Blueberry season is upon us and we have been picking and freezing, picking and freezing… The good thing about blueberries is that they grow on thornless bushes which means you can take kids along and they don’t complain. They just pick and eat, pick and eat. Some berries even make it to their baskets.
One of my five-year old grandsons picked three pounds the other day without even noticing that his small basket – the very wooden basket my grandfather made for me ages ago so that I could go foraging with him in the fields and woods near their home – was getting seriously heavy. He said that he needed to pick a lot to have enough for the winter (he eats them frozen) and in the same breath, he confided that winter was his favorite season because it rained a lot and it got dark really early and he could stay inside and play videogames and watch movies. The blueberries were clearly meant to be part of the good time to come. Good for him!
As for me my thoughts naturally turned to bread and since I had tasty memories of an apple-blueberry bread I once posted to my now-retired French blog, I decided to bake a blueberry bread for breakfast. I thought I was being creative with that recipe, relying on spelt to provide a hint of a honey flavor, adding unsweetened applesauce as a counterpoint to the berries and chia seeds for crunch and improved nutrition. But just to be on the safe side, I searched Farine to see what blueberry recipes I might have already posted over the years and that’s when I discovered two things about myself, one bad, one good.
Bad news first: I had made (and posted) a very similar bread (Blueberry Bread with Spelt Starter) three summers ago and didn’t have the slightest recollection of having done so… A very senior moment which is probably a sign of incipient mental degeneration. Oh well!
As for the good news, it is that I am pretty consistent. That 2009 blueberry bread was already levain, spelt- and applesauce-based! There is some degree of comfort in knowing that if one’s mind is starting to go, at least it is going in one piece and one direction…
This recipe is better than the old one: it foregoes the almond oil and instant yeast, uses levain as the only leavening agent and relies on baker’s dry milk for tenderness and improved conservation (spelt tends to dry out faster than wheat).
I love the taste (there is something in the apple-blueberry combination that I find particularly enticing) and the texture is surprisingly smooth and mellow (I credit the baker’s milk). It keeps very well indeed (after six days of sitting on the kitchen counter in a brown paper bag, the test loaf was still fresh, which is a first in my experience for a bread that is 100% spelt).
We now have a gazillion blueberries in the freezer. Does this mean I will be making this bread year-round? No, it doesn’t. I don’t believe the dough would take kindly to the addition of frozen anything and folding in soggy thawed berries doesn’t seem appealing. This is and shall remain a bread of summer.
If you do try to make it at home, make sure you taste your berries first. You want them sweet and ripe. If the only berries available to you are on the sour side, the bread may not turn out as well. You could try sweetening the dough a bit though. Honey comes to mind as it pairs very well with spelt (it also helps with the shelf life).
Because our berries are so sweet however, I prefer honey in a jar on the breakfast table. My garden is full of lavender right now. So, naturally, I would go for lavender honey. Blackberry honey would work too. Both honeys are produced in our neighborhood.
As a Parisian (born and raised) whose parents maintained a keen interest and deep love throughout their lives for the regional food which had shaped their own childhoods (both were born and raised in Southern France, my Mom in the Southeast and my Dad in the Southwest), I witnessed first-hand the strength of the bonds which tie us to the land and the structuring role of what we call terroir (the term used to apply only to wine but is more widely used now).
Were they still alive and with us today, my parents – who were earth wanderers at heart – would tirelessly explore the tastes of this new world and seek to weave them into our everyday lives. With this bread – made of all things Washington: spelt, apples, berries, water and even the levain whose wild yeast cells were originally captured by my friend Teresa in the San Juan Islands – I know I am following in their footsteps, an ocean and a continent away, and doing something that mattered enormously to them: setting up roots where we live without forgetting where we came from, thus helping the younger generations develop and maintain a sense of continuity and belonging.
Of course since I am not (yet) completely delusional, I know that in itself, a loaf or two won’t make much of a difference in anybody’s life. Still baking the landscape and sharing it with family and friends is a step towards making it truly our own. At the very least it provides me with a strong feeling of connectedness both to those who came before me and to those who are coming after. Never mind the fact that right now, the young generation prefers its berries frozen and its landscapes in 3-D…
- 485 g white spelt flour
- 323 g freshly milled whole spelt flour
- 242 g mature wheat levain at 100% hydration (a spelt levain would be even better)
- 565 g water (more as needed)
- 80 g non-fat dry milk (I used Baker’s Special Dry Milk from King Arthur’s)
- 242 g fresh blueberries at room temperature
- 242 g smoothly pureed applesauce (no sugar added)
- 80 g chia seeds, unsoaked
- 18 g salt
- Add the chia seeds and the dry milk to the flours. Whisk together
- Add levain and water and fold until the dry ingredients are well hydrated (adding more water as needed: I use a spray bottle which makes incremental hydration increases very easy)
- Let rest for 30 minutes, covered (mock autolyse)
- Add applesauce and blueberries and fold until incorporated
- Add salt and adjust hydration
- Fold a few times again
- Let rest for 30 minutes, covered
- Repeat step 6 three or four times, adding water again as needed to obtain medium soft consistency
- Refrigerate overnight or for up to 10-12 hours, covered (I put the dough in the little wine refrigerator that came with our house. Since we never use it, I removed a couple of shelves and set the bottom part to 50°F/10°C. The less cold the refrigerator, the less acidic the dough is likely to be)
- The next day, bring back to room temperature, divide as desired (I made one large bread and two smaller ones) and pre-shape. Let rest 15 minutes, covered
- Shape as desired (in my case, one boule and two bâtards) and set to proof, covered, in linen-lined and generously-floured baskets (I used a mixture of wheat and rice flour since the dough was rather wet and I was afraid it was going to stick)
- Pre-heat oven to 470°F/243°C
- When dough is ready (a gentle pressure with two fingers yields a small indentation that doesn’t bounce back) (with spelt fermentation happens rather fast so it is best to start checking after 40 minutes or so), gently invert on a parchment paper-lined, semolina-dusted half-sheet pan, stencil and score as desired and bake with steam for the first five minutes, decreasing oven temperature to 450°F/232°C after 5 minutes
- Rotate the loaves as needed after 20 minutes and continue baking for a total of 30-35 minutes for the smaller loaves, 40 minutes for the larger one or until the bread yields a hollow sound when tapped on the bottom
- Cool on a rack
The Apple-Blueberry Spelt Bread is going to Susan for Yeastpotting. Thank you, Susan!