What Is Spelt?
Spelt is often called the biblical wheat. And many people who have a wheat allergy and avoid eating wheat (which is not the same as Celiac disease) find spelt does not affect them in a negative manner. In fact, spelt is an early variety of wheat and underwent a spontaneous mutation. Technically speaking, spelt is hulled wheat, which means that the extra hull has to be milled off before the wheat can be milled into flour. Spelt bread is not easy to bake, and the same mutation that lost the hull changed the balance of the gluten proteins to create a grain and flour that was preferred by bakers. This is wheat as most of us know it. Since proteins are the usual culprits in allergies, I would assume that the mutation that improved the bake-ability of the wheat also made it more difficult to digest. Because of the difficulties of baking, spelt almost disappeared from the agricultural scene, but fortunately has made a strong return. Dr. Kracker uses spelt flour extensively to bake its flatbreads. To bake with spelt, try using the biga for best results. The weaker spelt proteins like the extra organic acids developed with the preferment.
What Is Durum Wheat?
Durum is yet another variety of wheat that is known for its large kernels and high protein content. Most all of the durum wheat in the US is milled into semolina flour, the basis of pasta and macaroni. When added to bread, semolina flour imparts a rich yellow color and a buttery flavor. Most all recipes combine semolina with regular bread flour for the best results.
What Is Kamut?
Kamut is one of the durum wheats and is known for its sweeter flavor (it is amber rather than red wheat) and the large size of its kernels. Kamut is the Egyptian word for wheat, and the initial seeds were carried to the US as a curiosity from Egypt. Today, most all of the kamut in the US is grown in Montana. Like spelt, Kamut does not have ideal baking characteristics, but can be combined with wheat flour. I like to cook Kamut—or spelt for that matter— as a rice substitute or together with rice, and Kamut can be precooked and added to the dough. The large plump kernels make for a fantastically chewy texture.
All-Purpose Or Bread Flour?
Bread flour for the home baker is milled from hard winter wheat. If you want to bake with preferments and use long fermentation, always look for bread flour. All-purpose flour is milled from softer wheat varieties which have less protein and whose protein is better suited for cakes and cookies. You would not want the tough, chewy texture of sourdough bread to characterize your cookies! Flour is labeled specifically for bread baking or all-purpose baking.