Given its close relationship with wheat, spelt is sometimes referred to as “proto-wheat.” Whole grain spelt flour is used mainly for bread making. In order to improve its baking properties for bread, you can make a bread starter or spelt sourdough. This usually results in better bread, but often takes more effort.
General information about spelt:
From Wikipedia: “Spelt (Triticum spelta; Triticum dicoccum), also known as dinkel wheat or hulled wheat, is a species of wheat cultivated since approximately 5000 BC.
Spelt was an important staple in parts of Europe from the Bronze Age to medieval times; it now survives as a relict crop in Central Europe and northern Spain and has found a new market as a health food. ... Over the years 2004 to 2014, spelt gained widespread popularity as a wheat substitute for making artisan breads, pasta and cereals.”
“In a 100 gram serving, uncooked spelt provides 338 calories and is an excellent source ... of protein, dietary fiber, several B vitamins and numerous dietary minerals. Richest nutrient contents include manganese, phosphorus ... and niacin ... Cooking substantially reduces many nutrient contents. Spelt contains about 70% total carbohydrates, including 11% as dietary fiber, and is low in fat.
Spelt contains a moderate amount of gluten, and is therefore suitable for baking, but this component also makes it unsuitable for people with gluten-related disorders, such as celiac disease, non-celiac gluten sensitivity, and wheat allergy. In comparison to hard red winter wheat, spelt has a more soluble protein matrix characterized by a higher gliadin:glutenin ratio.”
“Spelt flour is becoming more easily available. Spelt bread is sold in health food shops and some bakeries in an increasing variety of types of loaf, similar in colour to light rye breads but usually with a slightly sweet and nutty flavour. Biscuits, crackers, and pretzels are also produced, but are more likely to be found in a specialty bakery or health food store than in a regular grocer's shop. In Germany and Austria, spelt loaves and rolls (Dinkelbrot) are widely available in bakeries as is spelt flour in supermarkets. The unripe spelt grains are dried and eaten as Grünkern ("green grain").”
Uses and bread-making properties:
“Typical products made with spelt flour include spelt pasta and spelt breads such as braided breads and spelt and rye breads In Germany, popular products include Schwäbische Seelen (baguette-like white bread sticks made with spelt) and Knauzenwecken (larger spelt rolls typical of the region of Upper Swabia in Bavaria and Baden-Württemberg.*”
“Although spelt has a high protein content, doughs with spelt flour are usually more difficult to knead and shape than those with wheat flour. It is primarily the proteins gliadin and glutenin that determine how easy it will be to bake with spelt and wheat. As compared to wheat, spelt contains more gliandin, which makes the dough elastic, and less glutenin, which ensures that the dough holds together well. This is why spelt doughs are smooth and elastic, but don’t hold their shape as well and crumble more easily, especially if they are kneaded for too long. The elastic strength of glutenin can be stabilized by adding small amounts of ascorbic acid (about 0.008 %), which through a series of chemical reactions promotes the formation of disulphide bridges with a three-dimensional structure. ... In comparison to wheat and rye products, baked goods made using spelt become dry and hard after a short period of time. This is because the protein and carbohydrates in spelt don’t expand as much and are therefore less able to bind water. And because spelt doughs are more difficult to knead and shape, they are often prepared with less water. Using sourdough starters is one way to counteract this problem as they increase the water-binding properties of the dough, which then makes the baked goods stay fresh and moist for longer.*”
General information about whole grains:
From “en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Whole_grain”: “A whole grain is a grain of any cereal and pseudocereal that contains the endosperm, germ, and bran, in contrast to refined grains, which retain only the endosperm. ...
Cereals proteins have low quality, due to deficiencies in essential amino acids, mainly lysine. In contrast, the proteins of the pseudocereals have a high nutritional value. In a small part of the general population, gluten – proteins found in wheat and related grains – can trigger coeliac disease, non-coeliac gluten sensitivity, gluten ataxia and dermatitis herpetiformis.”
Health effects of whole grains:
“Whole grains are a source of multiple nutrients and dietary fiber, recommended for children and adults in several daily servings containing a variety of foods that meet whole grain-rich criteria.
By supplying high dietary fiber content, as part of a general healthy diet, consumption of whole grains is associated with lower risk of several diseases, including coronary heart disease, stroke, cancer and type 2 diabetes, with lower all-cause mortality. Regular whole-grain consumption lowers LDL and triglyceride levels, which contributes to an overall 26% reduction in coronary heart disease-risk factors. In addition, whole-grain consumption is inversely related to hypertension, diabetes, and obesity when compared to refined grains, all of which are negative indicators in total cardiovascular health. ...
Keeping grains as close to their original form as possible slows or prevents the digestion of starch, and a slower digestion is responsible for preventing spikes in blood sugar (over time spikes in blood sugar may lead to "insulinresistance").
Cereals proteins have low quality, due to deficiencies in essential amino acids, mainly lysine. Supplementation of cereals with proteins from other food sources (mainly legumes) is commonly used to compensate for this deficiency, since the limitation of a single essential amino acid causes the others to break down and become excreted, which is especially important during the period of "growing". In contrast, the proteins of the pseudocereals have a high nutritional value, close to those of casein (the main protein in milk).Quinoa and amaranth are the most nutritious grains due to their high content and quality of proteins, with high levels of lysine and other essential amino acids. Minor cereals and pseudocereals are a good alternative to replace gluten-containing cereals, for people who need to follow a gluten-free diet.”
Note (italics): * = Translation from a German Wikipedia entry