This is an old recipe that I glued into my recipe binder many years ago but had never tried. It was glued to a blank page and quickly forgotten behind the tabbed Bread divider — that yeasty alternate universe where mysterious instructions for conjuring a loaf of bread are shackled to pincer-tight metal rings. Bread-making was a lurking threat to my confidence in the kitchen. Not any more. Now if a loaf of homemade bread goes wrong, I don’t despair or shrink into a corner with a whimper. I make croutons and toss them across a bowl of homemade soup, or I make breadcrumbs and freeze them, or I fed the birds. I haven’t had a loaf go wrong in a long time, so hurray for me — bad luck for the birds.
I also had no clue from which publication I’d carefully snipped-out this recipe but the paper was glossy and yellowed with time, so I figured a magazine. A bit of Googling revealed that both The Guardian and The Telegraph had published it about 4-years ago. It also appeared in a cookery book called “The New English Table: Over 200 Recipes That Will Not Cost The Earth” by Rose Prince published by Fourth Estate Ltd, ISBN-10: 0007250932 ISBN-13: 978-0007250936 http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/0007250932 . It was a process of elimination. I didn’t own that book, and would never take scissors to a book (it’s sacrilège to go snip-snip to a book), and I’ve never bought The Guardian. I do occasionally read The Telegraph on Saturdays, so voilà — I knew exactly where I’d found this recipe. The Telegraph. I’ve also discovered that just about everyone, including their neighbour’s gerbil, has reproduced this recipe with blindside to copyright. One day I’d like to learn who first came up with this recipe, so I could give them a well done slap on the back. It was probably some ancient Roman baker in Colchester, wielding a rolling pin against the indigenous Iceni warriors.
Spelt is not a new fad that’s just hit our supermarket or health food shops. Spelt is ancient, and mentioned in the Bible (isn’t Google marvellous?): Ezekiel 4:9 “Take wheat and barley, beans and lentils, millet and spelt; put them in a storage jar and use them to make bread for yourself. You are to eat it during the 390 days you lie on your side.” I must say that this excerpt fascinates me. I hope it’s not the combination of wheat, barley, beans, lentils, millet and spelt together that’s caused this unfortunate person to be bed-ridden on their side for 390-days. I mean, that’s one heck of a long time! And secondly, I had no clue that the Bible was a cookery book. Now, how cool is that?
Until recently, spelt was used almost entirely as animal feed because it was too difficult to harvest mechanically and process the husk from the grain. This stuff grows up to 5-feet tall, whereas modern wheat and grain grows much closer to the ground. Specialised equipment is required to both harvest and thresh spelt. Some mills manually rubbed the husk by hand to release the grain. It’s labour intensive, and therefore not a cheap alternative for home baking. I assure you however that it’s worth the extra pence or two. It has a lovely rich, nutty flavour that wholemeal wheat doesn’t offer, and its gluten is much easier to digest than modern wheat.
A few notes about spelt. It’s far more water soluble than wheat, so it requires less water than wholemeal/wholegrain wheat flour. For that reason, I’ll stick closely with recipes written, tried and proven for spelt; no substituting 1:1 wheat flours or tweaking ingredients. The first time that I made this recipe, I used 500ml water as written in the original recipe. I found that the dough was too wet, and it didn’t dry out enough in my oven, so I gave it an extra 10-minutes before removing it from the oven. On my second attempt, I weighed the warm water as I suspected that my Pyrex measuring jug wasn’t 100% accurate. I used 485gr warm water, and the dough turned out just as I wanted. The loaf is also easier to slice on the second day. Tastes better on the second day, too.
As for the seeds, I poured 50g each shelled pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, sesame seed/linseed mix into a mortar and pestle, and started smashing away at them. That was a total waste of time, as it wasn’t working as I’d hoped. The pumpkin and sunflower seeds just flattened out rather than crushing and breaking up into pieces. So I dumped the whole lot into my mini-food-processor and blitzed it 2 short times until the pieces were broken up a bit but still recognisable for what they were. In other words, not too small. I wanted some texture and crunch. The food processor worked a charmed for that. I could’ve used my chef’s knife but it wasn’t until I’d pulsed the processor twice and the seeds were perfectly chopped that I remembered that I had a big ol’ wicked looking knife that I could’ve used. C’est la vie.
I also thought that I was on to something ingenious when I pulled a disposable latex glove on to my right hand to mix the ingredients, thinking that I could keep my hands from being glued to gloopy dough. Fat chance. The glove stuck fast in the dough (yes, the dough is really gooey!), and when I lifted my hand, the glove remained plunged in the bowl, gripping the spelt dough. After extricating the glove from the bowl, my hand was now covered in gooey mucky dough. I’ll return to my old ways next time; oiling up my hands.
And lastly, Three-Minute Spelt Bread is not bread in three-minutes. It’s 90-minutes from start to finish. But I supposed that Ninety-Minutes Spelt Bread is less attention-grabbing than Three-Minute Spelt Bread.
Three-Minute Spelt Bread in Ninety-Minutes
500g/1lb 2oz spelt flour
10g/1/4oz fast-action dried yeast (or 2x7gram packets)
1/2-3/4 teaspoon granulated sea salt (to taste)
A pinch sugar
50g/2oz shelled sunflower seeds
50g/2oz sesame seeds/linseed mix
50g/2oz shelled pumpkin seeds
485-500ml/17fl oz warm (room temp) water
Preheat the oven to 200°C/400°F/Gas Mark 6. Combine all the dry ingredients in a bowl, mixing well, and then add the warm water last. Mix well by hand, and then turn the dough into a greased and floured 900g/2lb loaf tin. A narrow, long tin works best. Place the tin in the oven immediately and bake for 1 hour, until the loaf has risen slightly and lifts out of the tin easily. The loaf should sound hollow when tapped underneath. Remove the loaf from the tin, and then quickly place it back in the oven for 10 minutes to crisp up the sides and base. Remove from the oven and leave to cool on a wire rack. Don’t slice until the loaf has cooled. It slices more easily on the second day, and when cut into 1/2cm slices, it’s the perfect platform for Danish open sandwiches.
Adapted from the recipe at http://www.telegraph.co.uk/foodanddrink/recipes/3341764/Recipes-The-spell-of-spelt.html