Baking with Whole Grains: Spelt Flour

Ingredient Spotlight

Kim Boyce of Good to the Grain (and the best laugh ever) says that if you're new to whole-grain flours and have to pick just one, go with spelt flour. Hear hear! This sweet, mild-flavored flour has become a favorite over the past few years for making everything from sandwich bread to pie crust.

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Spelt is a very old, very hardy variety of wheat. It's been cultivated in Europe since at least the Bronze Age! The grain itself, which is delicious in its own right, is reddish in color and looks like a cross between barley and a sunflower seed.

Spelt flour has a mild and sweet flavor with none of the earthy bitterness associated with whole wheat flour. This isn't a flour that will weigh your baked goods down, either. Products made with spelt usually have a very tender, light crumb and a soft texture.

Spelt does have a fair amount of gluten-forming protein, so it's an easy substitute in baking. (Also take note, this is not a gluten-free flour.) It works well in a 50:50 mix with all-purpose flour when making baked goods like muffins and breads. But for things that require less structure, like pie crust and crackers, you can play around with increasing the proportion of spelt or even using 100% spelt flour.

You'll find find spelt flour in the bulk bins or the baking aisles of most grocery stores. Both Bob's Red Mill and Arrowhead Mills sell it in bags. Because it's a whole grain, spelt flour will spoil more quickly than more processed flours and is best stored in the refrigerator or freezer.

Try out spelt flour in these recipes:

Spelt Crust Pizza with Fennel, Prosciutto, and ApplesTriple Ginger Cookies from 101 CookbooksSpelt Flour Crackers from The New York TimesNigel Slater's Spelt Bread from The GuardianSpelt and Oat Fig Bars from Sprouted Kitchen

Do you bake with spelt flour? Have a favorite recipe?

Related: Nutty, Sweet, and Gluten-Free: Almond Flour

(Images: Emma Christensen)

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