On this most auspicious day in our national history, I respectfully offer both my sincere best wishes and hope that we, as a culture and a society, stand on the fringe of a great future – and that this day will be etched forever into the history of our nation and the minds of its citizens. Congratulations to ourselves.
For a few years now, I’ve been playing with sprouted wheat, mostly just using it to make several kinds of breads. I’m fascinated by the unusual, and let’s admit it, sprouted wheat bread is unusual. The first loaf I ever made was a pure SWAG effort – I had picked up a fifty pound bag of wheat at the feed store (the kind that’s used for animal feed) under the assumption that wild birds would certainly enjoy it – Wrong! As long as they had a choice, they ignored the wheat – I supposed if I had stopped all other offerings, and starved them for several weeks, they’d have started to eat it. But, also I noticed that if left out for a week or so, it would start to sprout. So I thought, “If these birds won’t eat it, let’s just see what sprouted wheat bread tastes like.”
That first loaf was a revelation – it changed the entire character of the bread. The most dramatic change was in the crust – it became very chewy, in a pleasant way – and the interior was also chewy, primarily because I had left the sprouted wheat berries whole (most recipes call for “grinding” the sprouted berries, but of course I didn’t do my research until after I had baked the bread). The taste was also different – the sprouted wheat adds a sweet nutty taste to the bread – again, a pleasant addition. The color of the loaf was also a darker mahogany look – quite nice. Since the wheat berries contain and hold significant moisture, the crumb is very moist, suggesting an additional 10-15 minutes of baking time, especially if you are grinding (food processor works) the berries.
Now, you probably know that sprouted wheat is good for you – I’m not going to try to explain all its nutritional characteristics – because I really don’t have that knowledge – but I’m personally comfortable with the assumption that eating sprouted wheat bread is better for you than eating plain white bread. Here, these guys cover the subject well. And if it tastes better too, well, that settles it!
Recently, the urge seized me again, and I set up my sprouting pan in an out-of-the-way part of the kitchen. There are many ways to spout seeds and grains, but my chosen method is to use a large pie pan, lined with two sheets of paper toweling, and put about a cup of wheat berries (grains – get them at any health food store) between the sheets – wet it until it will hold no more water, and cover it all with a sheet of plastic wrap – leave for 48 hours. This is a low maintenance process, as opposed to periodically soaking and draining in a jar for the same time period. Whatever – what you’re looking for is a sprout as long as the length of the berry itself – and you’re ready to go.
For my most recent loaves, I used three different procedures, but all with whole sprouted wheat – for the first loaf, a long free form shape, I simply added the sprouted wheat as I was shaping and rolling up the loaf. The downside of this way is that unless you roll very tightly, you can introduce air pockets within your loaf – not good.
For the second loaf, I simply kneaded the sprouted wheat into the dough after its initial rise (before shaping it to go into a regular loaf pan). Since this fully integrated the sprouted wheat into the dough, there was no chance for air pockets to form.
And for the third, a ciabatta loaf, I added the sprouted wheat right at the beginning of creating the dough – then I gave it an overnight fermentation before giving it a pre-bake rise in the morning. A very nice result, with rehydrated onion, poppy seed, salt, sugar, and plenty of olive oil drizzled over the top.
These loaves are not by a long shot the extent of what can be done with sprouted wheat – in fact, since sprouted wheat itself comes out of the Health Food community, you’ll probably find more whole grain breads being done with sprouted wheat that those with white flour. I think a whole wheat loaf with sprouted wheat would be superb – and I shall do one next week! Sprouted wheat is also used as a prime ingredient in making meatless burgers and patties – I’ve even seen the most absolutely simple bread ever devised, which is made up entirely of ground sprouted wheat plopped into a small bowl and slipped into a slow cooker for 4-6 hours! That’s it – no nothing else – ground sprouted wheat. Frankly, I can’t imagine what kind of texture that bread might have – but then, there are reasons why I’m not a card carrying vegetarian.