Organic Spelt, hay (yes: real hay) and hazelnut sourdough baking

December 4th, 2011 | Posted by greg in Daily life... | Recipes

After a week-long Nordic food specials at our Lounge Restaurant from Chef Jakobsson (ex-Noma), we had a few things leftover, notably hay, hazelnuts and a superbly cold pressed rapeseed oil. A few days back, my friend Frederic came to say hello and brought back 2 bags of organic whole spelt flour from his baking stage in France at the Moulin Pichard.

I added all this to a few brain cells, shaken it and came up with the idea of a spelt and hazelnut sourdough, baked in a cast iron pot filled with hay. I based my sourdough on my classic method starting with a fermented jar of raisin water and 100% spelt flour.

Hazelnuts and hay

Smelling the hay, eyes closed, transported me back home during the summer when the air is filled with hay drying in the field…

The excellent Pichard flour

Fermenting raisins

On top of the oven...

Raisins draining...

I left 2 handful of raisins in water on top of our oven for 3 full days. It was perfectly fermented. I passed it through a sieve and used it to start the dough. I then left the fermented liquid at room temperature and the next day it was in full fermentation. In the movie below, you can see the fermenting liquid in motion – no stirring nor moving done.

Click here to watch the fermenting raisin water movie!

Day 1 – 14:45

  • 100 gm Organic whole spelt flour
  • 130 ml Fermented water

The first mix

 Day 2 – 09:00

  • 230 gm Above dough
  • 100 gm Organic whole spelt flour
  • 50 ml water
  • 50 ml Fermented water

Still on Day 2 – 14:00

  • 430 gm Above dough
  • 200 gm Organic whole spelt flour
  • 200 ml water

Beautiful fermentation!

Day 3 – 08:30

  • 830 gm Above dough
  • 400 gm Organic whole spelt flour
  • 400 ml Water

The fermented water added is fizzing, like Champagne!

Still on Day 3 – 12:00 – Kneading the dough

  • 100% Organic whole spelt flour
  • 2.3 % Guerande sea salt
  • 50% Above sourdough starter
  • 12 % Fresh hazelnut
  • 55% Water

Dough fermenting

Day 3 – 14:30- Give one single fold to the dough and cut in shape.

My good friend and food blogger Azelia recently posted a write-up on her baking in Cucugnan, France. The way Azelia described her trip made me want to go back home and become another Roland – he is yet another of my hero. One of the point in Roland’s baking philosophy that made me ponder was to try to bake bread with the least shaping possible. Fair enough, we would preserve most of the developed CO2 in the proofed sponge. So I decided to follow that idea, especially knowing that spelt isn’t the most gluten-packed flour around. In my last dough, I added the fresh hazelnut to the dough and gave it a single fold after a few hours of bulk fermentation to finally cut it as a pave, slightly pressed as a round slab and placed it to proof in the cast iron pot, filled with hay.

Unshaped dough in the pot of hay

At 16:45 on day 3 , I placed the pot it in the oven with a little steam and excitingly (or anxiously) waited for the result.

I baked the loaf for about 50 minutes, but removed the cover after 20 minutes so that the loaf could gain color properly. After the cover was removed, the hay started to roast and the smell in the oven was really good! Once baked, I took the loaf out of the pot to make sure it wouldn’t sweat. Let it cooled for about an hour and finally, the moment of truth.

Baking away!

The crust was thin and hard with a slight hay flavor which I would have expected to be stronger, but yet, quit pleasant. The crumb was typical of 100% whole spelt flour; with very little gluten, the texture was small, yet very spongy – that superb texture was the result of the no-shaping way. The fragrance of hay blended with whole spelt and fresh hazelnut was sublime. If I would have anything to change for my next try, would be to roast the hay in the oven prior baking with it. I believe it would help releasing more flavor into the bread.


To round everything up, I tried to dip the bread cut in mouillette into the cold pressed rapeseed oil left back by our Nordic friends and wow, talk about a perfect match! We tried it again, and again…. and again! Unstoppable.

That’s it… I fell in love with yet another bread!

Awesome scents and feel!

Done and ready to try!

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15 Responses

  • I fell in love with spelt breads when I was in Europe, and I especially remember a particular hazelnut loaf that I would buy every week from Manor. All I remember was that it was an extremely dense loaf and super delicious. I can’t even remember what flour it was made of! I have no idea how hay smells or tastes like, but I sure would love to have a try :)

  • Joanna says:

    Your photographs tell a most wonderful story to accompany this adventure, I enjoyed reading this, only wish I could taste a corner of your beautiful pave dipped into that golden oil. I have become very keen on cold pressed rapeseed lately too. Many small producers coming through here. I think our climate suits its production.

    • Thanks a lot Joanna!
      That cold rapeseed oil was also something very new for us. Especially in this part of the world, people make large scale things and cold pressing quality rapeseed isn’t something common. Oddly enough, the oil we use in our kitchen for all frying is rapeseed oil, yet it is industrialy processed and soooo far from that cold pressed quality! :)

  • Great photos Gregoire.

     I wonder what variety of spelt it is and where it’s grown…I’ve looked at the website but no info.  Not easy wholewheat spelt. English spelt has also been a challenge to work with in last few years, not great growing weather conditions apparently, forcing some millers to go further north of Europe to buy “stronger” one.  Would have loved to feel that flour and see how it compared.

    I absolutely love the hay idea…I’m sure I’ll try that one day soon.  Great post.

    • Thanks Az! And thanks for inspiring :)

      I had two bags from the mill. One of “Grande Epeautre” (Triticum spelta) and one bag of  “Petite Epautre” (Triticum monococcum) and since I didn’t have enough of either to conduct my test on the scale I did, I used a mix of both. Apparently, and to hold the AB certificate, the cereals need to be regional. It says they come from the neighboring departments of Haute-Provence. It all sounds very good to me! :)

  • Filing says:

    For day 3 12:00 the ingredients are in percentage, what is the measurement in gm and ml?

    • Simply replace the sign % by gm or ml. For example, 100% flour = 100 gm.
      If you make the whole quantity, it will make a very large dough since the day 3 dough gives you a 1.63 kg sourdough. For home baking, I think it’s better to divide the recipe in smaller quantities from the start.

      I use baker’s percentages by habit for easier calculation, sorry! :)

  • Yippee says:

    Beautiful pictures! I’ve made 100% spelt sourdough breads with either walnut or pecan.  One day I’ve got to try it with hazelnut, too. Just the thought of hazelnut (as in chocolate bars) and your pictures make my mouth water. 

    I prefer the taste of spelt over whole wheat as it’s more ‘sweet’ and less earthy.  The handling of spelt flour is very easy and it has become my favorite, healthy whole grain alternative to my beloved SD pumpernickel.  I’d like to try adding some spices in my next bake.  You mentioned cardamom and cumin seeds in your first book.  Which option would you recommend,  mix of the two spices or just either one? And what baker’s % would you use for these ingredients?  Thank you.  

    • Hello Yippee! :)

      I have just spent the last 45 minutes reading your blog and recipes and I think you and I
      could seat in a cafe and talk about bread for hours! Your passion and dedication is very impressive.

      For the spices, it’s always very personal. For example, I know a lot of people who dislike cumin. But anyway, for spelt and hazelnut for example, I would try roughly chopped dried juniper berries and maybe a hint of ground pepper to go on the savory side of spices.
      Other than that, if you think pumpernickel, spelt or rye, I would try spices and flavors in the range of cloves, cinnamon, ginger, orange or lemon skin, dried rose petals – I think there is magical mixes to be done! Percentages are different for each spices, but I think 1% to 1.5% is more than enough to get a subtle fragrance from spices.

      Looking forward reading more about your baking adventures! :)

      • Greg:

        Thank you for your kind words.  Next time when I come home to visit, we can go yum cha if scheduling works out for us, we can talk about bread then…

        Also thanks for your suggestion of spices.  This combination is new to me but it seems interesting enough and I’m not afraid to try them out.  For the ginger, do you use fresh, dried, or powder?

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