Spelt shortbreads with streusel topping

SpeltBiccies2a

I love playing with different flours to change up the texture and quality of bakes that are traditionally made with wheat flour. Some flours will dramatically change the texture, crumb and consistency of a bake, but I’ve found spelt can be a direct replacement in my kitchen with very little change. The spelt flour looks slightly darker and heavier than white wheat flour, but this perception is slightly misleading.

What I’ve found is that spelt is thirstier than wheat; by that I mean it takes up more water in comparison to the same amount of white flour. This seems to be at odds with everything that I’ve read about spelt, suggesting it ought to be the opposite (that is, needs less liquid) – perhaps it’s the type of bakes that I’ve used it in. So, I’d just suggest that if you are converting recipes to spelt please bear in mind that the ratio of liquids to flour will need to be played around with to get it right, whether that’s more or less liquid.

Spelt may look heavy but it’s certainly not: it produces fluffy light bakes with a warmer, nuttier flavour and a slightly darker colour. I think it makes nice breads and is perfect for richer cakes like loaf cakes or traybakes but this is very personal – some people like spelt cakes but not bread or vice versa, or as I do just like it in anything.

It’s now very easy to get hold of spelt flours (white or wholegrain) now. I like the 100% British spelt from Craggs & Co, who are farmers based in the North East of England (this isn’t an advert, it’s just I love the quality of this flour). The spelt flakes I used in this recipe are also from here.

Notes

  • You can make these biscuits as normal rounds, but they are also nice as rings as I’ve done in some images
  • If you are making ring biscuits and don’t have a small cutter for the centre holes, a good hack is using the large end of a piping nozzle!
  • Makes about 20 – 24 (depending whether you cut out the holes or not)
  • You can get spelt flour in supermarkets, delis, health food shops and online easily
  • If you cannot get spelt flakes, then wheat or oat flakes can be substituted (but are less nutty and don’t match quite as well)

SpeltBiccies2b.jpg

Equipment

  • 2 large baking sheets, prepared with baking parchment or silicon sheets
  • Rolling pin
  • Palette knife
  • Large round cutter – about 6cm
  • Smaller cutter for the middle cut-out (something 1 – 2cm in diameter will do) if using
  • Large bowl and a small bowl
  • Pastry cutter (ideal but not necessary)

Ingredients – biscuits

  • Unsalted butter at room temperature – 170g
  • Caster sugar – 100g
  • White spelt flour – 250g
  • Salt 1/2 tsp
  • Vanilla bean paste or vanilla extract – 1 tsp
  • Milk – 20ml
  • Extra flour for dusting

Ingredients – streusel

  • Spelt flakes (or malted wheat flakes) – 4 tablespoons
  • Chopped mixed nuts – 4 tablespoons
  • Granulated sugar – 2 tablespoons
  • Ground cinnamon – 1 tablespoon
  • Unsalted butter, softened a little – 1 tablespoon

Method

  1. Put your oven on to 180˚C fan, or 200˚C conventional
  2. Weigh out the butter and flour in the large bowl and either cut the butter into the flour using your pastry cutter or rub it in using your fingers (or you could use a food processor)
  3. Mix the rest of the biscuit dough ingredients into the butter and flour. Aim for a smooth dough but don’t overwork it
  4. Rest the dough for 10 -15 minutes in the fridge, wrapped in cling film or in a food bag
  5. When the dough is rested, dust both your work surface and your rolling pin fairly liberally with flour (there is a lot of butter in these biscuits and they may well stick otherwise)
  6. Roll out the dough to about 3-4mm thick and cut out as many rounds with the large cutter as you can. Then, if making rings, cut out a hole in the middle of each (you can re-roll these centre pieces of dough to make more biscuits)
  7. Mix the streusel ingredients lightly together in a bowl
  8. Put a teaspoon of the streusel mix on the top of each biscuit and spread it to the edges with the tip of a spoon. If you find this easier you can tip the streusel mix onto your worktop and then press the biscuits into the streusel, but be careful not to disfigure the shape of the biscuit by pressing too hard – I used the teaspoon technique on the round biscuits in my photos and the pressing technique on the ring versions
    SpeltBiccies2c-beforebaking.jpg
  9. Repeat with the rest of the biscuits, placing them gently on the prepared baking trays with at least 1cm gap between them
  10. If some of the biscuits look a bit bare in places you can sprinkle what’s left of the streusel over them before they go in the oven
  11. Bake for around 14 minutes in the middle of the oven
  12. As soon as the biscuits are out of the oven, lightly press the streusel down on the biscuits with the back of a spoon (to stop it from flaking off when eating)
  13. Leave to cool fully

SpeltStreuselShortbreads1

Bacon and shallot wholemeal spelt soda bread

spelt baconAh, it may be the simplest of loaves but don’t be fooled as soda bread can be delicious. The use of rich, nutty wholemeal spelt flour and the classic bacon and shallot filling makes this quick loaf a useful recipe to have on hand.

Notes

Makes one medium sized loaf

Takes about 25 minutes’ preparation time (most of this is the bacon and shallots!) and 30 minutes in the oven

The delightful people at Craggs & Co where I order my spelt flour from have kindly added this to their website.

Ingredients

  • 2 shallots
  • 100g lean bacon (or about 5 slices)
  • 450g wholegrain spelt flour
  • 1tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1tsp salt
  • 1tbsp cider or white wine vinegar
  • 245ml milk

Method

  • Set your oven 220°C fan / 240°C conventional
  • Lay a piece of greaseproof paper in the bottom of a baking tray and dust lightly with a little extra flour
  • Peel and finely dice the shallots
  • Remove the majority of the fat off the bacon and cut into fine shreds
  • Fry the shallots and bacon together in a lightly oiled frying pan until both are starting to brown (and the bacon is cooked throughout)
  • Drain the bacon and shallots on a piece of kitchen towel to remove excess oil and then toss into the flour
  • In a large bowl, roughly mix together the flour, salt and bicarbonate of soda
  • Tip 1 tablespoon of cider vinegar into a measuring jug and top up to the 260ml mark with milk
  • Put the milk and vinegar into the flour and quickly begin to mix (you must mix without delay as the bicarbonate is already starting to work)
  • Bring the dough together until it is thoroughly mixed and the bacon and shallots are evenly spread but don’t overwork it.  You do not need to knead as with a yeast-leavened bread
  • Form into a round or oval shape and, using a long sharp knife, make a deep cross in the dough (you want to cut about 90% through the loaf, just leaving a little join on the bottom)
  • Place immediately in the middle on the oven
  • Cook for 10 minutes and then turndown your oven heat to 200°C fan / 220°C conventional for another 20 minutes

Banana wholemeal spelt loaf cake

image1This is a rich, moist and delicious cake as you’d expect with a top-notch banana cake. However, for this recipe I started with wholemeal spelt flour rather than traditional plain white. The final result is not a ‘worthy’ cake as you might expect from a wholegrain flour – but extra rich and with a gorgeous crumb structure.

Notes

I have made this loaf cake in a panibois – that’s a reusable wooden baking form with which you use pre-cut baking liners. My panibois is an ‘archduc’ (they all have lovely names for their sizes) which is equivalent to a small / 1lb loaf tin. So if you don’t have a panibois yourself a greased and floured/lined small loaf tin will do just nicely.

I used Craggs & Co wholemeal spelt for this – the milling is incredibly fine and I like that it is a 100% British product, I confess I was lucky enough to be sent a batch to try (no other incentive though so I hope you feel that I giving an honest opinion, rather than a ‘commercial one’). There are other spelts available and I have in the past used Doves Farm and Shipton Mill flours with good results, but this is geniuinely of excellent quality and clearly recently milled and bagged.

This recipe has been kindly shared on the Craggs & Co website (along with a number of other spelt recipes). Visit their website to find more about spelt flour and their farm up in Sedgefield, near Stockton on Tees – and if you want to try it too you can purchase online.

Also, please note that I used a salted butter for this cake.

Finally, I have given a weight for the double cream rather than a volume – this is easier for the baker. If you have to measure the volume of cream it needs to go into a measuring cup and then into your bowl (another thing to wash, and you lose a little scraping it out). If you weigh it you can put it straight into your bowl with your other ingredients: simple and no mess.

Tip

Weigh out your sugar and then take two tablespoons out of it to mash the bananas with – it makes the mashing easier and will slow down the browning of the bananas a little.

Equipment
  • Two large bowls
  • A panibois form and paper insert OR a greased and floured (or lined) small loaf tin
  • A fork, a spatula, a balloon whisk
Ingredients
  • Wholemeal spelt flour – 220g
  • Ground almonds – 30g
  • Eggs, Large – 2
  • Soft brown sugar – 160g
  • Salted butter, softened but not melted – 100g [Please use a farm-style, artisan butter such as one from a local farm, a supermarket finest or a French salted butter. Not the ones with rock salt crystals in though!]
  • Double cream – 35g
  • Baking powder – 1 and 1/4 teaspoons
  • Vanilla seeds – half a pod’s worth or 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract
  • Ground cinnamon – 1/2 teaspoon
  • Bananas – two very ripe
Method
  1. Put your oven on to 180C fan / 200C conventional
  2. Have the lined panibois ready or grease a small loaf tin and then either flour it or line it with baking parchment/greaseproof paper
  3. In one bowl measure out the sugar
  4. Peel the bananas and add to the second bowl
  5. Take two tablespoons of the sugar from the first bowl and sprinkle it over the bananas. Mash the bananas into the sugar using the back of a fork
  6. Crack the eggs into the other bowl (the one with only sugar in) and whisk the sugar and eggs together until they are a little foamy and have lightened in colour
  7. Fold the flour, baking powder, almonds, cinnamon, vanilla, butter and double cream into the bananas and then finally fold in the fluffed-up eggs and sugar mix
  8. Ladle the mix into the panibois or tin and place in the bottom third of your oven
  9. Bake for 45 mins – the top will be a rich brown and the cake will spring back when pressed lightly
  10. Leave to cool in the panibois or tin for 20 mins, then finish the cooling off on a wire rack
  11. Delicious on its own,  or as a dessert served with cream, ice cream (a toffee ice creams goes well) or custard and extra bananas