by / Sunday, January 23, 2011

Hildegard's Spelt Bread

Spelt. That's a train I hadn't boarded until yesterday.  Not that I wasn't interested in the destination.  Just that I couldn't find a place to buy a ticket!  But when the challenge was issued by Astrid of Paulchens Food Blog...for buddies to join babes... and I got a quick glimpse into the life of Saint Hildegard*, I decided I'd better figure out a way to board that train.  Seriously, I've looked at all of my local markets for spelt flour, but none of them seem to carry it.  This particular recipe also calls for spelt flakes.  Double whammy.  While there is a store that I am guessing might carry in the next town over, the weather has pretty much put a halt to me getting over there and checking it out.  But...that's what the internet is for, right?  I wound up ordering both the whole spelt flour and flakes from Bob's Red Mill.  My double boarding pass arrived by UPS several days later...Yay!  Check out my journey....

Hildegard's Spelt Bread
recipe via Paulchens Food Blog?! for Bread Baking Buddies
(halved & ever-so-slightly adapted)
makes 1 loaf

200 grams Spelt flakes + some for sprinkling
300 grams Whole Spelt Flour + more for work surface
7.5 grams fine sea salt
7.25 grams active dry yeast
100 ml. milk, lukewarm
250 ml. water, lukewarm
1 Tbs. freshly squeezed lemon juice
½ Tbs. coconut oil

Mix spelt flakes, spelt flour, and salt together in a small bowl.  Pour yeast over milk in a separate, large bowl.  Let sit ~5 minutes, or until it blooms.  Combine the two to form a sponge.  Now.  I'm just starting to venture into the world of more advanced bread making...you know...where you use terms such as sponge and poolish.  Actually this is my first sponge (that I know of).  I had it in my head that a sponge would be wet.  But this was extremely dry.  Crumbly even.  But since I wasn't sure if this was correct or way-off-base, I went with it.  Cover and let rest 15-20 minutes.
Stir the water and lemon juice into the sponge with a wooden spoon and gradually mix in the oil.  Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for ~15 minutes.  Okay.  You're probably going to look at your dough at this point and think I'm insane for telling you to knead it.  It's as sticky and squishy as...well...wet dough, basically.  But I was warned in advance that it would look like this and not to freak out and add more flour because it would come together.  
So, I kneaded the best I could.  Five minutes of "kneading" (if you can call it that) passed.  My hand was a huge mess.  I'm gonna be honest, I added a bit of flour here and there to the counter ...just so I wouldn't lose all of my dough to it.  But I chugged on.  
And guess what?  After about five more minutes of kneading, I could see and feel the dough starting to firm up.  My hands were a lot less messy.  Hmmm.  At this point, I didn't even need to add more flour to my work surface.  While the dough was still pretty tacky, it wasn't sticking.  
And after a total of 14 or 15 minutes, the dough, while dense, seemed like a regular old dough...ready to rise!  And my hands were pretty clean, too...
Form your dough into a ball, lightly coat the surface with a bit of warm water I just used my hands and place in a bowl.
 Cover and set in a warm place until doubled in size, ~45-60 minutes.
Turn dough out onto counter and knead for 2 minutes.  Form into a loaf shape and place into a greased loaf pan.  I wet the top with a bit of warm water and sprinkled a few extra spelt flakes on top.
 Cut a long slit lengthwise down the top center of the loaf, ~¼" deep.  Cover and let sit until doubled in size, ~30-45 minutes, preheating oven to 400° F. during the last 15 minutes of rise time.  Place an empty pan in the bottom of oven and put a small kettle of water on to boil.
Place pan in oven and quickly pour boiling water in to the pan you set in the bottom of the oven while it was preheating (this is for steam).  Bake for 15 minutes, then lower the temperature to 375° F. and bake for another 30 minutes.
Cool on a wire rack before turning out of pan and slicing.
Honestly?  This bread is pretty darn heavy and dense.  And somewhat dry.  This could very well be my fault.  But I'm also thinking it may have something to do with the fact that this recipe dates back some seven or eight hundred years, during St. Hildegard's time.

Not to worry, though...I had an idea...
It worked!  After toasting the bread and giving it a good slathering of Nutella...all was right in the world.  I actually can't wait to eat another slice now!  When in doubt, add Nutella.  Words to live by.  Thanks for letting me share my first ride on the train I took so long to board with you today ☺.
* The glimpse into St. Hildegard's life that made me want to board that train to the past, as shared by Astrid:  "Saint Hildegard von Bingen lived from 1098 to 1179 in Germany. She joined a Benedictine convent in Disibodenberg and became the Abbess at the age of 35. St. Hildegard had visions all her life, which helped her see God’s wisdom and be seen as a prophet. She wrote down what God told and showed her through these visions and published many volumes on science, medicine and theology.
She was also very outspoken, going on missionary trips and preaching in other cloisters and in market places. Today, there is a revivalist culture around her teachings, especially her teachings on how to eat to stay healthy and many of her medicinal and herbal remedies.
*Update: at the suggestion of Elizabeth, I toasted up a thinnish slice for breakfast this morning, then spread some nice, pungeant whole grain mustard on top and layed some of my favorite shaved ham over that.  It. Is. EXCELLENT!  Thanks, Elizabeth ☺.

This post is linked to:
*Bread Baking Buddies-January '11 (in conjunction w/ Bread Baking Babes)

Heather is a Michiana-based food, drink, and travel writer with a fondness for garlic, freshly baked bread, stinky cheese, dark beer, and Mexican food—who believes that immersing herself in different cultures one bite at a time is the best path to enlightenment.


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