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Unlike some of the rather bland alternative grains on the health-food store shelf, spelt tastes like a nuttier version of fluffy wheat. And yes, it’s good for you, too! Unlike much wheat, where the nutritional benefits of bran and germ are largely removed during milling, the good stuff in spelt is found in the inner kernel of the grain, and so survives the milling process unscathed.

Spelt really is a cook’s best friend. It’s great for making bread and cakes, and it can also make pastry and biscuits with a wonderful, crisp texture. The nutty flavour of spelt makes everything taste good, and the flour behaves in much the same way as wheat, if not better, so you don’t really have to learn any new techniques.

I think it’s always best to think of recipes as a guide, rather than strict instructions to be rigidly adhered to, so it’s important to practice using spelt in a variety of ways. It won’t take long for you to get used to using it – and once you do, you’ll never look back.

Spelt_Seeded_End_Paper_2
As there is generally a higher protein content and a more delicate gluten structure in spelt flour, you don’t need to knead it for as long as when making wheat bread. Remember, though, that it is more hygroscopic than refined flour, which means the dough will require a little more liquid, as you work the ingredients together, to prevent it from drying out. If your bread dough is feeling a little dry when you’re kneading, make sure you don’t just push on; instead, add more liquid. As bakers will tell you, the wetter the dough, the better the bread will be.

Never shy away from adding more water, milk or other appropriate liquid to keep the dough soft and supple. A dough that is dry and tough after 10 minutes of kneading isn’t going to improve after proving and baking.

Some great advice when it comes to making bread with spelt:

•  Bake it in a tin or basket. The gluten structure in spelt is different to that in wheat flour and it’s the network of fine gluten strands that gives the dough its structure, so a spelt loaf will benefit from being supported as it cooks.

•  Spelt dough can be quite dense. To make it softer, add a tablespoon of clear honey to give a pliable texture and to bring out the flavour.

•  To loosen the bread, add some fat – a little unsalted butter will do the job, and  it’s better than oil.

To know more, you can read Spelt by Roger Saul.

9781848991965-300x390

Roger Saul
Spelt
£16.99

 

 

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by Roger Saul

Afternoon tea is a peculiarly British custom, but one that has become popular and is now practiced all over the world. As a meal, it didn’t really appear until the mid 1800s, when the Duchess of Bedford created a fashion for it.

To accompany your afternoon tea try the delicious, delicate and crunchy Maple & Pecan Squares, perfect with a cup of strong tea or coffee.

Makes: 9 squares
Preparation time: 15 minutes, plus 2 hours chilling
Cooking time: 30 minutes

Ingredients:
150g/5½oz unsalted butter.
125g/4½oz/⅔ cup light muscovado sugar
115g/4oz/⅓ cup maple syrup
1 tsp vanilla extract
½ tsp ground cinnamon
¼ tsp sea salt
150g/5½oz/1½ cups pecans
150g/5½oz/1½ cups spelt porridge flakes

Method:

  • Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/Gas 4 and line a 23cm/9in square cake tin with baking paper.
  • Put the butter, sugar, maple syrup, vanilla, cinnamon and salt in a saucepan over a low heat and bring slowly to a simmer, allowing everything to melt and mix together. Add the pecans and the spelt porridge flakes and stir well.
  • Spoon the mixture into the prepared cake tin, smooth the top so that it is as even as possible, and bake for 30 minutes, or until the
    top looks golden brown and slightly crisp.
  • Leave to cool in the tin. Once cool, put the traybake, still in the tin, in the fridge for a few hours or overnight to set fully before slicing into squares. These will keep in an airtight tin at room temperature for about a week (if they last that long).

9781848991965-300x390Roger Saul
Spelt
£16.99, Available from Nourish Books

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bread

Extract from Spelt by Roger Saul

Spelt is truly a wholegrain, in contrast to so many of the pretenders on the shelves these days. Unlike much wheat, where the nutritional benefits of bran and germ are largely removed during milling, the good stuff in spelt is found in the inner kernel of grain, and so survives the milling process unscathed. Few reasons why spelt makes people feel good:

1. It beats the bloat
It seems that sensitive digestive systems find spelt is more easily tolerated than those varieties of modern wheat that have been bred to contain a high gluten content for the production of high-volume baked goods. This could be because spelt has a more fragile gluten structure, which is easier to digest as it is more water soluble than modern wheat.

2. It’s high in fibre
Spelt’s high fibre content not only makes it easier to digest the gluten, but it is important for lowering cholesterol levels in the blood, too. In addition, foods with a high fibre content pass through the gut more quickly, and research shows that faster transit time is an important factor in bowel cancer prevention.

3. It provides slow-release energy
The structure of the long chain molecules in the spelt grain are important because they help your body digest the grain slowly. Spelt also has a lower GI (‘glycaemic index’: the effect that different foods have on blood glucose levels) than many grains. Many people are sensibly learning to avoid high-GI carbs found in refined foods, which cause glucose ‘spikes’ to hit your bloodstream and can lead to all kinds of health problems, including type-2 diabetes.

 4. It’s a natural vitamin and mineral source
Spelt grain is a good source of nutrients; it’s high in B vitamins, which help to break down and release energy from food, keep nerves and muscle tissue healthy as well
as aid skin, digestive system and eye health. It contains vitamin E, which helps to protect the cells from the damaging effects of free radicals. It is rich in the mineral magnesium, which is important for activating muscles and nerves and creating energy in the body. Spelt also contains potassium and iron. Potassium is vital to help nerves and muscles communicate, while iron provides oxygen to blood cells. Finally, it is rich in manganese, which plays an important role in the digestion and utilisation of food, normal bone structure and the functioning of the central nervous system.

5. It’s good for your heart, blood and bones
Spelt is an excellent source of phytoestrogens and lignans. Phytoestrogens are plant compounds that scientists believe may help blood cholesterol levels, blood vessel elasticity, bone metabolism and many other vital cellular metabolic processes.

6. It’s a healthy source of protein
The protein in the spelt we produce at Sharpham has historically made up between
11 and 15 per cent of the grain, depending on the growing season and weather conditions. These proteins contain all of the nine essential amino acids needed by the human body (called ‘essential’ because the body cannot manufacture them on its own).

7. It might even make you happier too!
Recently, scientists have confirmed what naturopaths have been suggesting for years
– that your gut ‘brain’, the enteric nervous system, is innately linked to your immune system, and that your digestive health can have a direct effect on your emotional state. Patients suffering from irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) or other digestive disorders can also suffer from anxiety and depression. I am a firm believer that keeping your tummy happy can help keep you happy, too, and as spelt can aid with digestion and bloating, it could be the perfect prescription.

Mary Thomas’ Pine Nut & Cranberry Soda Bread

image bread

Make 2
Preparation time: 20 minutes
Cooking time: 35 minutes

Ingredients: a little oil, for greasing; 675g/11⁄2lb/heaped 51⁄3 cups white; spelt flour, plus extra for dusting; 1⁄2 tsp sea salt; 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda; 1 handful of pine nuts; 1 handful of dried cranberries, or any dried fruit/seeds of your choice; 285ml/10fl oz/scant 11⁄4 cups buttermilk, plus extra if needed

Preheat the oven to 200°C/400°F/gas 6 and grease a large baking sheet.

Put all the dry ingredients in a large bowl and make a well in the centre. Add the buttermilk, then stir gently with a knife to bind the mixture together to a soft, scone-like consistency, stirring in a little more buttermilk, if needed.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface, divide in half and gently shape into rounds. do not knead or the finished bread will be tough. Slice or press a cross in the top of each loaf, then put on the prepared baking sheet.

Bake for 35 minutes, or until a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.

 

9781848991965-300x390

Roger Saul
Spelt
ISBN: 9781848992290
£16.99

 

 

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