A couple years ago, I asked my Mom to remove gluten from her diet to see if that could be aggravating her arthritis. After a week or two off gluten, my Mom reported much less inflammation and pain, particularly in her fingers, where she was most affected. She also noticed improvements to her digestion. Removing gluten from one's diet is never easy since so much of the American diet is based on gluten-containing products like breads, pastas, and crackers. My Mom doesn't have a true wheat allergy, like those with Celiac disease, but she does have an intolerance. Whenever she eats something with gluten for a special occasion, she feels it in her joints for the next several days and she gets an upset stomach.
Like most everyone else I know, my Mom loves bread and so she did not embrace this new found intolerance with much excitement. But she is grateful for spelt! As is the case with many who have a wheat intolerance, my Mom tolerates spelt just fine. This is her recipe and it is a joy for her to eat fresh, homemade bread again. She recently posted this recipe on her blog, Bees and Chicks, and I wanted to share it here too. Here's what she wrote:
This Spelt Honey Bread is really delicious and it's great for those of you who might not be able to tolerate wheat in your diet. For a long time I thought I might never be able to eat yeast-raised bread again, but I've been eating this bread for a couple of months now. Being able to once again have warm bread fresh out of the oven and slathered in butter is heaven for me.
Barbara's Spelt Honey Bread
1 pkg active dry yeast or 1 scant tablespoon 2 cups warm water (105° to 110° F) 4 tbs honey 3 tbs melted butter 1 1/2 – 2 tsp salt 5 cups spelt flour + about 1/2 cup for kneading 1/2-cup oat flour 1/2-cup corn meal
- Combine yeast, warm water and honey in a warm bowl. Let stand until it proofs — yeast will begin to ferment and you will see the yeast swelling and some small bubbles in about 10 minutes.
- Meanwhile measure spelt, oat and corn flours into a large bowl and mix.
- Stir the melted butter into the proofed yeast and pour into a stand mixer bowl containing 3 cups of flour mixture and the salt.
- Stir until blended, then add remaining flour a cup or so at a time until it that is blended. Continue stirring for a minute or two. Dough will be a little wet.
- Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Dip hands in flour to keep the dough from sticking and knead dough for 4 – 6 minutes, adding flour as necessary until dough becomes smooth and elastic. DO NOT over knead the dough – spelt loaves can get tough and crumbly if kneaded too long.
- Place the dough in a well-greased bowl, rolling it to coat the dough. Cover and let rise in a warm draft-free spot for about 2 hours or until doubled in bulk.
- Grease two 8 1/2” x 4 1/2” loaf pans. Make sure to really get them coated otherwise the bread has a tendency to stick.
- When the dough has doubled in bulk, punch it down and divide it in half forming two smooth loaves. Put the loaves in the pans, cover and return to a warm, draft-free spot for another hour or so until the loaves reach the tops of the pans. (At about 45 minutes, preheat your oven to 350° F.)
- Uncover loaves and place pans in oven on a heavy baking sheet or a pizza stone and bake about 45 minutes until the tops are light brown and the loaves sound hollow when you tap them. Remove from oven.
- Brush tops with melted butter if you prefer a softer crust and turn bread out onto wire racks and let cool.
- Loaves should be cool before slicing. You can slice into a warm loaf, but it will be crumbly (and delicious if you slather it with butter!). The longer you wait, the cleaner the slices.
Note: This bread freezes beautifully. I slice the second loaf and put it in the freezer for toasting.
Yields two 8 1/2” x 4 1/2”x 2 1/2″ loaves.
Spelt is an ancient grain, a distant elder cousin of modern wheat. It is, in fact, one of the earliest crops grown in the Western world. As a grass-derived grain, spelt is the perfect substitute for white or whole wheat flour when baking. It is an excellent alternative for those allergic to wheat since it contains different forms of gluten than modern wheat. The type of gluten found in spelt is much more fragile than the gluten found in wheat which makes it much easier for the body to break down and digest. Spelt also provides double the amount of protein and fiber than is found in most common varieties of commercial wheat. It is an excellent source of complex carbohydrates as well as B vitamins and minerals.
Honey should always be purchased raw and unfiltered. Honey that is not pasteurized, clarified, or filtered retains more of the phytochemicals that account for its health benefits. Honey, particularly darker honey, such as buckwheat honey, is a rich source of phenolic compounds, such as flavonoids, that have strong antioxidant activity. Honey has been found to be protective against atherosclerosis, or a hardening of the arteries. This is because honey improves blood antioxidant levels and helps prevent lipid peroxidation — or the damaging of lipids (fats) by free radicals in the body. Honey also has wound-healing properties and has been used topically as an antiseptic agent for the treatment of ulcers, burns, and wounds for centuries.