Spelt Bread
Baked, Bread, Swabian, Vegetarian

Spelt Bread (‘Dinkelbrot’)

13 comments

Last Updated on 5 months by Tim

I’ve been running this blog for quite a while now without ever publishing a bread recipe. It’s about time. I’ll promise to not turn this into a baking blog, but this spelt bread is worth a try even for hobby bakers.

What would German culture be without bread? A lot of folks over here have some kind of bread with every meal. Bread is much more essential to German cuisine than the potato, an American import, will ever be.

A lot of German people are obsessed with bread. I’m not one of them. It tastes good but I don’t need to have it every breakfast and dinner. And when I’m away from home the last thing I would do is fantasize about German bread. There’s plenty of good food to explore outside of Germany so I don’t miss my breakfast bread when I’m on holiday.

Why spelt bread?

Maybe it would’ve been easier to just give you a recipe for wheat bread. It’s easier to bake and wheat flour is much more accessible. But I’m a Swabian. The traditional flour of this region is spelt flour. I also use it for my apple fritters and it is the traditional flour to use for spätzle.

I’m not kidding you. The soil in Southern Germany used to be so bad that wheat couldn’t be grown widely. People in Southern Germany have eaten rye and spelt bread long before wheat became the superior choice.

Now, to bake rye bread you would need a sourdough starter. Delicious, but a lot of work if you don’t have one lying around in your fridge. Spelt bread, on the other hand, can be risen with yeast.

Experience matters

If you’ve never worked with spelt flour before, let me tell you, it is more challenging to work with than wheat flour. The gluten network formed by spelt flour is much weaker than the one formed by wheat flour.

Spelt bread is less airy and you do need to give the dough enough tension to hold its shape. If you’re an inexperienced baker, this recipe isn’t the best starting point. Practice the basic bread baking skills with wheat flour first.

A lot of people assume that baking is an exact science. It is not. Baking is an experience. You should never follow a recipe mindlessly. Every dough behaves differently. You will need to get in touch with the dough, feel it. Add as much water as it needs, and let it rise and proof until your instinct tells you it’s ready to bake.

What goes into my dough

To get more flavor into my bread, I prepare a poolish the day before and leave it to ferment for a whole day in the fridge. The poolish is just a 1:1 mixture of flour and water with 1 % yeast in relation to the flour weight. Get the fermentation started for two hours at room temperature before leaving the poolish in the fridge overnight.

The other component you will have to prepare ahead of time is the ‘Kochstück’. I’m sorry I couldn’t find a translation for this part. It’s somehow unknown in the English speaking hemisphere. It’s cooked dough that is used to incorporate more water into bread. That is necessary because spelt bread tends to be on the dry side.

Kochstück

You simply cook some raw flour with five times the amount of water on the stovetop until it gelatinizes and all the water is trapped in the gel network. This is also the perfect opportunity to add all the salt you will need in your dough. The salt will dissolve in the ‘Kochstück’ and can then be easily incorporated into the final dough.

The ‘Kochstück’ should be thoroughly chilled and kept in the fridge until you are ready to bake.

How to knead the dough

You do always want to autolyse your dough. That is, giving it time to hydrate before kneading. Half an hour is usually sufficient. After that, you can mix in your poolish, yeast, and oil.

I prefer to knead this bread in my stand mixer. Eight minutes on the low setting followed by one minute on the high setting will usually do. You can also knead it by hand. Just make sure, that you knead it long enough for the gluten network to develop properly.

Kneaded dough

Leave the dough to rise until it has doubled in size. I can’t tell you the exact time for this. It’s different for everyone depending on the room temperature and yeast activity.

While the dough rises, you will need to fold it two times: 30 and 60 minutes after kneading. To fold the dough, you stretch it with your lightly wetted hand and then fold it over itself, about 3-4 times. Then, cover your dough again with plastic wrap and leave it to rise until the next fold.

Folding the dough

Proof your dough correctly

Shape your risen dough into a tight ball that has enough tension to hold its shape. You will then need to let it rise again until properly proofed inside a bowl that is about the size of your dough ball. Make sure to cover the bottom of your proofing bowl with a clean kitchen towel that is dusted with potato starch to prevent the dough from sticking.

You can verify if your dough is ready for baking by poking it with a floured hand. If the indentation springs back slowly and incompletely, the dough is fully proofed.

Fully proofed dough for spelt bread

Bake your spelt bread

I bake my bread in a preheated Dutch oven at 475 °F (245 °C). I don’t score my loaf prior to baking but invert it seam-side up into my Dutch oven. This will give the bread an organic look that I am very pleased with.

The Dutch oven remains closed for the first half-hour of baking. This mimics the steam baking oven professionals have and lets your bread rise better. After half an hour, I open the lid and let the surface caramelize until browned to my liking, usually around 15 minutes.

Baked bread in dutch oven

You should lightly spray the surface of the bread with water once it is out of the oven. This will give the crust a nice shine and make your bread look super beautiful. That’s what every decent bakery in Germany does.

And last but not least, resist the temptation to slice your bread while still hot. Wait for it to cool down completely, then devour. I love my bread simple with a touch of butter and chives as you can see in the picture. But you can eat this spelt bread with whatever pleases you. It’s delicious!

13 Comments

  1. Pingback: Walnut Bread ('Walnussbrot') - My German Table

  2. Harold Asikyan

    Hello Tim.
    Never having worked with spelt before I came across your Dinkelbrot. Recipe.

    Followed it right to the letter and was totally blown away on the outcome.

    The final rise was 2 hours and the dough temp was at 81 f.

    Perfect and the photo was a very close second to the one you posted.

    Thankyou for your instruction ,

    Harold.

    • That’s great to hear, Harold! I’m happy the recipe worked out so well for you. Thanks for the feedback. It’s very helpful for me especially with the baking recipes. There are so many parameters involved in making bread: the type of flour, the room temperature and humidity, the yeast activity, etc. It’s very challenging to write the recipes with the right level of detail so that they can be replicated all over the world. I have many more baking recipes scheduled for the future: bread rolls, pretzles, braided bread, beigels, rye bread, etc. So, I’ll hope you visit my blog again soon – Tim

  3. Thanks for the recipe for dinkelbrot. I tried it today (it’s cooling now) and all seemed to go well until the proof. When the dough had doubled, I went to make it into a ball and as expected it deflated a bit. After 30 minutes it responded as you described, but it didn’t rise. Was it supposed to? It seems smaller than I had expected. What am I missing?

    • Thanks for your comment, Christopher!

      I often have similar problems when attempting new bread recipes for the first time. It takes a little experience to judge the maturity (proofing level) of your dough before baking.

      If your dough didn’t rise at least to about 1.5 times its initial volume during proofing, that is an indication that it was underproofed when you put it in the oven. Try to let it rise for a longer time, maybe even up to an hour or two. It takes some experience to judge the maturity level of the bread dough.

      The main reasons why I had to only proof my dough for 30 minutes are:
      – I tend to bulk ferment the dough rater longer than shorter (so you could add an additional 30-60 minutes to your first rise to let the dough expand a bit more than double before shaping. A dough that has doubled in size is always a bit of a subjective and inaccurate measurement.)
      – I shape the dough very gently to retain as many air bubbles as possible. If you shape the dough with more force than I did and thus deflate it a little more, then it takes longer for the dough to proof.

      To fix your problem there are two options:
      – You increase the time on the first rise
      OR
      – You increase the proofing time

      Bread baking recipes are always hard to write because every dough rises at a different pace depending on the ambient temperature and the yeast activity.

      I hope this helps you a little – Tim

  4. Thanks. I’ll try that. There’s a young man I know who cannot have gluten, but grew up in Germany and said there was this bread that he could eat. That’s how I discovered this recipe. I’ll try again today.

    • Yes, spelt bread is known here in Germany to be easier to digest than wheat bread. Spelt also contains gluten but it can be tolerated by people with wheat sensitivities because the gluten proteins in spelt have a slightly different structure.

      If you want to make your life easier when baking spelt bread there is always the chance to bake it in a loaf pan. After the first rise, you can put the dough in the loaf pan for proofing. The loaf pan should be halfway filled with dough. Once the dough then has doubled so that it fills the enitre loaf pan, it is ready to bake. That way there is no guesswork needed for when the dough is ready for the oven and you don’t need to score the loaf or use a Dutch oven. Just put the loaf pan in the hot oven.

  5. My friend is from Baden-Wuttemberg. Would that be near where you grew up?

  6. He also mentioned sometimes the loaves resembled baguettes. Perhaps also sometimes individual serving sizes. Would these be fairly easy options?

    • Yes, I am from Baden-Württemberg too. The mini-baguettes are called “Dinkelseelen”. They are simple to make. I will someday post a recipe for them on my website.

      Here is a video of the process (in German): https://youtu.be/5RM2-ImzVyQ

      The base recipe is:
      600 g white spelt flour
      10 g fresh yeast
      12 g salt
      400 g cold water

      Knead the dough, then put it in the fridge over night. The next day you can shape the Dinkelseelen with wet hands, sprinkle them with caraway seeds and then bake them in the oven.

      In general, any bread recipe can also be turned into a bread roll recipe. For bread rolls, you can divide the dough into smaller pieces after the first rise.

  7. Fantastic. I’ll try to perfect the dinkelbrot before attempting the dinkelseelen. My friend’s hometown is Braunlingen. My great grandfather was a baker from Austria. I’m hoping to gain a bit of his style. Unfortunately I only met him once when he was in his 90s. He used to bake stollen and send them to us. At the time he lived in California. I enjoy baking the stollen.

  8. Hi Tim, I recently chanced upon your site and just tried baking your crusty bread rolls (weizenbroetchen) recipe. It was really good, the recipe is a keeper. I’d like to try your “dinkelbrot” recipe soon. Do you by any chance have a good recipe for a mixed grain bread, like with whole meal wheat and rye? By the way, the “Kochstueck”/”Bruehstueck”, I’d call “sponge” in English.

    • Thanks for your comment, Meru! As for the mixed bread: If you mix wheat and rye flour and use only 30 % rye or less, than you can handle the dough like for any other wheat bread. If you have a recipe for a wheat bread that you like, then you can just add up to 30 % of rye flour and proceed as usual.

      I regularely bake mixed bread but I have only written down one recipe so far. It’s for a sunflower seed bread (mixed rye and wheat):

      INGREDIENTS:
      For the Quellstück:
      150 grams (5.3 ounces) sunflower seeds
      100 grams (3.5 ounces) water, fridge-cold
      For the final dough:
      250 grams (8.8 ounces) “first-clear” wheat flour (Type 1050)
      200 grams (7 ounces) light rye flour (Type 997)
      10 grams (0.35 ounces) sugar
      10 grams (0.35 ounces) salt
      10 grams (0.35 ounces) sunflower seed oil
      15 grams (0.5 ounces) fresh yeast
      250 grams (8.8 ounces) water, at room temperature

      !METHOD:
      1. Cover the sunflower seeds with cold water and leave to soak in the fridge overnight. Drain to remove any excess water.
      2. Combine all the ingredients for the final dough in a bowl. Mix and knead until the dough is smooth. Briefly mix in half of the sunflower seeds.
      3. Bulk ferment for 1 hour at room temperature.
      4. Shape the dough into an oval loaf. Cover your work surface with the rest of the sunflower seeds. Lightly wet the surface of your dough and roll it over the seeds until the dough surface is completely covered with sunflower seeds. Place the dough in a loaf pan.
      5. Proof for 60-90 minutes at room temperature.
      6. Bake with steam at 240 °C (465 °F) for 15 minutes. Then open the oven door to let the steam escape and bake for another 30-45 minutes at 210 °C (410 °F).

      German bagels are also made from a mixed dough: https://www.mygermantable.com/german-bagels-fastenbeugel/

      Apart from that, I hope to post more mixed bread recipes on my blog soon!

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