Spelt Sourdough - A Love Poem From the Kitchen


Unlike myself and Finley, Nick is not blessed with coeliac and continues to eat sandwiches and the odd bit of toast. When he brings bread into the house we surround it with hazard signs of the skull and crossbones kind and the worktop gets far more attention than it should need.

However, these wheaty excursions seemed to be causing Nick some discomfort and afternoon lethargy - and I found the nightly trumpet fanfare rather unpleasant too. Much as I love Nick - warts and all - there are some imperfections that are more acceptable than others.

My suspicion was that phytates (enzyme inhibitors in grains seeds and pulses) were causing the wind and the high glycaemic nature of wheat was causing the lethargy. The solution was spelt or rye sourdough - lower GI and phytate free due to the leisurely proving. Unfortunately, we don't have a bakery that produces such wonders, so I volunteered to make a spelt sourdough starter from scratch and bake some loaves that would soothe and sustain Nick's digestive system and protect my nostrils into the bargain.

I bought some stoneground spelt flour and held it at arms length whilst the shopkeeper smothered it's floury belches with paper bags. Back home, flour, water and muslin wrapped red grapes sat mustily in a bowl on the kitchen windowsill, working up a pink vinegary froth as the yeasts came to life. I thought all the time of the loaves that Nick would be able to eat and found I was able tolerate this stinky house guest all the better.

After two weeks came the part I had been anticipating like a visit to the dentist - twice daily feeding of the starter with flour and water for two weeks, in order to transform pink, vinegary, slush, into smooth, living, sourdough starter.

Of course there's nothing arduous about mixing some flour into a bowl of gunk, but a coeliac handling gluten twice a day? I felt a like I had volunteered to look after a pet tarantula!

Nick sensed that I was struggling with the task and undertook evening feedings on the days when I just couldn't face the surgical hygiene required to ensure I didn't contaminate myself or the kitchen. I explained that it was really important to wipe up every drip and separate the washing up, but I guess it just doesn't sink in until you've experienced that searing pain in your gut yourself? As Nick tried to help, but failed to ensure that all traces of gluten were wiped away, I found myself bleating insistently about the dangers of wooden spoons and contaminated scourers and feeling like a hypochondriac.

For any of you out there who share a kitchen with bread or flour, you will know the tyranny of crumbs in the butter, flour on the shelf, flakes in the freezer, pasta traces on the wooden spoon. Keep on pointing this stuff out until your beloved understands that you are not being over zealous and whilst you love them enough to tolerate these foods in your kitchen - they must love you enough to grasp the importance of containment and contamination.



Eventually the starter bloomed as it should, Nick had adopted excellent gluten hygiene and beat up the batter for a spelt loaf before we turned in on saturday night.

The next day after an overnight prove, followed by a seven hour rest in the tin, I baked the first loaf with trepidation. Had all this tending a poisonous pet been worth it? Nick sliced the cool bread as I hung behind like an anxious parent. It was even textured, slightly sour and malty, moist crumbed and crusty. He ate the first slice with a thick slab of butter and made a face that melted my heart.

Yes it was worth it.

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