I like soft italian bread called Ciabatta very much. It is great as sides for meals and it tastes very intense without any overwhelming yeasty flavor. And I like to use spelt for baking, which is really uncommon for ciabatta - but it works. Here is the result, maybe not as much big air holes in it as in plain wheat flour ciabatta but with a fluffy soft texture and a small hint of basil taste:
I think spelt is not very well known in countries outside Europe, what is a shame, because it is very healthy and has a nice nutty sweet flavor.
The reason (maybe): the baking characteristics of spelt are less good than characteristic of wheat flour - it is kind of tricky to handle.
Yesterday at noon I started the Ciabatta preparations by mixing a small moist dough for fermentation issues, some call it Biga or Polish. I am not so much involved in bread baking forums. There are some bibles and religions available out there concerning how to raise a proper sour dough and some sort of biga or poolish, dry or wet. The following is just a dough I made out of curiosity some time ago and it worked quite fine so no hassle. I am not going to make some kind of science out of it.
I mixed 100 g wheat flour with 2.5 g instant yeast and 150 ml water in a baking bowl and let this sit overnight at room temperature covered with cling film. The yeast will ferment the dough perfectly and start growing. The so called poolish should have a nice fruity smell afterwards.
This morning I added 500 g spelt and 300 ml lukewarm water (+ a little more) and another 2.5 g instant yeast, 1 good teaspoon salt, a little sugar and basil paste. Usually ciabatta is baked without salt, but this is a little too bland for me.
I let the dough knead by the engine for 3 minutes. Afterwards the dough has to double its amount, covered, at room temperature during 2 hours. Spelt doesn’t need much kneading and folding but more time to rise and a little bit more water.
Important hint: Spelt is very sensible to kneading. Usually you would knead wheat based dough longer but not spelt. When you overdo the dough, it will be ruined. The results are no good: e.g. crumbly bread or dry crumbly cookies. This has something to do with the protein structure but as I said, no science.
The dough is rather soft and sticky and very complicated to handle but that’s how it should be. I folded the dough on a floured baking board with the help of a spatula from each sides to deflate the air bubbles and to stretch the dough and quickly formed a roll shape which I bedded in a cushion of parchment paper and let it rise again for 45 minutes. Meanwhile I heated up the oven at 200 C.
I put the dough into the oven and added 50 ml water to the oven bottom to build up some steam for the first minutes during baking. After 10 minutes I reduced the heat to 190 C and baked the bread about 30 minutes.
100 g strong wheat flour
500 g spelt milling grade 630
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
450 ml water
5 g instant yeast (2/3 bag instant yeast, contents 7 g)
80 ml pesto (basil paste)