Sunday, March 9, 2014

Playing with flours (spelt)

A few years ago, baking for me almost exclusively meant reaching for that bag of all-purpose flour. Now, I'm almost as likely to also reach for my jars of whole wheat pastry flour or white whole wheat flour.  I find that I can often substitute somewhere in the neighborhood of one-quarter to one-half of the all-purpose flour in a given recipe with those whole wheat counterparts without a very noticeable difference in results.  I like doing that and feeling like I'm hopefully making a slightly more nutritious choice for my family. Personally, I also enjoy the nuttiness and little bit of extra texture provided by those flours in their own right.
Spelt muffins, with almonds and chocolate
So I've been slowly getting acquainted with whole grain flours.  But just when I think I'm making some strides (even if it is more like baby steps), I read about so many other varieties of whole grain flours that I've yet to try.  It feels like a constant game of catch-up and sometimes I just want to ignore all the chatter, all the latest and greatest, because it gets a little overwhelming.  At the same time, if I did that, I'd never learn and benefit from it.

The one whole grain flour I've been really curious about for a long time is spelt.  Articles like this one and many mentions in cookbooks have been touting it as the one to try if you were to pick one because of its mild, slightly sweet flavor.  I finally picked up a bag of spelt flour (Bob's Red Mills has everything) recently to give it a try.
As you no doubt notice, many recipes (with exceptions such as these delicious whole wheat chocolate chip cookies) call for a combination of all-purpose plus whole grain flour.  I really wanted to get a taste of the spelt alone so I tried these muffins made completely with spelt flour.  What better recipe to try than the very one printed on my bag of spelt flour.  Though I wanted a good taste of the spelt, that didn't preclude me from tossing in some chopped almonds and dark chocolate, however.
So I baked these simple spelt muffins, I tasted them, and I liked them.  The earth didn't exactly move because I think the flavor and results were pretty much in line with what I expected.  As promised, the spelt flour imparts a slightly sweet, nutty flavor.  There is no bitterness, like some find with whole wheat flour - though maybe because I use the milder white whole wheat flour, I've never found that to be an issue.  

As you can hopefully tell from the interior of the muffins, these all-spelt muffins are by no means dense - something I worried about.  Without the little bit of almonds and chocolate, these plain muffins are almost like bread and I don't mean that in a bad way - just that the flavor reminds me of a light wheat bread.  I don't think it will surprise anyone when I say these muffins taste best freshly cooled from the oven, when it has a nice crusty edge to them.  I find that leftovers are still good after you warm them up a bit in the microwave.  With those leftovers, I may have slathered on a bit of jam...and maybe a little Nutella...for my fellas.


Interestingly enough, I wanted to point out that the batter for these muffins will look on the wet side like this:
I resisted over-mixing and filled the muffin cups about 3/4 full, making a half dozen (half the recipe) for my family and I.  We had these at breakfast, a good option when you're really looking a breakfast muffin, as opposed to something more suited for dessert.  

These muffins are really easy to make, without a lot of complication since we're just talking about spelt flour, a little bit of brown sugar, milk, eggs, a touch of oil, and some mix-ins of your choice. You can skip the mix-ins altogether and opt for a blank canvas but you know I had to go with the almonds and chocolate, and I'm glad I did.  


Recipe:

Spelt Muffins
Adapted from Bob's Red Mills

- For 12 muffins - 

2 1/4 cups spelt flour
1/4 cup brown sugar or honey (I used brown sugar because I'm hoarding my honey)
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon (or less) salt
1 1/4 cups milk
3 eggs
1 tablespoon oil
Optional mix-ins: 1/2 cup of chopped nuts, dried fruit, or chocolate chips, or a combination (I used almonds and dark chocolate) 

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  Grease and flour (or use baking spray) a standard-size muffin tin.

In a large bowl, whisk together spelt flour, brown sugar (if using), baking powder, and salt.  Whisk in any mix-ins, if using.

In a bowl or large measuring cup, beat the milk, eggs, oil, and honey (if using instead of brown sugar).  Pour wet ingredients into the dry, mix together until batter is moistened and ingredients are just combined.  Divide batter among the 12 muffin cups (it will be about 2/3 to 3/4 full) and bake for 14-17 minutes, until muffins are lightly browned on top.

These muffins are best freshly cooled from the oven or eaten the same day they're baked.  Leftovers are still good, warmed in the oven or microwave.  If desired, split the muffins in half and top with jam or even Nutella. 



50 comments:

  1. I work with your husband and after some colleagues raved about the Ina chocolate cake (he had brought it in before I joined), I decided to make it myself. It is wonderful, but it was hard for my husband and I to finish. I've been making other baked goods from your blog since then so I just want to say thank you!

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    1. Hi Karen - thank you for the comment. Happy baking! : )

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  2. I've never worked with spelt flour or had it before (I think) but these spelt muffins look delicious! My kids will eat anything with chocolate in it. :)

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    1. I often wish we could find more baked goods with these types of flours at bakeries so I can give them a try first but I have trouble finding any. I added the chocolate for myself as much as for my son. : )

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    2. Hi Monica, I to am starting to experiment with other types of flour, spelt is not one I have tried, it's supposed to be an ancient grain, not sure what that means, but after hearing your description I will go out and buy some and start baking, sounds delicious.

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    3. I believe spelt is also supposed to be easily digested? I have heard a lot of good things about it. I just know it was good and something I wouldn't mind incorporating into my baking. Thanks, Cheri!

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  3. I'm hooked on whole spelt. Same as you, I started baking just with white...and than I got braver and more curious. The muffins look perfect! :) ela

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    1. Yes...I see you using it a lot and it was another encouragement to give it a try. Thank you!

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  4. I haven't used spelt in a long time but I do like it's results in baking. And it's always so tempting to mess with the mixture when it looks too wet! But these look like they turned out spot on, the texture looks lovely.

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    1. Thank you, Aimee. I like it a lot too and I think I can use it as another option in place of where I'd use w-w pastry flour or white w-w flour.

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  5. I'm the same as you with flour - sometimes it feels hard to keep up. The only "different" flour I've used consistently is einkorn. I am really interested in baking with spelt because I've seen it used so often on sites I love, like this one! This muffins might be just where I need to start! Happy Monday, Monica!

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    1. Marie, I see so many ingredients (not to mention dishes) that I want to make..it can be too overwhelming so I've started making lists! I have never heard of einkorn - please don't tell me! haha. With the spelt, I heard it touted so many times...I had to try it.

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  6. Love that you are trying to experiment with different flours - I agree, there's so many different flours out there and I haven't tried using spelt flour either but it sounds awesome :) Your muffins turned out beautifully, I love the sound of a nuttier flavor. Thanks for sharing your great tips and outcome Monica - I would definitely start here once I get some spelt flour :)

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    1. I've wanted to try spelt for so long. Sometimes, I figure I just have to check these things off and figure out what it's all about before it drives me crazy! Thank you, Kelly.

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  7. My favourite grain! These muffins look wholesome!

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    1. When people like you who know a lot about whole grains say spelt is their favorite, I have to listen. I can see why. And wholesome is the perfect word to describe these - wish I'd thought of that! : )

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  8. These flours are seriously fantastic! I want I want!

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    1. It's truly amazing how many types of flours there are!

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  9. I've been wanting to try spelt flour for the longest time! You may have just pushed me to buy a bag next time I'm at the store! These muffins look great. And I definitely agree with you on the whole wheat flours - I've actually come to really like the slightly nutty taste they give things!

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    1. Ashley, I got sick of thinking about it and being curious and it feels good to finally try it! I would say it isn't all that different from the other two w-w flours I've been using. I like it..these particular muffins are very wholesome (I'll borrow the word) and best the morning you make them...but if necessary, slather on a bit of jam. : )

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  10. I'm a relative newcomer to spelt flour Monica and I have to say, I love it. I have substituted completely, or in part, for plain flour in many recipes and I really enjoy the nutty, wholesomeness.

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    1. I hear you, Jo. I think I could easily use it in place of the whole wheat pastry flour I use a lot when I make old recipes. I do anything nutty...I actually prefer whole wheat breads more now.

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  11. I have started to enjoy the flavors of the spelt flour. It's just so wholesome. The muffins look great.

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    1. Thanks - I'm glad to finally try too. : )

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  12. Lovely spelt cup cake!!
    i wamt some for my brunch......

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    1. As long as you're not looking for a decadent cupcake, these wholesome muffins would be great on a brunch spread. : )

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  13. I have never used spelt in baking just in pancakes. The difference in the texture is definitely night and day! All purpose flour would have never got them this golden color.. Lovely recipe Monica I am going to half try playing with other flours :)

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    1. Spelt pancakes...interesting! I think mixing with all-purpose is generally what most recipes call for and it does make for a nice balance when baking.

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  14. I yet have to use spelt flour in baking...the muffins look great...and yes I would add nuts and chocolate.
    Have a great week Monica, and thank you for sharing the recipe :D

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    1. You have a great week, too, Juliana!

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  15. I have never used spelt flour before. I can see your muffins have little nooks and crannies and they look very moist indeed. Thanks for introducing us to this new flour for baking.

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    1. Thanks...I was surprised they were as light as they were given it was all spelt flour; they're definitely still best eaten fresh though.

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  16. Lorraine Not Quite NigellaMarch 12, 2014 at 7:36 AM

    I've been curious about spelt too but never actually played with it. You've inspired me! :)

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    1. Thanks, Lorraine. I've been inspired by all the times I've seen this flour mentioned, too!

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  17. Spelt flour is one of my favorite whole grain flours to bake with! I haven't used it in a while but now I really want to stock up and get baking with it again!

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    1. I have no room in my fridge to store all these whole grain flours and other ingredients that should be in there! I'm not surprised you know and like spelt. : )

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  18. Hi Monica,
    I have never baked with spelt flour but would sure love to try. Your muffins look amazing!

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    1. Thanks, Asmita...it's nice to try something new. : )

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  19. I recently tried sprouted spelt flour recently and loved it - just didn't love the price tag. Good for you in making those small changes that really add up to big ones! Lovely, lovely muffins - beautiful texture.

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    1. I hear you. I'm usually a little worried about these things spoiling before I get a chance to use it all up!

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  20. I know what you mean about playing catch up! There are so many new products out there. Sometimes when I'm at Whole Foods I feel like I'm in a foreign country because their are so many foods that are unfamiliar to me. I've never tried spelt but am curious about it. The texture of your muffins looks really good :)

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    1. I know it...sometimes I'm amazed at all the things I've never seen before despite shopping there (or any other place) all the time. I just try to take it easy, not do everything because it's just impossible.

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  21. Yum! These look great. I am glad that you have started experimenting with different flours, so I guess one of these days I will see a gluten free grain baked good.

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    1. Hi Balvinder - I have to admit since I'm not gluten intolerant, I haven't really looked into that area. I'll leave the gluten free baking to experts like yourself. :)

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  22. I need to start expirimenting with more types of flours!!! These muffins look so good!

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  23. i see spelt being used quite a bit in baking by many bloggers! i have to try it out! thanks for the post!

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    1. I saw it in so many places and many whole grain books say it's "the best" so I had to see. Hope you try it for yourself one day.

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  24. Spelt flour and whole wheat flour sound like excellent substitution ideas, and I like the idea of a slightly nutty taste in my muffin.

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    1. I really like the nutty flavor and slightly more grainy texture of whole wheat flours, Monica. I've turned into a whole different person in the last decade or so. haha...then again, I've always liked things like digestive biscuits. We're complicated, we people... : )

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