Spelt vs Wheat in Baked Goods & Pasta

3 types of flour: wheat (Left & center) and rye flour (Right)

3 types of flour: wheat (Left & center) and rye flour (Right)

by Cat, Oct 2007, updated Dec 2013 (photo, right, from Wikimedia Commons)

See also: 1. Wheat (about); 2. Other True Grains (about) on spelt; 3. Sprouted Grain Flour (about)

Includes: 1. Nutritional comparison of wheat & spelt 2. Adjustments for wheat vs spelt in recipes

Back in 2007, I learned about the health benefits of sprouting grains (and other seeds), so I ordered a sampling of sprouted flours from Summer’s Sprouted Grains (1).  This came with some information comparing spelt and wheat that applies to both sprouted and un-sprouted grains, when used in baked goods (cookies, cakes, breads, quick breads, pastries, etc.) and in pasta.

I have many recipes adapted for wheat and for spelt. I much prefer the flavor and nutrient quality of spelt, but it does pose some minor challenges when adapting a wheat recipe.

First, a look at the nutritional differences and similarities of the two grains; then some tips on converting recipes from wheat to spelt (and vice-versa).

Nutritional Comparison of Wheat and Spelt

Spelt

Spelt is in the wheat family (Triticum), but is a much older grain. Like its cousin emmer (faro), it is a close relative of wild wheat, and contains gluten (although spelt’s gluten is different from wheat gluten). Unlike wheat, spelt’s protein (including gluten) is more soluble in water. See also Other True Grains on spelt.

Spelt’s nutrient content, by % grams of whole-grain spelt (from two different sources):

  • 57.9 % starch/sugars, 9.2 % fiber, 17.0 % protein and 3.0 % fat (Wikipedia (2))
  • 60.6% starch/sugars, 10.7% fiber, 14.6% protein and 2.4% fat (NutritionData (3))

However, Summer’s Sprouted Flour indicates its nutrient content to be “nearly 50% starch, 50% protein.” I cannot account for this difference in cited protein levels.

Wheat

See also Wheat (about).

Modern wheat has been extensively hybridized from its older versions; some of the hybridization has been to increase its gluten content. Modern versions include:

  • Hard wheat for a higher protein content, which is best for yeast-risen baked goods (breads, pastries)
  • Soft wheat for a higher starch & sugar content, which is best for soda-risen baked goods such as cookies and cakes, and also for non-risen products like pie crusts and pastry
  • All-Purpose flour, which is a blend of hard and soft wheat; it is a white flour, available as bleached or unbleached

In general, wheat has higher starch and lower protein content than spelt, which makes wheat lighter and fluffier in baked goods than spelt.

Wheat’s nutrient content, by % grams of whole grain wheat:

  • Hard red winter wheat: 71% starch/sugars, 12.2 g fiber, 12.6% protein, 1.5% fat (from Wikipedia (3));
  • Hard red spring wheat: 68% starch/sugars, 12.2 g fiber, 15.4% protein and 1.9% fat ( from Wikipedia (3));
  • 60.4% starch/sugars, 12.1% fiber, 13.7% protein and 1.9% fat (no distinction made between hard/soft or winter/spring wheat, from Nutrition date (5)).

However, Summer’s Sprouted Flour indicates wheat’s nutrient content to be “nearly 92% starch, 8% protein.” I cannot account for this difference in cited protein levels.

Adjustments for wheat vs spelt in recipes

The following recommendations apply to any recipe calling for 1 to 3 cups flour (1):

  • Wheat is a drier flour than spelt (wheat needs more added moisture or less flour than spelt). When converting a:
    • Spelt recipe to wheat, start out with about ¼ cup less of the wheat flour.  If more flour is needed to take up the moisture, add it by tablespoonful, and let the dough rest a minutes to allow the flour to absorb moisture before deciding if more flour is needed. Alternately, you can adjust the moisture instead by adding 1 Tbsp at a time
    • Wheat recipe to spelt, start out with ¼ cup less of the spelt flour. If more flour is needed to take up the moisture, add it by tablespoonful, and let the dough rest a minutes to allow the flour to absorb moisture before deciding if more flour is needed. Alternately you can adjust the moisture instead: add 1/4 cup less moisture, then if more is needed, add it 1 Tbsp at a time.
  • Spelt is slightly sweeter than wheat, so when converting from wheat to spelt, you may need a bit less sweetener.
  • Color of end-product: Both the wheat pastry flour and spelt flour produce a very brown product.  Summer’s Sprouted Grains (4) suggest for recipes such as pasta where you want a lighter product, replace ¼ – ½ cup of sprouted flour with equivalent amount of tapioca flour.
  • Spelt works up faster in yeasted breads than wheat. This means that it takes less time for spelt to rise to “double in bulk” than wheat. If you leave spelt dough to rise as long as wheat, the dough will likely ‘fall’ during baking.

 References:

  1. Summers Sprouted Flour: creatingheaven.net/eeproducts/eesfc; on spelt: creatingheaven.net/eeproducts/eesfc/about_sprouted.html#spelt and the new website, summerssproutedflour.com
  2. Wikipedia on spelt: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spelt
  3. Wikipedia on wheat: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wheat
  4. NutritionData on spelt: nutritiondata.self.com/facts/cereal-grains-and-pasta/10355/2
  5. NutritionData on wheat: nutritiondata.self.com/facts/cereal-grains-and-pasta/5744/2

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