My recent interest in bread baking has naturally led me to the joy of using whole grain flours. The flavour and behaviour for spelt, kamut, rye, whole wheat, buckwheat, red fife wheat are all different than the common unbleached refined wheat flour. Dare I say they have more character? It did not take long before I amass a small collection of flours in all their many shades of white.
One challenge of using whole grain flour is lightness and crumb quality. All that outer layers of grain contribute deep flavours but at the same time they are of little help to gluten development. It is not uncommon that the dough feels sticky while the baked loaf turns heavy and crumbly. One solution is to make your bread using part white flour and part whole grain flour. For those who are keen on making 100% whole grain bread, there is a secret weapon in vitamin C.
A bit of reading and I learned that vitamin C (or ascorbic acid) is a permitted additive in organic baking. I am more than happy to stock my kitchen with a new ingredient except that a full bottle of vitamin-C pills would last me a life time of baking when each recipe calls for merely half of a 500mg pill. Fortunately, my local bulk store came to rescue. They actually carry powdered ascorbic acid! And the direction clearly states 1/4 teaspoon is the equivalent of 1000mg! I got myself $2 worth of ascorbic acid and was ready for some whole grain baking fun.
The first recipe I tackled was an adaption of Dan Lepard’s Spelt & Ale Loaf (recipe previously published in The Guardian). It was the perfect recipe for the spelt flour I bought from Kawartha Ecological Growers and the coffee porter from Toronto’s own Mill St Brewery. As promised, the dough was very lively because of the beer. The deep dark coffee porter also imparted great flavour and a nice warm tone to the bread. The ascorbic acid certainly did its job. The dough was pliable and elastic. The baked loaf was a dream to slice with a pleasantly crumbly texture (just a little, not too much) that suggests its wholesomeness.
This bread would be a great vehicle for a thick smear of butter or some homemade quince jelly. But I wouldn’t know because so far I’ve only eaten them plain by the slice. Its taste and texture stand up well on its own and I truly enjoy savouring the toasty flavour of spelt and coffee porter. The world of whole grain bread baking is an exciting place and I’m more than happy to explore with the help of a little bit of vitamin C.