This whole wheat breakfast bread recipe has taken several tries to elevate from an ordinary sourdough bread to a loaf worthy of the “Artisan” label, and today’s variation turned out beautifully. The secret? a few grams of spelt flour substituted for some of the bread flour. Spelt is an ancient grain, a relative of Durum wheat. It originated in the Fertile Crescent over 8 thousand years ago, in the Late Neolithic period. Spelt was carried throughout Europe as civilization spread, and was a favorite baker’s ingredient in Medieval Germany. It is more easily digested than regular flour, and some people with wheat intolerances can eat spelt-based bread, even though it’s not gluten-free. Bread dough made entirely from spelt is extremely fragile and likely to collapse and deflate at the most inopportune moments during early baking. But, adding spelt to whole wheat flour lightens the dough and improves oven spring dramatically. Spelt has a delicious nutty taste which does very well in this recipe.
While mixing my dough this morning, I thought about all of the ritualistic practices I’ve developed while studying sourdough bread baking, and while practicing the art myself. Some of the practices have a scientific basis, and some are simply handed down from baker to baker. In the Internet Age, much of that arcane collective wisdom actually makes its way into common lore via cooking blogs, recipe collection sites, YouTube channels, etc. And hence, the lore makes its way into hobbyist kitchens like mine.
So here is a run down of some of the lore-based superstitions and rituals I practice on baking day: