4.04.2013

ED'S SPELT BREAD // the local food report

My friend Ed makes a mean loaf of bread.


It's spelt bread, adapted from the no-knead white bread recipe from Mark Bittman that made the rounds back in 2006. Ed was making that bread regularly—mixing and waiting and pouring and baking—when he and his wife Teresa took a trip up to Vermont to visit a couple of friends. Their friend Josie had made a spelt bread with flour from Beidler Family Farm just down the road, and it was delicious. He wanted in. He didn't want to lose his no-knead recipe, though, and so he slowly started combining the two.

What you see up there is the result. It couldn't be much easier. Essentially, you take two cups of spelt flour, two cups of white flour, 1 and 1/2 teaspoons of salt, 1/4 teaspoon of yeast, and 1 and 1/3 cups of cold water, and mix them into bread. The dough sits overnight in a bowl, then gets punched down and rises another two hours, and then you bake it in a preheated Dutch oven for 30 minutes covered, 10 minutes uncovered. What emerges is a crusty, airy loaf—a bread with a sweet, nutty flavor, plenty of moisture, and excellent mouth feel.


I got interested in it for two reasons. The first of course is that it is delicious. Ed brings it over whenever we all have dinner, and I've also had it during early morning writing sessions with Teresa. It is equally good at room temperature slathered in butter and toasted and topped with homemade strawberry jam.

The second reason is that we have spelt coming out of our ears. For the past four years now, we've been part of the Pioneer Valley Heritage Grains CSA. I like a lot of things about it—we're supporting local farmers, we get a top quality product from close to home, and we get to try a lot of grains we probably wouldn't be baking and cooking with otherwise. Spelt has been one of these.

I do have a few trusty spelt recipes—this Rosemary, Dark Chocolate & Spelt Cake, to name one—but I'm always looking for more. So when I tasted Ed's bread—crusty, chewy, moist—I knew I needed to learn to bake my own loaves. I finally went over the other day for a tutorial. You can hear the live version on the Local Food Report this week, and here's the recipe for those of you inspired to try it at home. If you don't have a ready source of local spelt (not unlikely!), check out our grain and bean CSA, Wood Prairie Farm in Bridgewater Maine, and Beidler Family Farm in Vermont.

Happy baking!

ED MILLER'S SLOW-RISE SPELT BREAD

2 cups organic spelt flour
2 cups organic bread or all-purpose flour
1 and 1/2 teaspoons Kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon active dry yeast
1 and 1/3 cups cold water
olive oil
coarse cornmeal

Combine flour, salt, yeast, and water in a large bowl and mix until flour is well-incorporated in the dough. (The dough will be fairly dry, not sticky.) Shape the dough into a ball and drizzle a little olive oil over it. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and a tea towel and let rise overnight (12 to 16 hours) in a warm, draft-free spot. The dough should double in size.

The next day knead the dough just a little to make sure it's smooth throughout and let rise again in the covered bowl for two more hours. Half an hour before you're ready to bake it, turn the oven on to 450 degrees F and put a heavy covered dutch oven (like a Le Creuset) inside to heat up. When the dough has finished its second rising, sprinkle about a tablespoon of coarse corn meal into the pot and transfer the dough into the pot. Cover and bake at 450 for 30 minutes. Then take off the lid and bake for about 10 more minutes, until the bread is nicely browned.

Remove to a cooling rack. (And be careful not to burn yourself on the hot pot or the lid.)

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All text, photographs, and other original material copyright 2008-2010 by Elspeth Hay unless otherwise noted.