Sourdough Spelt Bread

Reader Contribution by Karen Keb
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Each week, Hank and I try to add more real food to our diets, which means me creating something new from scratch in the kitchen. I have been studying so much of Sally Fallon and Dr. Mary Enig’s writings and recipes. Their book, Nourishing Traditions, The Cookbook that Challenges Politically Correct Nutrition and the Diet Dictocrats (NewTrends Publishing, 1999), is probably one of the most informative and revolutionary cookbooks ever written, simply because they tell you exactly how and why to prepare whole foods the proper, traditional way (as in, before everything became “instant” and processed). For example, did you know that in order for the body to absorb the minerals present in whole grains, you must soak and ferment them first? Every culture from Africa to India, to Europe to South America knows this and calls for a minimum of overnight soaking before cooking in their traditional recipes. (More on this in another blog, plus why you need to eat fat with the grain.)

Last night I prepared Fallon and Enig’s recipe for sourdough bread. Several months ago Hank gave me a starter he received from a friend who obtained it from a pig farmer in the Le Marche province in Italy, where it has been the “village starter” for more than 100 years. According to Jacques DeLange (quoted in Nourishing Traditions), “Baking with natural leaven [sourdough] is in harmony with nature and maintains the integrity and nutrition of the cereal grains used … The process helps to increase and reinforce our body’s absorption of the cereal’s nutrients.” Perfect.      

Fallon advises that spelt flour gives the most satisfactory loaf when it comes to sourdough. Spelt is an ancient grain that contains gluten, with some studies indicating “that spelt gluten breaks down easily during fermentation, making it more digestible than modern varieties of wheat.” I’m not gluten intolerant, but I am interested in getting completely away from white flour. Spelt can be substitiuted for modern wheat varieties in breads and pastries. So, here is the recipe (quartered, to make 1 loaf, as the Nourishing Traditions recipe makes 3 large or 5 to 6 small loaves):

2 cups sourdough starter
3 ¼ cups spelt flour (freshly ground is best) or kamut or hard winter wheat
1 ¾ teaspoon sea salt
1/3 cup filtered water

Place the starter, salt and half the water in a large bowl and mix until the salt has dissolved. Using a rubber spatula or your hands, slowly mix in the flour. Add the other half of the water as the flour becomes harder to mix. Knead the dough for 10 to 15 minutes; the dough should be soft and easy to work.

Shape the dough into the desired shape and place in a well-buttered loaf pan; do not press it down into the pan. Using a very sharp knife, cut a few slits in the top of the loaf. Cover it with a damp, lint-free cloth and set it in a warm spot to rise for 4 to 12 hours, depending on the temperature (I let mine rise for 6 hours).

 Bake at 350°F for 1 hour. Cool thoroughly before slicing. It will keep for 1 week without refrigeration. The bread turned out really nice–a dense, but not too dense, crumb, soft, and good tart flavor. This one’s a keeper.