Sprouted Wheat Flour--the Best Thing Since Sliced Bread

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I have made my own sprouted wheat and added it to bread and although the results were delicious, the sprouts that rose to the surface became unpleasantly hard enough to encourage me to abandon the practice. So imagine my delight when chef/author/teacher par excellence Peter Reinhart told me that he was offering a class on bread made with sprouted wheat flour.

When the sprouted wheat is ground finely the result is the incredibly silky texture of the dough and open grained springy, moist, and soft texture of the bread's crumb and is nothing short of amazing. There are many virtues to this flour. For one thing, it flies in the face of conventional artisanal bread-making. Peter informed us that rather than requiring a preferment or long fermentation for depth of flavor, this is provided by the flour itself in much less time because the enzyme activity is already accomplished during the sprouting phase. (The dough, however, can be held for up to three days in the refrigerator.)

A bread made with 100% sprouted wheat flour will be much milder than one made with 100% whole wheat flour. It will also be sweeter in flavor and much softer and moister in texture. Another virtue of major importance is that bread made with sprouted wheat flour is considered to be more digestible and tolerable to those with some degree of wheat allergy or gluten intolerance that is not true celiac disease. The following is a fascinating explanation from the Essential Eating Site:

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Sprouting a grain actually changes its composition from a starch to a vegetable. How cool is that? When whole grains are sprouted, they are converted into a more nutritious and digestible food. As the grain sprouts, it turns into a plant, and the body recognizes it as a vegetable. Vegetables are the easiest-to-digest foods because they are broken down by vegetable enzymes, not pancreatic enzymes which are less abundant in most people's digestive systems. The sprouting conversion happens when the sprout pierces the shell of the grain. Once this process is complete, the body can digest the sprouted grains as a vegetable. Picture a grass seed that has begun to sprout into grass coming alive as a vegetable. The sprouted grass seed is then dried and milled into flour.

The Organics Sprouted Flour site offers the following valuable information: • Easier to Digest - Sprouting breaks down the starches in grains into simple sugars so your body can digest them like a vegetable (like a tomato, not a potato). • Increased Vitamin C - Sprouting produces vitamin C. • Increased Vitamin B - Sprouting increases the vitamin B content (B2, B5, and B6). • Increased Carotene - Sprouting increases the carotene up to eight times. • Increased Enzymes are actually produced during sprouting. • Reduction of Anti-nutrients - Sprouting neutralizes enzyme inhibitors and phytic acid, which is a substance present in the bran of all grains that inhibits absorption of calcium, magnesium, iron, copper and zinc. Peter Reinhart, who calls this the flour of the future, generously has given me permission to publish his recipe for bread using 100% sprouted wheat bread. I will also offer one I adapted from his special method which uses 50% sprouted wheat flour and 50% bread flour. The 100% sprouted wheat has a somewhat more open crumb and a more springy chewy texture.

Peter Reinhart's Sprouted Whole Wheat Dough, Master Formula (This recipe makes one loaf but can be extended to any size using the formula percentages) The ounces and grams both refer to weight.

100% Sprouted Whole Wheat Flour

Sprouted whole wheat flour 100% 16 oz. (454 grams)
salt 1.65% 0.25 oz. (7.5 grams) app. 1 teaspoon
instant yeast 1% 0.16 oz. (4.5 grams) 1-1/2 teaspoons
water (room temperature) 90% 14.5 oz. (411 grams)
50 % Sprouted Whole Wheat Flour

Sprouted whole wheat flour 50% 8 ounces (227 grams)
Bread flour 50% 8 ounces (227 grams)
salt 1.7% 0.28 oz. (8 grams)
instant yeast 1% 0.16 oz. (4.5 grams)
1-1/2 teaspoon water (room temperature) 81% 13 oz. (368 grams)

Mix on slow speed with the paddle (not the hook) for one minute. Let the dough rest for 5 minutes, then increase to medium speed and mix for two minutes. The dough will be slightly sticky.

Remove the dough to a lightly oiled work surface and perform one stretch and fold. Transfer the dough to an oiled container (or cover the dough on the oiled work surface with a bowl) and perform 2 additional stretch and folds at 5 minute intervals (these intervals can be extended to up to twenty minutes each). After the final stretch and fold place the dough in an oiled bowl, cover, and ferment for 60 to 90 minutes at room temperature (shorter if using a proof box).

Shape the dough for either sandwich loaf or hearth baking. For a loaf, use a 6-1/2 to 7 cup loaf pan. (The dough will be full of bubbles so dimple it before shaping to prevent large holes.) Mist the top of the loaf with nonstick cooking spray and cover loosely with plastic wrap (for hearth baking you can use a couche). Proof for 60 to 80 minutes, or as needed. For hearth bread, bake at 450˚F/232˚C with steam for approximately 30 to 35 minutes. For sandwich loaf, bake at 350˚F/175˚C for approximately 45 to 55 minutes.

Note: for Peter's sprouted whole wheat pizza recipe check out his site. Sprouted wheat and other sprouted grains can be obtained from the following places: Lindley Mills (Joe Lindley) 336-376-6190 King Arthur Flour: 800-827-6836 www.kingarthurflour.com To Your Health (Peggy and Jeff Sutton), 877-401-6837 www.organicsproutedflour.netNotes: Sprouted wheat flour can be stored for 90 days at room temperature and for several years in the freezer. Bill Weekley, an experienced baking expert who works for General Mills, reports that adding 10-15% vital wheat gluten to the sprouted wheat flour results in a slightly higher rise but will also make the crumb a bit more chewy. I suspect that challah would work well with this flour. The high percentage of honey or sugar normally requires a higher than usual percentage of yeast but the enzymatic activity of sprouted wheat flour might well serve to counteract this effect making less yeast possible and desirable. The dough made with this flour is also exceptionally extensible which would make braiding a breeze. Do let us know the results of your baking with this flour There will be a posting on Sprouted Ancient Grains in a few weeks!