Spelt Flour - Gluten Free Flour
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Spelt flour is one of the most popular and widely available non-wheat flours. The full name of spelt is Triticum aestivum var. spelta. You will find pasta, bread, crackers, and baked goods made with spelt flour. Spelt is a cereal grain in the wheat family that has been cultivated for thousands of years - originally in Iran, then Europe and only in the past century has spelt been cultivated in North America. It is similar in appearance to wheat but has a much harder outer shell.
Spelt flour has a nutty and slightly sweet flavor similar to that of whole wheat flour. It does contain gluten and is a popular substitute for wheat in baked goods. Spelt has gained popularity in recent years. We have become more aware of the need to vary the grains we consume and we are seeking out healthy alternatives.
Spelt is more water-soluble and more easily digested than wheat flour. It is preferred by many people with wheat sensitivities and may be an acceptable substitute for some people with gluten intolerance however; it is not gluten-free. Something that is gluten-free will naturally be wheat-free; however the reverse is not true. Therefore spelt would not be a suitable substitute for someone with true wheat allergies or celiac disease.
Even if you are fortunate not to suffer from a wheat sensitivity, spelt can be a
great addition to your diet. I like to cook with a variety of grains and flours
to help ensure we get a wide array of nutrients and the benefits of many
different foods. Spelt flour has slightly more protein and fewer calories than
wheat flour. It contains a broad array of nutrients and is a good source of
vitamin B2, manganese, niacin, copper, phosphorus, protein, and fiber. Spelt
has a much tougher outer husk than wheat. During milling, this tough outer shell
helps protect the grain, preserving both nutrients and flavor. It also helps
protect the grain from pests and infestations which makes it much easier to grow
without the use of pesticides.
Buying and Storing Spelt Flour:
Spelt flour can usually be found in the organic section of your local grocery store. Often you can find it in bulk food or natural food stores. Make sure there is no sign of moisture in the package or container. If you are buying in a bulk food store, make sure there is a high turnover at the store to ensure the product is fresh. Spelt flour should be refrigerated, however if you are going to be using it within a few days, it is fine stored in an airtight container on a cool, dark shelf.
Just like wheat flours, spelt flour comes in two varieties; whole or white spelt. White spelt flour has had the bran and germ removed. It will give you a lighter texture in baked goods and works well as a substitute in recipes that call for all purpose flour. Whole spelt flour is close in texture to whole wheat flour.
Because spelt is more water-soluble than wheat, it is often recommended to use three quarters the amount of liquid in a recipe when making substitutions for wheat flour. I have found that this varies depending on the particular batch of spelt flour and the recipe. I will usually start with a bit less liquid than called for in the recipe and add more if needed to create the appropriate consistency.
The gluten in spelt flour is more fragile than wheat flour. Whereas wheat flour needs to be mixed and kneaded for awhile to strengthen the gluten, you need to be much gentler with spelt flour taking care not to over-mix or over-knead. Over-mixing may result in too a crumbly texture.
Also because of the fragile gluten, products baked with spelt flour do not rise as high as those that use wheat. I have found when baking bread with spelt flour, the best way to get a nice rise is with a starter. Spelt was one of the first grains ever used to make bread and in fact is even mentioned in the bible. However, if you are new to using spelt flour I would recommend starting with a less ambitious project.
My sister is sensitive to wheat and has successfully cooked and baked with spelt
flour for many years. One of my favorite recipes is her spelt crepes. It is a
delicious and easy introduction to cooking with specialty flours.
Caramelized Maple Apples (see recipe below)
Prepare Caramelized Maple Apples (see below).
In a large bowl, combine the spelt flour, baking soda, salt, sugar, eggs, buttermilk, water, and oil to form a very smooth and thin batter. I usually use a whisk; however a blender works well too. Many crepe recipes recommend covering the batter and allowing it to sit for a time before cooking so that the flour particles expand. However, I rarely do this as neither myself nor my hungry children have the patience! If you do have the time, cover the bowl and allow it to sit in the fridge for a few hours, on the counter for 30 minutes or (if you’re really organized), prepare the batter the night before.
Over medium heat, heat an 8-inch frying pan or a few minutes. Add the 1/2 teaspoon of butter or coat with cooking spray. You will only need to do this at the start.
Using a dry measuring cup, add a scant 1/4 cup of prepared crepe batter to the frying pan (you may need up to 1/3 cup if using a larger pan). Twirl the pan so that the batter covers the bottom of the pan in a thin layer. The first couple of crepes are often a write-off (or snack for the chef) as you get the temperature and amount of batter just right. I don’t worry too much about shape or thinness – they improve as you go and are always delicious!
The crepe will be ready to flip when it appears slightly dry on top and golden on the bottom (approximately 1 1/2 to 2 minutes). To flip, I usually run a knife around the edge and then use my thumb and forefinger to flip it or slip a rubber spatula beneath. The crepes will only require about 30 seconds of cooking on the other side.
Stack the crepes on a plate as you go. You can keep them warm in a 200 degree F. oven or they are great served at room temperature.
In a large skillet or wok over medium-high heat, heat butter. Add the sliced apples and saute in the melted butter approximately 5 minutes or until lightly browned.
Add maple syrup. Bring just to a boil; reduce heat and allow to gently cook approximately 5 minutes or until apples are soft and caramelized. Remove from heat.
To serve, we like to set the crepes and fillings on the table so that everyone can fill as they like and roll the crepes fajita-style.
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