Hello Bright, Shiny World: A Recipe for Sprouted Wheat Bread

After six days of cold/flu-family-fun, the damn thing finally spit me out. Last night I was able to muster a small dent in the madness that is our house right now. ie: I cleaned the kitchen to a fine sparkle.

Ahhhh…..

And what did I do first thing this morning with my bright, shiny, new self, in my bright, shiny, new kitchen?

Why, I made sprouted wheat bread of course! What would you do?

This isn’t exactly something that goes along with the theme of every day nitty gritty cooking implicit in my supposed week-long Calamity in the Kitchen idea, but hey– it’s what I’m doing right now, it’s more fun than talking about leftovers and I already had a bunch of photos waiting to post.

Have you ever had Ezekiel bread? To know it is to have an opinion about it, and my opinion has always been favorable, with a catch. [For those of you who don’t know it, it’s made from spouted grain. Most health food stores carry it, and even many regular grocery stores. But it’s kept in the freezer. Because like any real bread, it gets stale.] Whenever I have had to buy store bread for any length of time, I buy Ezekiel bread. That gummysweet Orowheat stuff just kills my desire for bread altogether.

I love the wholesome, full flavor of the Ezekiel bread. I love the way it makes my body feel like, yes, I did just consume real food. Unfortunately, I can’t argue with the naysayers– Ezekiel bread is always dry. You pretty much can’t eat it without toasting it. But it’s beauty is it’s flaw, because of course real bread needs to be eaten within a few days of being baked, and that simply does not fit into the factory/nationwide supply scheme, freezer section notwithstanding.

And so, I have long dreamed of making my own sprouted wheat bread, and eating it fresh. Wow. Wouldn’t that be the bomb? When I finally bit the bullet and got a food processor last winter, sprouted wheat bread was among my reasons.

Since then, I have experimented several times. It is a bit more work than regular bread, and I still have some problems to solve. But it holds promise to be my dream wheat bread– rich, nubby, full.

A huge advantage of sprouting the grain is that you can essentially grind your own wheat, fresh, without buying a grain grinder. The food processor doesn’t give you a fine textured bread like flour does. But if you, like me, have always remembered back to the “brown flour” they made bread out of on that one farm in Ireland that didn’t look like flour at all, but more the texture of stone ground cornmeal and baked into a coarse, nubby, all-wheat tasting loaf, you’ll love it.

Look at the texture on that! Don't you just want to grab a stick of butter and call it dinner?

All the recipes I looked at said the tricky part was sprouting the exact right amount, because too much makes a dense sticky loaf. I popped my sprouted-bread cherry on the first go. The recipes said anywhere from 1/8 inch of white rootlet to “no longer than the grain itself.” I erred on the safe side, which even still happened quite quick. About 36 hours.

Still much too much. ‘As long as the grain,’ my ass. That first loaf was not really edible. I mean, I like dense chewy bread, but I don’t want to keep any lethal weapons in my kitchens. Over the next few loaves, I worked it back to just soaking the grain overnight. Now I had a bread that was pretty reasonable. And even easier than a full sprouting routine.

Don’t get me wrong, this ain’t no sandwich bread. And I kinda like it like that. I aim to make it a bit lighter, my recipe is far from perfected, but I do like a substantial bread. Something you can toast, add butter and call breakfast. Without hunger cramps at 10:30. Something that feels like a meal.

In case you care to play along with my experimentation, here’s a very thorough tutorial. She shows you how to use either the food processor or the meat grinder on your Kitchenaid. For a more funky hippie-light explanation, check out this recipe for Essene flat bread.

If you’re too shy to go all the way, fear not! I had great luck with adding the ground up sprouted berries in small quantities to regular bread dough. Like 1 cup sprouted wheat substituted for 1 cup of the flour in my No-Nonsense Everyday Whole Wheat Bread (decrease the water in the recipe by maybe 1/4 cup). You can sprout a bunch, keep it in the freezer, then add a little to each batch of bread. Add a little more every time, and see how it goes. In addition to the incredible healthfulness of sprouts, it just makes a great texture and flavor.

Note: I am really hardly sprouting the grain. Like I said, I had better luck with the ones I just soaked overnight. But, considering the heat here, the soaking/sprouting process might go drastically different wherever you are. Here’s the deal. The flavor gets sweeter as they start to push their white “tails” out. But so does the stickiness. So, shorter sprouts are more reliable. There’s no reason you can’t use plain old soaked wheat berries. But if any sign at all of a tail has appeared, I think they’re ready.

wheat berries soaked overnight, barely starting to sprout, ready for bread making!

If you’re just adding the sprouted grain into a regular dough, it’s not near so critical. But be warned, when those tails do start to grow, they grow fast! You can stall ’em out at any time by putting them in the fridge.

Good luck!