94% Sourdough Spelt Bread

Round Spelt Loaf

Well I have been working toward this moment- a bread made totally with Spelt flour. I am close this time as my innoculation starter was 3 oz and the rest of the dough is all Spelt, I have a cup of Whole Spelt and the rest of the flour is White Spelt. I didn’t actually know that they made white Spelt, but I asked hubby to bring me home a 25 lb bag of Spelt flour and he brought me home a 25 lb bag of White Spelt and a 10 lb bag of Spelt berries to grind.

Spelt flour, whether the whole or the white, feels very fluffy and soft and weighs less in a cup than wheat flour. I started in the morning and mixed 8 oz of water and 5 oz of the white Spelt flour. Then I added 3 oz of one of my sourdough starters. I let this set for six hours and then added another 5 oz of White Spelt and 8 oz of water.

Spelt Sponge

 I let this ferment for another six hours and then poured the mixture into a larger container and added 4.1 oz of Whole Spelt flour(approx 1 cup) , 12.8 oz of White Spelt flour(approx 3 cups) and no more water. I let this ferment overnight. Next morning I poured the mixture into my mixer (by the way I figured out the hydration of the sponge at this point and it was supposed to be 63 %, it looked 80%, so I knew that the regular way of figuring hydration was going to be a problem).

NO way was this 63% hydration! Here the sponge dough is after setting all night at room temperature:

Spelt Sponge # 2 

Then I added 1 oz of oil(2 Tablespoons), 1 oz of salt(4 teaspoons), and 21.1 oz of White Spelt flour(about 5 cups). I mixed this on low speed for just two minutes or so. I let it autolyse for 20 minutes but after autolysis, I picked up the dough and felt some stiff flour in the dough, so I took out the dough and gently worked in two more ounces of water. The dough felt soft, smooth and silky.

 Before adding the two ounces of water:

40 % hydration ??? No way! 

After adding the water, NO Way was this 40% hydration! I put the dough into a container to bulk ferment, here it is done fermenting after four hours:

No Way! 

40% hydration dough???No way!

 My hydration calculator (Thanks Ice !) said that the dough was at 40.4 % after I added the extra two ounces of water!! No way! You cannot figure out the hydration in the regular way. It felt like a 61 -62 % hydration. The dough had a slightly wet feel yet barely needed a dusting of flour to shape. I am gettin ahead of my story! After the dough was mixed up I let it bulk ferment for four hours and then shaped it. Here it is after bulk fermentation, you can see how well the gluten strands were developed:

Gluten strands for Spelt flour 

Although the protein level in Spelt is higher than Wheat flour, the gluten in Spelt is supposed to be a weaker gluten than Wheat flour. You need to handle the dough gently, no long or fast mixing, no punching. Slow, short mixing times, and gentle folding or pressing down of the dough is what Spelt needs to keep it’s gluten intact.

Here the dough is ready to shape:

Dough ball ready to shape

The dough made 4 lbs 10.5 oz. So I shaped three loaves, two weighing 1lb 12 oz and one weighing in at 1 lb 2.5 oz. I let the shaped dough proof in their bannetons for two hours.

Spelt loaves 

Here is the small loaf, at the beginning of proofing and at the end of proofing:

Beginning Proof

 End of Proof

 I baked them in the way I usually do at 450 degrees F with a cover over the dough for the first half of the baking time (I spray the dough once and cover it with a roasting lid). I then lower the oven temperature to 425 and take off the lid for the last half of the bake which totals 30 minutes. I suspected even before I mixed the dough that the Spelt flour might need diastatic malt as an addition to the formula because in the research I did online, I saw Spelt loaves and they mostly looked pale and too crusty. I looked on the bag of Spelt to see if the mill had added any malt but they did not. In the mills they test wheat flours and usually add malt to the flour, if it is needed, especially bread flours(look at the ingredients on your bread flour bag and see if they have malt as one of the ingredients).The Spelt flour was obviously not corrected for lack of enzymes (hypodiastaticity) I decided to experiment with the dough as it was and see if it did indeed need the addition of malt enzymes. My hunch was right, the flour is hypodiastatic and definately needs diastatic malt! The loaves all came out with thick crusts and were very pale, which are the signs of needing malt.

 First Spelt Loaf 


Long Spelt Loaf 

 Spelt Crumb

The flavor of the crust was interesting, almost like a buttery popcorn. The crumb was okay,(although it seemed a bit dry and leathery) but the flavor is blandish, just like others said online about their 100% Spelt loaves.  The Spelt dough had an interesting feel to it too. It was soft and silky but yet felt wettish and it was sort of rubbery, like it had low extensibility compared to regular wheat doughs. I felt that this experiment was very informative. I now know that the Spelt flours need diastatic malt, I have read that VitaSpelt is the only distributor of Spelt flours in the US. So that means virtually everyone in the US probably needs the addition of diastatic malt to make the dough work well. I think that a sponge would work well and then add the diastatic malt with the final mixing of the dough. The other interesting thing to note is that the Spelt flour alone was a completely different thing than when adding it to wheat flours. The breads that I have made with the Spelt as an addition to the wheat flours has the most wonderful aroma and taste. I would have to say that I expected more of the taste and aroma with the use of all Spelt flour … and it just wasn’t there. I wouldn’t even consider buying Spelt if I had used this experiment as my reason to buy more Spelt flour. Here is a few pictures of an experiment I made about a week ago using Spelt as an additon to wheat flour. It was a Spelt preferment with Spelt flour being about 1/4 of the total weight of the flour. I also added malt to the recipe so there wasn’t a problem with the hypodiastaticity of the flour (which there might have been because I also used motherdough in the recipe and there can be a problem with that in long cool fermented doughs also). Here are the pictures of the Sponge Spelt, which is what I called the recipe: 

Sponge Spelt (25 % Spelt flour)

Spelt Sponge 

Spelt Sponge Bread

 Spelt Sponge Bread

You can see by the thin crust and great color that diastatic enzymes weren’t a problem with this bread. To sum up, I think that there are some things to keep in mind when working with Spelt Flours. You need to use less water for your dough, on the bag of Spelt, it says to reduce water by 10 – 15 % they also say not to mix Spelt doughs for more than four minutes total. I think that is an excellent suggestion. Add some Diastatic Malt (available at brewer’s supply stores or online) Diastatic Malt is a very powerful ingredient so use it sparingly, like not more than 1%? of your dough total by weight. Treat dough gently with slow, short mixing times. Don’t rely on hydration calculations that are used for regular wheat breads.  Try starting out with just substituting some Spelt flour in your favorite bread recipes and see how you like it that way. I still need to redo this experiement and add the malt, but so far, I like Spelt best when added to other flours. It exels in that.

33 Responses

  1. Hey Teresa,
    I used spelt in Switzerland, and it really is a weird flour, thanks for experimenting, I notice a lot of German bakers mix it in with rye and wheat! Though I see a lot of it on it’s own as well in both Switzerland and Germany.

    Good work, you really are the Mother Teresa of breads!
    P.S. did you make a spelt starter?

  2. Hey Teresa,
    Love the looks of this bread. This is the type of bread I want to make.

    I wanted to ask what type of oven do you use for baking? Is it a traditional house oven, conventional, or are you using a bread oven?

    I ask cause it looks like you have some intense equipment and I’m hoping i can replicate your technique at home.


  3. The second batch you made was only 25% spelt total?

  4. Wow, I am glad I found this post! I am learning to bake with spelt, esp sourdough, but I can’t add malt as that is typically wheat or barley based and I have celiac (gluten intolerance), so I can’t eat wheat, but spelt doesn’t bother me. I have been trying so hard to get a loaf that remotely looks like what you have above! It looks as though your bannetons help with that. Where could I order some of those? Spelt is much more water soluble and you do have to add less water or increase your spelt flour by 1/4. Everyone says spelt adds a nuttiness which I never get, perhaps that is only true when it is combined with other flours. It is a bit more on the bland side, but it is better than resorting to gluten free flours!

    • Ginger, malted barley flour aka diastatic malt is barley that has been sprouted. First off, sprouting pretty much annihilates gluten, which I found out after playing around with dough made from sprouted hard wheat (15% protein). It literally would not make a gluten strand to save its life. Second, sourdough fermentation also breaks down gluten, so this will further reduce any gluten danger. Third, malted barley is used in VERY small amounts. You may want to consider giving malted barley a shot, because it makes the bread absolutely fantastic.

  5. These laoves look really great. Maybe your spelt tastes a little bland because your hubby brought the white spelt flour. Wholemeal spelt may give it the nutty taste. At home, I also add quite a bit ground coriander, and sometimes fennel or caraway seeds to breads. I think that is a typical German tradition, especially with sourdough breads. Thanks for posting your experiments.

    • HI Michael, thankyou for your comment. I do have whole Spelt too. I have noticed that the spelt flours are not enzyme balanced and when you use only spelt, it really shows. Adding some diastatic malt, or using a blend of flours that are enzyme balanced really help. Teresa

  6. I’m a bit confused about the baking time. You said:

    “I then lower the oven temperature to 425 and take off the lid for the last half of the bake which totals 30 minutes.”

    Is the total time 30 minutes or is the last half 30 minutes?

    Thanks, I’m really looking forward to making this!


  7. Delicious! I made a loaf yesterday, and I am ever-so-grateful! My husband and I are on a Candida cleanse for a few weeks and can’t eat wheat or regular yeast. I had made a half dozen loaves of really heavy, cardboard tasting bread… until now! This one is a winner!

    Just a comment on the baking time though. You replied to me that the total baking time is 30 minutes, but mine took a full hour! I had a instant thermometer to check when it was done (210 F degrees). It was still raw in the middle after 30 minutes. I don’t know why there would be such a discrepancy in baking time, but I thought it might be helpful for others to know – just in case they run into a similar problem.

    Take care, and happy baking!

  8. I have been making 100% whole grain (not white) organic spelt sourdough bread for 3 yrs now. The recipe i have used is in the wonderful book “Healing with Whole Foods” – and adapted spelt to the sourdough recipe. I will definitely experiment with all the great info on this site as well. I live in SW Colorado where it is extremely dry and high elevation (6500ft). I use a whole grain spelt starter that I made from scratch and store in the fridge (feeding periodically of course). The taste of the whole grain bread is very good, and my 3 yr old boy and I live on this bread (we also cannot eat wheat but spelt is ok). The few issues i have had is my bread does not rise as much as wheat so it is quite dense and on the small side; it dries out pretty fast in our climate; and the crust does get crumbly after a few days. The recipe makes 3 loaves so I freeze 2. Of course the fresh bread is the best! I buy organic flour from the local health food stores, however I have used some stone-ground organic spelt from a friend and this makes a world of difference. The starter is much more active and the bread rises faster and is less dense. The fresher the grain, the happier the bread!

  9. I just found your website & am hoping to learn much about whole grain bread baking. I’m new to whole grain flour baking & sourdough starters, so any help is greatly appretiated! I recently found out that I can only eat homemade whole grain flour breads now. My first attempts were utter failures! I made spelt bread in a bread maker with instant yeast… I ended up with a brick! So I tried it again – same result! I knew if I kept that up I’d end up building a sturdy yet tasty brick wall!

    I researched online & found out spelt is too heavy for that type of bread making, so here I am asking for help! I recently purchased a schlemmertopf baker & also have a proofing basket & water purifier on the way.

    Spelt is one of the few flours I can eat – no white or wheat & this is my first attempt at making wild sourdough yeast starter. I just began my first starter today with whole wheat & pineapple juice.

    Can you please tell me how long until I can start feeding the starter with spelt flour?
    How long before I need to start refrigerating it & how often do I feed it once it’s refrigerated? I’m clueless how the whole process works!

    Are you weighing the flour with a digital scale & measuring water in a measuring cup? I just want to make sure I follow your directions correctly.

    Thank you in advance for any advice you can give!

    • Hi Katie, I use a digital scale for all ingredients. I would just go ahead and use Spelt from the beginning to make a Spelt starter. If it is your only starter, just leave it out at room temperature and make sure to feed it daily. Teresa

  10. I have been using spelt (25%) as a part of a wholegrain sourdough with no problems. I have tried to make a 100% whole spelt sourdough and add some honey 2 tablespoons for about 530 g of flour and 350 g of water. It is way too wet and showed a hydration of 66.6%. The flour is labeled as local and looks like it is whole grain. I proofed for 12 hours at 69 degrees and also for 8 hours at 50 degrees. Final proofing was for 2 hours in the proofing basket. The dough was too wet to really stretch and fold. The oblong loaf held its shape. The round boule looked more like a cow pie. The crumb looked about right and it was tasty I baked in a preheated covered clay baker for 30 minutes at 450 degrees and for 10 minutes with the top off, The internal temps were about 202 degrees.
    For my next batch ;How does a hydration of 60% sound and about 2% malt?

    • HI Archer, yes, you need to add less water for 100% spelt flour, do the 60% dough or drier and see if you like it. For diastatic malt I usually add .5 – 1 % For non diastatic malt you can add the 2 – 3 % Teresa

  11. Thanks so much. I plan to try 56.6 %- for 530 g of flour using 300 g of water with about 15 g of malt from brewing supplier, Do I need to leave out the 2 tablespoons of honey?

    • That sounds good, I expect that you are using a 100% starter and non-diastatic malt. If you are using malt syrup then I would leave out the honey, but it depends on what you like. I don’t like sweet breads. You would be using around 10 g of salt for 855 g of dough, I don’t know how much starter you are using so I can’t pin down any of the amounts.


  12. I accidently come into this web, wow it looks yummy thank you to shared it to us

    from Thailand.

  13. The staple loaf in my house is a 100% whole grain spelt sourdough loaf. It is not completely spelt; I keep my sourdough starter fed with rye flour and add malted barley into the dough. I find spelt tastes awesome, but I fresh grind my own flour. My recipe is as follows:

    Mix 2oz rye sourdough starter (100% hydration) with 4 oz water flour, 4 oz spelt, and 1/2 tsp malted barley. Let sit 12 hours.
    Mix in 8 oz water, 8 oz spelt, and 1/2 tsp malted barley. Let sit 12 hours.
    Mix in 0.55 Celtic sea salt dissolved in 6 oz water, 13 oz spelt, and 1 tsp malted barley. After an hour, do 3 stretch-and-folds 10-15 minutes apart. Let sit 12 hours.
    Do another stretch-and-fold to de-gas and shape the loaf. Put in greased pan dusted with masa harina. Let sit 12 hours.
    Bake at 350 F for an hour.

    This turns out an excellent loaf. It comes out soft and airy like store-bought bread, despite being whole-grain spelt. I’m really proud of it.

    • Hi Ryan,

      100% sourdough spelt loaf with a rye starter is what I have been hoping to make for years. I am making it my summer project and am researching how to make my starter. If you have the recipe for your starter and by chance a recipe in cups not oz – or do I need to buy a scale to do sourdough properly? Thanks for any help.

  14. Did you use 2oz of Rye and 2oz of water to make the rye starter, then add 4 oz of water with 4oz spelt flour……?

  15. Correction on my previous question.
    My question should be : How did you make the Rye Starter?
    Rye flour hydration is different?

    • Hi Archer, a rye starter would have been 100% hydration. You don’t figure the hydration differently for different flours, you just have to be aware that different flours absorb different amounts of water and so the “feel” of the dough is also different. Teresa

  16. I tried Ryan’s recipe but the dough was way too wet. I did a quick calculation and the hydration on his numbers is 72% 25 oz of Flour and 18 of water equals 72%.
    I aded a bit more flour and at the stretch and fold it seemed ok but the next day it had really gained wetness. It was so sticky I could not preform a stretch and fold,
    I scooped it in a proofing basket lined with parchment paper and am going to give it a couple of hours to settle down. I will just drop parchment paper and dough in the oblong clay baker. I usually place my dough inside a plastic grocery bag to prevent loss of moisture. In this case I think that may be a mistake.
    I measure all ingredients by weight. Is Ryan using water measurements by volume ?
    I would love to get some comments from Ryan

  17. Hi Archer, the 2oz of rye starter should be 1oz rye and 1oz water. I keep the starter in my fridge, subtract 2 oz when I need some, and feed it when it’s running out.

    The hydration does seem high, but for some reason it’s completely workable when I do it. I cover the bowl with a plastic grocery bag but pretty loosely, so I think there’s a draft. I’m probably losing a lot of water to the air.

    I cover my hands in water instead of flour, and it all stays in my hands when I work it, never touching any surface until I put it back in the bowl between stretch-and-folds or into the pan for the final rise.

    To my knowledge, fluid oz are set up so that 1 fluid oz of water weighs exactly 1 oz, just as 1 mL of water weighs 1 gram.

  18. I am going to bake it later tonight and will try to include a photo if I can figure it out.
    I think my error may have been closing up the plastic bag on the bottom of the bowl so no moisture can escape.

  19. I could not copy image. The sourdough taste was defiantly very pronounced and had excellent taste. The crumb was very open as evident by the very wet dough which was likely due to my error of not allowing ventilation of the plastic bag.
    It is a recipe and technique that I will try again. The bread had a good dense weight and was delicious warm with a bit of butter. The smell reminded me of the smell of wort. The liquid from crushed barley steeped in hot water for 90 minutes,
    that is the main ingredient for making beer. The extra flavor or malt with the whole grain spelt is a wonderful flavor that Teresa should try. The color is a rich
    whole wheat color, with a crisp crust. My starter was a wholewheat starter.

  20. I am totally confused with Shiao-Ping’s recipe. She states 3g of starter for the first day. That is less than 1/4 of a teaspoon. 1 tbs of salt weighs more than 13 g.
    How can she state 10 g of water with 11 g of flour.
    Does she really mean oz?

  21. Shiao-Ping’s stuff can be a little crazy. I assume we’re talking about this recipe, for anyone out there following along:

    If I were you, I would cut out the “First levain build” step and just start with the second instead.

    • Ryan, Shiao-Ping is a friend of mine, be nice! Teresa

      • Shiao-Ping actually inspired me to try a 100% dark rye bread, so I do like her work. All I’m saying is trying to measure out 3 grams of starter might be a little difficult for some people, given the precision of most scales. She doesn’t water things down at all; that’s for sure.

  22. Hi Teresa:
    I am afraid that I may have started this . In defense of Shiao-Ping. She has helped me with some questions in the past and I am grateful. I respect her advice and I was just following her recipe. I just waned to make sure that I had it right when I got to using such a small amount of starter. I did not know that I could have sent her a private email until I posted on March 8th, 2010 at 7:00 p.m.

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