Periodically I find myself taking stock of my pantry content and come to realization that my stocking abilities are quite lame. I find things in there you wouldn’t believe. Surely, living (in my past life) close to one of the best places to shop for groceries — Dekalb Farmer’s Market in Atlanta — was to blame for overbuying lentils and quinoa in every color of the rainbow. I also find weird things like semolina, barley flour, and vital gluten; a container of whole spelt grain — what was I thinking — and things like millet and whole wheat pearl couscous… At least I used that last one yesterday, so I don’t quite feel as guilty about overstocking.
Among other things, I found a bag of recently purchased spelt flour, and that triggered a craiving for spelt bread. I’ve read wonderful things about spelt properties — both culinary and nutritional, and found that it does wonders in bread. Said all that, I went straight to my favorite source of all things sourdough — WildYeastBlog.com and immediately found this recipe, which looked very promising.
Without thinking twice, I started dumping ingredients into the mixing bowl one by one, only to discover when it was already too late, that I was completely out of wheat flour. Any kind of wheat flour. My enthusiasm wilted, but only slightly. The voices in my head started whispering… Into my weird stocked pantry I dive and grab barley flour and vital gluten. Voila! I felt like I found a pretty reasonable replacement for wheat flour — barley will add flavor, and gluten will compensate for missing white flour. I also reduced the amount of water and added two colors of sesame seeds.
I let first fermentation phase to go longer than prescribed because I had a doctor’s appointment, and couldn’t fold the dough in time. I did have some concerns about the texture, but the bread turned out very well. It may not be as puffy as Wild Yeast Blog’s one, but it had nice crumb, very slight sourness to it, nutty flavor and sesame seed makes it just so much better. The crust is quite different from all those chewier wheaty breads — it’s crunchy and resembles somewhat of good quality multigrain crackers. Straight from the oven it was awesome with some butter. Trust me, you have to try spelt bread at least once to appreciate the difference.
Use kitchen scale to get exact measures of flour, it’s important to get the right proportions to get good results.
Skip-the-Wheat 4S Bread
Adopted from WildYeastBlog.com’s 4S Bread Recipe
- 100 g (3-1/2 oz) barley flour
- 2 tbsp vital gluten
- 136 g (5 oz) whole spelt flour
- 236 g (8-1/2 oz) semolina flour
- 1 cup filtered water at room temperature
- 1/3 tsp instant yeast (optional)
- 2 tsp salt
- 141 g (5 oz) ripe 100% hydration sourdough starter
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 80 g (3 oz) toasted sesame seeds, black and white if desired
In a bowl mix the flours, most of the water, sourdough starter, yeast, and salt on low speed until well combined, about four or five minutes. You may need to adjust the water amount, depending on your flour quality.
Continue mixing until the dough is moderately soft, which for me was about 3-4 more minutes.
Add olive oil, increase the mixing speed to medium and continue mixing for about 10 minutes or so, until the dough reaches medium elasticity.
Add sesame seed and mix on low until seed is distributed — for a few more minutes.
Transfer the dough into a lightly oiled container, Wild Yeast suggests a wide one, so that you can fold the dough without taking it out. I used one of those shoe storage boxes you can get at household stores for a buck — they come very handy.
Cover the box and let the dough rise for 1 hr. Fold (see below) the dough, cover, and let rise for another hour (add 30 more minutes, if you skipped the dry yeast).
Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface. Divide in half and form two balls. Let the balls rest for about 20-25 minutes covered with plastic.
Now it’s time to shape the loaves. I made pointy batards — you can look up the technique on youtube.com or elsewhere — there is plenty of instructional information out there.
Transfer your loaves onto semolina sprinkled parchment on a baking sheet. Cover loosely with plastic, and let rise another 2 (2-1/2 if no dry yeast) hours.
Right before baking, slash the loaves the way you like using extremely sharp knife or a razor blade. S-shaped slash worked better for me than the slanted slashes.
Preheat the oven to 475. Place a roasting pan on the bottom rack and let it warm up with the oven. Boil some water. When ready to put bread in the oven, pour about 1-2 cups of boiling water into the roasting pan — this will generate lots of steam. Close the oven immediately to retain the steam. Place the bread in the oven. Reduce the heat to 450. Spray the walls of your oven with water using a spray bottle to generate additional steam during the first 10 minutes of baking. Do it a couple more times.
After 10 minutes, remove the roasting pan with remaining water, and bake for another 20 minutes. Turn off the oven, open the oven door and let bread dry for 5-10 minutes. Then you can remove the bread and cool it on racks.
Flatten your dough lightly into a rough rectangle. Mentally divide your rectangle into three parts, like a letter that needs to fit into an envelope. Fold your dough exactly like you would a letter. Flatten again, turn 90 degrees, and repeat the folding.