From ‘ancient wheat’ to ‘the gateway grain,’ spelt has been used for millennia and is a healthy and nutritious grain. It’s a wonderfully unique flour which is easy to work with and can be used for both bread baking and cakes.
What is spelt flour?
It’s a type of wheat flour that encompasses the entire grain. If you’re a fan of whole wheat flour then spelt is your hero because it’s undoubtedly the easiest of all the flours in this category to work with. If you’ve tried wheat flour before that wasn’t spelt, and not had particularly spectacular results from it, then don’t be deterred. Spelt - also known as ‘ancient wheat’ – is one of the oldest cultivated grains in the world and is considered one of the ancestors of modern wheat.
Spelt flour comes in two forms: Whole grain spelt flour, and white spelt flour. Baking with whole grain spelt flour is a bit like working with whole wheat flour, with its coarser texture. White spelt flour is ground without the outer bran or germ, resulting in a finer-textured, lighter flour that is a better substitute for all-purpose flour.
How does it taste?
Spelt is quite light and airy, lending a distinctive nutty flavor and light sweetness to baked goods. There’s a little saltiness in there as well as a distinctive mineral irony-ness. At least that’s how we’d describe it - we’ve also heard others pick up elements of bran and blueberry, as well as many other flavours. So, you’ll need to pick up a bag of spelt and try it for yourself to see what secrets it has in store for you.
Spelt is full of goodness
Spelt has a tougher husk, which helps protect the nutrients inside the grain so it’s a highly nutritious and healthier option, packed with more fibre. In general, the whole wheat version contains a whole lot of goodness that you won’t find in other flours. When it is ground, the outer layer is left in and this means that you’re also getting all the B vitamins, fatty acids, fibre, minerals and protein from the bran in this type of flour too. So, by opting for whole wheat flour, all your favourite baked treats are potentially good for you, as well as being tasty too.
Why is spelt so special?
- It has more flavour than other flours. People might disagree on the specific flavours they’re picking up in spelt but most agree that it’s a more flavourful flour option. As a result, it tends to pack more of a punch in your baking.
- It can be much easier to digest than other types of flour as the gluten in spelt has a different molecular make-up than the gluten in modern wheat. It's more fragile and more water soluble, making it easier to digest. As it does contain gluten it’s not suitable for those with gluten intolerances.
- Spelt makes fantastic bread and a host of sweet bakes, so it’s a one stop shop.
- It can enhance your other ingredients. For example, it adds great depth of flavour when it comes to balancing out fruit in bakes like blueberry muffins.
How to Use Spelt Flour in Baking
- Spelt is often a simple 1:1 substitute if you’re using it for cupcakes, crumbles, muffins and desserts. But because spelt forms less gluten than white flour it can require a bit of experimentation when it comes to bakes like buns, breads and pretzels.
- If you’re making something that requires structure, like bread or cakes, start by substituting in 25% spelt flour, and experiment with different ratios until you reach 50%. Spelt has a more delicate form of gluten, and over-kneading or mixing can lead to a crumbly texture.
- If your recipe calls for whole-wheat flour, a one-to-one substitution is fine.
If you’re planning to start experimenting with spelt and you’re a bit nervous then we’d recommend starting with smaller substitutes - say 25% of the flour required for the recipe. You can pick up a subscription for this incredible and versatile ancient grain from Risen and start your spelt baking journey today.