Posted by: Paul | July 18, 2010

Daily Bread

I’ve been getting into baking. For about the last five months, because of his apparent troubles with wheat (still happening though his allergy test came back clear), I’ve been baking all of Adam’s bread from scratch. Not only do I enjoy this as it’s something we often have fun with together, but it also saves money – the only palatable supermarket ‘free-from’ bread, the ‘Genius’ loaves, are £2.50 a pop and very small. So I’ve been buying Doves Farm Gluten-free bread flour, making it myself, and slicing and freezing it so it keeps nicely for sandwiches. I get roughly 18-20 Adam-sized slices from each loaf, whereas Genius gives you 10-12. A bag of flour costs half a loaf, and makes two large loaves making it four times cheaper. Nice!

Anyway, the necessity of using eggs in wheat free bread, I assume for binding purposes, makes the resulting loaf almost cake like in texture (and I halved the amount of sugar the recipe suggests, as that made it taste like a cake). So for a while I’ve had my eye out for a replacement, and depending on toddler tests (while it’s not wheat it still has gluten) I think I might have found it – Spelt flour.

Spelt is a relative of wheat. It’s darker, earthier, and greyer in clour, making the flour look unappetisingly like powdered cement. I found out about it after watching BBC4’s In Search of the Perfect Loaf, in which Master Baker Tom Herbert (stop sniggering at the back, I can see you) did exactly what it said on the tin – attempted to create the tastiest, most versatile loaf he had ever made. The end product really appealed to me – a large square Spelt Sourdough.

I love Sourdough. Not the poxy little so-called Sourdough rolls sold in Tesco, but the real deal – large, dark, chunky loaves, thick of crust and heavy of texture. It toasts brilliantly, makes a good hearty sandwich, and keeps for ages. I occasionally treat myself to a German Sourdough loaf from our local deli, and yearn for the day I can return to San Francisco to gorge on the particular variety baked there.

Sourdough involves a process of yeast maturation, and while I don’t have the facility for that, I did spot a bag of Spelt flour on the shelf while grocery shopping last week and thought I’d try it out. The above photo is the result, and very tasty it is too. It turns out a regular non-sourdough Spelt loaf is like a top-quality crusty wholemeal – the crust is crunchy if you sample it straight from the oven, and cools to a satisfying chewy bite, while the flesh (not sure that’s the right word!) is slightly malty, pillowy and dense. I imagine it will keep nicely for a few days.

One adjustment I will make for the next attempt will be not following the recipe’s instructions of splitting the dough into two separate loaves – it just made it too small for sandwiches. If this works, I may never buy a supermarket loaf again!

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