Written by Hussina Raja
“The spelt grain is the oldest form of wheat originating from the Middle East region.” Uzoma states when I ask at the end of each session what we have learnt today.
Week 6 and we’re discovering the secrets of the Spelt loaf. Although it’s not much of a secret, rather a well-known specie of wheat cultivated approximately 5000 years BC.
As we chew and acquaint ourselves with the loaf we’ll be baking today, Kate starts the day off detailing the history of Spelt.
It’s an ancient grain that is high in fiber and vitamin E. It is seen to be a healthier grain by many and has different proteins to wheat. It is not gluten free, but it does have a different type of gluten to wheat. e5 make a stiff porridge of spelt flour and cracked spelt to give the crumb a creamier texture.
While examining our slices over breakfast we notice how the texture has a density to it different to the other types of bread and lots of small bubbles in the structure.
Kate brings over two large tubs, one contains the dough and the other houses the spelt porridge. We pass around two small bowls containing two different types of spelt flour used as well as the whole spelt grain, and the grain once it’s been cracked in the mill house.
It’s fascinating getting to know the different grains and flour we’re working with each week, we’re challenged further to understand there is a lot of science involved.
“Baking is science. It’s a mixture of physics, chemistry and engineering.”
Rahul Mandal, GBBO winner 2018
Excitedly we gather at the large table eagerly awaiting our chunks of dough to shape. It’s amusing to see Zenebu enthusiastically squeal ‘me, me, me!’ for another piece. Discreetly we all want to keep playing, practising and moulding dough. We’re confident now and it makes sense that the bakers can repeat these actions for hours on a daily basis because there is definitely something cathartic about it.
Quickly we’re onto dressing large, circular baskets for our spelt dough. In preparation for baking this loaf we use plenty of flour to line the baskets and for the folding stage. We generously sprinkle the table where Kate demonstrates how to fold the dough, it’s stickier and has much more elasticity to it. The edges of the dough are folded into the middle and repeated until the dough becomes a tight ball with no stretch left.
It is lathered in flour and set in its basket with the seam facing up.
While we wait for the dough, we regroup to finalise details for our Just Bread breaks bread event next Tuesday on the 18th, our last baking session 😞. Meticulously, we note down all the ingredients and measurements needed for the various dishes. One of the best things about London is how diverse and spoilt for choice we are, it’s a comfort to know you can pretty much find the ingredients for any dish. We assign ourselves to teams and put together short descriptions for each recipe, intrigued to try the food that reminds each of us of home.
Over a bowl of spicy butternut squash soup, I mention my recent visit to Imad’s Syrian Kitchen, a pop-up restaurant in collaboration with Help Refugees UK. Imad Alarnab, a Syrian refugee living in London had been a successful chef in Damascus running two restaurants, but had to flee the country amid the civil war. For the second year running he has put together a 3 course traditional meal for a limited period. It was an exquisite, flavoursome meal that reminded me of the Just Bread Project and what we’d learnt together. As I sat sharing this meal with two strangers I was mindful that food brings us together to socialise, connect and heal. Starting over can be difficult but can also nurture endless possibilities. Similar to Imad’s Kitchen, Just Bread links people together from all walks of life to share and learn about each others’ stories, leaving with happy bellies and the knowledge that we’re not alone.
The Just Bread breaks bread event is an invitation for people to try cuisines from Africa and Asia knowing that there is a history and story to each dish. The proceeds of the event go back into the continuation of the Just Bread Project, making it possible for another group of trainees to bond over bread. Come and join us to celebrate our bread success http://e5bakehouse.squarespace.com/justbreadbreaksbread
The dough is ready to go into the oven. Kate encourages us to freestyle with scoring the loaves, telling us we can be as creative as we like. The dough is more steady and doesn’t collapse on the trays the way the other dough has. We each enjoy having fun etching our initials and tags onto the surface of the loaves. We look forward to recognising them once they’re baked.
Maite, who is with us from the Refugee Council is also a generous subscriber of the Just Bread scheme. Together we draw and pen the names of the subscribers, leaving them with a personalised loaf of Spelt for the week.
Like clock work the loaves are ready! The aroma of fresh bread still doesn’t fail to deliver a smile to our faces. Our Spelt loaves are outstanding, the colour, the shape and our imprints are perfectly visible. We’ve down ourselves proud for another week.