Sourdough Bread (Spelt or Whole Wheat)

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Want to know what’s so great about sourdough bread? Read The Differences Between Quick-Yeasted Bread and Wild-Yeasted Sourdough Bread.

spelt sourdough sandwich bread

spelt sourdough sandwich bread

As promised, here is the recipe I’m currently following for spelt sourdough bread – for sandwiches or free-form loaves. I really love working with spelt because the resulting baked goods are usually light, fluffy and moist. Once I get the recipe right, that is. ;)

But working with spelt is different than working with wheat. You use less of it, for one thing. The dough will seem wet (compared to wheat flour dough) but if you add more flour, the dough gets hard and the resulting product is usually dense and heavy. So resist the urge to add more flour. I’ll tell you in the recipe what characteristics of dough you want.

Another difference is that the gluten is more fragile, so you should knead it less than you would wheat. In the Bosch mixer, you’d knead for 6 minutes on speed 2 (newer models), or 4-5 minutes on speed 3 (newer models). Older Bosch models only have speeds 1 and 2 – and 2 is more like speed 3 on the newer models, so you’d be kneading on speed 2 for 4-5 minutes.

This recipe is demonstrated — with many, many more details — in our Sourdough eCourse. We’re open for enrollment any time — please join us!

A few notes about starter. First, I keep my starter at a thinner, pourable consistency. This is partly out of my hands – I think spelt makes a thinner starter. But I believe it is possible that every person’s starter is a different consistency. Therefore you will want to be ready to adjust the recipe (adding more or less flour, or more or less water) depending on the consistency of your starter. (See my Resources page for sources.)

I want to thank everyone who gave me advice in my post asking for sourdough help. Your guidance was invaluable! My recipe is a spin-off of Heather’s, which she shared in the comments. Since I am working with spelt, and since I believe my starter is a different consistency, I have had to adjust amounts of flour and water.

This recipe can easily be doubled in the Bosch, and perhaps even tripled. :)

Edit: I have been using this recipe with whole wheat – hard red wheat to be precise. It is lucious bread, too! The differences: wheat makes a thicker starter, so sometimes I use a little less flour because of that. Which is surprising because usually, one needs to use more wheat flour than spelt. This is all about the dough – you want smooth, elastic, not sticky, and not dry. Also, kneading time for whole wheat is 8 to 10 minutes in the Bosch.

Spelt Sourdough Bread

Makes 2 loaves

  • 3 cups sourdough starter
  • 1 cup pure water
  • 1 generous tablespoon sea salt (adjust to taste)
  • 5 to 6 cups organic spelt flour, preferably fresh ground, but allowed to cool to room temperature
  • more whole spelt flour and pure water for feeding the starter
  • extra virgin coconut oil – for oiling bowls, pans, and/or tops of loaves (or grass-fed butter)

Get the starter out of the refrigerator. Feed it with equal parts spelt flour and pure water, so that you can take out 3 cups and still leave starter behind, preferably as much as you took out. Let it come to room temperature, about an hour.

Combine the starter, water and salt in the mixing bowl. Mix on speed 1. Add 4 cups spelt flour. Mix in, still on speed 1. Add 1/4 cup more flour at a time, until the dough is springy and pulls away from the sides of the mixing bowl. You are looking for the dough to be a bit gloppy and sticky, but still be warm and smooth. Sometimes when you test the dough it really wants to stick to your finger – you want it only mildly sticky and more wanting to stick to itself than you. Make sense? Resist wanting to add more flour; it will not behave like wheat.

If using mixer, increase mixer speed to dough setting (Speed 2 on newer Bosch Universal) and knead for 6 minutes. If using an older Bosch, the speed 2 is like the newer speed 3 – so knead for 4-5 minutes and then check dough for good elasticity. Otherwise, knead by hand for 8 to 12 minutes, until dough is smooth and elastic.

Transfer dough to a well-oiled large bowl. Rotate dough around so it gets coated on all sides, top and bottom, with the oil in the bowl. Cover bowl with a damp towel or plastic wrap. Place in the fridge for 12 hours or overnight, until doubled in size. Or place in a warm location in your home (no more than 80 degrees) for five to six hours, until doubled in size.

spelt sourdough free-form loaf

spelt sourdough free-form loaf

Separate dough into two portions. Shape loaves and place in oiled loaf pans, or arrange free form on an oiled baking sheet. For loaf pans: cut into top of each loaf 3 times diagonally with a sharp knife. For free-form loaves: cut an X into the top of each loaf with a sharp knife. Put pans in a warm place draft-free place to rise, such as near (but not on) the burner that vents the oven’s heat. The rising time here is up to you. I let my loaves double in size and it takes about an hour or two, depending on room temperature.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Transfer the pans to the preheated oven. Bake for 45 to 60 minutes, until the tops are nicely browned and the loaves sound hollow when tapped. Turn loaves out onto cooling racks. Brush with oil or butter, or cover with a towel to keep crust soft.

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Comments

    • says

      Hi, Megan – sourdough bread lasts longer than quick yeasted bread. Still, store in bread bags or freeze if not using right away. I have a loaf out right now that is still good and on the 3rd day. The other loaves from the batch I put in the freezer. Hope this helps.

  1. says

    LOVELY work on the free-form loaf. It looks beautiful. I’m doing up a batch of sourdough tonight. That is … AFTER my husband and I preserve a case full of roma tomatoes.

  2. says

    Hi, Wardee: The recipe doesn’t say it, but are you sprouting the spelt you use for this recipe? Also, I don’t have a Bosch. Instead, I use a Kitchen Aid Artisan mixer with 10 speeds. It seems like I should maybe aim for a speed somewhere on the lower end of the middle area for 4 to 5 minutes? Guess I’ll have to play with it a bit to see. Now I need to get a starter from Cultures For Health! Thanks for sharing this!
    Love,
    Sonya
    .-= Sonya Hemmings´s last blog post… Bag Lady With Bling =-.

    • says

      Sonya – This is NOT sprouted spelt. I would check your manual for what speed to use for mixing, and then kneading. I don’t recommend that you double the recipe if using a KA. I used to have a KA and stripped the gears kneading bigger batches of whole grain dough. Have fun!

  3. says

    Wardee—I meant to also tell you that I love your video welcome! It’s so neat to see your facial expressions and hear how your voice sounds after only knowing you from your still photos and written text. Nice touch!
    Love,
    Sonya
    .-= Sonya Hemmings´s last blog post… Bag Lady With Bling =-.

  4. Kelli says

    Hi Wardee!!!

    I am going to try this. I don’t have a Bosch, any idea how long I would knead it by hand? I don’t do much bread baking, yet, so I don’t have a use for one until I do.

    Also, I have a starter in the fridge that I have neglected for a month or two. It has a lot of liquid (hooch?!?) on the top. Have I ruined it, or can I just pour off most of the liquid and call it good?

    Hope all is well with you.

    • says

      Kelli – I’d say about 10-12 minutes kneading by hand. But starting checking for it to be good and elastic at about 8 minutes.

      The starter… I don’t know. Though the liquid separation is normal. Mix it all up, feed it, and smell it. Leave it out awhile and smell it. If it is bubbly and smells good, like sourdough starter (but not rotten), give it a go.

    • says

      Sonya – the yeast in the starter does a great deal to prepare the grains for digestion – pre-digesting the gluten, neutralizing phytic acid, and making nutrients more available during digestion. However, sprouting, IMO, does even more work than souring, because the grain is transformed into a vegetable plant. In any case, everyone who is gluten sensitive is doing fine with sourdough bread – no symptoms whatsoever. What I haven’t tried yet is using sprouted spelt in this recipe – want to try it? :) If that worked, it would be the best of both worlds!

  5. says

    Yes! I really do want to try it! It might take me awhile to get it all together (sprouted spelt flour, sourdough culture and time and practice to experiment with it), but I’m determined to do it one of these days. :-) I have never done the sourdough starter thing, and I’m a little nervous about it, but with your help and that of your readers/contributors, I’m also excited to dive into it. I’ll keep you posted!
    Love,
    Sonya
    .-= Sonya Hemmings´s last blog post… Bag Lady With Bling =-.

  6. says

    Wardee, I love your video! It’s so cool! I would love to try this spelt bread. Could you send me a piece? lol Anyway, I’ve never eaten spelt before. Nobody in our family is gluten-intolerant, but I would like to bake with this grain because I think it’s wise to eat from a variety of the grains, don’t you? Thanks for your recipe.
    .-= MarLou´s last blog post… Recipe 100% Whole Wheat Bread =-.

  7. says

    Wardee, I appreciate reading your recipe and your method for making this bread. The responses are helpful too so thanks to everyone.
    P.S. I love your welcome video too! I went on dh’s laptop because I just HAD to see you. :D It’s a very nice personal touch.
    .-= Marg´s last blog post… Bread baking battle =-.

  8. Christie says

    Maybe I didn’t read close enough, but I’m gathering that the sourdough method replaces the benefits of sprouting?

    Your loaf is lovely. We love spelt and I can’t wait to try some sourdough.

    • says

      Christie – The sourdough method is an alternative to sprouting. They both help with nutrient assimilation and pre-digestion of gluten. However, sprouting does a little more than souring, because the grain is transformed from a dry grain to a young plant. There are some additional benefits from that – increased vitamin and enzyme content, among other things. If someone were sensitive to gluten, I’d suggest they start with sprouting, then try souring, then try soaking. The most likely success will be with sprouting.

  9. Vanessa says

    Thanks for this wonderful recipe, Wardee. You’ve inspired me to start baking bread again, which I formerly abandoned b/c I felt that it was just too time consuming and unnecessary since we have some wonderful bakeries in the area. Unfortunately, I don’t see much sourdough in this area . . . .

    Two questions:

    Do you have a starter recipe and recommendation?

    I noticed you provided tips for buying spelt. Any recommendations for how to buy bulk, low price grains in general? My local health food store stocks there, but they are expensive!

    Thanks,

    Vanessa

    • says

      Vanessa – I did not make my own sourdough starter – I purchased a starter. (See Resources for sources.) You could read through the suggestions in the first sourdough post I made – several readers shared favorite links and/or their own techniques:

      http://gnowfglins.com/2009/07/17/foray-into-sourdough-brea/

      Regarding grains, I purchase in bulk from a natural food warehouse. I’m not sure which you would have in your area, but I think you probably have United Natural Foods. You could search for others at this database: http://www.coopdirectory.org/

      Other options would be asking your health food store for co-op pricing if you purchased in bulk. Or see if there are farmer/producers in your area who sell directly to the public. There are more and more of those these days, small organic farms who like to deal with the public. Hope you find something and enjoy the sourdough bread baking!

  10. villarosa says

    Just found your site, and love it!! Wardee, do you mind sharing which sourdough starter you purchased from CulturesForHealth? They have quite a few different kinds –

    Thanks!

    • says

      Hi, villarosa – Sure! I have the New England sourdough starter. (See Resources for sources.) I wonder now if my starter hasn’t taken on an Oregon-flavor? It sure is lovely. I love to smell and taste the starter. ;) Enjoy!

  11. villarosa says

    Thank you so much for answering my question… In doing reading on your website, am I understanding that you have not used the sprouted spelt flour to make sourdough bread? I normally sprout, dehydrate, and then grind my flour, so am wondering if anyone has done that and then used that flour for making the starter.
    I used to make sourdough bread years ago, but lost my ‘starter’ after a long vacation and have not taken the time to try to restart again. I’m grateful for all you have shared here…..
    One more question…. just curious why you became vegan and then went back to eating differently? Just curious… Thank you again!

    • says

      villarosa – You are correct. I have not yet used sprouted flour for sourdough bread.

      We went vegan because we thought our son was allergic to animal protein. It turned out that he was only allergic to eggs. Even so, during the time that we were vegan, two members of my family got very weak muscularly. We also suspected a vitamin B12 deficiency. So we introduced naturally-raised animal foods into our diet and we felt much better.

  12. Jen in CA says

    Wardee, How did you manage cooking and baking when your children were younger? I have a 5 year old and a 22 month old and haven’t been able to cook or bake much since my baby was born. He wants to be in my arms or on a chair putting his hands in whatever I’m making or battling to stand on a chair in front of the hot range. It’s been so hard because we are not eating well – lots of pb&j, quesadillas, and take out and not a lot of fresh veggies. As someone who loves to cook and bake, this has been very hard on me and I really miss the process.

    • says

      Jen – I’m sorry this has been so hard on you. I’m thinking back to when I really started cooking and baking, and my youngest was 2-1/2. The oldest was about 5. That’s when I started baking bread, anyway. I didn’t do as much then as I do now, but I do remember it being challenging. No matter how you discipline, it sounds like your son must learn that he cannot be in front of the stove and he cannot put his hands in what you’re doing. ;) You could make it fun – perhaps set aside special toys with which he can only play while you’re cooking. He can still be nearby, perhaps even at the counter. I would think he would adjust quickly to the new routine. For your part, you should decide what the consequences will be for him not obeying and follow through with it. Also, try to cook and bake in regular intervals, so he gets plenty of your attention other times and the cooking isn’t drawn out all day (which soooo happens with me these days!). Also, don’t try to do everything all at once -change over time. The good thing about sourdough bread is that it is easy – mix, knead, let sit. You’ve got hours where it is working and you aren’t. Actually, I’ve found that alot with traditional foods/cultured foods. The setup is easier than any other cooking – and they “cook” or “ferment” themselves. Think of today’s canning – hours slaving over a hot stove, with hot water, etc. Making lacto-fermented vegetables is simple as shredding or chopping, mixing and putting in a jar with brine. The bacteria does all the work. You might find that it all is easier than you think. Please keep in touch- and I’ll be praying for you to figure out a way to fit healthy food prep into your life again.

      • says

        I started cooking/baking when my little guy was a toddler and he loved to be in the middle of it too. Here’s what worked for me… I let him stand on a chair and play in the sink full of bubbles and he loved it, I also let him “help” by adding ingredients or stirring, I would also set out a cookie-sheet full of flour and let him play in it and most would stay in the tray.. this is still a great “toy” and he’s 5 now. His friends always ask for a tray full of flour when they come over… I buy the cheap stuff for this type of play ;o) Best of luck and I hope this helps ~

  13. says

    I see you said you have the New England sourdough starter from CFH. Is that the one that only gets fed spelt flour? I am looking into getting my first sourdough starter but don’t want to have one that only can get fed spelt. Can you use that same starter for whole wheat breads too? I plan to use lots of hard white whole wheat flour. I’m rather confused about which starter would be best… a basic “white” starter… a whole wheat starter… a spelt starter… It’s a little overwhelming! :) Thanks for your help! I love your site and share in your beliefs as a Christian trying to bring glory to God in all we do, including how and what we eat! :) Your ministry on this blog is such a blessing!!

  14. says

    Sorry, forgot another question… what do you recommend for bread pans? I just got some norpo tin-ware pans from urbanhomemaker.com and hope they’d work for these too. Sorry if you’ve addressed this somewhere else already. It’s hard to weed through all the info on all the different blogs I read sometimes! Thanks!

    • says

      Carrie – The NE starter is NOT the one for spelt. I find it so versatile and wonderful and I feed it whatever I’m using that day – spelt, sprouted spelt, red whole wheat, white whole wheat, rye, whole wheat pastry… It all works! Basically, the wild yeasts need starch to consume and any flour will provide that. Some say that rye is the best, and perhaps that is true, but I haven’t found that my other flours don’t work, and well.

      I don’t have a recommendation for bread pans, as I have no experience with them. I have an old set of commercial stainless steel pans from when my parents owned a bakery. Norpro is good for other things, so I’d think their bread pans would be good too. However, I have a set of Norpro baking sheets that are horrible and flimsy. The other Norpro things I have are wonderful, so that might be a fluke. On the bread pans, if Urban Homemaker recommends them, I think they’d be good. The owner is trustworthy and wouldn’t sell something she doesn’t believe is good.

      Good to meet you! :-)

    • Sarah says

      On bread pans, I would recommend Pampered Chef stoneware. Once or twice a year they go on sale, 20% off for guests, and 60% off for hosts. I took that opportunity this year to host a big party, and get lots of free product and great discounts. I have tried other stoneware and they don’t work as well for me, but there might be another good brand, I’m just not aware of it.

  15. LaNea says

    How long have you had your sourdough starter? Have you had any ill effects from using so many different flours to feed the starter? I am not aware of the things that could go south with using them?

    • says

      LaNae – I have had it for a year. I use it at least once per week, and store it (fed) in the refrigerator the rest of the time. I have noticed no ill effects from rotating flours. In fact, it keeps getting better!

  16. says

    Does the three cups of sourdough starter mean a starter that you just fed, or are you using three cups of starter that has already been fed and refrigerated. In other words does it basically use1 1/2 cups of starter or so and the 1/2 c of water and 1 c of flour needed to feed it, wait an hour for it to come to room temperature and then add the rest of the bread dough ingredients?

    Thank you,
    Rachel

  17. Nichole says

    Hi Wardah~
    I have tried for several years to achieve the beautiful whole grain sd bread you make here, with no success! I always end up with bricks. What I think the problem is is my starter. Do you have a spelt starter recipe? My husband doubts that I can get soft, chewy sourdough using whole grains! Poor guy! Please help me prove him wrong. I want to dedicate my summer to getting it right. Also, I live at sea level, could that have something to do with it? Oh yeah, we can make perfect white flour sd, but who wants that? I know too much now!
    Help! Thank you!
    Nichole

  18. says

    Hi, Wardee! Thanks for answering my question on your FB page about sourdough rolls. I love working with spelt flour, so I plan to try this recipe and make rolls out of it instead of bread. Have you made rolls with this recipe? If so, any pointers. I am a sourdough novice. Thanks so much! Blessings, Kelly

    • says

      Kelly – Yes, this is the recipe I use to make my rolls. Basically, instead of shaping loaves, I pull of chunks (1 to 2 inch balls) and place them in a greased baking pan, pretty close together (this way they go up, not out). Bake for about 20 minutes or so, give or take. The upcoming Sourdough eBook contains this recipe (updated) along with instructions for dinner rolls. Also, there’s a video demonstration of this in the Sourdough eCourse (http://gnowfglins.com/sourdoughecourse).

      One major change I’ve made to this recipe is that I work in the flour, let the dough rest for 15 minutes to absorb excess liquid, knead for 4 to 5 minutes, let rest for 5 minutes, knead again for 4 to 5 minutes.

  19. Ann says

    I’d tried sourdough spelt bread, and had very heavy and crumbly bread. Thanks for your tips on working with spelt. Today’s batch turned out so much better!

  20. eliyafa says

    Thank you for this wonderful recipe and tips. I have made countless loaves of this basic bread with several different flours and they all come out great. My husband even bought me a professional mixer after he saw me dealing with the VERY stick dough. Now it’s so easy to have great sourdough bread all the time. One mistake I did make was to add olive oil to this while I was hand kneading thinking it would make it easier…oh boy that was an easy way to destroy this great bread, it made for a really thick crust that was impossible to cut and the inside didn’t bake well. Anyway lesson learned! I’ll never leave this recipe because it is just that great.
    Thanks again

  21. says

    Hi Wardee, we’ve just finished listening to your webinar & you’ve definitly convinced us to try some new things! On to an older thing though, I’ve been making our (sourdough) bread for about 5 years now using the same starter. It was a pure flour/water starter back in Va. but since we’ve moved to the Carolina’s I’ve been “waking it up” w/ a sugar/potato flake water mixture to bake w/ & then putting it back to sleep in the fridge w/ whole wheat & water. It makes for a sweet SD & the starter looks like a rootbeer 6 or 7 hours after feeding it & smells great.
    The bread bakes up wonderfully too, 1/2 whole wheat flour & 1/2 white. It tastes SO GOOD fresh from the oven. It tastes very nice the next day. It’s fairly bland & slightly off the 3rd day. The 4th day when you open the bag (a ziplock freezer bag) an overwhelming smell of acetone comes out & fills the kitchen. It’s edible & still has a good texture but like eating a beer.
    This never happened in Va. & I was wondering if our not using the AC was contributing? We’ve been grinding our own wheat for the whole wheat half, & we’re still using the same buckets of wheat from 3 years ago. There are no bugs in the buckets & no mold I can smell but is age a factor? Please help if you can, I’m afraid the PB & J’s will set the children drunk!

  22. says

    Thank you for this lovely recipe. I purchased a starter for Spelt Sourdough from Cultures for Health and now I think I’m finally brave enough to try it now that I found this recipe. I ordered 20lbs of groud spelt from Azure Standard last month. Any suggestions on how it should be stored? I’ll link back when I try your recipe :)

  23. Sarah says

    I buy my spelt berries from http://www.somethingbetternaturalfoods.com/ 25 lbs of organic spelt was $27.50. They do have a $450 order minimum, but will put you in contact with a co-op in your area if there is one. They deliver to Michigan, Ohio, West Virginia, Kentucky ,Indiana, Tennessee, Georgia, Alabama, N Carolina, and they ship via UPS (no order minimum).

  24. says

    Thanks for the sourdough spelt recipe. I never tried using spelt for bread baking. I hope that my bread turns out half as good as yours! I will give it a try.

    Have you tried Azure Standard’sBread For Life Sourdough starter? It is very easy to work with. We bought some in December and have found it so easy to knead and work with.

  25. Lanae says

    If after 6 hours my dough hasn’t double in size, or hasn’t risen at all, is that an indication that I need a new starter?

    • says

      Lanae — not necessarily a new starter, but perhaps that the room temp is too cold, or that the starter needs to be babied a bit to get a higher concentration of organisms. Is it pretty active with lots of bubbles and lift when you’re feeding it? If not, keep up with regular feedings to get it good and active before trying to bake bread.

  26. Judy says

    Hi, Wardee–

    Would you have any idea of where I could find sourdough bread recipes for the breads they ate in the first century when Jesus was on the earth and/or before or after, or even at the time of the Canaanites? It would be fantastic to be able to make these breads, as I’m sure they would indeed be very healthy!

    Thank you for any help that you may give. :)

    Happy New Year to you and to your family!

    Judy

  27. Julianna says

    Hi, I am right in the middle of this as I write… I let my first rise go in a warm spot for six hours, it was a little more than double (two kids and I lost track of it), but now on my second rise in the pan it’s already at two hours and only 1.5 the size. Did I over-proof it and use up all it’s energy??

  28. says

    Making this today! Thanks for the nice instructions :) …I haven’t had much luck with my spelt sourdough bread rising well yet, so hopefully this time will be the charm. (usually the loaves end up being about 1.5″ tall in the bread pan).

  29. says

    I have been using this method for my sourdough spelt for a few months with much success…nicely risen, not overly dense loaves. The past several weeks, it just hasn’t been rising for the second rise. It doubles nicely in the bowl, but once I move it to the loaf pan, it just stops. I thought maybe it needed extra time so I left it overnight (an extra 10 hours of rising) and it didn’t rise any more at all.

    Any advice? Would it work to put it directly into the loaf pan for the first rising? I’m really bummed…My husband used to love my bread and now he won’t eat it! :/

Trackbacks

  1. [...] Sourdough Bread with Hard White Wheat – I’m all about hard white wheat this week! I made an Azure Standard order last month, and added hard white wheat for the first time in a long time. What inspired me was first, tasting my friend Christina’s yummy bread from it, and then seeing how inexpensive it is compared to the hard red wheat I’ve been buying from another supplier over the past year. Not only am I happy about saving some money, but everyone loves the lighter and softer texture and milder taste of this wheat. When I baked the first loaves of sourdough with it, everyone ate it with kind of wondrous looks on their faces as they said, “Is this sourdough?” You see, it didn’t taste sour (to us), even after 15 to 17 hours of souring. [...]

  2. [...] months of no baking, I ground flour and mixed up a batch of sourdough bread. But instead of using my tried and true recipe, I tried someone else’s. I made Katie’s Honey Whole Wheat from both the Sourdough [...]

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