I have been on a bit of a country bread kick lately but I’m always trying to mix it up. For my latest variation I’ve replaced the typical 10% whole wheat flour in a country bread with 15% sprouted wheat.
Although I don’t have that much experience using sprouted grains it’s something that has always intrigued me. Mainly because of the purported health benefits but also because of the delicious flavor.
For one thing, when you use a sprouted grain like wheat you are using the entire grain. At this point it’s already much more nutritious than white flour but not any better than your average whole wheat flour. What causes sprouted grains to excel so greatly in nutrition is the activation of enzymes in the sprouting process. These enzymes breakdown some starches before they get to your body making bread made from these grains easier to digest. The sprouting also increases levels of some vitamins and protein.
On top of all these nutritional advantages sprouted wheat also tastes great! It is much more sweet tasting than whole wheat flour and doesn’t have any of the bitterness. It’s these flavors that led me to the idea of trying sprouted wheat in a country bread.
To use sprouted wheat in a bread I would first have to make some. The process has always seemed fairly intimidating but turned out to be pretty easy:
How to Sprout Wheat
- Start with some good organic wheat berries. I used hard red winter wheat for mine.
- Rinse the berries with cold water to get nice and clean. This can be done in a strainer.
- Soak the berries in cool water for 12 hours covered with a cloth. I did this step overnight.
- Drain the berries and rinse with cool water a few times and then leave in a strainer covered with a cloth for 8-12 hours and then rinse again. The idea here is to rinse often enough to keep the berries moist and to prevent mold from growing.
- Continue to rinse every 8-12 hours until you start to see a small white sprout peaking out from the tip of the berries. This took about 36 hours from when I first soaked the berries for me.
- Once you have a sprout popping out, put the berries into a food processor and process until a dough forms. This took about 20-30 seconds to happen with my berries. You may have to do multiple batches if you have a lot of berries. The sprouted wheat is now ready to be used in bread.
I’ve eaten sprouted wheat bread in the past and absolutely love the flavor so I thought it would be an interesting experiment to try adding some to a bread that I bake often and am very familiar with. Here is the formula I came up with:
Formula – Sprouted Wheat Country Bread
- Scale out the levain into your mixing bowl followed by the sprouted wheat and then the water. The temperature of the water should result in a dough of about 80 degrees. I used 82 degree water and my kitchen was around 75 degrees.
- Break up the levain and sprouted wheat in the water with your hand or a spoon.
- Scale the all purpose flour into the bowl followed by the salt.
- Combine all the ingredients well using your hand.
- Take the temperature of the dough. Desired dough temperature is 80 degrees.
- Bulk ferment the dough 3-4.5 hours giving the dough a strong fold every 30 minutes. We want this dough to be very strong. The bulk is complete when the dough is noticeably airy and has gained some volume.
- Pre-shape round and rest for 25-30 minutes.
- Final shape as desired and put seam side up in a basket.
- If you got your dough nice and airy during bulk fermentation then you barely have to proof this dough at all. My proof time on this bread was 30 minutes if you can believe it. If you didn’t develop much air in your bulk then you may have to proof for 1-2 hours. You could also retard this dough overnight in the fridge(8-12) hours.
- Bake in a steamed 500 degree oven for the first 10 minutes and then turn down to 450. I baked this loaf in a cast iron dutch oven for my steam needs.
- Bake for a total of around 40 minutes. Watch for your desired color.
- Once baked, remove loaf from the oven and allow to cool at least 20 minutes before eating. However, full flavor won’t be apparent until the loaf has fully cooled.
This country bread has outstanding flavor! It is quite sweet from the sprouted wheat and very mildly sour probably from making it as a straight dough instead of retarding.
I feel like I could increase the sprouted wheat to 25-35% of dough weight and still get a great mild sprouted wheat flavor. If I went that high with normal whole wheat it would dominate the flavor and have that bitter whole wheat taste. I think I’m going to be using sprouted wheat a lot more often in my breads.