Yesterday morning I was experimenting with popping grains again -I go through phases of attempting to pop all of those leftover bits of grain in bags at the back of the cupboard- and ended up with some glorious popped spelt!
Spelt is a lovely grain and, as evident by its inclusion in oodles of my recipes, it’s one of my favourites. If you’ve never tried just cooked spelt grains, also known as spelt berries, you should definitely try them. You can cook them up and include them in salads, soups, stews, or use them in place of rice in risotto, pilaf, or any other dish really. They’re a bit chewy, and have a gentle, almost nutty flavour. They’re also really nutritious, loaded with fiber, iron, and manganese, and more easily digested than it’s modern day cousin, wheat.
This was, however, my first try at popping them, and I was really pleased with the results. They ended up quite light, but still crunchy, and with that lovely toasted nutty flavour that popped grains sometimes get.
Popping them is really simple. Just heat a pot over medium-high heat until it’s hot. Add about a Tbsp of the grains to the pot (it’s key to work in small amounts as if you over-crowd the pot then the grains won’t pop evenly and you’ll end up with some un-popped, and some burnt) cover and keep the pot moving a bit so that the grains are sliding across the bottom rather than just sitting still in one place. If the pot is hot enough the grains should start popping nearly immediately. Remove them from the heat the moment the popping sound slows, and tip the grains into another bowl. Then repeat with your next Tbsp full. I did 100g of spelt yesterday, along with a couple of tablespoons of quinoa, and the whole process took about five minutes. Well worth it!
So what does a person do with their popped spelt? Why, enrobe it in chocolate of course!
I had this idea a while ago to make chocolate bars. I love chocolate with puffed rice in it, so I started to think about what else you could put in it… is it slightly alarming how much time I spend thinking about chocolate? Perhaps…
So after popping the spelt I mixed it in with a bit of left over quinoa which I had also popped, some mixed dried fruit -I used a combination of sour cherries, blueberries, and cranberries, just watch out for added sugar as it’s often added to dried fruit- then I melted some good dark chocolate with a bit of coconut oil. I mixed the whole lot together, squashed it into a cling-filmed lined tin, and left it to harden in the fridge for a couple of hours before cutting it into chunks. The resulting popped spelt chocolate bars are absolutely glorious, and a lovely, healthier alternative to the sugar-filled store bought alternatives.
The spelt popping adventure was a great success! Now that I’ve discovered how lovely this is, I think popped spelt will be sneaking its way into various recipes. It would be a lovely addition to granola, and would give some nice texture if sprinkled on soup. But for now I’m off to raid the fridge for a popped spelt chocolate bar. The only question now is will they last until the weekend? … Pfftt. No chance.
- 100g or 1/2 cup spelt berries
- 100g or 1/2 cup dried mixed berries, roughly chopped
- 200g or 1 cup roughly chopped, good dark chocolate
- 1 Tbsp coconut oil
- Pinch of salt
- 3 Tbs quinoa, rinsed and left out until completely dry (optional)
- Line a narrow rectangular tin or container with cling film. If you don’t have an appropriate tin you can use a square one and when the time comes just fill one side of it as described below.
- Place a medium sized pot over medium-high heat and allow it to heat up until it is hot. Working a Tbsp at a time, place the spelt into the pot, cover with a lid and keep the pot moving so that the grains are sliding around in the pot rather than sitting still. If the pot is hot enough the grains should begin to pop nearly immediately. Keep moving the pot over the heat until the popping slows, this should take about 10-20 seconds, then remove it from the heat and immediately tip the popped grains into a large mixing bowl. Repeat the popping process with the remainder of the spelt, and in the same manner with the quinoa if you’re using it.
- Once the grains are all popped and in the mixing bowl, add the dried fruit and mix well. Set aside.
- Set a heat proof bowl over a pot with an inch or two of simmering water (over low heat), making sure the water isn’t touching the bottom of the bowl. Put the chocolate, oil, and pinch of salt into the bowl and allow it to melt slowly, stirring gently from time to time, until the chocolate is nearly completely melted. Remove it from the heat and stir it gently to make sure it’s smooth, the oil is well incorporated, and any remaining lumps of chocolate are melted.
- Pour the chocolate over the fruit and grains and stir until it’s evenly combined.
- Tip the mixture into your prepared tin on the cling film. If you’re using a larger tin just pour it along one side and then fold the cling film from the opposite edge over top of it, enclosing the free side. Gently press it into the size and shape you’d like. It works well if it’s about 1” deep, and a bar about 9” x 3”.
- Place the tin in the fridge for a couple of hours until the chocolate is set. Once it’s hard, remove it from the fridge and cut it into bars about 1” x 3”. Store the bars in an airtight container in the fridge.
- This method of popping works for numerous varieties of grains. The key seems to be that they need to still have their hulls so that the water will be trapped within and when heated the steam will cause them to pop! It's a really fun thing to experiment with!