Spelt and Spice Holiday Stuffing
Peanut and nut free, dairy free, egg free, soy free
Crispy toast on top, moist, onion-y baked bread below. My spelt focaccia stuffing recipe is perfect for Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner alongside poultry or ham.
This post was sponsored by Hockley Valley Spelt Flour
Even though my mom rarely ever made a whole turkey for Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner, she always made some type of herb-filled, malty stuffing to go alongside the turkey roast or ham. The scent of stuffing as it comes out of the oven ignites the taste buds. It’s the smell of nostalgic ingredients; hot grain spiced with sage, onion, and often beer or wine or chicken stock.
One thing I found interesting was that the stuffing served at our family gatherings was different every year. When I finally asked my mom how to make it, she revealed that it was usually just a mix of torn or chopped bread, a liquid, spices, and some onion and garlic, so it changed a little every time it was made.
In my research about stuffing recipes, I came to realize that this is probably a common sentiment. There are huge variations in how people make stuffing - does it go in the bird? baked next to the bird? what if there is no bird? made of rice or other grains? made of torn bread? what kind of liquid? etc.
I prefer to bake the stuffing outside of the bird for a few reasons:
In order to better control the texture of the finished product
Uncooked poultry juices can be dangerous, and getting the center of the stuffing to a high cook point inside the bird, without burning or drying the meat out, is challenging
It’s not very pleasant to fish out handfuls of stuffing from the butt of a giant cooked bird
For this recipe, I’ve done a play on my mom’s stuffing, but in my own way. The top gets nicely browned and crunchy, like a big platter of toast, which is excellent for sopping up all those turkey juices. Then dig down to the moist, herby, malty layer of bread underneath. Drizzle your homemade gravy all over it for a delicious holiday side dish.
Part 1 - Spelt focaccia loaf
First off - there’s no need to get intimidated or overwhelmed by the idea of making your own focaccia. This recipe is extremely simple, and appropriate for any beginner home cook. AND you will be letting it go stale, then baking it a second time, so any errors you may make in texture will be obfuscated by the time we arrive at the final product.
2 cups Hockley Valley Light Spelt Flour
1 cup warm water
1 tsp yeast
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp olive oil + more for oiling the bowl and drizzling on top
a sprig of rosemary
Measure the flour and salt into a large metal mixing bowl, and stir well. Mix the yeast and warm water in a small bowl and let sit for about 8 - 10 minutes, or until the yeast begins puffing up and rising to the surface. Make a well in the flour. Pour the yeast and water into the center, along with the olive oil. Stir all together, and begin kneading with your hands when it starts to come together into a ball. Knead the ball of dough for about a minute, or until slightly sticky, soft, and smooth. Transfer to a large metal mixing bowl greased with olive oil. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise until doubled in size, about an hour.
Line a square 8 inch cake pan with parchment paper. Punch the risen dough in the center to deflate it, then transfer to the cake pan. Press it evenly into the pan. Let it rise for another 45 minutes, then make poke marks with your fingers all over the top. Drizzle olive oil on top and season with salt and plenty of black pepper. Sprinkle on some rosemary leaves. Bake at 410F for 30 - 35 minutes, or until golden brown on top.
For the stuffing recipe, let the loaf go stale on the counter overnight.
Part 2 - The stuffing
The hardest part of this recipe, in my opinion, is allowing the focaccia to go stale on the counter without eating it all while it’s still warm!
1/4 cup olive oil, divided
1 3/4 cups diced spanish onion
2 tsp chopped garlic
1 cup chopped celery
salt to taste
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp ground sage
2 tbsp lemon juice
1 cup liquid - chicken stock, cooked turkey drippings*, vegetable broth, white wine, or lager beer
Stale spelt focaccia loaf cut or torn into 1/2 inch cubes
1/2 cup peeled, cored, cubed apple
*only use turkey drippings if you are making this near the end of the turkey cooking process, and the drippings are golden brown. Do not use under-cooked, bloody turkey drippings.
Add about 2 tbsp of olive oil to a saute pan and add the onion, garlic, celery, salt, pepper, and sage. Saute on medium low heat until everything is soft and translucent. Add the lemon juice and your choice of cooking liquid and stir it all together.
Add the bread and apple chunks to an 8 inch square baking dish and mix them around so that they are evenly distributed. Pour the sauteed mixture over the bread and mix it up to ensure it’s all soaked up and evenly coated. Press down firmly with the back of a spoon. Drizzle the remaining olive oil on top, and season with more salt, pepper, and ground sage.
Bake at 375F for 35 minutes, then broil for 2 - 3 minutes, or until toasty brown on top.
Serve hot. Makes 6 - 8 servings.