Spelt Sourdough

Having just recently devoured every episode of the inspirational Michael Pollan series Cooked on Netflix1, I came away with a sudden urge to drop everything and get some fresh dough between my fingers. Throughout the entire series he was on screen rallying behind slow food, especially so in the “Air” episode where Pollan points out that humanity really lost something when we transitioned from quality, slow food to abundant, fast food — most significantly when it comes to bread. There’s truth to the old saying that all good things take time, right? I agree.

With this amped up baking gusto I’ve been baking more and more this past month, not only baking my staple weekly bread but also milling fresh spelt flour and testing a spelt sourdough formula. Chances are you’ve heard of spelt, a very old species of wheat that has been used since long ago and as Pollan alluded to, you feel a sort of connection with ancient bakers when baking bread this way, and especially for me with this ancient grain.

spelt sourdough
Scroll down for an animation and explanation on how I scored this bread.

There are many ways to ferment food and he goes into the science behind the magic of fermentation: how through a lengthy process flour and water are transformed from raw, inedible ingredients into something not only edible, but delicious. Through this fermentation food is made more bioavailable for humans and in many cases it adds significant flavor. And oh is spelt delicious! It has a slight nutty flavor that also gives the crust an interesting bite to it — a little thicker & a little crunchier. Spelt is known for its extreme extensibility (the ability to stretch out before resisting or tearing) and at high percentages it can be a little tricky to incorporate into a dough formula — the dough feels perfectly strong at the beginning of bulk fermentation but it becomes more and more slack by the end. To adapt, I quickly realized I needed to back off from my usual high hydration2 and also add in a little more strength to the dough through mixing. But still, be ready for some spreading on the counter at the end of pre-shape and cut it short if necessary. This bread harkens back to my oat porridge sourdough which displays many of the same characteristics.

As I’ve heard some bakers say, baking takes a lot of time, but for the most part it’s not YOUR time.Michael Pollan

For this bread I built strength at the get-go through a few minutes of slap/fold and then utilized my traditional stretch and folds during bulk. If you prefer to only do stretch and folds in the bulk container, load the front of bulk with a few more sets than normal. For example, perform 4 sets in the first hour of bulk at 15 minute intervals, and then continue with this recipe as outlined below.

Flour Selection

An important step when milling fresh flour is to first inspect your grain. I’ve experienced a varying level of cleanliness when it comes to the berries I’ve purchased, some having hardly a rock or pebble whereas others have a few more. You definitely do not want this debris finding its way into your mill, let alone your bread. I first weigh out the amount of grain per my formula requirements, plus a few extra grams, and then dump the grain out onto a clean baking sheet. This lets me quickly pick through the berries looking for anything out of place. Even with quite a bit of grain to inspect I can do this rather quickly.picking spelt berriesOnce the grain has been picked over it goes straight into my mill and hand-milled, a slow process that produces exceptionally cool and fine flour.  By keeping the flour temperature low I’m able to retain more nutrients and essential oils present in the grain.

I don’t expect many to have a grain mill at their disposal, if you don’t check with your local market to see if they have whole grain spelt flour for sale, chances are they will. If you can only find white spelt flour that will work just as well3, perhaps with a little less overall flavor. If you use aged spelt flour please see my note about the levain percentage at the beginning of the formula below.

My formula also calls for “type 85” flour, which I source from Central Milling. If you don’t have type 85 on hand (I don’t expect many to have this) a good way to approximate this high-extraction flour is to mix half bread flour with half whole wheat, as described by Chad Robertson in Tartine No. 3. I really like the level of extraction of this flour, it has just the right amount of bran/germ left to provide serious flavor but just enough removed to still provide strength and loft. I am relying on the strength of this flour to help support the extreme extensibility of the spelt at this hydration, and the added whole wheat flavors are just icing on the top.fresh milled spelt

Spelt Sourdough Formula

If any of the terms or steps below are new to you, have a look at my Beginner’s Sourdough post from a few weeks ago for more description and photos of each.

You will notice this formula has a really, really low percentage of levain used in the Dough Formula (the pre-fermented flour is only 3.9%). If you are not using fresh milled spelt you might want to increase the levain from the 10% I used to around 15% or so. Just keep an eye on your dough during bulk and if it looks like it’s moving slow at 15%, lengthen bulk until the dough looks ready, and vice versa. Be flexible.

Vitals

Total dough weight: 1800g
Pre-fermented flour: 3.90%
Hydration: 85%
Yield: 2 x 900g loaves

If you want to halve this recipe just take all ingredients in the Dough Formula section and divide by 2, keep the Levain Build as-is (but still reduce the amount of levain in the Dough Formula by half).

Levain Build

Weight Ingredient Baker’s Percentage
25g Mature liquid starter (100% hydration) 50%
25g Central Milling Type 85 50%
25g Giusto’s Artisan Bread Flour 50%
50g H2O @ room temperature 100%

spelt sourdough mixlame and crust

Dough Formula

Note that the baker’s percentages listed below are with respect to the final dough ingredients and do not take into account the levain. In other words, the levain ingredients are not represented in the percentages below.

Target final dough temperature (FDT) is 78ºF.

Weight Ingredient Baker’s Percentage
362g Giusto’s Artisan Bread Flour 39.59%
285g Fresh milled spelt 31.22%
267g Central Milling Type 85 29.19%
771g H2O @ 90ºF 84.39%
22g Fine sea salt 2.45%
93g Mature, liquid levain 10.15%

Method

1. Levain – 10:00 a.m.

Build the liquid levain in the morning and store somewhere around 74-76ºF ambient for around 5-6 hours.

2. “Autolyse” (with levain) – 3:15 p.m.

I used the word “autolyse” in quotes because this isn’t a true autolyse (which is simply flour + water). Because I’m letting the dough rest for only 30 minutes I decided to just add the levain along with mixing the flour and water.

Mix flour, 671g of water (reserve 100g water for further mixing later) and levain in a bowl until all dry bits are hydrated. Cover bowl and store somewhere warm (around 78ºF) for 30 minutes.

3. Mix – 3:45 p.m.

Sprinkle the salt on top of the rested dough and use the remaining water to help dissolve. Pinch through the dough with your hand and mix until all the water is incorporated. The dough will break apart a little and then come back together — it should only take a few minutes.

To build some more strength in this dough at the beginning I did slap/fold for about 5 minutes, just until it starts to show signs of a smooth surface. If you aren’t comfortable with slap/fold method, or don’t like it, you can do stretch and folds in the bowl until your dough tightens up and becomes smooth and slightly hard to stretch out and fold over. Medium development.

Transfer the dough to a tub or thick-walled bowl and cover for bulk fermentation.

4. Bulk Fermentation – 3:50 p.m. to 8:20 p.m.

At 76-80ºF ambient temperature bulk fermentation should go for about 4.5 hours. Watch the dough here and shorten or lengthen bulk fermentation based on how its developing. There are a few signs to look for that signal the end of bulk fermentation:

  • the edges where the dough meets your container should be slightly domed (convex)
  • your dough should have risen anywhere between 30% – 50%
  • if you slightly jiggle your bulk container the dough should also jiggle and look alive
  • if you wet your hand and tug at the dough it should provide some resistance and want to pull back

Perform 4 sets of stretch and folds during bulk, spaced out by 30 minutes (your first stretch and fold is 30 minutes after you finished mixing). Be vigorous with your first set of stretch and folds (really stretch that dough up and high, just until it starts to show resistance and before it begins to tear) and be more gentle with the remaining sets. After your last stretch and fold, let the dough rest in the bulk container for the remainder of the bulk time (for me it was 2.5 hours).

5. Divide & Preshape – 8:20 p.m.

Divide the dough into two masses. Lightly shape each mass into a round and let rest for 20 minutes uncovered.

6. Shape – 8:40 p.m.

Lightly flour the top of your dough rounds and flour the work surface. Flip each round and shape into a boule. Try to get some good tension on the top of these loaves, but don’t over-handle the dough. After shaping, let rest on the bench for a few minutes and then place into a banneton seam-side-up.boule bannetonsI prefer to use linen-lined bannetons for this moderately wet dough: it removes easier from the basket and any liquid that escapes from the dough will go into the linen, which is far easier to clean. Only lightly dust the bannetons with white rice flour, just enough so the dough easily removes from them but no more.

7. Rest & Proof – 9:05 p.m.

Cover your banneton with plastic tied tight and let the dough rest on the counter for 25 minutes. Then, retard in the refrigerator at 38ºF for 14 hours.

8. Score & Bake – Next Morning: Preheat oven at 9:00am, Bake at 10:30 a.m.

Preheat oven for 1.5 hours at 500ºF.

Take out your first boule and cut a piece of parchment paper to fit over your round banneton. Place the peel on top of the banneton and quickly invert the entire stack (banneton, parchment and peel), gently pull off the basket and your dough should now be resting on the parchment that’s on top of the peel. Using a small sifter and some white rice flour lightly cover the entire boule with flour. Then use your lame to score the top. You can see the process below.score

To ensure your design stays intact in the oven don’t mist your loaves with any additional water, if this is normally what you do. Drag the parchment paper directly into your preheated Dutch oven, if using, or slide right onto your hot baking stones.

I baked these loaves using a Dutch oven a few times but also straight on my baking stones with steam. Both methods produce an excellent loaf, but I do find that using my Dutch oven produces a slightly thicker crust. If you’re using a Dutch oven you might want to consider dropping the temp of the first part of the bake from 500ºF down to 475ºF.

Bake 20 minutes at 500ºF (475ºF if using a Dutch oven) with steam. After 20 minutes vent your oven (or remove Dutch oven lid and place next to the bottom in the oven), reduce oven temperature to 450ºF (both Dutch oven and on stones) and finish baking, about 30-35 minutes. Go for a nice dark color on the crust. Remove from the oven and cool on wire racks.spelt score

Conclusion

I’ve seen may bakers fall head over heels for spelt and after baking with it I totally get it. The flavor is delicate but heady at the same time,  at 30% I appreciate all that extra flavor and depth it brings to this bread. Lately I find myself gravitating more and more toward bread with higher percentages of whole grain, mostly for the flavor but also for the added health benefits. Because I’ve used spelt in so many other things around my kitchen I think some incarnation of this bread will become a mainstay in my regular baking rotation — in fact I just posted a variation of this bread, a multigrain sourdough with spelt that’s different but incredibly delicious!

Crust

the perfect loaf spelt sourdoughAs I mentioned earlier this crust is a special thing. It’s thicker, for sure, but not in an unpleasant cowhide sort of way. It’s thick but soft and crackles easily as you rapidly make your way through a slice. It’s hard to compare this crust to anything else… I’m drawing blanks as I sit here trying to find an analogy for the wonderful texture. If you’ve read other posts here at my site you’ll know that I’m a total crust snob and this bread surpasses any expectation I had at the onset.

Crumb

the perfect loaf spelt sourdough crumbBecause of the extreme elasticity of spelt it’s known to contribute to an extremely open crumb. My formula still uses quite a bit of whole grains so don’t go into this bake expecting an insanely cavernous interior, especially with whole grain fresh milled flour. There are sections of these loaves that have a really nice and open texture to them, but nothing jaw dropping — and that’s totally fine. It’s light in the hand, soft of texture and presents that perfect balance between a light bread that’s still perfect for hanging on to all the sandwich ingredients you could possibly dream up.

Perhaps my favorite aspect of this crumb is that there is not the slightest hint of gumminess to be found, each flour works perfectly in balance to keep the crumb soft and chewy, but not overly so. And the taste…

Taste

spelt sourdough slicesWith the high percentage of fresh milled spelt flour and type 854 the taste of this bread is more on the “whole wheat-y” side of things with zero bitterness, which to me is just exquisite. Eating this bread a few hours post-bake is pure bliss — the crunch of the crust coupled with the soft interior and wheat overtones is sublime.

I could go on & on but if I was selling loaves regularly I’d use this bread cut up into little pieces as the taste test samples on my farmer’s market stand — one try and you’re going to buy it.

Spelt Notes

I decided to sum up a few notes I jotted down while developing this formula and process in the hopes that after you try this bread you go on to use spelt in your own creations.

  • reduce hydration a bit to offset the extreme extensibility and reduced water absorption of this grain
  • pair with a relatively strong flour (in this case my type 85)
  • build strength upfront through mixing, with several sets of stretch and folds during bulk
  • 30% spelt seems to be the “sweet spot” to me for that balance between flavor and aesthetics
  • mill a little extra spelt for use in other foods such as banana bread, sourdough tea cakes (more to come on this!) and muffins

I was worried when I placed a blind order for 25 pounds of raw spelt berries: would I like the flavor? Would it bake according to my expectations? Would the extensibility be too hard to handle? After using this grain for a while now I can confidently say I’m glad I bought a large quantity, and a little sad I didn’t get more. Not only is spelt incredible in sourdough bread I’m discovering a myriad of creative ways to use it in my kitchen… And with each loaf I pull from my oven I somehow feel a little more connected to those that have used spelt for thousands of years before me.

Buon appetito!





  1. I just picked up the book and can’t wait to get further into it, more information on fermentation and bread!

  2. Spelt also seems lack the ability to take on as much water as wheat

  3. If you do use white spelt, I’d recommend reducing the overall hydration 5-10% to accommodate

  4. Remember this flour has quite a bit more of the bran/germ present than a more “white” flour (which is usually referred to as type 60 or 65)

  • jon (jonno_r on instagram)

    Great write up as always! Go the Spelt!! – jonno_r

  • Min Kim (@minskitchen)

    Beautiful post, Maurizio! The crumb is spectacular! Another benefit to milling grains at such a low temp, is that the phytase doesn’t get damaged by heat, and this enzyme helps break down the phytic acid so all that lovely whole grain nutrition becomes available to our bodies. I like your observations on the crust texture on DO vs. stone with steam too 🙂

    • Thanks Min! Very true about phytase damage reduction, I keep forgetting to cite that! I’d love to read some more on the topic as well, most of my exposure has been in At Home in the Whole Food’s Kitchen, which has changed the way we make quite a bit of our food around here.

      I definitely find that the DO gives a much thicker crust… Which can be nice depending on the bread you’re baking. I just saw you mention this on Instagram 🙂

      Thanks again Min!

  • Mestre Boleira Sr Salgado

    It is always a pleasure reading a new post on your blog. All the work you do to create the dough formula… all the description about the result… I am glad I red this post right before the next purchase of my berries. I was going after wheat only but now I definitely want to add spelt berries to my list!! Can’t wait to start baking!!

    • Thanks Mestre! It’s definitely a bit of work. I started working with spelt and was working on this formula for almost a month… Was fun, though, and I’ve really taken a liking to the flavor and texture spelt brings — it’s incredible. Can’t wait to hear what you think of it!

      • Mestre Boleira Sr Salgado

        This time I have to try with aged flour, the berries were out of stock at my grocery but soon I will go after them again and try the recipe as it is.

  • Giant Sand Fans

    Really nice post.
    One question about the difference between fresh milled and the quantity of levain. What is the reason?

    • Thank you! I’ve found that fresh milled flour ferments a much faster pace than aged flour, it’s pretty significant. Most likely it’s due to the higher quantity of nutrients still found in the grain in using it only hours after milling (these nutrients slowly dissipate through oxidization as the flour is exposed to air and ages).

      • Giant Sand Fans

        …talking about aging flour, I think , not sure, that aging flour by means of oxidation has a strengthen gluten compared to fresh milled and that in the case of fresh it’s better to add much more levain because acidity strengthen gluten … so it’s like a chaos 🙂

        • I’ve read the same thing about aged flour increasing strength “quality” but I haven’t really had experience testing that. I love to use the flour as soon as possible to retain those excellent flavors present in fresh milled flour 🙂 I might have to test your statements though, that’s very interesting!

  • Peter Hi

    Hi all. I wonder here: i do not like the retardation amount of time and don’t wana wait that long. Is there any formula or suggested time for proofing at room temperature? Happy baking.

    • If you want to proof on the counter, around 75-78ºF I would say shoot for around 4 hours proof time and test the dough to see how it’s progressing. You can use the “poke test” pretty reliably if you’re proofing your dough at warmer temperatures, this will help you dial in exactly when to bake your bread.

      Hope that helps!

  • Mestre Boleira Sr Salgado

    I decided to read again what you said about the taste of this bread to compare to mine. Mine is a little sour but the texture is great! When toasted… is delicious! But now I really want to try with fresh milled spelt. Will it be sweet as whole wheat fresh milled? I really like the texture of sourdough breads but I don’t like the sour taste that much… that’s why I am going after the perfect fresh milled whole wheat!! Can’t wait to get there!!
    (Ana)

    • I almost always have only a small hint of sour in my bread, I’m not a fan of a heavy sour taste. A little is great, to add complexity and depth, but I find it can quickly become overpowering. I manage my starter/levain such that I only use a small percentage for each bake to reduce the amount of acidity carry over into the dough — you can do this too. If you follow my guides here you should be able to reduce the acidity more and more. Follow the cues from my post on starter maintenance for more help (I know you already know about it) 🙂

      But yes, fresh milled spelt is awesome! I wouldn’t say it’s overly sweet, but there’s definitely no bitterness in this bread and hardly any sourness. It takes some practice, keep me posted on how it goes!

      • Mestre Boleira Sr Salgado

        It’s never too much to read about starter 🙂 This weekend I think I am going to try whole wheat again because I don’t have spelt berries yet, workin’ on it 😉
        To tell the truth I think I never red your post about starter. Mine was build and is fed with rye…
        Practice is what I need, lots of it!!!
        Thanks for your help. We will talk again soon.

  • So enamored with spelt, it’s the unicorn of flours.

    Lovely recipe and excellent insights, Maurizio! You’re observation regarding spelt and hydration is definitely in line with what I’ve experienced – 80-85% seems to be the sweet spot with blends. My go-to loaf is 40% ww spelt, 40% T85, and 20% T70 at around 82-85%, but I’m using Grist & Toll spelt instead of home-milled. I’m curious how your bread flour compares to T70. Like you mentioned, T85 can be approximated with a 50/50 blend of bread and whole wheat, but I wonder where T70 falls in that spectrum.

    • “Unicorn of flours” — hah, I love that! So true.

      Thanks for the comments, really appreciate that Cynthia! My feeling is T70 has a little more bran/germ than my bread flour, which I’d probably guess is T60-65? Just a guess. I like the idea of using a little T70 in here also, I think it’d be great — it’s still one of my favorite flour types from CM. I’ll have to give that a shot!

      • …And I just watched Cooked in practically one sitting. I agree that Air was especially excellent. You can tell that Michael Pollan has true bread geek passion for the naturally leavened process. Also loved his comment about gluten – balanced but perfect.

        • It’s a fantastic show — I’m currently reading through the book now and it’s even better. But yes, definitely a bread geek like the rest of us 🙂

  • Sven

    So much loved that bread… thank you very much for the pleasurable weekend!

    • Glad I could be a (small) part of it, thanks for the comments Sven and you’re welcome!

      • Sven

        Because of my bake/work/sleep schedule, I am obliged to extend the final proof to 18-19h. I am still getting a very decent bread at the end, but the oven spring seems to be slightly affected by this over proofing. Any ideas how/where I can twist the recipe to get an extended final proof of 18h without loosing my cultures rising power? Is using less levain (therefore more food for everyone) gonna help me there?

        Thanks for your thoughts.

        • Hi, Sven! In this scenario I’ll typically reduce the amount of levain in my recipe, starting with small changes until it gets to where I want.

          Another option here is to slightly reduce bulk fermentation and ensure you get that dough right into the fridge after you shape.

          Those are the two things I play with, levain first! Hope that helps 🙂

  • eliza a.

    ciao Maurizio, poco fa ho scoperto questo tuo favoloso sito. Complimenti e grazie perchè condividi con gli altri la tua esperienza. Vorrei chiedere 2 chiarimenti sulla farina usata. Beh, io vivo in Italia, anche se sono polacca 😉 e sinceramente la farina di quale parli è esclusivamente americana. Mi puoi dire altre farine da considerare per sostituire Central Milling Type 85 e Giusto’s Artisan Bread Flour. La farina di spelta si trova, non appena macinata ma comunque biologica e macinata a pietra 🙂 grazie mille

    • Ciao, Eliza! Grazie per i commenti, mi rendo conto che! Per la farina Giustos pane artigianale usare una tipica farina bianca là lo avete in Italia, non è tipo 00, ma una farina bianca utilizzata per il pane. “Type 85” può essere sostituito con il 50% che stessa farina bianca e grano integrale 50% (stoneground è preferibile). Mi dispiace non conosco nessun marche specifiche lì in Italia, ma quelli funzionerà!

      Inoltre, Giustos pane artigianale Farina è maltato, quindi se avete accesso ad alcuni malto diastatico vorrei aggiungere circa 0,5% al mix se la farina bianca non dispone di alcuna incluso.

      Speranza che aiuta, fatemi sapere se avete bisogno di più informazioni!

      • eliza a.

        Buongiorno Maurizio, ok. capito tutto. perfetto. ho trovato anche malto diastasico. Per la farina invece uso quella bio di mulino marino: http://www.shopiemonte.com/manufacturers/mulino-marino-17/
        uso “0” (glutine 11.3), buratto (12.8) sfarinato “senatore cappelli” ma questa è di grano duro (12) e sono tutte macinate a pietra (stoneground). Quindi per la “85” useri magari farina 0 a 50% e farina integrale a 50%?
        Oggi invece proverò il tuo “best sourdough”. incrociamo le dita.

        • Sì, per il “85” utilizzo del 50% di farina bianca e il 50% di grano integrale macinata a pietra. Buona fortuna per la prossima cottura!

  • Liana Galbani

    Buongiorno Maurizio, complimenti per il sito, ricco di informazioni. Ero di sicura di aver visto un video qui di un pane impastato a mano in una boule d’acciaio ma non lo trovo più…grazie

  • Runnerfemme

    Maurizio, holy moly. This is truly delicious. My small variations: I used a 100% stone ground organic spelt starter I made especially for this bake; I added a 1/2 cup of seeds (did a hot water soaker overnight using KAF Harvest seed blend) – including sunflower, millet, wheat berry, rye flakes, poppy, sesame…, which I added with the salt post autolyse; I did a 30 min. autolyse before adding my levain and continued with a “second” 20 min. autolyse before adding the salt and reserved 100g water. I used KAF artisan bread flour and Bob’s RM organic stone ground WW in place of your Giusto’s & Central Milling flours (based on protein contents); and I shaped this into 2 batards. I really appreciated your tutorial video on the scoring, which I copied 100% with great success thanks to you. This bread really made me swell with pride – it was simply beautiful to smell, eat and look at. Thank you! https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10208753153119626&set=pcb.10208753157959747&type=3&theater

    • Really happy to hear that! Your modifications sound great, in fact I think some soaked seeds mixed in would be fantastic! Good call on the KAF and BRM flour choices. Happy the score worked out for you as well, I’ve been using a variation of that for these types of loaves since this one and I always get an “oooh” or “aaah” from friends and family.

      Congrats on baking such an awesome loaf! Thanks again and happy baking 🙂

  • pietrasole

    hallo, can I ask, where did you get this coup knife? it looks so cool ^-^
    tomorrow I am planning to bake this spelt bread, till now, I am really a fun of you …. ^-^
    following your recipes one by one, each one I try to make it till I get good result ….

    • Excellent!

      I bought the blue bread lame from Amazon, here.

      Happy baking!

      • pietra sole

        thank you very much ! now preparing ^-^ by the way, you never put the dough in normal temperature for a while before baking, to get back from cold dough after the long rest in refrigerator, don’t you? (at least you don’t mention to do so….?) I saw many people do so , because it is better for raising in oven, so I wondered if there is reason or thought , that it is not necessary to do so…. I am very glad, if you can give me an advice. Thank you .

        • I almost always bake my dough straight from the refrigerator — haven’t had any issues. I have read reports of bakers who like to let it come up to room temperature, and I’ll sometimes do this if I find the dough is not fermenting fast enough, but I don’t think baking straight from cold poses a problem.

          I’ve done it this way for a long, long time!

          • pietrasole

            thank you thank you !! I really learn from you a lot, you are my sour dough guru ! ^-^
            do you work this as a professional ? or intending to do !??
            anyway I appreciate so much !

            • You’re very welcome! I am not a professional baker, no. One day I’d love to be 🙂

              Happy baking!

  • Muneera

    Hello Maurizio,
    I just wanted to post my astounding spelt results. I got my hands on freshly milled sprouted whole spelt flour. So knowing that it was already lighter and alive from sprouting, I took the plunge and just went straight to a 50-50 spelt and unbleached flour mix. The result: unbelievably complex flavour and sourness, cloud like consistency, soft and luscious crumb. It’s hand down the best loaf I have baked. Thanks for the recipe!

    • That’s awesome! I have been using spelt more and more lately and my appreciation for the grain has only increased. It’s so fantastic, really.

      Thanks for the message and I’m really glad to hear this!

  • Susie Adsett

    Hi Maurizio, just wondering if you have made a sourdough ciabatta loaf with spelt? Have found many recipes with yeast but want to try with a starter. Cheers Susie

    • Hi, Susie! No I actually haven’t, in fact I’ve never even made ciabatta (but certainly plan to work on it!). Hard to believe I know 🙂

      Sorry about that!

  • Ashley Engle

    So, I have to thank you. The loaves I made with this recipe have been amazing. I’ve recently becomeg very intrigued with long ferment bread. I think why they came out so well is because of the precision of your recipe which actually almost scared me off at first. But, after a few times reading the post through it makes perfect sense. I can’t wait to try more! I do have one question, how did you store your bread once you’ve cut into it? I don’t want to put it into the fridgend it doesn’t seem like a good choice.

    • Ashley — super glad to hear that! Yea I think some people are put off in the beginning of baking because it seems daunting, but it really isn’t once you get one or two bakes under your belt! I try to include just enough information in these writeups so people have a place to return to if they have questions but not so much as to overwhelm.

      Definitely do not store your bread in the fridge, it will actually get stale faster. I like to keep my bread in a bread box, it provides just the right amount of moisture to prevent it from drying out but no so much that it gets soggy. If you don’t have one you can also just keep it on your cutting board after you slice it, just point the cut side of the bread down onto the board so little air enters the inside of the bread. If it’s very, very dry where you are you could also keep your bread in a paper bag.

      Hope that helps and I’m so glad to hear your baking results have turned out great!

  • Andy

    How necessary is it to use a specific levain build for different loaves. I use 50/50 White/Whole Wheat @ 100% hydration. Could I use that formula for this Spelt loaf?

    Love your articles, and you are an incredible baker!

    • Thanks for the kind words! Yes you could definitely use that levain for this bread. That actually is my “default” levain formula for almost all my breads here at my site, it’s the one I prefer (for taste and performance). Each baker has a different opinion about this but I don’t find it 100% necessary to match the levain to the bread recipe. For example, some bakers like to use a 100% rye levain for rye bread whereas I might not. If I was selling bread to customers and labelled the bread as “100% rye” then yes, I’d use a rye levain.

      Hope that helps, happy baking!

  • Fabiano Sarra

    Hi Maurizio, just tried this recipe out this weekend and love the flavor that spelt adds to the bread.
    I’m curious though, the last few times I baked, my crumb has been a lot tighter with less larger bubbles.
    A couple factors changed, but I am not sure if it is either of them or has to do with something else entirely.
    Factor 1, I switched from a 6qt enameled cast iron dutch oven, to a lodge 5qt combo pot. Factor 2, the last few times I baked, the recipes were higher hydration, causing me to have more trouble with shaping. maybe the dough is getting strong enough? I made one batard with this spelt recipe and in the oven it became a boule…

    • Hey, Fabiano! I doubt the combo cooker played that significant of a role in the change. I would reduce hydration next try and see if that helps. Spelt can be tricky sometimes as it can get quite extensible (spreads easily) during bulk fermentation and sometimes can take you by surprise. The dough needs to have sufficient strength in it, especially due to the spelt, reducing hydration is one way to ensure it’s a stronger dough. Lower hydration should also give you a little more confidence with shaping. Once you nail that I’d say slowly increase the hydration each bake until you are where you want to be. Hope that helps & happy baking!

  • Sara Youwish

    Can I make this in loaf pans? I understand the crust changes a bit.

    • Yes, you absolutely can!

      • Sara Youwish

        Great! Thank you!

  • Mit

    As always, my bread is very moist inside, heavy and the taste wasn’t the best 🙁 What can I do? the dough needs a lot of water otherwise it’s sticky and I can’t slap/fold it. And when I add flour it’s just not good. I don’t know if I can call it “dough” because it’s like a solid liquid. Help 🙁

    • Mit

      And it’s cold here, so I don’t know why it’s like this.

      • It sounds to me like you need to reduce overall hydration in this recipe to suit your flour. Hold back 10% of the water I call for above and see if that helps. Usually when the flour is over hydrated, and this can happen suddenly with spelt, it’s hard to strengthen and just ends up being too sticky/gooey to handle. Try that out next attempt and see if the texture improves!

        • Mit

          But when I put the amount of water that is written, even then, there is flour left outside and I can’t blend it with the dough. That is the reason that I add more water, to make sure it all mixes well.

          • Joao Trajano

            seems your flour is holding more water perhaps. If putting more white flour and less whole flour?

            • It sounds to me like his dough doesn’t have quite enough fermentation going.

          • Perhaps try adding more water but not so much that it becomes like a soup. You want all dry bits to be incorporated but it shouldn’t be overly wet or the whole thing will fall apart.

            Also, make sure you have a strong starter to begin with. You really want strong fermentation in this dough to strengthen it, provide rise, and flavor.

            • Mit

              Even when I used an older starter, it was really moist.
              I’ll give it another shot and I’ll be very careful with the water.
              Thank you all very much.

  • Katie Shmelinski

    How long before you bake them do you take out the boule’s out of the fridge in the morning before you put them in the preheated oven?

    • I bake these straight from the fridge. Take them out, score them and load them into the preheated oven.

    • Katie Shmelinski

      Thank you! I baked the loaves this morning and they are very yummy!

      Is there a place on your site where I can read more about a few questions I have? I am trying to wrap my head around how long after I feed my starter do I use it to make my levian. I don’t think I am usuing my starter at the proper time. I read your article about what times of the day you feed your starter but I am wondering how long after you feed it that you use the starter to make your Levian.

      I am also wondering how much water to starter to flour you use to feed. I think I saw you say 25g starter to 100 gram water to 100 gram flour. Is this correct? For some reason I always thought the ratio was 1-1-1. Yikes! So much differing info online and I’m trying to learn as much as I can but the amount of info is so overwhelming! I have really enjoyed your site and found this recipe easy to follow and it tastes very wonderful! Thank you!

      • Glad to hear that!

        I have two really good resources here for starter maintenance and general questions: my Sourdough Starter Maintenance Routine and my Sourdough Starter FAQ. My maintenance routine post is the perfect answer to your question. Not only are there photos there describing exactly when to use your starter to make a levain, I have a bunch of cues to look for.

        You can really change the ratio of flour / water / mature starter fed at every refreshment to anything you want. There’s a lot of conflicting info online because each baker, and their environment, mandates something a little different. I like to use a small percentage of mature starter at each feeding as I let my starter go about 12 hours before another feeding. In the summer I use less than the winter (since it’s warmer and it progresses faster). Check out my maintenance guide and you can see how my starter progresses during the day. If it goes to full maturity too soon you can either try to keep it cooler or use less mature starter at each feeding. Both of those will slow things down.

        I hope this helps!

  • Nancy M. Klassen

    Hello! I’m diabetic and had heard that using sprouted grain is a great choice! Just wondering what your thoughts are regarding sprouted spelt? Thank you!

    • Hey there! I’ve read there are many health benefits to using sprouted grain flour (in addition to tasting amazing!), but I don’t have any hard research at hand relating it to diabetes. In addition, sourdough, or long fermented bread, supposedly has a lower glycemic index than commercially made bread. If you’re diabetic I’d definitely consider consulting your health professional to see if it’s something they are ok with you eating on a regular basis!

      That said, spelt is definitely one of my favorite grains to work with although I have not tried sprouting it (yet). Also, I recently posted a recipe for a Sprouted Grain Sourdough using King Arthur’s sprouted wheat flour and it turned out pretty amazing!

      Hope this helps!

      • Nancy M. Klassen

        Thanks so much Mauricio! I did find one comment elsewhere by someone who use sprouted spelt and she reduced the amount of flour used and it worked well. I think I’m going to go ahead and try it based on her measurements. I’m very new to sourdough but am anxious to use this flour! I’m in northern Canada so KA flour is not readily available as far as I know! I will also look at your Sprouted Grain Sourdough recipe….I’m very excited! Hah!

        • You’re very welcome! And yes, baking sourdough tends to have that kind of effect on you… I love it!

  • Tommy Mierzwinski

    Hi, Using the amounts of flour and water specified, I was left with a wet, soupy dough. I added another cup of flour. It’s better but still wet. Where did I go wrong?

    • You didn’t go wrong! It’s just that my flour was able to handle more water than the one you’re using — that’s not a problem. Each flour, and each environment, is different and hydration has to be adjusted to suit. If your dough was overly wet and too hard to handle try reducing water 10% next time and see if that helps. I usually like to hold back some water during the mix (like I describe above) and only add it in near the end of mix if it feels like the dough can handle it.

      Hope that helps, let me know how the next try goes!

  • Dominique

    Hi Leo great looking Loaf as usual look at that crumb and ovenspring wow.

    Its great that followers have the option to ask you question using this comment box – thanks for that, so I go ahead and ask:

    I was wondering why you create a total amount of 125g Levain and end up using only 93g of it, what would be the difference in producing just enough levain(93g) to levaining your loaf with the benefit of having no leftover.

    Same with your feeding ratio , you feed your starter 2-3 times a day with 100g flour 100g h2O and 20g of starter which gives you 220g x 3 of starter. Whats the benefit of feeding so much flour? Is your levain stronger that way? Would’t it work to just feed 30g flour 5g starter and 30g h2O. I realized that Chad works as well with big feeding ratios in his Tartine books.

    Sorry for that load of questions. I really love your bread creations, your photos, the design of your blog and that you invest so much of your time to help people creat there own healthy bread .

    All the love

    • Dominique — thanks! I really appreciate the kind words. To answer your questions:

      1) You can certainly make a levain with exactly the amount needed, however, I find that sometimes it comes up just a bit short and thus I like to build a little extra. If you want to make exactly 93g, by all means!

      2) I feed my starter with enough flour so it matures when I want it to, on my schedule. You can change the amount to suit your starter and your schedule. I find that when I feed with too little of flour and too little of starter it sometimes ripens too fast and then it’s left without food for a while before I can next tend to it. Again, you can certainly change the quantities I have outlined here but I’d still recommend sticking to, or close to, the percentages listed. That said, in warmer temperatures I will drop the percentage of mature starter left in the jar at each feeding as it ripens too fast when it’s warm.

      I hope this helps and happy baking!

  • Shai

    I have 2 questions-

    1. If I don’t have fresh milled spelt, should I change something in the recipe?

    2. Can I use 1/2 white wheat flour and 1/2 whole wheat flour instead of type 85?

    • Shai,
      1) You could use aged spelt just the same, just keep an eye on the hydration of the mix, your flour might not be able to take the same amount of water as I use here — I’ve found that fresh milled flour generally is able to take a slightly higher hydration.

      2) Yes, that’s a perfect substitution for the T85 in my formula above!

      Happy baking 🙂

  • plutek

    nice one! a couple of days ago, i totally threw caution to the wind… my family will tell about my exclamations in the kitchen,”i need more chaos in my life!” 🙂 i’ve been all about the numbers lately, and trying to get to magnificent sourdough in a controlled, defined way. but enough is enough already… so i set out to do a 100% whole-spelt sourdough loaf. my starter amount was almost 25% of the flour weight, and composed of 1/2 rye starter and 1/2 whole wheat starter. hydration was about 70% (about 72% taking the starter into account). i did fairly conservative bulk and proof times, all at room temp with no retard at all. …just listening and feeling what the dough needed. even though the dough is a bit slack – less elastic than a high-gluten flour – handling was quite relaxing. it’s a bit less sticky than wheat, seemed a bit more amenable to how i wanted it to move, and came together nicely into a loaf in the final shaping.

    the bake turned out splendidly! nice, even crumb, with no big voids. quite good oven spring for spelt — even had something of an “ear”! …and deep, complex, earthy flavour.

    next time i’ll bake a bit shorter and maybe bump up the hydration a tad – it was just a touch on the dry side.

    big thanks to maurizio and all the other contributors here… i’m sure all the little hints i’ve read on the forum fed into the process!

    • plutek

      …talking to myself here, but maybe it’s helpful for others! haha 😀 …

      i’ve just read a bunch of spelt information which talks about how its gluten breaks down more quickly with physical manipulation, water, or heat. so it seems like a key point here (especially if going 100% spelt, like i’m pursuing now) might be to keep the stretch/fold and bulk stages to the minimum necessary – and maybe let the fermentation do more of the work, rather than trying to develop so much with stretch/fold. i might also try to reduce baking temps and/or times, again keeping things as gentle as possible. we’ll see… i’ll report back!

      another adventure! 🙂

      • plutek

        also: i’ve now moved mt starter to 100% spelt, and it’s totally jolly about it! apparently, my little friends have a particular hankering for this magic grain…. 🙂 now i have a reason to name the starter!

        • Fermentation in itself will strengthen the dough, that’s very true. There are some bakers who really prefer this method of baking: just step out of the way of the dough and let it do its thing. Just one of the many ways to bake wonderful bread!

          Spelt really is one of my favorite types of grain to work with (if not #1), I’ve talked to many other bakers who keep a spelt starter as well and they report excellent baking qualities. Glad to hear it’s working so well for ya!

    • Sometimes the best bread I’ve made has been with impromptu changes in my own formulas 🙂 Sounds like you did a fantastic job adjusting as the dough needed various things — this is a sign of true baking proficiency. Great job on that bake!

  • Kari

    Thanks for an awesome recipe! After wild success with my beginner’s sourdough loaves, I thought I’d dive right into some whole grain recipes. I’m actually half-way through this process now (just did the final mix), but am worried about the timing of the bake tomorrow morning because of my shifting morning schedule. I’m wondering what recommendations you have for trying to bake the loaves earlier or later than 10:30am? Thank you!

    • You’re very welcome and I’m glad to hear the Beginner’s Sourdough loaves have come out so great! You can definitely bake these earlier in the morning without a problem. Check the dough in the fridge when you start to preheat your oven, if they feel overly dense or they look like they have a lack of fermentation give it some time out on the counter before baking to help move things along further. This is also a great technique in general if you feel like the dough isn’t quite at the right point before baking.

      Do note that it can be a little bit more challenging to score (cut) warm dough, you’ll need to move that blade a little faster to avoid dragging too much.

      Happy baking, Kari!

      • Kari

        Brilliant! Many thanks for the reply; I’m excited for tomorrow’s bake!

  • Diana Rosalind Trimble

    Beautiful pictorial and clear instructions! Excited to try it!