What is Spelt Flour?
Spelt flour is a fine powder made from grinding the spelt kernel. It comes in two varieties: white spelt flour and whole spelt flour. It is in the same grain family as wheat. It contains gluten and should not be consumed by persons with celiac disease or those with gluten allergies.
The current trends in healthy eating have caused a growing interest in spelt, which is perceived as a healthy, traditional alternative to modern wheat.1
Spelt is an ancient grain originating in Eastern Europe. It is traditionally used for baking in countries such as Germany, Austria, and Switzerland.2 Spelt wheat is a low-input plant, suitable for growing without the use of pesticides, in harsh ecological conditions, and in marginal areas of cultivation.3
Spelt flour is rich in protein, B vitamins, magnesium, and fiber. It is also a reliable source of iron, niacin, thiamin, copper, and phosphorous.
Its composition is:1
- Protein: 14%
- Carbohydrate: 59%
- Fiber: 6.0%
- Fat: 2.1%
Spelt flour may be used as an alternative to wheat flour in baked goods. However, dough made from spelt flours is characterized by lower stability, less elasticity, and higher extensibility than common wheat dough.2 Spelt dough is very soft and sticky after kneading; therefore, handling spelt dough is more difficult, and loaf volume is generally lower than with modern wheat cultivars.2
This is due to the composition of protein in spelt flour. The rheological properties of spelt gluten are predominated by gliadins as a very sticky monomeric plasticizer, while those of common wheat gluten have more prevalent glutenins as a networking polymeric factor.2
White spelt flour and whole spelt flour are produced by milling dehusked spelt kernels.3
When substituting spelt flour for wheat flour, a slight water reduction may be necessary, as well as less mixing and proofing time. Spelt flour has a lower glutenin content, so it can easily be overworked. Overworking the dough will lead to a crumbly texture in the finished loaf. Baked goods made with spelt flour will be more dense and heavy than those from wheat flour.
Spelt flour has a much higher water absorption capacity, giving a somewhat smaller loaf volume than common wheat flour.3 Substitution of 50% flour with spelt flour and reduction of water by 10% will yield better bread loaves.
The FDA classifies spelt flour as a gluten-containing grain under CFR Title 21.4 It may not be used in foods claiming to be gluten-free. It must also be declared as a wheat allergen.
- Kurek M.A., Wyrwisz J., Karp S., Brzeska M., Wierzbicka A. Comparative analysis of dough rheology and quality of bread baked from fortified and high-in-fiber flours. Journal of Cereal Science 74 (2017):210-7.
- Pruska-Kedzior A., Kedzior Z., Klockiewicz-Kaminska E. Comparison of viscoelastic properties of gluten from spelt and common wheat. European Food Research and Technology 227.1 (2008):199-207.
- Bonafaccia G., Galli V., Francisci V., Mair V., Skrabanja V., Kreft I. Characteristics of spelt wheat products and nutritional value of spelt wheat-based bread. Food Chemistry 68.4 (2000):437-41.
- US FDA. CFR – Code of Federal Regulations Title 21. Accessdata.fda.gov. https://www.accessdata.fda.gov/scripts/cdrh/cfdocs/cfcfr/cfrsearch.cfm?fr=101.91. Accessed 26 July 2017.