Thursday, August 23, 2012

Apple-Blueberry Spelt Bread with Chia Seeds

Blueberry season is upon us and we have been picking and freezing, picking and freezing... The good thing about blueberries is that they grow on thornless bushes which means you can take kids along and they don't complain. They just pick and eat, pick and eat. Some berries even make it to their baskets.
One of my five-year old grandsons picked three pounds the other day without even noticing that his small basket - the very wooden basket my grandfather made for me ages ago so that I could go foraging with him in the fields and woods near their home - was getting seriously heavy. He said that he needed to pick a lot to have enough for the winter (he eats them frozen) and in the same breath, he confided that winter was his favorite season because it rained a lot and it got dark really early and he could stay inside and play videogames and watch movies. The blueberries were clearly meant to be part of the good time to come. Good for him!
As for me my thoughts naturally turned to bread and since I had tasty memories of an apple-blueberry bread I once posted to my now-retired French blog, I decided to bake a blueberry bread for breakfast. I thought I was being creative with that recipe, relying on spelt to provide a hint of a honey flavor, adding unsweetened applesauce as a counterpoint to the berries and chia seeds for crunch and improved nutrition. But just to be on the safe side, I searched Farine to see what blueberry recipes I might have already posted over the years and that's when I discovered two things about myself, one bad, one good.
Bad news first: I had made (and posted) a very similar bread (Blueberry Bread with Spelt Starter) three summers ago and didn't have the slightest recollection of having done so... A very senior moment which is probably a sign of incipient mental degeneration. Oh well! 
As for the good news, it is that I am pretty consistent. That 2009 blueberry bread was already levain, spelt- and applesauce-based! There is some degree of comfort in knowing that if one's mind is starting to go, at least it is going in one piece and one direction...
This recipe is better than the old one: it foregoes the almond oil and instant yeast, uses levain as the only leavening agent and relies on baker's dry milk for tenderness and improved conservation (spelt tends to dry out faster than wheat).
I love the taste (there is something in the apple-blueberry combination that I find particularly enticing) and the texture is surprisingly smooth and mellow (I credit the baker's milk). It keeps very well indeed (after six days of sitting on the kitchen counter in a brown paper bag, the test loaf was still fresh, which is a first in my experience for a bread that is 100% spelt).
We now have a gazillion blueberries in the freezer. Does this mean I will be making this bread year-round? No, it doesn't. I don't believe the dough would take kindly to the addition of frozen anything and folding in soggy thawed berries doesn't seem appealing. This is and shall remain a bread of summer.
If you do try to make it at home, make sure you taste your berries first. You want them sweet and ripe. If the only berries available to you are on the sour side, the bread may not turn out as well. You could try sweetening the dough a bit though. Honey comes to mind as it pairs very well with spelt (it also helps with the shelf life).
Because our berries are so sweet however, I prefer honey in a jar on the breakfast table. My garden is full of lavender right now. So, naturally, I would go for lavender honey. Blackberry honey would work too. Both honeys are produced in our neighborhood.
As a Parisian (born and raised) whose parents maintained a keen interest and deep love throughout their lives for the regional food which had shaped their own childhoods (both were born and raised in Southern France, my Mom in the Southeast and my Dad in the Southwest), I witnessed first-hand the strength of the bonds which tie us to the land and the structuring role of what we call terroir (the term used to apply only to wine but is more widely used now).
Were they still alive and with us today, my parents - who were earth wanderers at heart - would tirelessly explore the tastes of this new world and seek to weave them into our everyday lives.  With this bread - made of all things Washington: spelt, apples, berries, water and even the levain whose wild yeast cells were originally captured by my friend Teresa in the San Juan Islands - I know I am following in their footsteps, an ocean and a continent away, and doing something that mattered enormously to them: setting up roots where we live without forgetting where we came from, thus helping the younger generations develop and maintain a sense of continuity and belonging.
Of course since I am not (yet) completely delusional, I  know that in itself, a loaf or two won't make much of a difference in anybody's life. Still baking the landscape and sharing it with family and friends is a step towards making it truly our own. At the very least it provides me with a strong feeling of connectedness both to those who came before me and to those who are coming after. Never mind the fact that right now, the young generation prefers its berries frozen and its landscapes in 3-D...

Ingredients: (for one boule and two bâtards)
  • 485 g white spelt flour
  • 323 g freshly milled whole spelt flour
  • 242 g mature wheat levain at 100% hydration (a spelt levain would be even better)
  • 565 g water (more as needed)
  • 80 g non-fat dry milk (I used Baker's Special Dry Milk from King Arthur's)
  • 242 g fresh blueberries at room temperature
  • 242 g smoothly pureed applesauce (no sugar added)
  • 80 g chia seeds, unsoaked
  • 18 g salt
Method: (this bread was hand-mixed and made over two days)
  1. Add the chia seeds and the dry milk to the flours. Whisk together
  2. Add levain and water and fold until the dry ingredients are well hydrated (adding more water as needed: I use a spray bottle which makes incremental hydration increases very easy)
  3. Let rest for 30 minutes, covered (mock autolyse)
  4. Add applesauce and blueberries and fold until incorporated
  5. Add salt and adjust hydration
  6. Fold a few times again
  7. Let rest for 30 minutes, covered
  8. Repeat step 6 three or four times, adding water again as needed to obtain medium soft consistency
  9. Refrigerate overnight or for up to 10-12 hours, covered (I put the dough in the little wine refrigerator that came with our house. Since we never use it, I removed a couple of shelves and set the bottom part to 50°F/10°C. The less cold the refrigerator, the less acidic the dough is likely to be)
  10. The next day, bring back to room temperature, divide as desired (I made one large bread and two smaller ones) and pre-shape. Let rest 15 minutes, covered
  11. Shape as desired (in my case, one boule and two bâtards) and set to proof, covered, in linen-lined and generously-floured baskets (I used a mixture of wheat and rice flour since the dough was rather wet and I was afraid it was going to stick)
  12. Pre-heat oven to 470°F/243°C
  13. When dough is ready (a gentle pressure with two fingers yields a small indentation that doesn't bounce back) (with spelt fermentation happens rather fast so it is best to start checking after 40 minutes or so), gently invert on a parchment paper-lined, semolina-dusted half-sheet pan, stencil and score as desired and bake with steam for the first five minutes, decreasing oven temperature to 450°F/232°C after 5 minutes
  14. Rotate the loaves as needed after 20 minutes and continue baking for a total of 30-35 minutes for the smaller loaves, 40 minutes for the larger one or until the bread yields a hollow sound when tapped on the bottom
  15. Cool on a rack
  16. Enjoy!

The Apple-Blueberry Spelt Bread is going to Susan for Yeastpotting. Thank you, Susan!


  1. Yum! Ce pain doit être très très bon, et quelle chance d'avoir tant de buissons à myrtilles à portée de petites et grandes mains! Je REVE de cueillir un jour des myrtilles, ou même simplement d'en trouver facilement de belles et abordables...

    1. Peut-être qu'un jour on en cultivera en France. C'est curieux d'ailleurs que ce ne soit pas déjà le cas... En attendant, comme j'aimerais qu'on habite plus près de façon qu'on puisse partager notre récolte avec vous!

  2. Really beautiful bread, Farine. Those crumb shots!

    Thanks for another fabbo post.


  3. oh yummyness indeed. Great recipe!

  4. MC,
    How touching to see your grandson using the same berry basket your grandfather gave to you :^)
    What a lovely way to honor what your grandparents and parents valued, by teaching your grandson about fresh blueberries and preserving them, and then ‘baking the landscape’ into a gorgeous loaf that your family must have enjoyed so much (it looks incredibly delicious!).
    :^) breadsong

  5. Thank you, breadsong! My grandson was so impressed to be using the same basket I had used as a little girl that when someone stopped by by him in the blueberry field and asked to see it a bit closer so that he could make one just like that for his own daughter, he grabbed the handle with both hands and hung on for dear life as if he thought the poor man was going to grab it and run! He wouldn't let go and never let the guy hold it... :-)

  6. lol. so funny the way you talk about yourself. but no need to feel incipient dementia is coming :) you are allowed to post on the same bread twice (bread never comes out the same, does it?) and you are allowed to not remember what you posted 3 years ago!
    anyway, this bread is stunning. sometimes I wish I could just lock myself home to bake all these amazing loaves... bookmarked this one for sure. I think fresh blueberries hold well in sourdough, as they stay pretty dry during the rising and become moist only during the baking process.
    so cute the grandson in the garden picking blueberries (and wishing to be inside playing videogames). also my daughter loves to eat frozen blubies - and watch cartoons ;)

    1. Hi Barbara, thank you so much for your kind words. I too have several breads and other recipes bookmarked, many of them yours! I wish we could organize a baking/cooking retreat someday, somewhere, and cook, bake and photograph to our hearts' content for a few days. Wouldn't that be a real treat?

  7. What a beautiful looking bread! I enjoyed your post and stunning photography as always. I think I read somewhere that blueberries are high in anti-oxidents and are supposed to help with memory loss.....feel free to use that line if you like :)
    I love the perfect crumb you achieved and the addition of the applesauce I'm sure helped you achieve such a moist and open crumb.


    1. Thank you, Ian! Yes, blueberries are very high in antioxidants and that's one of the reasons my freezer is full of them (the other reason is that they are simply delicious, even when they are/have been frozen). If I eat enough of them, hopefully I'll remember to use your line next time! ;-)
      It is a bit tricky to use applesauce because it adds solids to the dough as well as a liquid component. What helps the most, I found, is having a spray water bottle at hand and hydrating the dough as needed during the stretching and folding. But apple, spelt and blueberries are a winning taste combo! Add a bit of honey if you have a sweet tooth and you are in breakfast heaven...

  8. Blueberry picking is so much fun that it's easy to end up coming home with too much! It's a good idea to plan ahead and figure out how you can use all of those berries. There are so many recipes that call for fresh fruit so this is a great time to experiment with new recipes!

    1. That is so true... But we have it all planned out actually: I do try a few recipes now and then but we mostly like blueberries for breakfast with yogurt and granola. When summer is over, we start on the frozen ones and maybe because we picked them ourselves, we find them incredibly tasty! The challenge is to pace ourselves so that we have enough until next summer... ;-)

  9. This recipe looks amazing! Greetings from Romania!

    1. Hello, Lavi! Thank you. Good to connect from the other side of the world! Are there blueberries to be found where you live?

  10. sister, where do you get your white spelt from? your bread looks AMAZING!


    1. Thank you, Francis-Olive! I get my white spelt from PCC which is a Puget Sound natural food store.

  11. oh, MC, what does the dry milk do for the bread?

    i just went online and found vitaspelt's white spelt flour. i'm stoked to try this formula!


    1. The white spelt I get at PCC is VitaSpelt, I think.
      The Baker's Milk is from King Arthur and made of extra-fine granules. Supposedly it is much easier to blend with the other dry ingredients than regular dry milk and its main advantages otherwise are that it adds tenderness and flavor, extends shelf life and, according to the KA website, helps get a nice rise out of the dough.

    2. Let me know if you try the formula!!!

  12. Hi MC, what a wonderful recipe - it fits perfect to my current problem - i get every week a basket with fresh fruit and vegetables from the organic farm 1 minute from my home. the last 3 weeks i got very delicious plums - now i know where i can use it. I have had last time a wonderful fruit bread with spelt flour and plums and as i do not have these amazing blueberries (and i guess i don't get some from your fridge :-) ) i will give the plums a try.
    If i am successful with your formula - i will post it...

    1. Hi Bernd! I would gladly swap blueberries for some of your plums and try my hand at that plum bread myself. Maybe with the addition of a handful of roasted hazelnuts? Yum!

  13. still looking at these loaves in awe. what is that gave that wonderful airy crumb? I may really have to make this, maybe this weekend. with what could I substitute the dry milk? I can find only powdered milk in Sweden but is very sweet. And in the recipe is not clear when to add the applesauce. I like the idea of spraying more water to adjust the hydration. will definitely give your entire method a try.
    your big fan

    1. Barbara, I don't know if the sweet powdered milk would work. But it might be worth a try? Especially if the berries are on the sour side... Thank you for pointing out that I had totally forgotten to indicate when to add the applesauce and the blueberries. I corrected the post. Basically both go in after the autolyse. Let me know how you like the water spraying method: it is an incremental hydration approach that I find works really well for me. Hopefully you'll find it helpful too.

    2. hi MC. I have now made a version of your lovely loaf using frozen blueberries. I know, it was daring and I will probably have to reduce the hydration next time but the bread still came out delicious, well-risen and... and purple :) I don't know when I will have time to post about it so maybe I will send you a picture by email. meanwhile you may check out my lingonberry bread, in which I used your incremental hydration method with pretty good results. ciao!!

  14. dear MC, if you don't mind I will put my hands at this loaf again, with fresh blueberries. it is so heavy reading this post today, but your bread still talks of life. hope your soul and body are healing and that you will be back baking soon.



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