Monday, June 29, 2009

Blueberry Bread with Spelt Starter

Even though (or because?) it is a three-party marriage ("un mariage à trois" as we say in French, usually with a snicker), the alliance between spelt, apple and blueberries really rocks!
The flavors complement each other with none of them trying to steal the show. Definitely a felicitous union although it could be be sweeter. That is, I could have put in a sweetener. I didn't because I usually prefer not to, but this time, just a hint of agave nectar or honey would have been welcome.
You know how they talk about the boys of summer? Well, this is a bread of summer. It brings back memories of fragrant hayrides and long hours among the bushes, picking to one's heart's content.
I love blueberries, their shape, their color and the way they seem to blush under the thinnest coating of mauve talcum powder. I actually read somewhere that this very thin powder is their sunscreen. They secrete it to protect themselves from rays that would otherwise turn them into raisins. I wish we were genetically programmed to do the same. Although maybe that's what a suntan is...
But too much suntan does turn you into a raisin after a while... So we don't have it as easy as blueberries and that's a fact.
Anyway, I was trying to come up with a blueberry bread that could be eaten on its own, a bit like a quickbread, and still be a "real" bread, the macho type with a nice crust and a chewy crumb. And save for the fact that it could have been a wee bit sweeter, this bread delivers. As is, it is actually excellent with Swiss cheese or white Cheddar cheese and obviously delicious with blueberry jam!
I would have used all spelt (a combination of white spelt and whole spelt flours but I ran out of white spelt, so I replaced some of it with unbleached all-purpose flour). Spelt flakes and/or spelt bran could be added for texture if desired. I had given my usual white starter (100% hydration) two feedings of spelt and it looked quite happy and rearing to go. So off we went...
Ingredients (for 1 small loaf and 1 big one):

  • 288 g white spelt flour
  • 171 g whole spelt flour
  • 112 g unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 285 g water
  • 115 g spelt starter
  • 86 g unsweetened applesauce
  • 229 g fresh blueberries
  • 28 g almond oil (or other neutral oil)
  • 13 g salt
  • 2.8 g instant yeast

  1. Mix the instant yeast in the flour
  2. Put the flours, the starter, the oil, the applesauce and about 80% of the water in the bowl of a stand mixer and mix on low speed until incorporated. Add the reserved water as needed
  3. Let rest, covered, for 20 to 30 minutes (autolyse)
  4. Add the salt and mix at medium speed until the dough reaches a low/medium level of gluten development (when you pinch a piece of it off with wet hands and stretch it, you should see a thin membrane - or "gluten window" - with opaque spots and that means the dough is ready)
  5. Place the dough on a flour-dusted worktable and gently incorporate the blueberries, taking care not to squash them too much
  6. Spray with oil a large bowl or bucket, put the dough in it and cover tightly
  7. Let ferment for 1 1/2 hour or so (if the dough is very slack, you may want to give it a fold after the first 30 minutes)
  8. Spray the worktable with oil and gently put the dough on it, taking care not to deflate it or squash the blueberries more than necessary
  9. Divide the dough in 1 small loaf and 1 big one (or 3 small ones)
  10. Pre-shape the pieces in balls and let them rest, covered, for about 20 minutes
  11. Shape tightly in the desired shape (I made one small boule and one big oval bread as I don't have 3 small baskets) and place in well-floured baskets or bannetons
  12. Set to proof for about 45 minutes inside a clear plastic bag, well sealed
  13. At least 30 minutes before baking time, preheat the oven to 450 F/232 C, after placing a baking stone and a shallow metal pan inside
  14. When the loaves are ready, turn them out of their baskets onto a semolina-dusted sheet of parchment paper placed on a half-sheet pan or baker's peel and score them in a cross pattern
  15. Pour one cup of water into the shallow metal pan, taking care to protect your face and hands
  16. Slide the loaves onto the baking stone, spray the oven walls heavily with water and close the door
  17. Bake for 35 minutes (turning them half-way during baking so that they color evenly)
  18. Then remove the parchment paper from under the loaves and flip them over gently to ensure a crisp bottom (that's because the blueberries tend to leak during baking and make the bottom of the loaf soggy in places)
  19. Bake another 5 minutes
  20. Remove from the oven and set on a rack to cool. Enjoy!

This Blueberry Bread goes to Susan, from Wild Yeast, for Yeastpotting.


  1. Hi MC, this is a beautiful bread and what a great idea to incorporate fruits into the spelt flour! Ever since my father-in-law told me that his naturopathic consultant recommends spelt, I've been wanting to experiment on this flour. But I haven't gone very far as I was put off by its bitter taste. Now with this idea of adding fruits, I definitely will pick up my experimentation again. Thank you for your post. Shiao-Ping

  2. Hi, Shiao-Ping, thank you for your comment! Yes, you should definitely give spelt a try. At least as sold in the US and in France, it has a sweet honeyed taste, not bitter at all. Could you be confusing it with quinoa? Quinoa flour can be quite bitter and as I learned in April in SFBI, you have to look for flour made from pre-rinsed grains. As that flour is very expensive, it is mostly used in pre-ferments. With spelt however, we don't have such problem. I'd be very interested to know more about the variety of grain grown and sold in Australia.

  3. MC, at least in the case of organic grapes, that white 'powder' (what some people call the 'bloom') contains the wild yeast and bacteria that will eventually populate a sourdough starter, if one uses the grapes to culture a new starter, à la Nancy Silverton. Ever try using organic blueberries to begin a new sourdough culture?

  4. Hi MC, I have just made a hazelnut & blueberry sourdough and am in the process of blogging it but I am curious what your dough hydration was AFTER you added your blueberries in. You said to be gentle and try not to squash them when incorporating these berries into the dough. Pre-blueberries, your dough hydration would have been around 71 - 72% (not counting honey and taking apple sauce at 90 - 95% water level). How did your dough feel to you in terms of its hydration? Mine was absolutely drenched with liquid after I incorporated the blueberries (I made a mistake of using frozen ones). Thank you. Shiao-Ping

  5. Hi, Shiao-Ping, I used fresh blueberries which were quite firm and bouncy and I was very gentle, so save for one or two, they didn't get squashed. In fact the dough was very much the same after incorporation, i.e. quite wet but still manageable. Were the blueberries still frozen when you put them in the dough?

  6. Hi, Steve! Yes, now that you mention it, I remember that this powder is called the bloom. Isn't that a lovely word for it? No, I never tried a blueberry starter but it sounds like an excellent idea. Maybe I will start one when I get back! Thanks for the tip.

  7. Bread of summer indeed! And thank you for putting the song in my head...

  8. Those pockets of blueberries in the crumb look amazing. No need for extra blueberry jam here if you ask me :)



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