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Sunny Spelt Sourdough Recipe

by Saara

This Sunny Spelt Sourdough gets its flavors from freshly pressed orange juice & orange zest. They are like gentle whispers to a bread that has a thin crispy crust & super soft, tender and moist crumb. Tasty as ever. I’m accustomed to bake this sourdough within a 24h time frame but have managed it also within 14 hour window. It requires no kneading and is based on stretching and folding technique instead. A recent urge to bake this bread came from a pantry cleanup. When organizing more space for new fermentations, I spotted a bag of organic spelt flour which has been sitting on the shelf since last autumn. Half full, that’s not right! So here you see photographs of two differently baked versions of this tasty friend.



Serious Spelt Talk

I love spelt.

But spelt can be a difficult lover.

Spelt has a wonderful mild nutty flavor. It is aromatic. It’s higher in protein and in fat when compared to wheat. Spelt is also full of fiber and minerals. But this ancient grain divides the baking scene. Some say it’s overrated, others complain it’s difficult to bake with. Spelt has a tendency to spread – a common complaint. The viscosity of the dough is different from normal wheat – fair warning about gliadin. I’ve failed with spelt many times – not so surprising truth. And finally I have to state the obvious: conflicting information and tips float around thanks to both baking books and online recipes. Whether to use less flour or less liquid? How long do I let the dough rise? What works for pies and muffins is a different story from sourdough dreams.

I’m only an observant home baker. The logic of the balance I have in this sourdough recipe comes down to three things. Firstly, I love spelt but I don’t love to deal with 100 percent spelt. The following recipe is more or less 23% spelt with 77% wheat flour which you are free to tweak to your liking. Secondly, the step by step process. I use organic spelt flour which I buy from a small producer. The quality of the grains varies from one year to the next and there’s no given default how strong the flour is. Hence, I have to give spelt its own time to absorb water & see how new batch of flour behaves with a well-used recipe like this. Also, to my experience spelt requires longer time in room temperature after the final shaping before going to sleep in the fridge. Thanks to its slow rise nature, I combine it with wheat flour which works well in long leavening. Finally, gentle hands. This is a wet dough yet it stretches so well and is nice to fold. I prefer to bake spelt based sourdoughs wet in oppose to many general recommendations to use less liquid in spelt baking. This is just to my preference, I prefer the crumb soft and moist instead of a bite of a too dense bread.


Sunny Spelt Sourdough

The following recipe makes one loaf. The evening before I prepare the levain. I take 20g of a 100% hydration wheat starter kept in fridge and feed it with 30g of water and 30g flour. The next morning, the levain is bubbly and mature to be used after a night in room temperature.

68g levain
117g spelt flour
400g manitoba wheat flour + 0,25 dl for shaping later
80g freshly pressed shifted orange juice
340g water (room temperature)
11g salt
2g sugar (depending on the sweetnes of the juice)
0,3 tsp orange zest


The Process

  1. In large bowl, mix Levain, spelt flour and 300g of water together with a spatula. Leave the mix aside while you weight all the other ingredients and prepare the orange juice as well as zest.
  2. Add orange juice, zest and wheat flour into the mixture. Keep mixing with your hand until no lumps or dry patches are visible. Let the the dough rest for 15 minutes. 
  3. Make a hole in the middle of the dough and pour rest of the water (40g) in it with salt and sugar. Incorporate the liquid and salt into the mix well by pressing the dough with your fingers and folding from the sides into the middle. This takes couple of minutes, do not over mix. Let the dough rest covered for 30 minutes.
  4. Oil another bowl and transfer the dough into that. I use mild avocado oil. Now stretch and fold the dough every 30 minutes, a full circle every time. S&F four to five times in total until you feel the dough is strong enough. Keep the bowl covered in between foldings. If you have not folded before, here’s an example video for reference. The first stretches can feel weird and really wet whereas the last rounds are much more gentle. Finally leave the dough to rest covered for another 30 minutes.
  5. Prepare your proofing basket with (rice) flour. This dough is still sticky and a cloth is advised to be used to make extra sure that it doesn’t glue into your basket. Shape the bread to your liking using as little flour as possible making sure that you get tension and a firm shape. I prefer to make this as a batard. Let the dough rest in the basket in room temperature (notice some rise? a bit more still?) before transferring it into the fridge for overnight.


The Baking Day

  1. Pre-heat the oven 230°C 45 minutes in advance with your baking stone and your chosen steaming method. I use extra baking tray below the stone rack on which I pour 1 dl of cold water right after I slide the bread into the oven, hence I warm up the tray from the start. Use whatever steaming method you know and feel confident about. 
  2. Cut a piece of parchment paper, size big enough to let you to direct the bread with your peel. Quickly and gently swing your batard on your peel. Cut the surface right before the oven, shift more flour on top if you want more contrast.  
  3. Carefully slide the bread into the oven. Create steam! Let the bread bake at 220°C for 5 minutes. Let the steam out and reduce the temperature to 180°C. Repeat 5 minutes later. If the surface starts to color too deep, lower the stone rack. Bake the bread until 98°C inside (about 40 minutes). Let the bread rest on a cooling rack. Do not cut the bread when still warm. You can keep your bread folded in a kitchen towel to enjoy the crispy crust. When using a plastic bag, the crust softens.

Look at the these, almost there. In the beginning of this post I shared that lately I baked two different versions of this recipe. The lighter golden loaf with the perfectly developed crumb was overnight version whereas this deeper crustier friend above was a hastened version with shortened folding stages and only 6 hours in the fridge. No quick wins in sourdough baking when it comes to looks. Even though it is a bit underdeveloped, the crumb was still moist and soft instead of chewy or sticky.

I also compared two different oven techniques because millers advise to use milder oven temperatures with spelt. The golden version was baked at lower temperature first 220c + 180c for a longer time whereas with the darker loaf I baked 240c + 190c. Very hot for a spelt. We loved them both but the golden milder version was and is an overall winner. 🙂 What do you think? I would love to hear about your experiences with spelt.

This Sunny Spelt Sourdough is number 9 to the series of 10 bread recipes.

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