Tuesday, April 9, 2019

Baking with an Ancient Grain by Cleo Coyle

In our house, my husband and I often try "health foods," but unless they taste good, they don’t get tasted much! That’s why I’m delighted to share my experience working with spelt flour.

Spelt comes from an ancient grain with more dietary fiber than all-purpose flour and a lovelier, more mellow flavor than whole wheat flour, which makes it a nice flour to bake with. As you can see in my cornbread above, spelt also brings a rustic, darker look to baked goods, along with a slightly nutty flavor note that’s quite tasty.

So how do you bake with it? 

Keep reading, and I'll give you a clue. :)


You may have seen bags of "spelt flour" in your local grocery and wondered whether it's worth using. In my view, it is. Not only does it bring more fiber to your recipes with a protein that's easier for your body to absorb, but it also brings better flavor. Spelt has a beautiful nutty taste that goes very well with brownies, muffins, cookies, and pie crusts (to name a few).

Try replacing 25% of your recipe’s all-purpose flour with spelt flour. That's a classic rule of thumb. Once you see how the recipe turns out, you can consider whether or not to increase the percentage on the next go-round. 

Here's how I use spelt flour to make cornbread...

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☕  A recipe note from Cleo

For this cornbread recipe, I replaced 100% of the white flour with spelt flour. This required me to reduce a bit of the milk (and happily some of the calories) that I would have had to add if I had used all-purpose flour. 

Why did I reduce the liquid? Because spelt has a higher level of water solubility than all-purpose flour. In other words, as you increase the spelt in your recipe, you will have to reduce some of the liquid.

Is it worth it? Yes. Not only is the spelt more nutritious, it's also delicious. In this cornbread recipe, the traditional flavor is there but with a more complex background note of toasted nuts from the spelt. 

For breakfast, Marc and I enjoy squares of this tasty bread with fruit and coffee. We'll warm it up for 10 seconds or so in the microwave and melt a bit of butter on it—amazing! For dinner, we’ll pair it with a bowl of chili or barbecued ribs or chicken. If you prefer savory cornbread, no worries, reduce the sugar to 2 T. and (if you like) fold in some sweet corn kernels, a finely diced jalapeno, maybe even some shredded cheddar cheese. 

Make it your own and bake it with joy! 

~ Cleo 

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Cleo Coyle's 
Spelt Cornbread

Makes one 8-inch square pan of cornbread 

1 large egg
1/2 cup milk 
(whole, 2%, or skim) 
1/2 cup sour cream (drain off any visible liquid) 
1/2 cup granulated sugar (for savory cornbread reduce to 2 T.) 
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt or 1/4 teaspoon fine table salt
1/4 cup canola (or vegetable) oil 

2 teaspoons baking powder 
1/2 teaspoon baking soda 
1 cup spelt flour (if using all-purpose flour instead, see my note below**) 
3/4 cup yellow cornmeal

*SAVORY CORNBREAD IDEAS – For savory cornbread, consider adding ½ to ¾ cup sweet corn kernels (fresh or thawed frozen; if using canned, drain well). You might also add 1 finely chopped jalapeno pepper (remove seeds and white membrane) and/or ½ cup shredded cheddar cheese.

**FLOUR NOTE – If you use white, all-purpose flour for this recipe, you must increase the milk to ¾ cup.


One bowl mixing method: First preheat the oven to 350° Fahrenheit. In a mixing bowl, whisk together egg, milk, sour cream, sugar, salt, and oil. When the mixture is well blended and the sour cream smoothly incorporated, whisk in the baking powder and soda. 

Finally, measure in spelt flour and cornmeal. Switching to a spoon or spatula, stir until all the dry ingredients are incorporated into a loose, lumpy batter, but do not over-mix or you will develop the gluten in the flour and your cornbread will be tough instead of tender. 

Prep an 8-inch square non-stick baking pan by coating bottom and sides with cooking spray or generously buttering the pan or lining it with parchment paper. Pour the batter into the pan and tilt it back and forth to even it out. 

Bake in your preheated 350 degree F. oven for 20 to 25 minutes (the time will depend on your oven). When a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with no wet batter clinging to it, remove from oven. Cool, cut, and eat with joy!

Eat (and read) with joy!

~ Cleo Coyle

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  1. Great idea! I love browsing in a local chain, Ocean State Job Lot, which has a wealth of ingredients I've rarely seen and never used--including a lot of grains and flours. I may even have some spelt lurking in my pantry from there--I'll have to try it.

    1. It's fun to try new ingredients. Not fun when they don't work in recipes, of course! (Or don't lend good flavor or texture.) I'm glad to report the spelt flour worked well. It's one ancient, whole grain that's definitely worth including in the pantry. Thanks for dropping by today, Sheila, have a delicious week.

      ~ Cleo

  2. Adventures in baking are always A Good Thing, even when the outcome isn't so yummpy! I've cooked spelt pasta a few times and recall it being tasty, a little nutty -- or was that the amaranth? Apparently it's time to try it again!

    1. I love the name amaranth, thought I wouldn't recognize it if I fell over it. Also Galengal, which is some kind of spice that I bought because of the name.

    2. Leslie and Sheila- I'm a fan of amaranth, too. Another whole grain that makes a nice mix with AP-flour for cookies, muffins, and cakes. (Love the name Galengal for a spice, Sheila!)

      ~ Cleo

  3. Pretty (and tasty) as a picture.
    Especially with the butter melting on it!

    1. Thank you, Libby, and I can testify the butter (and the bread) tastes as good as it looks! Cheers for the kind comment.

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  4. I have read about spelt but not tried using it, Thanks for doing the work of testing it out and sharing your findings.

    1. You're very welcome, Lil, thanks for dropping by the Kitchen today. Have a delicious week!

      ~ Cleo Coffeehouse Mystery.com
      “Where coffee and crime are always brewing…”
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  5. You had me at cornbread. I've never thought to try baking with alternative flours, but you've inspired me to give it a try. Thanks for sharing, Cleo!