Imagine slicing into a loaf of artisan sourdough honey spelt bread that has come out of the oven and has permeated your house with an intoxicating aroma. You hear the crackle of the beautiful crust as your knife cuts through the loaf.
A bit of steam rises from the loaf even after resting for 30 minutes.
You feel the slice of bread and the interior is spongy and flexible. You close your eyes and breathe in the deep, earthy, pleasingly sour aroma.
You take one bite, and the world stops…even for just a moment.
Yes, creating this experience at home is easier than you think, with little to no effort. All it takes is allowing a sourdough starter and time to do 95% of the work for you. In just a few minutes, you mix the dough by hand without worrying about kneading. You go about your day, or go to bed at night. You divide the dough in half, shape it, and ferment it again. Invert in a cast iron skillet or pan, bake, and you just made yourself the best damn whole grain sourdough bread you’ve probably ever eaten.
For this honey spelt sourdough bread, we are going to be fermenting the entire dough for at least 20 hours. But again, fermentation and time are doing the work for you. The wonderful thing about using a sourdough starter in your bread is that it’s very forgiving for long fermentation periods. After the bread is shaped, you can slow down the fermentation even more by popping it in the fridge, so you could easily ferment this bread for 48 hours! This comes in handy if you don’t have time to bake your bread before or after work.
THE IMPORTANCE OF LONG FERMENTATION
The longer a bread ferments, the more enzymes are created in the fermentation process, and the easier it is to digest. Long fermentation also breaks down gluten and allows for the creation of CO2 and alcohol to create beautiful open holes in the interior, which is a good indicator of a gentler gluten structure.
TIMING YOUR BAKE
Figure out when is a good time to bake your dough. If you have some free time on a morning during the week or on the weekend, then you would start mixing your dough the previous morning.
If you prefer to bake your bread at night, begin your dough the previous evening. The dough will ferment twice for 10-12 hours, with only a few minutes of work in between fermenting.
MIXING THE DOUGH
I used sprouted spelt flour for this recipe, but any spelt flour will do. I cut it with some all purpose flour since AP flour has a lower gluten content than bread flour, which makes it easier to digest. Add salt to the flours and mix together. Then the honey, water (room temp), and sourdough starter.
A stand mixer is not necessary, and it might be trickier to use one for this recipe because the batch is too big for a standard mixer. You can actually use the beater attachment or a wooden spoon to mix the dough by hand. You can certainly knead the dough for about two minutes by hand, but we are going for a gentler gluten structure that is easy to digest, so it’s not necessary.
Once your dough has come together, we are going to give it a “fold“. This will naturally help strengthen the structure of the bread without making it tough. As you can see below, stretch and overlap the left and right sides toward the center.
Then take the top and bottom sides, stretch, and bring toward the center. Flip the dough over, and cover with plastic wrap. Let ferment for 10-12 hours in a warm spot in your kitchen. Inside a completely cooled oven is a great place to ferment dough if your kitchen is cold. Just set a reminder on your phone so you don’t forget about it!
10-12 hours later, your dough should look like this below! See how nicely it’s expanded?
SHAPING BREAD DOUGH
Before you decide which shape to use, you will need to know what type of pan you will bake it in. If you have two loaf pans, then you can certainly shape it into two loaf shapes. But if you want a nice round shape, then you will need to bake it in a round pan.
I used a 9 1/2-inch wide cast iron skillet for the round loaf. Many regular sized cast iron skillets vary in size anywhere from 9 inches wide to 12 inches wide. I also had one smaller cast iron skillet, so I cut the dough in two pieces, but one piece was 2/3 of the dough since my skillets were two different sizes.
If your cast iron pan is 10-12 inches wide, the easiest thing to do would be to just shape the entire ball of dough into ONE LARGE ROUND, instead of cutting it in half. In this case, it will be one giant loaf called a “miche”. You can just slice the loaf in half and freeze one half of it for future eating. If you don’t have a 7 to 9-inch cast iron pan, you can also use a round cake or brownie pan that has been greased and floured, as those are about 9 inches wide. For this recipe, I just cut the dough in half for two different loaves.
Watch this two minute video I created for a hands-on tutorial.
BREAD PROOFING TOOLS
I recommend choosing one of these two options. You can buy just the linen couche if you don’t want to buy multiple bread baskets and you have bowls on hand you want to proof them in. These are Amazon affiliate links.
Ferment them in large bowls with either linen couche or clean kitchen towels. You want to use a bowl that will allow the dough to double in size. Flour the linen or the towels really well through a sifter to evenly distribute, then place the bread in the bowl bottom side up (meaning the bottom of the round you shaped).
For a beautiful presentation, flour with white flour so that when it bakes you get a nice deep color from the bread and white top from the flour. Just watch the video above for demonstration!
Cover them in plastic wrap so that there aren’t any air pockets. If you place the plastic wrap underneath the bowl, then wrap around the top (with a few long pieces), you will seal the plastic wrap really well and it won’t come undone. As you can see below, there is plenty of room for the dough to rise without sticking to the plastic wrap. Let ferment for 10-12 hours until it’s about doubled in size.
And voila, it has risen beautifully again!
Because you sifted flour on the towels in the bowl, it should invert really easily into a pan or a cast iron skillet. My cast iron skillet is 9 1/2 inches wide so it was actually a little too big for the size of the loaf I had, but it still ended up working out just fine. I didn’t want to risk baking it without a pan because I was worried it wouldn’t hold its shape.
Next I scored the top with a line down the center, then little diagonal lines down each side. This scoring helps to let the bread spring up in the oven. I am using a tool called a bread lame, but you can certainly use a thin serrated knife too.
BAKE BREAD WITH STEAM IN YOUR OVEN!
If you want a nice crispy crust on your bread, STEAM is essential! But how do you get steam inside a home oven?
Place a sheet pan, cast iron skillet, or oven-safe skillet on the bottom rack of your oven while the oven is preheating. When you place the bread in the oven, throw a cup of ice on the hot sheet pan or skillet and close the oven door immediately to trap in the steam.
Although there was a lot of information here, there is literally just minutes of actual work. Raise your hand if you are making this bread and comment below!
This earthy and hearty artisan spelt bread may just be the best whole grain bread in the world!
4 1/2cups plus 1 Tbsp.Spelt flour (or Sprouted Spelt flour)696 grams or 24.65 oz
1 3/4cup plus 2 TbspAll purpose flour232 grams or 8.25 oz
1/2cup plus 1 Tbspsourdough starter (ripe)148 grams or 5.25 oz
3cups plus 1 TbspWater (room temp)668 grams or 23.85 oz
2tspsalt (preferably sea salt)18 grams or 0.65 oz
4tspHoney (or maple syrup for vegans)37 grams or 1.35 oz
For the Sourdough Starter
Feed your sourdough starter about 12 hours before mixing your dough to ensure it's ripe and ready to use.
For the Dough
In a large bowl, mix the spelt flour, all purpose flour, and salt together. Mix the water and honey in another bowl.
Mix the water and honey mixture with the flours until it starts to combine. Add the sourdough starter and continue to mix with your hand or a wooden spoon until it forms into a ball of dough. It will be wet and sticky.
If you want to develop the gluten a little more, you can knead it by hand for about two more minutes, but it's not necessary.
Scrape the dough from the sides of the bowl and add it to the bottom of the dough. Give the dough a fold as shown in the photos. Cover with plastic wrap and let ferment for 10-12 hours in a warm spot in your kitchen until doubled in size.
Shaping the Dough
Scrape the dough from the bowl and for two large loaves, cut the dough in half. Shape into rounds or loaf style. Watch the two minute shaping video in this post for instructions. You can make whatever sizes you want. Since I had one 9 1/2 inch cast iron skillet and one small one, I cut the dough so that one piece was two thirds of the dough and the other was one third the size. You can also simply shape ONE LARGE ROUND if your cast iron skillet is 10-12 inches wide, as this would be too large for two half rounds.
Line a large salad bowl (or bowl of that size) with linen couche or two clean kitchen towels. Sift lots of spelt flour or all purpose flour on the couche or towels to prevent the dough from sticking. The all purpose flour will lend a prettier top. Place the shaped dough bottom side up and wrap thoroughly in plastic wrap to prevent air holes from getting in.
Let the dough ferment again for 10-12 hours in a warm spot in your kitchen until it's doubled in size. You can also choose to slow fermentation down even more and put it in your fridge for up to 24 hours. Once you pull it out of the fridge, if it's not doubled in size, then ferment it at room temp for about 2-3 hours.
Baking the Spelt Sourdough
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees and place a sheet pan, or oven-safe skillet on the bottom rack to allow it to heat up.
When you are ready to bake your bread, remove the plastic wrap from the dough and invert the round shaped dough onto a 7 to 9 inch wide cast iron skillet, or a round cake or brownie pan that has been oiled and floured. If you only have a cast iron skillet that is 10 to 12 inches wide, then take the entire ball of dough and shape into one large round instead of two rounds.
If you wish to bake two rounds and you only have one cast iron skillet, then just bake one round at a time and keep one piece of dough covered in the fridge.
For a large round loaf, score the dough with one line down the middle and diagonal lines down the sides. You can also score with an X too.
Place the loaves or the rounds in the middle rack of the oven. Throw in one cup of ice onto the sheet pan or skillet on the bottom rack and close the oven door imediately to trap the steam.
Bake for about 35-45 minutes, or until the top is a deep brown. For the round, you can check for doneness by removing it from the pan and tapping the bottom. If it sounds hollow, it's ready.
Let cool for at least 30 minutes before cutting into the bread.
You can cool the bread completely, wrap in plastic wrap and freeze for future use.
This sourdough bread will stay fresh at room temperature for about one week. Once you have cut into the bread, cover it with plastic wrap.
After realizing her love for cooking and baking was not just a hobby, Leslie decided to take the leap and enroll in The French Pastry School's artisan bread-baking course in Chicago. After the birth of her sweet boy two years later, she needed a creative outlet in the kitchen, so she started her own food blog.