left and right sides toward the center
4. Fold the top down
5. Turn the dough over
6. Round the dough, dragging it on the surface to seal the seam
7. Place the down seam-side up in a mixing bowl lined with a tea towel dusted with rice flour
Scoring bread has a very important purpose, it directs the expansion of the dough and gives the steam a way to escape while it bakes in the oven. Since this bread will not rise in the oven as dramatically as a normal sourdough loaf, it’s the perfect candidate for decorative sourdough designs. Just make sure not to cut the dough too deep so it will hold its shape. Use a lame or a sharp paring knife, if you don't have one.
Check out this video to see how I scored this loaf.
Spelt Sourdough Bread
- 240 grams bread flour
- 120 grams spelt flour
- 274 grams water
- 56 grams sourdough starter mature and active
- 7 grams salt
- Autolyse: In a large mixing bowl combine the bread flour, spelt flour and water. Mix just until all of the flour is hydrated. Cover your bowl with plastic wrap and let the dough rest for 1 hour.
- Make the dough: Add the sourdough starter and salt into your dough. Fold the dough over the additions and lightly knead the dough until the ingredients are fully incorporated and you no longer feel any grains of salt. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let it rest untouched for 30 minutes.
- Strengthen the dough: Using your middle finger and pointer finger, pick your dough up in the center and lift it completely out of the container until the ends release. Transfer the dough to a clean, lightly oiled bowl, coiling the ends under. Cover with plastic wrap and let the dough rest for another 30 minutes.
- Complete 4 coil folds in 30 minute intervals. To perform a coil fold, use your middle finger and pointer finger to gently lift the center of the dough until the ends release from the container. Let the ends naturally tuck under the dough, turn your bowl 90 degrees and repeat. Cover your bowl with plastic wrap and let it rest for 30 minutes.
- After performing the last coil fold, let the dough rest untouched for 1 hour.
- Pre shape: Turn your dough out on a lightly floured surface. Gently flip the dough over and round it into a tight ball. Cover the dough with a tea towel and let it rest for 15 minutes.
- Shape: Shape your dough into a batard. Place it in a banneton dusted with rice flour and cover with a shower cap or a plastic bag.
- Cold proof: Place the dough in the refrigerator and let it proof overnight.
- Prep: Preheat the oven to 500 F with a dutch oven inside.
- Score the dough: Take your dough out of the refrigerator, unwrap the proofing basket and gently turn the dough out on a piece of parchment paper. Using a lame or a sharp paring knife, cut a large but shallow gash on the dough, about ⅛-inch deep.
- Bake: Place the dough inside the Dutch Oven. Bake the dough covered for 30 minutes and 10 to 15 minutes uncovered depending on how dark you prefer your crust.
- Cool: Let the bread cool for at least 2 hours and let the crumb set before slicing.
- Store: Store bread in a zip top bag for up to 5 days.
Did you make this recipe? Do you have questions? Let me know!