Sunday, 6 March 2011

Sharpham Park - the home of British Spelt....and not a Mulberry bag in sight!

A 300 acre sprawling country estate -
too big to appreciate on this camera!

What do you do after creating one of the biggest brands in British fashion? You buy a 300 acre farm and grow spelt. That’s what Roger Saul did. He was the founder owner of the great British designer label, Mulberry before he turned to farming and bought the countryside surrounding his Somerset home in 2004. 
Outer husk is tough on spelt
the longer left - the higher the
protein content
This week, I was fortunate enough to spend some time with Pete the miller at Sharpham, who was super passionate about the mill and extremely experienced when it came to the entire milling process from husk to flour. By chance I happened to meet Roger on the way in, although i didn't know it at the time and asked him if he knew where the ladies was! It was a real 'i carried a watermelon' moment. I wonder if he noticed my last, last, last seasons Bayswater:-)
Grain being sieved to remove husk

So, a little about spelt. From what I can sense, there seems to be two distinct parties, those on the latest Alexa bag-slightly bloated-posh-spelt bandwagon and those that are well aware of spelt qualities and have been eating it for years. Apparently, due to the structure of the spelt grain, the high level of protein content is much easier absorbed and so our bodies can digest spelt easier than wheat. Spelt also has a distinct nutty flavour and so makes a great grain for making bread. Whilst spelt maybe a good option for wheat intolerance, those with a true gluten allergy should not eat spelt or wheat as they both contain gluten.

Sharpham park goes full organic circle from grain grown in the acreage surrounding the mill to de-husking, sieving, stone grinding, pearlising within the mill to packaging to grain for the cattle. They are continuing to produce more and more spelt based products, turning the wholegrain flour into refined flour, cereals, brands, flakes, porridge, museli and 'speltotto’ a phrase coined from Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall, for the pearled grain that makes a great spelt risotto. You can find their spelt flour in Waitrose and range of other spelt products from farm shops across the country

As Easter approaches, I thought I would be nice to share a recipe for spelt fruit buns that I made with Tom at The Chapel in Somerset with the Sharpham Park white spelt flour. Make sure you use the white spelt as this is lighter and better for making these buns.
Spelt Fruit Buns
To make the pre-ferment:
• 400g white  spelt
• 380g warm milk
• 60g fresh yeast
• 80g sugar
To make the dough:
• 400g white spelt
• 180g butter
• 20g salt
• 10g cinnamon
• 10g mixed spice
• 2 eggs
• 600g raisins
  1. Dissolve fresh yeast in warm milk. Then whisk in other pre-ferment ingredients and leave to rest for 30 mins (until puffed up)
  2. Then add all the ingredients for your dough, together with your pre ferment and mix together in a large mixing bowl. You should knead for 5-10 mins or if you have a mixer you can mix for 6mins on slow and then 6mins on fast.
  3. Leave fruit out until end. Mix on SLOW to combine the fruit for a couple of mins. Rest bulk ferment in tub for 30mins.
  4. Scale into 100g rolls. Rest for 30 mins. Bake on trays for 15-20mins at 200.
  5. Keep your eye on them as they can turn quite quickly and as soon as they have a golden colour they are good to go.
  6. Brush with sugar glaze (water and sugar mix) or alternatively you can ice them.
  7. This recipe makes about 20 buns.

With special thanks to Pete Ticknell at Sharpham Park for showing me around the mill and also thanks to Tom at The Chapel for sharing his spelt fruit bun recipe.

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