Sunday 15 August 2010

Spelt and white stubby loaf and a birthday trip

I was lucky enough to be taken to Little Salkeld water mill in Cumbria recently by J, as part of my birthday celebrations (well, I need something to compensate for the fact that I'm now a year older and hurtling with alarming speed to the first 'noughty' birthday that people seem to dread) and I bought, understandably, quite a reasonable quantity of flour whilst I was there. (You can order flour online too, here.)

If you are lucky enough to be in the area, I really strongly recommend that you call in. They have a lovely tearoom where we enjoyed a mid-morning slice of cake and a scone (very good!) and the buildings themselves are lovely too. They have free range hens roaming about (and trying to get under the wheels of the car!) and the day we went, there was a group of people making a bread oven from clay and straw. We spent a while chatting to them, and I think they said they were part of the Cumbria slow food movement group (or another very similar group, interested in sustainable ways of growing grain and cooking without using the diminishing natural resources of the planet, i.e. oil). The plan was to build the oven on the Saturday and then bake in it on the Sunday. They were also separating the grains of some spelt that had been grown on the property as a test cereal. I think this was going to form part of the loaves to be baked. It all looked really interesting, and I did find myself wishing that I could join them.

Anyway, after watching the hens scratching around for a while (I can totally understand why people keep chickens - they are so funny and engaging even when they aren't your own!) I spent a good while in the shop/tearoom deciding which of the many flours I would like to buy. I did try and be restrained, but, in the end I wasn't!!! One of the many flours I came away with was a wholemeal spelt and this is the first one I baked with.

I have a very loving and caring and well trained(!) family, and T bought me The River Cottage Bread Handbook by Daniel Stevens. I have thoroughly enjoyed reading through it and although this loaf didn't come from the book, I have used the shaping technique explained on pages 56-57. I generally use the technique given by Dan Lepard in his book The Handmade Loaf to shape by loaves into batons, but fancied giving a new technique a go. I'm really pleased with the shape of the resulting loaf. The technique for shaping is slightly more involved, with more steps, but I think that the rolling and stretching, rerolling and shaping and so on gives the surface of the loaf a greater tension, which in turn means that the slashes open more and the loaf retains its shape better. I would probably get better shaped loaves using any technique I cared to try if I made more of an effort to not let them over-proove and therefore have a slight tendency to spread out rather than spring up in the oven, but hey-ho!

For this loaf I used a soaked flour (hmm, can't think of the correct terminology here) method, and adapted to what I wanted.

Spelt and white loaf
150g wholemeal spelt flour
150g strong white flour
3/4 tsp fast acting/instant yeast
3/4 tsp salt

- Boil the kettle, you'll need 200g water.
- Weigh 75g spelt flour into a large bowl and pour over 200g boiling water. Mix to ensure no lumps.
- Leave for a while (until it's a little cooler - I can't give specific times here because I suddenly realised that I had to go to the supermarket for soap - how can one person have 7 bottles of shower gel and not a single bar of soap in the house???) then add the remaining ingredients.
- Mix well and then leave for 10 minutes. Knead briefly, leave 10 minutes, knead, leave 10 minutes, knead then leave 30 minutes. Entirely Dan Lepard's technique for kneading, so all credit to him!!!
- Shape the loaf how you desire. Leave to proove until almost doubled in size.
- Preheat the oven to gas 7/220C. Steam the oven (I put a tray of boiling water below the shelf I'm going to bake on).
- Dust the loaf with flour, cut slashes (I used a bread knife this time, the dough was sturdy enough to withstand it) and put in the oven.
- Leave for 10 minutes, then turn down the heat to 200C/Gas 6. Leave 20 minutes, then turn upside down and leave a further 10-15 mins until the base sounds hollow when tapped.
- Leave to cool completely on a wire rack.

As I've said above, I'm really pleased with the look of this loaf. When I was mixing the flours it seemed quite dry - in my (somewhat limited!) experience it often does with cooked flour methods so I added a little more water, probably about 20-30ml. This made the dough rather sticky, although not unworkable, and by the time it came to shape the dough, it was pliable and elastic.

I have to admit that although it tastes really lovely, I can't particulary tell that spelt has a significantly different flavour from normal wheat flour. I think that perhaps if I used 100% spelt I might be able to tell the difference. Using 50% white flour did make the dough much easier to work than a 100% wholemeal dough. I made spelt and white rolls with rosemary ages ago, blogged about here when I'd only recently started making my own bread. From what I remember they were much more solid than this loaf - perhaps a reflection of my improving skills in bread making!!! The loaf had a lovely crunchy crust and a soft, moist crumb and I'll definitely be making it again.


Lucie said...

Happy Birthday! This sounds lovely! Glad you had a good time x

Jacqueline Meldrum said...

That loaf looks wonderful!

The Caked Crusader said...

SOunds a great day - happy birthday! I love nice days out where you bring things back you can use in future baking. Your bread looks ace!

Anonymous said...

I've been there too! It's a lovely peaceful place and I remember those chickens wandering around everywhere. Your great photos bring back happy memories. I am going to dig that book out too and look up the shaping method you used - that stubby loaf looks great. I just call that soaker, a hot water flour soaker. Did you find it made the loaf sweeter? It works well with rye, though I haven't tried it with spelt yet. You're giving me loads of ideas - thanks!

Chef Dennis Littley said...

now that is a great looking loaf of bread! I have never tried spelt flour, but your bread makes me want to!

celia @ fig jam and lime cordial said...

Wonderful post, happy birthday! I've been playing with spelt too - just made Dan's new wholemeal cookies with wholemeal spelt, and they were divine! Must try soaking the spelt for bread - great idea, thank you!

José Manuel said...

Este pan se ve delicioso y feliz cumpleaños.


Caroline said...

Lucie, Jacqueline, CC - thanks!

Joanna - I love Little Salkeld - have you been more than once and did you visit Melmerby whilst in the area? Soaker is the word I was looking (unsuccessfully!) for. It was a Dan inspired idea - he uses one in the semolina bread and for the oat bread and I wondered what it would be like in a different bread. I didn't really taste a sweetness, but then yeast bread is sweeter than sourdough anyway. Your blog constantly inspires me, so I'm glad if I can return the favour!

Chef Dennis - thanks! You can find spelt flour in most supermarkets now too, if you want to give it a go.

Celia - thanks. I thought those cookies of Dan's looked good too!

jose manuel - thanks, I think!


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