White Spelt flour as substitute for all purpose flour?

sally2_gwJune 13, 2010

My DS #2 moved across the country, and left me with much of his food, including white spelt flour. Last night I made a starter for ciabatta, but realized I'm out of all purpose flour. I have whole wheat flour and the white spelt flour on hand. Could I substitute the white spelt flour for all purpose flour? I've never used spelt flour before. As it is, the recipe I'm using is a white bread recipe, so using whole wheat flour is already an aberration from the original. This recipe is from The King Arthur Flour Baker's Companion. I've made it according to the recipe several times, and it is very good. Now I'm ready to play with the recipe.


1/4 teaspoon instant yeast

1/2 cup (4 ounces) water

1 1/2 cup (6 1/4 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour


1 teaspoon (a very scant 1/8 ounce) instant yeast

2 teaspoons (1/8 ounce) nonfat dry milk

1 1/2 teaspoons (1/4 ounce) salt

3/4 cup plus 3 tablespoons (7 3/4 ounces) water*

1 tablespoon (3/8 ounce) olive oil

2 cups 8 1/2 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour

* Use an additional 2 to 3 tablespoons water in the winter, or in very dry weather conditions.

To make the biga: Mix all the ingredients in a medium-sized bowl. cover the bowl, and let it rest for about 12 hours, or overnight.

For the dough: Use your fingers to pull the biga into walnut-sized pieces, and place the pieces into the bowl of an electric mixer. Add the yeast, dry milk, salt, water, olive oil, and flour, and beat slowly with a flat beater paddle or beaters for about 3 minutes. Replace the beater paddle with the dough hook, increase the speed to medium, and knead for 10 minutes. Teh dough should be very sticky and slack. Transfer the dough to a lightly greased bowl or dough-rising bucket, cover the bowl or bucket, andlet the dough rise for 2 to 3 hours, gently deflating it and turning it over every 45 minutes or so.

To shape the loaves: Transfer the dough to a lightly greased work surface and use a bench knife or dough scraper to divide it in half. Working with one half at a time, shape the dough into a rough log. Transfer the log to a parchment-lined baking sheet, or one sprinkled with cornmeal or semolina, and flatten it into an irregular 10 x 4-inch oval. Use your fingers - your entire finger, not just the tip - to indent the surface of the dough vigorously and thoroughly. Repeat with the remaining piece of dough. Cover the loaves with heavily greased plastic wrap or a proof cover, and set them aside to rise until very puffy, 2 to 3 hours, depending on the warmth of your kitchen.

Baking the bread: Half an hour before you want to bake the bread, preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Spritz water into the oven with a clean plant mister for about 5 seconds. Place the bread in the oven and spritz water into the oven three more times during the first 10 minutes of baking. Bake the loves for a total of about 25 minutes, or until they're a deep golden brown and their interior temperature measures 210 degrees F. Remove the loaves from the pan and return them to the oven. Turn off the oven, crack the door open a couple of inches, and let the loaves cool completely in the oven. Dust the loaves generously with flour.

I've actually never done the last to things - letting the bread cool in the open oven or dusting them with flour, and I doubt I will, as I have a toddler living with me now, and it's just to dangerous.

Anyway, what do you all think about subbing spelt flour? I just have no idea.


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White, or wholegrain spelt for that matter, does not have as much gluten in it as there is in all-purpose flour, so expect a smaller loaf (less loft), or add vital wheat gluten to help compensate.

The gluten level in spelt is 5,000 parts per million, compared to wheat which BEGINS at 50,000 parts per million and goes up.

The gluten in spelt is also somewhat different than that found in wheat and doesn't have the extensibility that wheat flour does. Spelt also requires less kneading and less hydration due to less gluten (gluten soaks up water like a sponge), so adjust the liquid in the recipe, or add more flour to get the right "feel".

I use spelt in baked goods that don't require a lot of gluten-development (cake, pastry, cookies, quick breads, etc.), but I also use it in yeast breads in combination with hard white wheat flour. If you are unaccustomed to working with spelt, you may benefit from using spelt-specific recipes until you get accustomed to using it.

A great book on the subject is "The Spelt Cookbook" by Helga Hughes. The recipes use both white spelt and wholegrain spelt flour.

This is a suggestion from Purity Foods (Vita Spelt Flour) - http://www.purityfoods.com/cooking_resources

Spelt can make fantastic breads and delicious pastries. It has a very fragile gluten which means that the initial mix time (when water is first added to the flour) has to be no more than 4 minutes, 3 1/2 minutes is a good target. Mix the flour/liquid enough to get the dough to become homogenous. Once mixed you can treat the dough just like it were wheat from then on. A couple of other hints to achieve higher loaf volume:

* Take 1/2 of all ingredients (including the yeast), place in bowl and mix until you produce the dough.
* Cover and place in accessible spot for later use.
* Within 5 to 12 hours add the remainder of all ingredients to the bowl (sponge dough), mix and proceed as normal. Spelt flour is high in complex carbohydrates and, as such, needs to have some of the complex carbohydrates reduced to simple sugars so that the yeast will have a strong food source. By setting a sponge, you are releasing the enzymes in the flour that are activated when wet, to begin the conversion process. The resulting bread will have better cell structure, greater loaf volume and a lighter crust.
* Replace some whole grain spelt flour with Vita Spelt white flour- you will get more volume and a lighter loaf while still keeping many of the good characteristics of whole spelt.


    Bookmark   June 13, 2010 at 4:50PM
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Thanks, Grainlady. Actually, I went ahead and experimented by sort of combining the above recipe and a recipe I found on line for spelt bread. I used a combination of King Arthur whole wheat flour and the white spelt flour, about half and half, partly because I had already made the biga with the whole wheat flour. Then, I used the following recipe, adjusting the spelt flour amounts and water amounts to try and have the correct total for each ingredient. I used the technique for making ciabatta, where I let it sit, turned the dough, let it sit, turned the dough, until I was ready to bake the bread. It ended up making 2 loaves, which I baked in loaf pans, instead of ciabatta style. Surprisingly, it turned out surprisingly well, considering at the last, I tried to make one loaf out of it, and when I saw the dough spilling out of the pan I realized I had to deflate it yet once again and put it into two loaf pans.

Here's the other recipe I used. I used dark honey instead of brown sugar. It's from Versagrain.com.

Spelt Flour Recipes
Sweet and Hearty Spelt Bread Recipe

To cook this Spelt bread recipe you will need a 9 x 5 inch loaf pan and patience. Unlike white bread this recipe for Spelt bread will take twice as long to leaven. From start to finish, it will take 2 - 3 hours.

Ingredients (Makes 1 Loaf)

1 1/2 cups warm water (just barely hot to the touch)

1 package active dry yeast (1/4 ounce)

2 1/2 tablespoons brown sugar

1 tablespoon whole flaxseed (optional)

2 1/2 cups whole spelt flour

1 1/2 tablespoons butter, melted

2 1/2 tablespoons brown sugar

1/2 tablespoon salt

1 3/4 cups whole spelt flour

1 tablespoon butter, melted


In a large bowl, mix warm water, yeast, 2 1/2 tablespoons brown sugar, and 1 tablespoon of flaxseed (optional). Mix in 2 1/2 cups of spelt flour. Let set for 30 minutes, or until big and bubbly.

Mix in 1 1/2 tablespoons melted butter, 2 1/2 tablespoons of brown sugar, and salt. Stir in 1 3/4 cups of spelt flour. Flour a flat surface and knead with spelt flour until it pulls away from the counter but is still sticky to touch. This may take an additional 1 to 2 cups of spelt flour. Place in a greased bowl, turning once to coat the surface of the dough. Cover with a dishtowel. Let rise in a warm place until doubled (about 30 minutes).

Punch down and place in greased 9 x 5 inch loaf pan. Allow to rise until dough has topped the pan by one inch. Depending on your yeast this will take between
1 - 2 hours.

Bake at 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) for 25 to 30 minutes; do not over bake. Lightly brush the tops of loaves with 1 tablespoon of melted butter when done to prevent crust from getting hard. Cool completely.

TIP: Place a loaf pan of the same size over the top of the loaf while baking to create a better crust.

Substitutions and Additions

Honey can be substituted for the brown sugar in this whole spelt bread recipe.

Substitute white spelt flour, hard white wheat flour, or bread flour for the 2 1/2 cups of whole spelt flour to create an even lighter and fluffier loaf of whole grain bread.

To give this recipe a crunch, consider adding walnuts.

In this whole grain bread recipe we included the option for flaxseed because here at versagrain.com we are big proponents of incorporating flaxseed into your diet. Its high protein, fiber, and omega 3 fatty acids makes flaxseed a nutritional powerhouse your body can use to fight depression, cancer, and heart disease.

    Bookmark   June 14, 2010 at 10:08AM
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Woo Hoo!!! Glad to hear you had a good experience with spelt. It sounds like a good recipe.

The only thing I'd change is to grind the flaxseed, rather than leaving them whole. I add freshly-milled flaxmeal to anything possible from salads to smoothies, and all baked goods....

Whole flaxseed acts like a laxative, which is fine if you don't want all the other healthy benefits from the seeds -- like lignans, vitamins, minerals, (good) fat, proteins.... You really need to mill it to get all the "goodies" out of it.

The whole seeds are difficult to digest and can also be irritating to anyone with diverticulosis when the whole seeds get lodged in small pouches in the intestine. Freshly-ground flaxmeal also has a shortening-like effect and you can often cut the fat in foods when you include flaxmeal.

Here's a biscuit recipe you might like to try....

(source: The Spelt Cookbook - by Helga Hughes)

Elizabeth Rainey, the creator of this prize-winning recipe, says, "My biscuits are not only delicious for breakfast, but they freeze really well, and thus can be served with any meal."

Yield: 24 biscuits

1-1/2 c. whole-grain or white spelt flour
1/2 c. grits
1 T. plus 1 t. non-aluminum baking powder
1 t. sea salt
1/4 c. canola margarine
3/4 c. grated low-fat Cheddar cheese
1/2 c. chopped scallions
1/2 c. low-fat milk (or substitute)

1. Preheat the oven to 425F. Sprinkle an ungreased 16x11-inch baking sheet with 1 T. of grits, and set aside.

2. Place the flour, grits, baking powder, and salt in a 3-quart bowl, and mix. Cut the margarine into the flour mixture using a pastry blender or a large fork. Then use a wooden spoon to thoroughly mix the dough.

3. Fold the cheese and scallions into the dough. Add the milk a little at a time, and knead very gently until the dough forms a soft ball.

4. Place the dough on a lightly floured wooden board. Using a lightly floured rolling pin, roll the dough into an 8x9-inch rectangle. Use a sharp knfie to cut the dough into 24 3x1-inch biscuits (I cut them with a pizza cutter).

5. Place the biscuits about 1-inch apart on the prepared baking sheet and bake for 10-12 minutes, or until golden brown.

6. Transfer the biscuits to a serving plate, and serve warm with the topping of your choice.

Grainlady Note: Add some crispy, crumbled bacon to the dough for a great little breakfast biscuit.


    Bookmark   June 14, 2010 at 3:27PM
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Thanks, Grainlady, that looks good. I'm assuming that the grits in the recipe is not instant grits? Also, I never buy margarine - could I sub butter?


    Bookmark   June 14, 2010 at 6:15PM
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In my kitchen, recipes are only a guideline and subject to changes and alterations (LOL). I use butter or coconut oil in the recipe. I haven't had "margarine" or shortening in the house in over 25-years.

Yes, regular grits, not instant, but instant would probably work too. I also use barley grits and buckwheat grits, which I mill myself.

I also use chives instead of scallions.


    Bookmark   June 15, 2010 at 5:35AM
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Interesting. I never thought of grits as being made from anything but corn.


    Bookmark   June 15, 2010 at 9:06AM
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AHHHH, the thrill of the mill. Any grain can be milled into "grits".

Bob's Red Mill carries a variety...

-barley grits
-soy grits
-millet grits

I've also seen oat grits.


    Bookmark   June 15, 2010 at 3:10PM
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