Sweet Heart of Sprouted Wheat Bread

I'm posting this recipe at the request of one of the members of this blog.

Sprouting wheat berries is easy and fun but does take several days of pre-thought. It is a fantastic "science" project for kids as they get to see one of the most simple and basic forms of life that sustains our life--the grain of wheat and how water wakes it up out of dormancy (sleep) to sprout into the potential of a stalk of wheat or as in this case a loaf of bread with delightful crunch. Maybe we should rename it Sleeping Beauty Bread!

The sprouted wheat berries that rise to the top of the dough become very hard during baking so try to avoid having to many on the surface.

TIME SCHEDULE

Dough Starter (Sponge): 4 hours

Minimum Rising Time: About 3 hours

Oven Temperature: 450°F., then 400°F.

Baking Time: 30 to 40 minutes

Sweet Heart of Sprouted Wheat Bread

Makes: About a 2 pound loaf, 8 inch by 4  inch high free form loaf, or a 9 inch by 5 inch by  4 1/2 inch high sandwich loaf

Equipment: A baking sheet lined with parchment or sprinkled with  flour or corn meal or­ a 9  inch by 4 inch (7 cup) loaf pan), greased lightly with cooking spray or oil. A  baking stone or baking sheet.

Dough Starter (Sponge)

1) Early in the morning make the dough starter (sponge)

In a large bowl, or mixer bowl if using a stand mixer, place the bread flour, wheat germ, optional bran, yeast, honey and water. Whisk until very smooth to incorporate air, about 2 minutes. The dough will be the consistency of a thick batter. Scrape down the sides. Set it aside covered with plastic wrap while making the flour mixture.

Flour Mixture

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2) Combine the ingredients for the flour mixture

In a medium bowl, whisk together the bread flour (reserve 2 tablespoons if mixing by hand), and yeast. Gently scoop it onto the sponge to cover it completely. Cover it tightly with plastic wrap and allow it to ferment for a minimum of 1 hour, preferably 4 hours at room temperature. (During this time the sponge may bubble through the flour mixture in places. This is fine.)

3) Mix the dough

Machine Method

If you are making a sandwich loaf, add the optional oil. With the dough hook, mix on low speed (#2 Kitchen Aid) about 1 minute, until the flour is moistened to form a rough dough. Scrape down any bits of dough. Cover the top of the bowl with plastic wrap and allow the dough to rest for 20 minutes. Add the sprouted wheat and the salt and knead the dough on medium speed (#4 Kitchen Aid) for 7 minutes. The dough should be very elastic and smooth, and sticky enough to cling slightly to your fingers. If it is still very sticky knead in a little flour. If it is not at all sticky spray it with a little water and knead it in. (The dough should weigh about 2 pounds / 920 grams + oil.)

Hand Method

Add the optional oil, the salt, and the sprouted wheat and with a wooden spoon or one hand, mix until the flour is moistened. Knead the dough in the bowl until it comes together and then scrape it onto a lightly floured counter. Knead the dough for 5 minutes, enough to develop the gluten structure a little, adding as little of the reserved 2 tablespoons of flour as possible to keep it from sticking. Use the bench scraper to scrape the dough and gather it together as you knead it. At this point it will be very sticky. Cover it with the inverted bowl and allow it to rest for 20 minutes. (This resting time will make the dough less sticky and easier to work with.)

Knead the dough for another 5 to 10 minutes or until it is very smooth and elastic. It should be sticky enough to cling slightly to your fingers. If the dough is very sticky, add a little more flour. (The dough should weigh about 2 pounds / 920 grams + oil.)

Both Methods

3) Let the dough rise

Scrape the dough into a 4 quart dough rising container or bowl, greased lightly with cooking spray or oil. Press down the dough and lightly spray or oil the top of the dough. Cover the container with a lid or plastic wrap. With a piece of tape, mark where double the height would be. Allow the dough to rise (ideally at 75°F to 80°F) until doubled, about 1 hour.

Using an oiled spatula or dough scraper, remove the dough to a floured counter and press down on it gently to form a rectangle. Give it a business letter turn, round the edges and return it to the bowl.Again, oil the surface, cover, mark where double the height will now be and allow it to rise until doubled, about 1 to 1 1/2 hours. (It will fill it fuller than before because it is puffier with air).

4) Shape the dough and let it rise

Turn the dough onto a floured counter; press down on it gently to flatten it slightly, and use your fingertips to press out any large air bubbles. It will still be a little sticky but use only as much flour as absolutely necessary. Shape by rounding the dough into a ball about 6 inches by 2 1/2 inches high and set it on the prepared baking sheet. (If you are making a rectangular shaped loaf, gently press or lightly roll the dough with a rolling pin into a wide rectangle. (The long side of the dough should be facing towards you.) The exact size is not important at this point. Place it in the prepared loaf pan (no more than 1/2 inch from the top of the pan). Cover the loaf with a large container or oiled plastic wrap and allow it to rise until almost doubled and when pressed gently with a finger the depression very slowly fills in, 1 to 1 1/2 hours.. It will be about 8 inches by 3 inches high. (In the loaf pan the highest point will be 1 inch higher than the sides of the pan.)

5) Preheat the oven

1 hour before baking time preheat the oven to 450°F.

Have the oven shelf at the lowest level and place a baking stone or baking sheet on it and a cast iron pan or sheet pan on the floor of the oven before preheating.

6) Slash and bake the bread

Using a single-edged razor blade, make a 1/4-inch deep long cross in the top of the free form loaf. If using the sprouted wheat, pick off any that are on the surface as after baking they become very hard. Mist the dough with water, quickly but gently set the baking sheet on the hot stone or hot baking sheet, and toss 1/2 cup of ice cubes into the pan beneath. Immediately shut the door, lower the heat to 400°F. and bake 30 to 40 minutes or until the bread is golden brown and a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean. (An instant read thermometer inserted into the center will read about 205°F.). Halfway through baking, with a heavy pancake turner lift the free form bread from the pan and set it directly on the stone so that it is turned halfway around for even baking. (Turn the loaf pan half way around also.)

7) Cool the bread

Remove the bread from the oven (if in a loaf pan unmold it from the pan), and transfer it to a wire rack to cool completely, top-side-up. For the free-form loaf, to recrisp the crust before serving, return the bread to a 350°F. oven for 5 minutes

Sprouting Wheat

Equipment: a 2 cup canning jar with metal screw band; a small piece of plastic screening or cheesecloth

It takes 2 to 3 days to sprout the wheat. If the sprouts are ready before you are ready to make the bread, refrigerate them.

Place the wheat berries in the canning jar and add tepid water (80-85 °F.) to cover them by about 2 inches. Cover with the plastic screening or cheesecloth and keep it in place with the metal screw band. Let sit for about 1 hour and then turn the jar up-side-down to drain out all the water, saving this water in another jar, at least 1-1/2 cup capacity. Refrigerate the water. Store the jar with the wheat berries on its side, in a dark warm place such as a kitchen cabinet, covered with a damp cloth.

Rinse the wheat berries in the morning and at the end of the evening by adding enough tepid water to cover them through the top of the jar, swirling them around in the jar, then inverting the jar to drain them, always saving the water until you get about 1-1/2 cups. Do this until the sprouts are the same length as the wheat berries. Then drain them well and use at once or refrigerate.