Like many home cooks I rely heavily on a few staple recipes that I know to be easy, quick and tasty every time. I’m hoping that this blog will encourage me to broaden my repertoire of healthy dishes, but there’s no shame in reaching for the familiar every so often, or even every week. One of my personal favourites is this spelt loaf I have adapted from a recipe in Linda Collister’s Bread: from Ciabatta to Rye, which currently falls into the ‘every week’ category.
I hadn’t tried spelt before I had my baby and my friend Becky made me a delicious spiced spelt loaf from the Leon cookbook. Becky renamed her loaf ‘titty bread’, presumably because it is a hearty, healthy food for a breastfeeding mum, but don’t let that put you off, spelt is good for almost everyone. In fact, it’s even good for people with wheat allergy (but not coeliacs). Not only is spelt bread virtuous, but it also tastes very nice, distinctively nutty, and it makes excellent toast.
Spelt and toasted seed loaf
700g organic wholemeal spelt flour
1tsp honey, or agave nectar if you intend to serve it to a baby under one-year-old
1tsp Malden salt crystals
1 1/4 tsp fast action dried yeast
600ml tepid water
3 handfuls mixed sunflower and pumpkin seeds
Standard loaf tin
Butter for greasing
Weigh the flour and warm it through until it is hand-hot, an AGA or Rayburn is perfect for this, or a conventional oven at 100c.
While the flour is warming prepare the rest of your ingredients, there aren’t many, so this whole thing is very quick. Toast the seeds in a dry frying pan until they are browned and fragrant. This is a satisfying job, make sure you shake them around as they pop in the pan and give off their lovely meaty smell.
Grease a loaf tin with butter or light oil and put the honey, salt and dried yeast in a large mixing bowl ready for the warm flour. I use a new bowl because the one used for warming the flour will be hot, and the extra heat may kill the yeast. Measure 600ml of tepid water.
When the flour is warm, throw it in with the honey, salt, yeast and seeds and pour over the tepid water. Mix with your hand, drawing in from the sides of the bowl and using a folding action to bring together a slightly wet dough that leaves the bowl clean.
When all the ingredients are incorporated, after about 2-3 minutes needing, transfer to the loaf tin, sprinkle with a few extra seeds and cover with a damp muslin cloth. Leave in a warm place for 30 minutes, or until the dough has risen to about 1cm from the top of the tin. While the dough is proving, heat the oven to 200c.
When risen, put the loaf in the centre of the oven and cook for 40 minutes. Check that a skewer leaves the loaf clean before turning your bread out to cool on a wire rack. When cooked the loaf should have a satisfying hollow sound when thumped on the bottom.
That’s it! The loaf is quite dense, and much worthier than conventional breads but it will win you round. I started making it regularly because it is one of the quickest, easiest homemade breads, and now it has inspired me to learn how to make other authentic, old-fashioned loaves. But more on that another day.
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