If you enjoy Italian Bread, but want to give it a slightly different flair, then you might try this Italian Spelt Bread. Instead of using regular bread flour, the biga and the dough are made with a mixture of white and whole grain Spelt flour.
The more I learn about Spelt, the more I like it! I enjoy using Spelt for a number of reasons. It has a delicious, nutty flavor; it’s fairly easy to find in stores or at the farmer’s market; and it’s a genetically unmodified grain. As I’ve mentioned before, Spelt is one of the super grains. It’s considered the fine wine of flours. It is a hulled grain, like emmer and einkorn, and belongs to the same family of plants as bamboo, rice, sorghum, sugarcane and modern bread wheat.
It is said that no two millers produce the same grind of flour and no two Spelt crops are identical. These characteristics work together to produce a range of subtle differences in the flavor, texture and baking quality of Spelt and make working with this grain a delight.
The method for making this bread is similar to the method we used for the Italian Bread in the BBA Challenge; however, this bread is made with Spelt instead of regular bread flour and the percentage of biga to dough is lower than the one we made in the BBA Challenge. The biga performs best when you make it the day ahead and place it in the refrigerator to ferment overnight.
Italian Spelt Loaves
From: Spelt Healthy! by Marsha Cosentino, M.A.
This is a pretty healthy bread, and the dough is very versatile. You can make loaves, rounds, torpedo rolls, pizza, focaccia, bruschetta, calzones, and breadsticks using this basic dough.
Making the All-Purpose Biga (or Starter)
This recipe makes about 2 cups (14 oz/375 g) of biga.
- 1/2 tsp active dry yeast
- 1/4 cup warm water (110 – 115 degrees F.)
- 3/4 cup tepid water
- 1 1/2 cups White Spelt Flour (divided 1, 1/2) (I used VitaSpelt flour)
- 1 cup Whole Grain Spelt flour (I used home-milled Spelt flour)
- Dissolve the yeast in the warm water in a small bowl. Let it stand for 5 minutes until creamy.
- Pour the 3/4 cup of tepid water into a large bowl and add the yeast. Mix in the 1 cup of White Spelt flour and the Whole Grain Spelt flour a little bit at a time. Beat Well.
- The biga will be thick to begin with but will soften and become lively while it sits on the counter.
- Cover it with plastic wrap and let it stand for 4 hours at room temperature (75 degrees F).
This is the biga after 4 hours. It’s pretty active at this point.
- Stir in an additional 1/2 cup of White Spelt flour and 1/4 cup of tepid water.
- Let the biga stand at room temperature for another hour or so until it becomes active and bubby.
- Use the biga at the end of the 5-6 hour proof or refrigerate it overnight to use the next day. If you refrigerate it overnight, just be sure to give it time to warm up to room temperature to get the fermentation activity going again.
- I placed mine in the refrigerator overnight. This is what it looked like after warming up to room temperature the next day.
Making the All-Purpose Italian Dough
Makes: 2 loaves
- 2 cups biga
- 1 3/4 tsp active dry yeast
- 1/4 cup warm water (110 – 115 degrees F)
- 1 1/4 cups tepid water (divided 1, 1/4)
- 2 tsp salt
- 1 cup Whole Grain Spelt flour
- 3 1/4 to 4 cups White Spelt flour (this will vary with the type of White Spelt flour you use. I used a scant 3 1/4 cups)
- In a large mixing bowl, sprinkle the yeast over the 1/4 cup warm water. Stir to dissolve and let it stand for 5 minutes until creamy.
- Add the biga to the yeast mixture and mix vigorously with 1 cup of tepid water.
- Add the whole grain flour and 2 cups of the White Spelt flour and form a rough dough.
- Add the salt to the remaining 1/4 cup of water and stir then add it to the bowl.
- Gradually add 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 cups of the white flour and beat or stir with a Danish Dough whisk until it forms a soft dough. Adjust the consistency if necessary by adding White Spelt flour by the tablespoon.
- Scrape down the sides of the bowl and mix until the dough forms a ball. The dough will be sticky, soft and very moist at this point.
- Turn the dough out onto a surface lightly floured with White Spelt flour. Cover it and let it rest 10 minutes
- Form the dough into a loose ball, knead it briefly by hand until it is elastic but still slightly tacky.
- Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl.
- Cover and let the dough rise in a draft-free place at cool room temperature (70 – 75 degrees F) for about 40 – 50 minutes.
- Check the dough and if an impression remains when a finger is pressed gently into it, then it is ready.
- Detach the dough from the sides of the bowl and fold it over the top using a plastic spatula.
- Gently deflate the dough using your fist, but don’t press down hard or punch it. You don’t want to expel the gases. It should be springy at this stage.
- Remove the dough from the bowl and divide it into two pieces.
- Shape the pieces into rough balls and let them rest seam side up, covered with plastic wrap on the counter for 10 minutes before shaping.
- Shape the balls into torpedo-shaped rolls and place onto parchment paper.
- For assistance in shaping the rolls, refer to the shaping section in the Five Grain Sourdough with Rye Sourdough post.
- Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. with a baking stone on the middle rack and a steam pan underneath.
- Sprinkle the tops of the loaves lightly with White Spelt flour and cover loosely with plastic wrap. I sprayed the loaves with olive oil instead of using more flour.
- Let the loaves rise until doubled in size. This should take about 15 – 20 minutes.
- During the last 5 minutes of the rise, score the loaves using a lame or serrated knife. Make 2” long, 1/4” deep slashes along the tops of the rolls.
- When the oven is ready, slide the rolls (and the parchment paper) onto the preheated baking stone and pour hot water into the steam pan.
- Spritz the walls of the oven several times during the first 3 minutes of baking.
- Bake the loaves for 15 – 20 minutes or until they reach a deep golden brown color.
- The loaves should sound hollow when thumped on the bottom.
- Remove the loaves to a wire rack to cool completely before slicing and serving.
Slice and enjoy! These loaves taste really good dipped in olive oil and herbs. I also enjoyed them with jam. They do tend to get dry fairly quickly since they don’t contain any olive oil in them.