Granny’s Spelt Bread
I went to visit my granny last week. She lives on a farm on the west coast of Scotland near Oban, right by the sea where it’s windswept and wild. The best bit about going to visit my granny is that you get treated with her home-made bread. She makes beautiful wholegrain rolls with seeds in and treacle to make them extra dark, rich and malty. They’re the tastiest, nourishing things you could imagine. She used to make them with normal wheat flour, but in recent years she found that she has an intolerance to wheat gluten so she uses spelt flour now instead.
Spelt is brilliant. It’s an ancestor of wheat that has been used for around 9000 years. There are various references to it in the Old Testament and spelt bread was a favourite of the Romans. It was an important crop in the development of civilisation because it thrived in poor growing conditions and was particularly resistant to disease and pests due the tough outer husk surrounding the grain. Spelt has become redundant as a crop in modern times as preference has moved to higher-yield varieties of wheat that are better suited to the commercial bread industry. Recently though, spelt has been rediscovered and you can buy it from some health food shops and delicatessens. As well as making bread with the flour you can make excellent risotto from whole spelt grains, as they do in a number of restaurants now. My granny doesn’t knead the dough at all, which gives a pleasing rustic consistency to the bread. She also uses fairly hot water to activate the yeast; the water shouldn’t be too hot, as this would kill the yeast, but just hand-hot (about 50C). This relatively high temperature causes the bread to rise quickly, resulting in lots of little air pockets. Her technique for baking the bread is to simply bake all of the dough into one large flat loaf, then cut it up into roll-sized portions once it has cooled. If you prefer, you could shape into individual rolls and bake them separately.
Granny’s Spelt Bread Recipe
Heat the oven to 230C. In a large bowl, mix 1kg of wholegrain spelt flour with 1 teaspoon of salt, 1 tablespoon of dried yeast and a handful each of sunflower seeds and pumpkin seeds (pine nuts also work well). In a jug, mix 1 litre of hand-hot water with 2 tablespoons of treacle and 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Mix the contents of the jug into the bowl with the flour, cover and leave in a warm place for 20 minutes. Line a large roasting tin with greaseproof paper and scrape the dough into it. Leave in a warm place to rise again for 10 minutes, then place in the oven for 20-30 minutes, until nice and brown on the top and sounding hollow when tapped underneath. Enjoy hot with butter and Marmite!