Spelt Sourdough Loaf

White Spelt Sourdough Loaf

Spelt flour is milled from the triticum speltum grain, an ancient relative of modern wheat widely grown by the Romans.

Spelt flour contains gluten but it has a different molecular makeup to that of hybridised wheat varieties, resulting in bread that is reportedly easier to digest. 

People with wheat intolerance often find they can tolerate bread made from spelt flour.  However, as spelt does contain gluten, it is unsuitable for coeliacs and those with a gluten allergy. 

Baker, Tom Herbert, of Hobbs House Bakery Bristol, chose to use spelt flour in his Search of the Perfect Loaf.  

Tom's quest resulted in the design of a huge award-winning 2 kilo white spelt sourdough loaf made using his family's 55 year old sourdough starter, organic spelt flour from Somerset, Cornish sea salt and Cotswold spring water.  Tom named it 'Shepherd's Loaf'; I've yet to try it, but at £21 a loaf I'm wondering if I can have a crack at making something like it.

My experience of baking with spelt flour is until now fairly limited. I have in the past made a regular yeasted loaf using 100% wholegrain spelt flour which, although tasty, was very dense and heavy.  And I've occasionally added 50 grams or so of spelt flour to make my regular Sourdough Loaf and it has made a tasty loaf.  

From research and blog comments I'm aware that spelt flour can make a slacker dough that can be a bit tricky to work with.  The big question mark is around the hydration level for the dough, as too much water would make a really slack dough that does not retain its shape, and too little water would make a dense and heavy loaf...

My first attempt using 550 grams of 100% wholegrain spelt flour, 315 grams of water and 11.5 grams of salt resulted in a fairly heavy loaf which was a touch too salty.

First Attempt - 100% Wholegrain Spelt Sourdough loaf

I decided to use white spelt flour in the hope it would make a lighter loaf.  Unable to source white spelt flour locally, I opted for a rather painstaking method of refining (boulting) some wholegrain spelt flour, using a jam strainer to separate the spelt bran from the flour:

'White' Spelt Flour and Spelt Bran
It worked in that I got a lighter refined flour but if you can source white spelt flour it's preferable to sieving wholegrain!

Making the Sponge:

Starter and 250 grams of Spelt Flour
To 95-100 grams of ripe starter add 250 grams of 'white' spelt flour

Starter, Spelt Flour and Water
To the flour and starter I added 320 grams of water, making this a 58% hydration loaf, hopefully moist enough but not too slack to handle...

Fermented Sponge
I left the sponge to ferment during the day for about 8 hours.

300 grams of the 'white' spelt flour added to the fermented sponge and 10 grams of sea salt...

Worked Spelt Dough

The dough is definitely slacker than that of regular wheat flour.  This dough was worked for about 10 minutes....

Spelt Dough Left to Ferment
... and then left to ferment for about 4 hours, with 2 light folds in-between.

Spelt Dough, Fermented
The fermented spelt dough was rolled into a ball and placed in a well-floured (rice flour) banneton proving basket...

... and left in the fridge overnight to prove slowly.

Spelt Dough Proven Overnight in Fridge

The oven was preheated to 250 degrees centigrade and a roasting tin placed on the bottom shelf to which boiling water was added when the oven reached temperature (to create steam for a good crust).

With the oven preheated, a baking sheet was given a light covering of fine semolina and the spelt dough tipped onto the tray...

... and then slashed quickly with a lame...

The spelt dough, being quite slack, quickly spreads out on the tray so it needs to be slashed and put in the oven speedily.

The dough was baked as follows:

10 minutes at 250 degrees centigrade
Loaf rotated 180 degrees to even browning
Further 5 minutes at 250 degrees
5 minutes at 200 degrees
5 minutes with the oven turned off
10 minutes with the oven door ajar

Bread then left to cool completely on a cooling rack:

White Spelt Sourdough Loaf
Good Crust and Crumb
The resulting 'White' Spelt Sourdough Loaf is a decent loaf with a good crumb and crust.... The flavour of spelt flour is unique, a bit nutty... it works well with the sour flavours.

The loaf was smaller and denser than my regular sourdough loaf but not as heavy as a 100% wholemeal spelt loaf.  Definitely worth a try, especially if you can source already refined white spelt flour.


  1. I love it, thanks for sharing. Learning to Ferment my foods - For Health.

  2. Great recipe! This worked perfectly for me. I made a few time sensitive alterations and it was still a lovely bread. Found it a bit too heavy in the centre still so I wil play around a bit more. But thank you for the great "starter"! ;)