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Spelt is a highly nutritious grain that is related to wheat and can similarly be ground down and utilized as flour for baking. As a baking product, spelt flour contains a far lower level of gluten than wheat. So, baked products containing spelt tend to rise to a lesser extent than those made with traditional wheat flour. For this reason, the preferred products to be baked using 100% spelt are low-rising foods such as pastry cases, pizza bases, and pancakes.
When baking with spelt flour, additives can be used to assist in the rising process. It is also important to not knead the dough too aggressively or for too long a period of time. Excessive kneading of the spelt dough can result in a very dense end product. Many people prefer baking with spelt flour and wheat flour at a one-to-one ratio. This reduces the total gluten content while still allowing the dough to rise.
In regard to bread making specifically, there are very few spelt-only recipes. The reason for this is that baking with spelt can be tricky, and there are a variety of things that can go wrong during the process. Some of these problems include dryness, crumbly texture, and poorly bonded proteins resulting in a flat loaf.
Using the correct quantities of water in the mix is very important. If insufficient water is added, the baked product can become too dry, resulting in an unpleasant density. Too much water can leave the dough too weak to contain the fermentation gases. This can hinder rising, in addition to an end product that can easily be broken apart and is difficult to slice cleanly.
The mixing of the dough is also a key moment in the preparation process when baking with spelt. Overmixing the dough will eventually destroy the delicate proteins that bind the dough together and help to contain gases that are produced during fermentation. Similar to using too much water, undermixing the dough can result in a crumbly product that breaks down too readily to be sliced effectively.
Some of the pitfalls of baking with spelt can be overcome by using a starter. When doing this, approximately half of the baking mixture is prepared into a dough and left to stand for between 5 and 12 hours before the remaining ingredients are mixed through. By utilizing this starter process, the carbohydrates in the spelt dough break down into simple sugars, accelerating the fermentation process and resulting in a greater rise during baking.
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