Incorporating spelt flour into your baking is a great way to branch out from traditional wheat flour-based cooking. Spelt flour recipes are delicious on their own accord, but spelt flour can also be substituted for wheat flour in most of your favorite recipes.
Spelt flour is nutritious and tastes great, so you won’t be sacrificing any quality with spelt flour recipes or if you incorporate spelt flour into recipes of your favorite baked goods.
Whether you are looking for ways to reduce or replace your wheat flour intake, or you are just looking for new grains to liven-up your kitchen, the spelt flour recipes below are a great step toward a diet focused on holistic health and wellness.
For all the details about the gluten content in spelt, see our post: Is Spelt Gluten Free?
Our Favorite Spelt Flour Recipes
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Some Considerations: Spelt Flour vs Wheat Flour
The bad news about spelt for those with celiac is good news for the rest of us: spelt flour contains gluten. The gluten content, even though it is different than wheat, is often close enough to get away with a 1:1 substitution for wheat flour. More on that below.
While our spelt four recipes included here have been designed to accommodate the unique aspects of spelt, your results may vary based on where you source your spelt.
Unlike flours made out of wheat, the underlying characteristics of spelt flours can vary widely, depending on the cultivation techniques, location, and even milling techniques.
Because spelt is an ancient, heirloom grain – meaning it has not been altered, hybridized, or standardized as part of its cultivation, the qualities of the grain are not as uniform as in modified common wheat.
Most importantly, the gluten protein in spelt flour does not have the same qualities as the gluten protein in wheat flour. As such, spelt flour recipes require special handling in some cases. We will cover a few of the basic differences between wheat flour and spelt flour first, so your experience with spelt flour recipes doesn’t fall flat.
For a thorough overview of spelt flour, see our post “What is Spelt Flour?”.
Better Baking Through Chemistry
Baking is chemistry. Subtle variations or miscalculations can make or break your next loaf. Which is why spelt flour recipes and wheat flour recipes are not always interchangeable.
Before we get too far, it is important to keep in mind that wheat flour is as much of a category as it is a specific food. Wheat is a group of related plants – and spelt is within this group. But just as spelt is different from common wheat, there are also a number of different hybrids and varieties of wheat that can be used to make flour.
As such, wheat flours can vary widely based on the types of wheat used and the processing or milling techniques. We’ll keep it simple by focusing on the characteristics that impact baking in general, and spelt flour recipes in particular.
There are two main considerations when considering flour: protein (gluten) content and milling.
Gluten is the Glue
Protein content is the primary differentiator among flours. Gluten is one type of protein. So generally speaking, higher protein also means higher gluten.
Different grains have different amounts of naturally occurring protein. Even different varieties of wheat can vary in terms of protein content. This variation is typically divided into two categories: hard wheat and soft wheat. Hard wheat is higher in protein (10%-14%) and soft wheat is lower (5%-10%.)
Here’s where it starts to get tricky. Spelt has higher protein content (on average) than common wheat, but a lower proportion of the protein in spelt is in the form of gluten.
We have to work on averages because spelt also varies widely in terms of protein content ranging from 12.5% to 18.4%. Typically, a protein content in this range would make spelt a “hard wheat” variety. However, the gluten content of spelt is much lower and it is in a weaker and more brittle form.
More gluten means more strength. This is referred to as structure in baking. More structure means more volume. Structure is also what gives breads a chewy texture when finished. Wheat gluten is stronger and more elastic than spelt gluten. This means wheat flours will more easily impart chewy and stretchy qualities.
Wheat flour dough and finished bread tends to both stretch and hold its shape better – desirable qualities in bread and other yeasted products where this firm structure is important, but less so in cakes and pastries where the desired form favors tenderness and flakiness.
Keep in mind; different baked goods demand different structural support. Spelt flour recipes that will most resemble their cousin wheat will be those things that are least structured like quick breads, muffins, pancakes, and scones.
Most recipes call for just “flour”, which is all-purpose wheat flour. Flour producers typically use a blend of soft wheat and hard wheat to produce all-purpose wheat flour. The protein content of all-purpose flour is between 10% to 12%. Bread flour is much higher, typically 14% to 16% protein, to provide the high structure that works best in yeasted bread. Pastry flour is around 9% protein and cake flour is lowest in protein at 7%-8%.
The milling of flour also affects how the flour will react to the other ingredients. In general, finely milled flours will increase the overall structure in baked goods.
Commercial flour producers make all-purpose wheat flour by finely milling only a part of the whole wheat grain. As a result, all-purpose wheat flour is smoother, softer, and finer than whole-grain flours like spelt. Flour producers also make a flour designed for for pastry baking. Pastry flour is extra-fine to provide for greater structure.
Spelt flour in our spelt flour recipes assumes a fine mill. There is, however, some variation – particularly in stone ground varieties. A coarser grade can result in a slightly different body and taste.
What you Knead to Know
Unlike wheat flour, the gluten in spelt flour is weaker. As a result, spelt flour will break down with too much handling.
Wheat gluten actually strengthens with kneading. Over-kneading spelt causes the gluten to become brittle and unbind. This means you must be careful to avoid over mixing when exchanging spelt flour for wheat flour.
It also means that baked goods in most spelt flour recipes may not rise as high. You may have to experiment with starters or other techniques. You can try using more yeast or more baking powder.
The more fragile gluten protein in spelt also means that spelt flour recipes will absorb more easily in water than traditional wheat recipes. So you will need less liquid overall. A general rule is that you may use as much as 25% less liquid when using spelt flour. Use your judgement, based on feel of the dough.
Exchanging Spelt Flour in Place of Wheat Flour
When exchanging spelt flour for wheat flour is that the more structure required, the more you will have to modify the original recipe.
Even with highly structured goods like bread or cakes you can use up to 25% spelt flour without negative results. In fact, a good way to do begin is to start with 25%. You can increase the spelt based on your results.
For less structured baked goods like piecrusts you can try a higher percentage of spelt flour right away.
Recipes that require less internal structure (think batter as opposed to dough) do better when baked in loaf pans and muffin tins.
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