What is Spelt, and why would I want to use it?
I'm assuming that you've heard a bit about spelt already - and you probably already know that it's been cultivated since Roman times and possibly a whole lot earlier, a kind of prototype of modern wheat. If you've done more than a smidgin of research, you'll also know that it's quite possible that spelt is actually a hybrid of wild goat grass and emmer wheat. So it has direct links to native species of grass - it's actually been around since before we figured out how to cultivate things. This makes it old, old, old. Deserves respect, the time of day and all that.
So I thought I would give it the respect it so rightfully deserves, and play with it a little now and again. I have to tell you that my heart really belongs to wheat, but there is also a place in my heart for spelt. It's got a whole lot going for it on a number of levels. Apart from a mysterious and illustrious history, it's also a very good grain to make bread with. It has a sensational flavour, rises quite well, keeps well, and is suitable for people who have wheat intolerances. This will make a whole lot of people who have had to eat naturopathic limbo foods very happy indeed, because this stuff really does the trick for diehard wheateaters like my good self. It has a type of protein which is more easily digested than wheat, and yet doesn't hide it's deliciousness at all. Bring it on, I say.
While spelt is worth the effort, it needs to be said that from a farm perspective, spelt is a very inefficient grain. Our modern threshing equipment is designed for high yielding wheat, and spelt is a different grain altogether. As a result, as much as 80% of the yield is lost in threshing. I'm no farm expert, but I understand that there is special threshing equipment available which reduces this enormous loss - but equipment is always expensive. To justify the expense, demand will have to grow steadily. Lets hope this happens, if only to encourage bio diversity.
I have also been looking into other anciant grains, and this has led me to another one called khorosan, which I will be providing recipes for very soon. Stay tuned!
There is a really good recipe for spelt bread on the site - have a look at Spelt Sourdough Recipe - try this one and you'll see how easy it is to change the world!
For a bit of technical information about spelt flours available in Australia, have a look at Spelt Flours, which tells you about the different grades commonly available, and what to expect when using them.
Happy Sourdough Baking!