This is a classic overnight sponge and dough recipe which produces 2 wonderful crusty loaves.
The sponge stage is for a firm-ish dough, which will be well fermented and broken down after 12 hours. This becomes a medium-soft dough in the second stage.
Stage 1 - the Sponge
500g Shipton mill white spelt flour
(or mix 50/50 with a wheat flour, such as the traditional organic white)
5g or ½ sachet organic (dried) yeast OR 10g fresh yeast.
1 teaspoon malt extract
275-285g cool water
First a couple of things to note:
- Spelt varies in its capacity to absorb water, this should be a firm dough, so adjust accordingly.
- If adding wheat flour, you will need to add more water until a firm-ish dough is formed.
Mix the malt in the water and mix all ingredients well, kneading briefly to form the dough. Place in a bowl inside a large plastic bag and leave for 12 hours. The sponge can be refrigerated for 24 hrs after the ferment if necessary.
Stage 2 - the Dough
Sponge (see above)
500g white spelt flour
(or with a wheat flour 50/50)
300g warm water (more if adding wheat)
This should be about 25C
Add the sponge to the other ingredients, mix and knead well for about 5 minutes until smooth. Place in a bowl inside a large plastic bag in a not-cold spot. Leave for 1 1/2 hours, by which time it will have doubled in bulk.
Divide the dough and round into 2 loaves, cover and let these relax for 5 minutes. Round it again, sprinkle enough flour on the table and roll the loaf in the flour so as to be well covered. Place in well-floured banneton with the joining seam uppermost. Cover with a cotton cloth/teatowel and place inside the plastic bag, and keep warm.
Allow 45 minutes for the loaves to fill the banneton. Turn onto the pre-heated sheet/stone, slash with a sharp blade and bake for 25-30 minutes at 250C.
This makes slightly unusual coloured crusty bread, as Spelt has light brown tones without the golden shades of a wheat bread.
For a crustier loaf have a look at Focus on Bread - A Guide to a Better Crust.
“Rounding” is done by keeping the roundish shape you form, and rolling it between your hands on the table and teasing the outer surface from hand to hand in a circular fashion and applying a little pressure as you tuck the shape into its base until it tenses slightly, firms and forms a smoother surface.
The seam or joins from shaping must be up as the loaf will be turned onto a baking sheet/stone which puts the joins on the bottom. Otherwise the seams may open un-attractively during baking.
Trouble shooting would include adding extra yeast in the second stage if the sponge isn’t active enough, and paying attention to ambient temperature, which if too cool would slow this down.