Secret ingredient: Spelt

21:52, Feb 04 2013
spelt bread
SPELL IT OUT: Spelt flour makes well-flavoured bread that isn't crumbly.

If you find wheat bread hard to stomach, spelt could spell the answer. Here's what it is and how to use it.

WHAT IS SPELT?
A species of wheat, spelt (Triticum spelta) is an ancient form of the cereal grain. It was grown for millennia - it is mentioned several times in the Bible - but fell out of favour in the mid-20th century to the higher yielding modern wheat. While it is from the same family as modern hybridised wheat, spelt has a different genetic structure, with a greater protein content and a greater concentration of minerals and vitamins. The gluten, however, is easily digestible. This accounts for it often being more readily tolerated by those with wheat allergies, although its higher protein content makes it unsuitable for those with gluten intolerance.
A native of southern Europe, in Germany spelt is known as dinkel and is one of the wheat varieties called farro in Italy.

WHAT DOES IT TASTE LIKE?
Spelt has a mellow nutty flavour, which is somehow 'wheatier' than common wheat.

WHERE CAN I FIND IT?
Spelt is sold as flour and as whole berries. Organic shops, health food shops, and specialty food stores are likely to stock spelt flour and possibly spelt berries. Like all grain products, spelt should be stored in an airtight container and kept in a cool, dark place. It is best used fresh.

WHAT CAN I USE INSTEAD?

Substituting regular modern wholewheat will result in a similar product, although that rather defeats the purpose.

GOT ANY GOOD RECIPES USING IT?
Whole spelt berries can be used in any recipe for brown rice. Spelt flour makes well-flavoured bread that isn't crumbly. Try the following recipe.

SPELT BREAD

25g fresh yeast or 12g dried yeast

725ml warm water

1kg spelt flour

1 tsp salt

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1 Tbsp vegetable oil plus extra for greasing

1 Tbsp milk (optional)

Cream the yeast into half of the water and let it sponge. Sift the flour into a large bowl. Stir the yeasty water into the flour.

Dissolve the salt in the remaining water and add to the flour. Add the oil. Mix the dough thoroughly for five minutes
with a wooden spoon, then cover with greased cling film, or a clean damp cloth, and leave in a warm place to rise until the dough is one and a half times its original bulk.

Knock back the dough and press out any air bubbles. Oil 2 x 450g loaf tins and divide the dough between them. Cover with greased cling film or a damp cloth and leave to rise until the dough is doubled in size.

Using a pastry brush, brush milk lightly over top of bread to glaze, if desired. Cook in a preheated oven at 200°C for 20-30 minutes or until the bread sounds hollow when tapped on the underside. Transfer to a rack to cool completely. Slice when cold.

Margaret Brooker is an executive member of the New Zealand Guild of Food Writers. Her reference book The Cook's Bible of Ingredients has recently been reissued.

Is there an ingredient you're confused by? Send us an email - be sure to put Secret Ingredient in the subject line - and we'll investigate it for you.

 

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