“Here in America, when you say Vollkorn bread, people think of heavy German rye bread. They don’t think of spelt, rye or wheat. But it can be any of these,” explains Nicky Giusto of Logan, Utah-based Central Milling and the BBGA’s Baking Team USA 2016, during a live demonstration of Varietal Vollkornbrot at the Artisan Marketplace – Crafted by The Bread Bakers Guild of America. The session was held during the 2019 edition of the International Baking Industry Exposition (IBIE).

Spelt was the grain of choice for Giusto in his version of Vollkorn Dinkelbrot (the formula is available on the BBGA website). 

“Most Vollkorn bread is like a dense bread, a brick you could build a house with,” Giusto said with a smile. “I put together a version that kind of looks like a wheel of cheese – a very cool-looking triangle. A while ago, Andy Clark and I were talking in a parking lot about ambient fermentation and how to develop an awesome bread without the use of refrigeration.” 

They decided on a plan: Fill a big pot with spelt, seeds, buttermilk, and a few other ingredients and see if the mix inoculates itself after 12 hours. It worked. 

Why spelt? “I knew I wanted to give you a little blast out of the pan,” Giusto said. “With rye, you are not going to get a blast. Wheat is too predictable. I love spelt. It is super nutty in flavor with a delicate gluten structure.” 

Central Milling produces Zorba spelt; Giusto presented a little of its ancient-grain history. “Einkorn is spelt’s grandfather. Emmer and einkorn crossed to make spelt,” he explained. “Spelt is a wheat, but it has a hull around it, so it requires extra processing. That is why einkorn, spelt and emmer are a little more expensive. There’s an extra step that has to take place before milling.” 

“Spelt is actually higher in vitamins and amino acids than other ancient grains, which promotes the maintenance of muscle,” he added. “Eating spelt will maintain the health of your muscles. Today, I’m using 100% whole spelt.” 

For the soaker, which was prepared the night before, he mixed spelt, buttermilk, cultured butter, confectionery-grade pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, and water. The ingredients were all at room temperature. “The (fermentation) goes for 12 to 16 hours on this soaker. But if you’re going to let it go for 16 hours, you might want to use cooler water.” 

The buttermilk is pasteurized, so Giusto thinks that “most of the inoculation is coming from the spelt itself. I want the spelt berry to be hydrated naturally. It does the work for you.” 

By the next morning, the soaker had lots of bubbles and had increased in size by about a third. 

“The power of fermentation is strong in this one,” he said. “The sunflower seeds are dancing with the pumpkin seeds. All this activity is pretty cool.” 

Next, salt was added, dissolved in water so it could move around the dough. “Watch this turn into a real strong dough. Water is a highway. The more highways you have, the faster the yeast is going to travel around your network. I put yeast in the second stage because it’s quick to action – just enough yeast (0.3% instant yeast) to give me some volume to blast out of the pan.” 

Spelt requires a very short incorporation time, so Giusto mixed this stage by hand. “Look at it come together with just a few rotations. After an hour, you have a wet, soupy mixture. I cut this wet, with no flour. For the third step, this is your chance.” 

Giusto demonstrated the flip-and-flop technique (smack down, stretch, and flop) to build dough strength. “The stretching and folding are developing strength in a very short time with a minimal amount of movement.” 

The final proof was 1 hour and, as the dough proofed, a lot of bubbles developed. “Then you know it’s time to go,” Giusto said. “I bake these in a falling oven, starting at 500°F and dropping down to 440°F or 450°F. This bread needs to be in a fairly hot oven for a significant amount of time (45 minutes to an hour). Ideally, you want to bake in a falling oven. That gives you awesome caramelization on top. Vollkorn-style breads taste better with some time. The flavors become more intense.”