A tutorial by Dr Joan Ransley
Making bread is a deeply satisfying and mindful activity that relaxes and calms.
Spelt bread has a beautiful open texture, a wonderful nutty flavour and great toasting and keeping qualities. It is lower in fructans than other wheats and the natural yeasts and lactobacilli and the long proving time of the sourdough method break down the fructo -oligosaccharides in the dough so that less are available to be fermented in your body. So your sensitive gut will tolerate more slices of this loaf than other loaves.
Sour dough requires attention to detail and patience, but does not take a lot of hands on time once you get into it. It contains only three ingredients: flour, salt and water, and uses the natural yeasts in the environment to ferment the dough. .
Stage 1 – making the sour dough ferment
To make the bread rise you need to make a starter. It will take five days for the starter to mature but the actual hands on time is only a few minutes. The starter will keep indefinitely, provided you look after it, and it performs better the older it is.
Day one. Mix one teaspoon of spelt flour and two teaspoons water in a clean jam jar. Seal and leave overnight in a warm place.
Days two, three, four and five. Add one teaspoon of spelt flour and two teaspoons water to the jar and stir. Gradually bubbles will start to appear on the surface of the mixture. This ferment is ready to use to make a sour dough starter when large bubbles appear on the surface. Leave a little longer if the ferment does not look very frothy.
Stage two – making the sour dough starter
Mix 15g/1 tbsp of the bubbling ferment from stage one with 150 g/5 oz spelt flour and 150 g/ 5 fl oz luke warm water in a large bowl and leave to ferment overnight. The next day use this starter for your recipe.
Keeping your sourdough
Add one teaspoon of flour to the jar containing remaining sourdough culture. Stir well seal and refrigerate for another time. Putting the starter in the fridge does not kill the wild yeasts but causes them to become dormant (sleepy). When you are ready to use the sourdough again pour away any grey liquid that may have formed and continue to make up the starter as described in stage two. A fresh influx of water and flour will invigorate the wild yeasts and they will be ready to use again in your next batch of bread.
Spelt sourdough bread
It takes a day to make a good spelt sourdough loaf, but the hands on time is no longer than ten minutes and it will keep for a week and freezes well.
The only part when you need to use judgement is adding the correct amount of water to the dough. This depends on the type and age of the flour, so you might have to add a little more or less to get the consistency of the dough just right. It should be stretchy, smooth and a little bit sticky.
You will need a small proving basket (500g/1lb) for this loaf but if you don’t have one line a colander with a linen tea towel and this will do the job just as well.
It is important to slash the top of the loaf with a really sharp knife (or use scissors) before it goes in the oven to allow steam generated from within the loaf to push the crust upwards and give the loaf a good height when cooked.
One really useful tip I was given by a master baker was to place the bread dough in the fridge for about half an hour after it has risen and before it is baked. This helps the loaf to keep its shape after turning out of the proving basket and makes it easier to slash the top just before it goes in the oven.
Makes 1 small loaf
Place the flour and salt in one bowl and mix together. In another bowl place 100 ml/ 3 fluid oz water and 75 g/3 oz sourdough starter and mix together well. Add the liquid to the flour and mix well. If it is too dry add up to 25ml/1oz of extra water until the dough has come together into a soft ball. Use your hands to help at this stage. You may have to adjust slightly the amount of liquid used. Use a shower cap or a clean used plastic supermarket bag to cover the dough and leave for 10 minutes.
Kneading the sourdough
Keep the dough in the bowl and pull a portion of the dough up from the side towards you and then press it back it to the middle of the dough. Spelt dough is quite stretchy so this should be easy for you to do. Turn the bowl slightly and repeat this process with another portion of dough. Repeat these movements about 8 times or until you have worked around all the dough. This should take about 10 seconds.
Cover the bowl again and let it rest for 10 minutes. Repeat this kneading and resting process twice. Give the dough a final knead (you have kneaded it 4 times in all), cover and then leave to rise for an hour. The dough should have doubled its volume. Uncover the dough and while it is still in the bowl punch it with your fist to deflate the dough ball.
Lightly dust a work surface with flour. Remove the dough from the bowl and place on the work surface. Shape the dough into a smooth round disc. Line a proving/ dough rising basket with a clean linen tea towel. Dust generously with flour and lay the dough inside. Sprinkle the top of the dough with flour. Allow the dough to rise until it has almost doubled in size. This will take between 3 and 6 hours depending on the temperature of the air.
Lightly dust a work surface with spelt flour. Remove the dough from the proving basket and place it on the floured work surface. Gently pull into an oval shape and fold both ends over into the middle. You will now have a rectangular shape. Pull and fold the top of the rectangle one third of the way towards the middle, move round 180° and keep folding until you have a shape the side of a 450g, 1lb loaf tin, lightly greased with vegetable oil. Sprinkle any seeds on the bread at this point.
Place the dough inside the prepared loaf tin, cover with Clingfilm, or a plastic bag, and leave the dough in a warm place to rise to almost twice its original size (about 45 minutes). The rate at which the dough rises depends on the warmth of the room. It is impossible to say exactly how long this process will take. It requires the judgement of the cook which is obtained through experience of making bread.
About 15 minutes before the bread has finished rising, preheat the oven to 240°C (475°F), gas 9. Place a roasting tin at the bottom of the oven filled with a cup full of water. Then when the oven is up to temperature, remove the cover, snip a circle around the top of the loaf with scissors or simply slash the top with a very sharp knife to create a crown and place the loaf in the preheated oven and immediately lower the temperature to 220°C (425°F), Gas 7.
Bake the loaf for about 35 minutes or until the surface is nicely browned. Turn the loaf out of the tin, tap on the base to check it sounds hollow and is cooked and place on a wire rack to cool.
Here are some tips to help bread making fit in with a busy life:
To learn more about delicious and calming recipes for IBS, come along to our workshop on The Sensitive Gut at The Allergy and Freefrom Show in Glasgow next Saturday and get your copy of our book, Cooking for the Sensitive Gut, at the special show price.
And if you miss Glasgow, Joan will also be giving a cookery demonstration and a book signing at The IBS Network’s 25th Anniversary conference in Sheffield on April 16th.