Brown Sugar and Peach Muffins (spelt challenge!)

Brown Sugar and Peach Muffins

I have to admit, I’m not an equal opportunity flour employer. I reach for wheat without a thought, except for perhaps whether I want to use high gluten, all purpose, whole wheat, or pastry flour. A few days ago, however, I got a really fun package from Celine of Have Cake, Will Travel (one of my favorite food blogs, by the way). She generously gave me a bunch of fun flours/startches from Bob’s Red Mill, and included was a bag of light spelt.

Let me be the first to point out that spelt is wheat. It’s not a huge step out into unknown territory, but it is a start. I’m treating spelt like training wheels before I graduate to other types of grain and bean flours. Because spelt is wheat, I figured it’d be a good candidate for a head-to-head comparison. Gluten-free flours (which spelt is most definitely not) are usually best in combination with other GF flours, so it’s difficult to compare them to wheat in the same way. It can be hard to tell what you’re tasting. With spelt, I could substitute 1:1 without additional ingredients. For the purposes of this post, I’ll refer to spelt as spelt, and wheat as wheat, even though spelt is just as much wheat as wheat is. (It hurt my brain to write that sentence, but it was necessary.)

I thought it’d be fun to make two identical batches of muffins, with one major difference. One batch is 100% All Purpose Wheat (King Arthur), and the other 100% Light Spelt (Bob’s Red Mill). That way I’d be able to see exactly how spelt behaves and tastes in a relatively unchallenging, easy to duplicate recipe. The results, my friends, were surprising. Here’s the recipe:

Brown Sugar and Peach Muffins
Makes 12 Muffins

2 Cups Flour (spelt or all-purpose wheat)
1/2 Cup Brown Sugar*
2 tsp Baking Powder
1 tsp Baking Soda
1/4 tsp Salt
1 Cup Soymilk (+ 2 Tbs more for all-purpose flour)
1 Tbs Lemon Juice
1/3 Cup Oil (like canola)
1 tsp Vanilla Extract
1/2 – 2/3 Cup Peaches, chopped (fresh or canned)
Extra Brown Sugar, for sanding

Preheat oven to 400º F.

Line your muffin tins with muffin cups. Mix the dry ingredients together.

Molasses and Sugar *If needed, you can make your own brown sugar by adding 1/2 – 1 tsp of molasses to 1/2 cup of sugar and mixing well. It takes a little while to mix completely, but you can make it as light or as dark as you wish. It’s my understanding that commercial brown sugar is made by mixing molasses back in to processed sugar, so it’s really not any different than store-bought.

Whisk the wet ingredients together until incorporated and thickened. Add wet to dry and gently fold the until the flour is moistened and there are no dry spots. Add the chopped peaches and fold in gently.

Fill muffin cups 3/4 of the way. Sprinkle with extra brown sugar, and add extra peach pieces on top if desired. Bake for 18-22 minutes, or until lightly browned and a toothpick comes out clean. The centers should also bounce back when pressed lightly.

First off, let’s get appearances out of the way.

Light Spelt vs. All Purpose Wheat

The one you’re guessing is spelt–the squatty, sad looking one–is indeed spelt. Check out the difference from another angle, wrapper removed:

Light Spelt vs. All Purpose Wheat

Want to see the insides? Okay:

Light Spelt vs. All Purpose Wheat

In general, the spelt muffins were darker, flatter, and more moist than the wheat muffins. I think the rising issue can be resolved, or at least improved. The spelt batter was a lot wetter than the wheat batter. It’s possible I accidently added too much liquid, but it seemed that the wheat was more absorbent than the spelt. I think the wetter batter contributed to the spelt muffins not rising as much as the wheat. More on that in a second.

If I were truly dedicated I would have made a third, dryer spelt batch to test my theory, but two dozen muffins is plenty for my husband and me. If I made three dozen we’d still eat them all, which is why it’s really important for me not to make them. Next time, I’ll shoot for a light and airy batter that’s just barely thick enough to hold air bubbles, instead of a drippy, pancake-like batter.

Light Spelt vs. All Purpose WheatBut what about taste?

If I saw these two muffins sitting out, I’d grab a wheat muffin. They just look better, don’t they? But after tasting both muffins, I have to say that the spelt muffins weren’t just good, they were superior.

The spelt tasted better!

I went into this test fairly prejudiced. I was expecting to report to you all that the spelt tasted “fine, but wheat is definitely better.” Several back-to-back bites confirmed my initial decision. The spelt is definitely better. The spelt muffins taste richer, almost buttery. The wheat muffins taste good on their own, but when compared directly with the spelt, their flavor is flat and sponge-like. I was really expecting the spelt to taste “off” – not bad, but different enough to make my wheat-tuned palate complain. I’ll have to use spelt in some other recipes to confirm, but in this recipe it’s the clear winner when it come to taste.

Light Spelt vs. All Purpose WheatBut back to the less-than-spectacular appearance of the spelt muffins. The crumb of the spelt was definitely more delicate than the wheat – the muffins fall apart with only the slightest coaxing.

The gluten present in spelt is more delicate than in regular wheat; overmixing, undermixing, too much or too little liquid–all these can cause a less-than-spectacular finished product. If you hit the sweet spot, the gluten develops enough to hold in gasses that provide a beautifully risen product. Too much mixing (or kneading if you’re making bread) can break the gluten, not enough prevents it from forming at all. With these muffins, I think the batter was so wet that it became too heavy for the delicate nature of spelt, preventing prettily puffed muffins.

I’m surprised that I actually prefer the taste of spelt over regular wheat. You should try it, you might too! Also, I could be crazy, but it smells a little like popcorn when it’s baking. Fun!

Special thanks to Celine for broadening my grain horizons.

Brown Sugar and Peach Muffins


  1. Sarah C.

    Neat comparison baking – and I love that you loved the spelt! I happen to love spelt flour, and found – like you – that it is indeed able to absorb more liquid, making a wetter batter. I think that I even have a cookie recipe where there are different measurements given for ww and for spelt (from 1 up to 1 1/4 c., in that case – so maybe that will help you get an idea of how much to start increasing).
    One question – is the wheat flour used in the “wheat” muffin a 100% whole wheat, or simply white all-purpose flour? I’ve never done a side-by-side, but my impression of spelt baked goods is that they are MUCH lighter than whole wheat ones (which as we all know can be hockey-puck-ish). In fact, I’ve subbed spelt in for all of the all-purpose white flour in recipes, whereas no one would think to sub whole wheat for white in a 1:1.

  2. Kristine

    Oh goodness, I totally know what you mean! I got hooked on chickpea flour, I started using it for EVERYTHING, the smooth and exotic taste it brought to my tofu scramble made me have a little affair with this sassy flour…until one day…when it double crossed me and made my cake taste somewhat like a chocolate falafel…good? no…not good.
    May your relationship with Spelt flourish!
    Grains for life! *high five* hehe.

  3. cherie

    I think the first time I had spelt I didn’t like it, but after that, I just fell in love with it! It’s awesome – and great for pizza crusts.

  4. julia

    great recipe. i used to work in a bread bakery and i found that the spelt bread was by far my favorite. i love the sort of nutty flavor to the spelt flour. i haven’t used it in my own baking since i worked there, but i’ll have to try it soon. thanks!

  5. Sophie

    Interesting to see a direct comparison like this (love the pictures!)…

    I have been using spelt flour for a few things recently and the taste is definitely better. I’m tempted to give it a go in my favourite muffin recipe after reading this (which would be a wholemeal to spelt swop, not sure how that will work out)

  6. Liz²

    ooh, I’m so glad you did this experiment! It confirmed my findings, too. I was really reticent to use it in any recipe, but when I did I found the flavour *amazing* and now you could hardly stop me from using a 50/50 ratio wheat-to-spelt (and you 100% spelt muffins have inspired me to jump in the deep-end, for sure!)

  7. Anna/Village Vegan

    Oh, good, I’m not the only person who’s slightly scared of non-wheat flour! Thanks so much for doing this comparison…now I really have no excuse not to use the spelt flour I bought a few months ago in a moment of optimism! The muffins look really tasty.

  8. Anni

    I used to think that regular wheat flour was the best for baking too, until I started to use spelt flour and realized how tasty it is! I use it in everything: breads, pancakes, cakes, and muffins, and even in pizza dough, sometimes with other flours and sometimes by itself. It doesn’t require as much liquid as regular wheat flour does, so some recipes do need a little adjusting.


  9. ruby red vegan

    Spelt makes really yummy cookies too – think anything by Dreena Burton. I’ve never done a direct comparison between spelt and wheat in a recipe before, so this is a really useful post – thanks! I also like the muffin variety you created. Peaches were made to go in muffins!

  10. LisaRene

    I would never had guessed that there would be such a big difference between spelt and whole wheat – I assumed they were interchangeable. It’s such fun to experiment with food. Thank you for sharing your results!

  11. Zlamushka

    Hi there,

    When baking, spelt flour is my most favorite. Everything just turns out normal. I have tired rye, whole grain, but both of them tend to crumble or fall apart.. Lovely muffins. Why not submitting them to Bindiya´s Cake and Muffins event over at ?

  12. Inmaculada (Adi) Lucas

    I do absolutely agree with you¡¡ I started using spelt flour about 2 years ago and I haven´t used any other since then, moreover, I switched from white spelt to whole spelt flour and it was totally amazing… the nutty flavor gets even more remarkable and although I still use the white spelt sometimes, all my bakery comes out from the oven using 100% whole spelt flour. Pancakes and scones, tart shells and all kind of goodies are made with it, just a little adjusting in liquid amounts and …. perfect.
    Best regards from Spain.

  13. SteveL

    Yes, Spelt is the best!

    Great for pie crust too.

    I love the nutty flavour, and always buy Spelt bread, sometimes Kamut, from Little Stream Bakery in Ontario.

    For muffins, I add ground flax seeds. It does a great job of binding.

  14. VeggieGirl

    I use spelt quite often in baking – it’s interesting how different the results are in baked goods, just based on which flour you choose to use!

    oh and the brown-sugar/peach combination in your muffins sounds so refreshing!! yum!!

  15. sockbuttons

    I have a copy of Mark Bitmann’s “How to Cook Everything Vegetarian” and he points out that when baking with spelt flour, you should cut back on the liquid in the recipe by 25%. That would probably explain why your spelt batter seemed more liquidey.

  16. kittenbuttercups

    Wow, you are so awesome!!
    I am going to make the muffins tomorrow!
    I think I will try half spelt and half wheat. humm.

  17. bazu

    I love this post, because I love spelt flour. It is one of the easiest whole grains for me to bake with- I often sub 100% whole spelt for white flour with no problems in sweets.
    But to be fair, spelt is a cousin of wheat, but saying it is wheat is like saying satsumas are oranges. They are… kind of, but they have so many differences in taste, texture, etc.
    You’ve inspired me to go raid the frozen peach stash in my freezer!

  18. ilene

    Funny — I make spelt to use in soups but have never tried the flour — now I will (and I’ll have some hints about how to do it from your muffin experiment). I usually use barley and oat flours (together, 1.5:1) for most of my baking. They have a natural sweetness that has spoiled me for other flours, although yes, adjustments must be made for texture and rise. I love your blog! — thanks for the great entry.

  19. Ricki

    I spelt and other alternative flours exclusively in my baking–and, like you, I find it definitely superior in taste! I learned early on that it helps to add a touch more leavening when you’re baking with spelt (usually 1/4 to 1/2 tsp. baking powder in addition to what the recipe says) to compensate for the lower gluten content (which translates into that flatter, denser texture).

    I just posted a recipe for vegan molten chocolate cakes with both spelt and oat flours if you’re interested in trying something new!

  20. textual bulldog

    What beautiful muffins! I love spelt and use it all the time, having been inspired by Dreena Burton and Celine both. I find that I have to replace 1 cup of wheat flour with 1 1/4 cup of spelt every single time or else the batter is too liquidy, so you might try that next time. It will probably help with the rising issue.

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  22. Rachel

    Clearly I must give spelt a try. I have to admit that my most exotic foray into unknown flours is whole wheat pastry flour. Time to branch out.

  23. Quickbreadbandit

    Hey Im a pastry art student, and I’ve taken a few baking principal classes, I’ve found your website very helpful, and have suggested it as recommended reading to my mates from school. Thanks for the awesome blog!!

  24. Terri

    I’ve been using spelt a lot in bread making the past year or so, but haven’t tried it too much in baking quick breads and muffins yet. These look absolutely delicious so I’ll be giving them a try. I love your detailed photos of the results!

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  26. BillinDetroit

    Ladies, I’ll have to concede that my experience with spelt is limited to experimenting with something called “Ezekiel flour”, where it is an ingredient. I keep nudging my wife toward the vegan diet (we are not comfortable with the mysticism sometimes attached to it) for health and environment reasons.

    Maybe these muffins will work to nudge her a little further along the path. She -does- have a sweet-tooth! ;-)

    Thanks for the baking tips! You are bookmarked and will be blogged. — Bill

  27. jessi leigh

    Thanks a bunch! I’m allergic to wheat and dairy and always on the lookout for yummy baked goods. It’s true spelt does often come out a bit more squat than wheat, but the flavor is delish. These muffins are great! Will be making them again! cheers!

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  29. Cindy

    Please let me first say that SPELT IS NOT WHEAT!!! It is in the wheat family but it is definitely not wheat as we commonly use it. I am tired of people saying that spelt is wheat. Spelt is just another grain that some people choose to use instead of wheat. I must avoid wheat but can tolerate spelt. It does act differently when baking with it. It does not rise as well as wheat. However it is very tasty and it is very nice to have a grain I can eat that is not wheat.

    My experience with spelt in baking is that I have to use about 10% more spelt flour than I would wheat in order to prevent it from falling so much in the center when I make a cake with it. More spelt flour gives better results for me. However please note that I am also baking at about 6000 ft. above sea level so that may make a difference as well.

  30. Rene Beck

    Hi just wondering if anyone can help me. I just made brownies, substituting spelt for wheat, and they unfortunatley turned out really rubbery, oh I also substituted applesauce for the oil, don’t know if that makes a difference in texture or not. Very sad and dissapointed, as I just had really good luck with using spelt in blueberry-bannana muffins. They turned out exceptionally tasty, can’t say same for brownies. Any tips welcome! Thanx! Rene

  31. EisVegan

    Wow, great comparision! (And great sense of humor, too!)
    I’ve wanted to try spelt four ever since I began buying Spelt Flour Tortillas. You’ve given me the confidence to try with my favorite Vegan recipe for delicious Walnut Spice muffins which call for 1-3/4 cups flour. I’m going to use 1 cup whole wheat & 3/4 cup spelt to start. Can’t wait to see how they come out. Thanks for your recipe & information! Elizabeth

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  34. Linda

    My daughter made these today, and I just wanted to let you know they’re delicious. Thanks so much for turning your site into an iPhone app. It’s the only way I would have found you!

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