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Why Doesn’t My Spelt Recipe Work Anymore?


We successfully made organic wholemeal spelt bread using a Panasonic SDD253 Automatic Breadmaker machine. Then we opened a new 25k bag of flour and the recipe does not work well any more. The baked bread used to be risen and smooth and the texture light, sometimes crumbly. With the new flour the baked loaf is sunken in the tin and the texture moist and congested, the bread chewy and the crust hard and rough. The only ingredient that has changed is the flour.

The recipe is:
¾ tsp yeast
400g flour
1 tbsp fructose
15g butter
1 tbsp milk powder
1 tsp salt
290ml water (cold).
Baked using the Rapid Bake programme of 1hr 55min.

Please can you advise how we can make nice bread again!


Characteristics of Spelt

Organic spelt grain is still grown in very small parcels throughout this country. There are also restrictions on what can be added to the grains when they are growing. Due to this batches can be very variable according to the regions they have been sourced from. Shipton Mill blends these parcels in the miller’s “grist” to gain as much stability as possible but there can still be some variation in this very basic flour. This would explain the changes you have experienced in your results. The gluten in Spelt reacts differently to the gluten in modern wheat. If therefore you are substituting spelt for a modern wheat flour you will get very different results from the same recipe and less consistency due to these different characteristics. Thus the savvy baker needs to be able to respond to these natural variations in the flour by adapting the recipe.

Effect of Additives in Bread Mixes

These variations can be exacerbated when crumb softeners such as butter, fructose and milk powder are being added at high levels. You have been doing extremely well to produce a wholemeal spelt loaf on a breadmaker with this number of additives. The fats, milk powders and sugars will all be reducing your functional glutens in this very fragile flour. Unless these ingredients are added in the correct way there will be a tendency for the dough to move towards a cake texture.

If you wish to continue with this recipe and using these additives there are a couple of things that you could experiment with to build more stability into your product even in a breadmaker:

Fat %

A high fat level (as in your recipe content of 4% of flour weight) added to the flour before the moisture has hydrated sufficiently, will coat a percentage of the flour particles as the machine starts to bring the dough together. This will isolate them from the moisture, reducing your functional gluten capabilities considerably, just as we do in cake or pastry making. Fats added to bread in small amounts (say 1% of your flour weight) will still help to relax the protein strands without turning the dough into cake mix, so you may wish to try reducing the fat content to 1% of your flour weight.

Adding The Fats

Fats should always be added after the dough has taken up the moisture. If possible, add the fat when the machine has formed the dough ball but not finished kneading - just open the lid and drop the fat in afterwards to ensure it coats the strands.

Milk Powder

Milk powders can be added to a dough mix as a crumb softener and also to enrich your breads; however they will also reduce the gluten strength as it is a dead weight that the delicate cell walls, formed through the fermentation process, have to carry, putting them under unnecessary pressure. Therefore it should be added at no more than 1% of your flour weight (i.e. 4 grams for your recipe).


The same issues apply to fructose which really is unnecessary as Spelt flours have a natural sweetness of their own. This natural sweetness can be further enhanced by using a long slow fermentation.


I suspect from your description of the finished loaf that, under pressure from the weight of the added ingredients, the fragile cell walls have fragmented when the yeasts have had their final fling as the heat is introduced at the baking stage. This will release the gases from within the cells causing the loaf to collapse. If you wish to continue with your original recipe, you could build more stability into the process by reducing your yeast level.

More Advanced Techniques

Flying Sponge

If you want to try some more advanced methods you could dip your toe into the fermentation process by setting what is termed a “flying sponge” in the industry (So called because it’s a sponge in a hurry and therefore the salt, which would slow down the fermentation process, is held back from the sponge and added to the main dough mix.

Start 30min before you want to run your mixer:

For this particular recipe:

  • Take 100g of your 400g of flour and place it in a basin without salt.
  • Add all of your (reduced levels) of yeast.
  • Slowly add enough of your 290g of water (about 150g) creaming the ingredients together to make a creamy batter
  • Rest this mix for 30min then tip on to the remaining ingredients (including the remainder of the water) in the bread machine and set the machine running on your shortest program.

This simple change will ensure that the process has a “flying start”.

Adapting a Flying Sponge for Other Recipes

If you want to try this method with other recipes there is a simple calculation you can use to make a flying sponge. From your weighed ingredients:

Take 20% of your weighed flour (For example 200g from the weighed out flour for a recipe requiring 1kg)

All of your yeast (the total weight required by the recipe)

Add one and a half times the weight of your flour in water, from your weighed water (e.g. in this example the weight of the flour for the sponge is 200g therefore add 1.5 x 200g = 300g from the total weight of water required by the water).

Then follow the method above to make your flying sponge.


Temperature is another thing to look at as this can creep up on you through the summer months, magnifying any small variances there may be. These doughs are better if the temperature is between 21-25°C so set the dough with chilled water through the warm months and ambient through the cooler months. If you have a kitchen thermometer with a probe, you can use the probe to check the dough temperature by inserting it into the dough mix; this will enable you to adjust your water temperature more accurately.

Did This Help?

Hope these guidelines help you get back on track with the breads you enjoy eating.

Please keep me informed of your progress and come back to me if this problem persists.

Happy Baking

Clive Mellum