My month of without refined sugar has ended. However, with a flip of the calender I still don't feel liberated enough to dive headfirst back into my previous affair with sugar. I feel better without him, and the trial separation only cements what I knew in my head but not in my heart to be true: that refined sugar is a devious addiction, one that is full of false happiness and is incredibly hard to break.
So then, what is a habitual baker to do? Last week, my Parents visited and I made a chocolate sourdough cake
in honor of their arrival. I also made a quick bread for the first time in a month. I could sing the praises of quick breads all day, but usually they are riddled with sugar and frequently they contain more than one type. Sugar in quick bread appears solid but is treated as liquid, and it adds moisture even if you are off thinking about his devilish ways.
As with all things that I've done so many times that they have become reliable, I have a hard time just swapping a major part of a recipe out entirely. I'm afraid of the result becoming inedible, wasting perfectly great ingredients simply because I'm curious. I have reduced sugar by small percentages, but never just removed it entirely and replaced it. I actually said "no guts, no glory" as I poured into a favorite quick bread recipe what I figured would be an appropriate amount of maple syrup. And with the gamble, came a wonderful result - a bread that was moist, not too sweet and surprisingly devoid of any real maple flavor.
unsure of the maple flavor, I omitted the citrus zest - but I wouldn't have needed to.
The gently domed loaf, the frozen cranberries that turned tender and sweet, this bread was guilt free, and perfect with our morning coffee. Had I made this bread without the company of my folks, it would have lingered for a week. My picky boys have nothing to do with cranberries. But the demise of the loaf just after my Parents' departure had me thinking about even more healthful quick breads. Could I use sprouted wheat flour and come up with something even more virtuous?
Over the weekend, I sprouted and dehydrated about a pound and half of soft wheat berries. Monday morning, I turned some into flour and made my favorite waffles. The kiddo declared them the best I've ever made, and I had to agree. There is something naturally sweet about sprouted flour, and something ridiculously fragile. Airy cross-sections of waffle practically melted under a gaze. This could be because the gluten in sprouted flour is drastically changed and reduced by the act of sprouting. (I'm assuming this based on trial and error, and this fascinating graph
. If you know something about the science of sprouted grains and how composition changes, please leave me a comment!)
Last night, I couldn't shake the feeling that I had to know if I could bake the same loaf of quick bread using my previous maple syrup substitution AND augmenting it with sprouted soft wheat flour. My result was not too far from perfect. The middle did not raise much and fell as it cooled, the bread took longer to bake, and then it still felt "wet" in the middle even after cooling completely. But the flavor was so good, and the texture compelling, that I'm not giving up on this recipe. It had the texture of steamed British pudding, the cranberries even more soft and downright pudding-like themselves, but yet the edges were fully dried out and just a whisper sends it breaking into crumbly bits.
It's good with the morning coffee. And it was good before bedtime as well. I may have a hard time making it last a week.
If you don't use the sprouted wheat flour, the loaf will rise higher and probably not need as long to bake. I will update this post at the bottom as I continue to work through this recipe.Sprouted Wheat Cranberry Bread
(adapted from Cook's Illustrated)
- 2/3 c. thin yogurt (or buttermilk)
- 6 T. butter, melted and cooled slightly
- 3/4 c. maple syrup
- zest of one orange (or lemon)
- 1 egg, lightly beaten
- 2 c. sprouted soft wheat flour
- 1 t. baking powder
- 1/2 t. baking soda
- 1 t. kosher salt
- 6 oz. cranberries (about 1 1 /2 c.), coarsely chopped (I use a food processor)
- 1/2 c. toasted pecans or walnuts
Preheat oven to 375. Dip a pastry brush in the melted butter, and coat the inside of a standard size loaf pan.
Stir together yogurt (or buttermilk), maple syrup, orange zest, melted butter, and egg.
In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt. Add the wet ingredients, and stir gently just to combine using a rubber spatula. Fold in the cranberries and nuts, and spread into prepared pan - being sure to spread it well into the corners.
Bake at 375 for 15 minutes, then lower the heat to 350 and continue baking for 45-55 minutes until the top is deep golden brown and a tester comes out mostly clean. (I'll try baking this next time at a lower temperature throughout the whole baking time.) If the loaf appears to be darkening too fast during baking, tent it with foil.
Remove from oven, let stand in the pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes before removing from pan to cool completely before slicing.
It could be that the cranberries gave off a little too much moisture, preventing the center from drying enough, but strangely this bread is not heavy or leaden. A dried fruit addition could cure that perhaps. What I do know is that the Internet seems strangely devoid of recipes for sprouted wheat quick breads, and I may just make it my mission to remedy that. If you have any tips or ideas, send them my way. Meanwhile, I'll be sprouting more wheat berries.