St. Hildegard’s Spelt Bread (BBB January 2011)

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BBB: Let's Get Baking summary: recipe for Spelt Bread; information about Bread Baking Babes; submission for YeastSpotting; (click on images to see larger views and more photos)

Bread Baking Babes (BBB) January 2011

Ha! Only one day late with this posting… I was going to be on time! I was!! (We tasted the bread on the 16th….) :stomp: :stomp:

spelt bread(bbb) After all the rich food, cookies, candies and cakes galore, it was a relief to turn to baking a whole grain loaf.

And the Babes being crazy, is it any surprise that the loaf we were to make wasn’t from just any whole grain? Of course not! The Babes always choose a challenge. This month, it was to use spelt flour instead of wheat flour.

I must admit that whole grain spelt (Triticum spelta), the ancient grain related to wheat (Triticum aestivum), would not have been my choice of grain if it hadn’t been for Astrid’s suggestion that we all try it.

It’s not that I didn’t want to try it.

It’s just that I’ve been afraid to try it.

Even though Astrid has been baking with spelt rather than wheat for a while. And she loves it. Other friends of mine have been doing the same thing. And they love their spelt bread as well.

Spelt (aka Dinkel, Farro) has been around for centuries.

Der Dinkel ist das beste Getreide, und er ist warm und fett und kräftig, und er ist milder als andere Getreidearten. Er bereitet dem der ihn ißt rechtes Fleisch und rechtes Blut, und er macht frohen Sinn und Freude im Gemüt des Menschen. Und wie auch immer die Menschen ihn essen ist er gut und mild.

[Spelt is the best grain, warming, lubricating and of high nutritional value. It is better tolerated by the body than any other grain. Spelt provides the consumer with good flesh and good blood and confers a cheerful disposition. It provides a happy mind and a joyful spirit. No matter how you eat spelt, it is good and easy to digest.]

-Hildegard von Bingen (1098-1179)

But everything else I’ve read about it says that it can be tricky to use. And I’m lazy. I don’t want trickiness with flour. :lalala:

Not to mention that spelt isn’t cheap. And I’m a skinflint.

But to continue my argument with myself, no flour right now is inexpensive.

So. With the other babes breathing down my neck, I realized that it was high time for my plunge into spelt flour baking. I slogged through the snow down to the health food store (I can’t get over the fact that people don’t bother to shovel their walks! Especially because they have postage stamp sized lots!!).

I bought some organic whole spelt flour from the bin ($1.49/lb – WHY is our healthfood store selling flour by the pound rather than the kilo?!) I eyeballed the amount to scoop into the bag. Of course, I have NO idea what 600gm looks like and ended up getting only 350gm – enough to make one loaf.

Astrid’s recipe also calls for spelt flakes. The health food store didn’t have spelt flakes in the bins and only sells them in 500gm bags (for $5.99). Again, not cheap.

But I knew that I could use any leftover spelt flakes in granola or multigrain bread. Or, of course, in future loaves of this spelt bread, should it prove to be fabulous.

So I unzipped my purse and with my penny pinching fingers handed over the cash.

At $3.28 per kilo – that’s $32 for a 10kg bag of spelt flour (if they sold it in 10kg bags). It is between $9 and $16 for a 10 kg bag of unbleached all-purpose or whole wheat flour….

Spelt Bread Making Diary:

Step one: Astrid’s recipe calls for 40 gm fresh yeast. Using my ridiculous calculator that takes into account the various formulae I came across in my books and on the internet, the amount of active dry yeast to use is anywhere between 6.4 and 26 gm. I decided to go with the lower amount because there is no sugar in the recipe.

Being forewarned that the “sponge” would be quite unspongelike and crumbly, I wasn’t at all unnerved after completing the first step. I covered the bowl and left what looked just like crumb topping to sit in the oven with the light on while I went out and shovelled the walk (I know I live in Canada and that it’s January, but why oh why is it snowing again?) then came in to finish mixing the dough.

Step two: Eeeeeeeek!! What’s this liquid mess? It looks like poorly mixed library paste.

I decided against turning the sludge onto the board for kneading and kneaded the glop in the bowl. After five minutes or so, I started seeing quite a few gluten strands and decided that must be enough kneading (listening to Astrid’s cautions about overkneading). Using a rubber scraper, I pushed it into a vaguely ball shaped mound on one side of the bowl. I refrained from coating the ball with water. More water??? I think not.

I put the covered bowl into the oven with the light turned on (our kitchen is quite cold these days – around 15C) and hoped a miracle would occur and the sludge would turn into dough as it rose.

Step three: After a couple of hours, the sludge in the bowl bubbled up quite nicely. I turned it out onto a lightly floured (eermmmmm… I used unbleached all-purpose wheat flour. Are the spelt flour police going to come after me now??) and folded the now vaguely doughlike slop a couple of times. I muddled it into one of those silicone liners placed in a breadpan. After slicing it down the middle, I sprayed it with water (ha! as if it needed more water!) and sprinkled the top with sesame seeds. And hoped it would rise quickly. I was now under a double deadline – wanting to bake it before we had to leave to go out to dine with friends AND so I might be able to get my post together in time for yesterday.

Step four: Just enough time to bake before we had to leave!! Baking… As it baked for its first 15 minutes, I raced upstairs to get dressed for dinner. I thought maybe just maybe it would have some oven spring. Even though none of the other Babes so far had oven spring. (I don’t know why I thought my loaf would be different!)

After 15 minutes of baking, it was still flat as a pancake. And after 30 minutes more, it remained flat as a pancake.

But it smelled fabulous!

Naturally, you will want to make spelt bread too! Here’s the recipe we were to have followed.

And here is what I did to it:

St. Hildegard’s Spelt Bread
based on Astrid’s Spelt Bread recipe

makes one loaf

  • 4 gm (2 tsp) active dry yeast
  • 100 gm (100 ml) lukewarm water
  • 25 gm (~¼ c) skim milk powder ¹
  • 200 gm (~2 c) spelt flakes
  • 300 gm (~2½ c) whole spelt flour
  • 7.5 gm (~2 tsp) kosher salt
  • 250 gm (1 c) additional water, lukewarm
  • 15 gm (1 Tbsp) lemon juice
  • 15 gm (1 Tbsp) 7 gm (~½ Tbsp) sunflower oil²
  1. Mixing Pour lukewarm water into a small bowl; whisk in milk powder then add yeast and whisk well til smooth. Set aside.
  2. In a largish bowl, stir spelt flakes, flour and salt together. Add the yeast mixture and using a wooden spoon stir it together as best you can. It will look like crumb topping. Cover the bowl with a plate or tea towl and allow to rest about 20 minutes.
  3. Using a wooden spoon, stir in the rest of the water, lemon juice and sunflower oil into the crumbly stuff. The mixture will now look like muffin batter.
  4. Kneading Hand knead the now quite soup mess directly in the bowl for about 10 minutes til you see lots of gluten strands begin to form. I used my hands but a rubber scraper might be in order for this.
  5. Push the sludge into a vaguely ball shaped mound on the side of the bowl. Make an executive decision to not add any more water. Cover again with teatowel and leave on the counter (or in the oven with only the light turned on) until it doubles in size.
  6. Shaping: Pour the now bubbly dough (still pretty loose) onto a lightly floured board. Knead by hand 2 or 3 minutes. Use your dough scraper to keep the board clean.
  7. Use the dough scraper to fold the dough into a rectangular shape and then lift it into a parchment papered bread tin. Slash the top lengthwise about 5mm deep. Spray lightly with water and sprinkle with sesame seeds.
  8. Proofing: Cover and allow to rise until doubled.
  9. Turn the oven to 400F.
  10. Baking Bake for 15 minutes at 400F.
  11. After 15 minutes, turn the bread around (to account for uneven oven heat) AND turn the oven temperature down to 375F. Continue to bake for about 30 minutes more until the bread sounds hollow on the bottom.
  12. When the bread is done, remove to cool onto a footed rack. Wait until it is completely cool (the bread is still baking when hot out of the oven) before slicing.


1.) Milk Powder: Astrid’s recipe calls for actual milk – we just didn’t happen to have any on hand (we’d used it all up in our morning cappuccino….) so I used powdered milk and water. (We always have powdered milk in the cupboard for making biscuits.)

2.) Oil I foolishly refrained from writing out the half recipe, imagining that I’d remember to put in half of each ingredient. Of course, I forgot and added a full tablespoon of sunflower oil rather than half a tablespoon.

3.) Kneading Astrid says that the longer you knead the dough, the more air will be incorporated. But then she went on with the cautionary note to be careful not to overknead the dough! I wonder if our bread was flat as a pancake because I was afraid to knead too much…. She also says to be careful that the dough does not overrise, saying that spelt loves to overrise. Oh dear. I wonder if I should have turned the oven on 15 minutes earlier… I turned the oven on when the loaf had already doubled.

spelt bread(bbb) We served the bread the next day for breakfast with hard boiled eggs. It’s pretty dense bread – very much like German black bread but without the molasses…. Sliced very thinly and served warm with butter and apricot jam, it’s very good.

Bread Baking Babes
Bread Baking Babes: Hildegard's Spelt Bread

Astrid (Paulchens FoodBlog?!) is the host of the January 2011’s Bread Baking Babes’ task. She wrote:

I grabbed my bread books and flipped through the pages eagerly seeking the perfect bread for my fellow Babes to try… […] Since I really wanted to give “my bread” a kinda personal touch I thought of what is “typical” for me,… and I remembered [BBBabe, Breadchick] Mary calling me “the alternative flour Buddy” […] since I always substitute wheat flour to spelt flour wherever it is possible… there it was: the bread had to be SPELT Bread!!

If you’d like to bake along (of course you do!!) and receive a Baking Buddy Badge to display on your site, bake the spelt bread and post it before the 29 January 2011.

For complete details about this month’s recipe, the BBB and how to become a BBB, please read:

Please take a look at the other Babes’ results:

Please read more about spelt:

Read more about Hildegard of Bingen:


Yeastspotting - every Friday ( image)

Each week, Susan (Wild Yeast) compiles a list of many bread-specific recipes from across the web. For complete details on how to be included in the YeastSpotting round up, please read the following:


I have to be truthful. As healthful and nutty tasting as this bread is, I will probably not rush out to buy spelt flour to make more of this particular bread. However, I’m thrilled to have spelt flakes and will definitely be getting more of those to put into multigrain bread and granola! Thank you for this push to delve into spelt, Astrid!!

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5 responses to “St. Hildegard’s Spelt Bread (BBB January 2011)

  1. Baking Soda

    Hmm expensive experiment right? (Mine was almost 4,– per kilo). Yes, I would compare it to the German dark rye, thinly sliced I like that a lot. Mine was more like a whole wheat but far nuttier.

    Is that 4€ per kilo, Karen? Wow, and I thought it was pricey here!! -Elizabeth

  2. Astrid

    You made my day, Elizabeth! I always enjoy reading your blog posts! I am sorry it was so expensive for you all. I didn’t think about the costs. Here in Austria spelt does not cost any more moneys than good wheat does. …

    I am glad you liked it tho and that it worked out well despite your fear of spelt flour. I am baking 90% with spelt flour and with some experience it works quite well and is better for me than wheat.

    We are indeed liking it, Astrid. We sliced it very thinly yesterday to make the best ham sandwiches for lunch! It’s a shame it’s so expensive here; otherwise I’d like to experiment with more. -Elizabeth

  3. Susan/Wild Yeast

    Library paste, perfect description! Isn’t it great how the Babes push us to things we wouldn’t normally do?

    Yes. I love that the Babes enforce branching out. I’m lazy and much more inclined to stick with the familiar so am happy for the pushes. -Elizabeth

  4. Elle

    At least you baked yours at the right temperature :) It’s true that the spelt flour and flakes were expensive which is why it may take some time before I bake this again. I liked your description of slicing it thinly and serving for breakfast. Mine got cut into cubes and baked some more in a low oven for salad croutons.

    Good idea to use it for making croutons, Elle! -ejm

  5. Heather @girlichef

    You know, I wondered about over-kneading after I read that, too…but I kept going for the whole fifteen minutes…because that’s how long it took it to actually look like a dough I recognized as dough, LOL! This was my first venture into the world of spelt, as well…but I’m thoroughly intrigued :D

    You are much braver (not to mention, less lazy) than I, Heather! But if I ever splash out and buy spelt again, I’ll be sure to knead until it looks like dough, instead of chickening out. -Elizabeth


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