sprouted wheat

Decades, Sprouted Wheat.

In two weeks, I'll have been married for a decade.  A decade.  That frame of time seems both long and short as I look back over it.  Time in general has started to feel completely relative in nature: in perpetual fast forward as I look at my boys growing bodies day by day, in slow motion as I watch things in the kitchen sprout and grow, in stubborn reverse as I look back over the things that might have been or could have been if events hadn't played out the way they did.  

A decade, almost all of it full of slow food and homemaking as a profession.  I don't know many who do their taxes and put "homemaker" down in the box - every year I think of that.  The term, also in print on my boys' birth certificates, seems antiquated and humbling and yet it is the thing I am most proud of.  I never dreamed I'd even have children let alone have the autonomy to watch them closely every day, hold onto the minutes, the hours, the years and try (at times) to remember to not wish them away.  I never knew how happy tending a home full time would make me, and I worry that if I ever had to be doing something else full time it would kill me.  I watch over my home, the center of which is (of course) this kitchen, and there is nothing else I'd rather be doing.

Another relationship began 5 years ago, the one involving wild yeast.  That relationship parallels the ones with my husband and children in perplexingly similar ways.  Living, breathing, growing, changing, I can't neglect it and I can't ever predict it.  Just when I think things are going horribly, out pops a tremendous and amazing reminder that slow and steady wins the race.  That glorious things can come from strange circumstance.

sprouted wheat, Ball jar.

In the new batch of cookbooks rented, I've been enjoying Peter Reinhart's Bread Revolution.  It focuses on sprouted wheat breads both with conventional yeast and wild yeast and also a host of quick bread and baked good recipes using sprouted grain flours.  When I had first sprouted my own wheat a few years back, I couldn't get over the flavor of it - but I did notice the difference in how it baked.  Reinhart of course is able to explain this better than I ever could, and leave it to him to come up with a whole book full of recipes highlighting how to use it in the very best way.

Sprouted sourdough almost seems redundant.  After all the process of culturing regular flour with the wild yeast innoculant renders the whole loaf already easier to digest, a true whole and fermented food.  Before reading about it, I never thought the result would be that much better but boy was I wrong!  The flavor is incredible; it's wheaty, earthy, and almost sweet.  It makes the best toast I've ever eaten.

sprouted wheat berries
sprouted wheat flour

The dough seems harder to work with, it's stickier (Reinhart advises oiling your hands, but I just used water and folded the dough in the bowl I mixed in rather than putting it on the counter each time) and more "relaxed" in feel than dough made with regular flour.  I didn't pay good attention to the time when I began and had to get up in the night to form my dough into a loaf - and then rather than set more nighttime alarms, I decided to cold proof it in the fridge until morning.  All of my variables and I was sure the bread wouldn't be anything to speak of, but like sourdough always does it surprised me with it's wonderfulness.

009 :: 02.04.15
Click the photo to read the baking notes.

Isn't that always the way?  The bread always changes the rules just when you think you know it all.  And there is always, always something more to learn.  I made this loaf alongside a whiter one, plain sourdough as I'm used to making.  The boys all wanted this one before the other and it really was that unique.  When toasted, it became brittle and almost graham like.  There is just the heel left, and I'm saving it for breakfast tomorrow with more marmalade.  I will eat it slowly and plot my next sprouted baking experience.

sprouted toast.
I still can't decide if I should make another batch of the kumquat & blood orange marmalade...

I seem to save the heels of bread to toast and eat myself, like I save up all the small moments in my day to day family life that one day I'll likely use to comfort and warm myself.  In another decade, my oldest boy will likely be out of the house and the growing baby boy will be almost a teenager.  I will be greyer and telling more tales of bread, hopefully still learning more and more about it. 

Sprouted Wheat, Sprouted Almond, and Orange Biscotti

I had a moment of shear panic this morning, which happened at the doctor's office.  No, nothing is physically wrong with me or my rapidly growing baby... but since I am phobic of all things medically (and pregnancy) related, I found out today that I'm only 6 weeks away from our new family member.  For some reason, I thought I had two months left, which is 8 weeks by my count.  That's 2 extra weeks of procrastination and preparation, 2 weeks that could add to my sanity of status quo around my house.

What's more, I could be early to deliver (which for some reason, I've convinced myself I will be) - shaving those precious moments of a 3 member household ever more closely.  Thinking of things about to change is both exhilarating and petrifying.  What if the baby prevents me from breadmaking?  What happens if I don't get to sprouting the grains I'd like?  After brief moments of self-centered kitchen problems, I realize that I will always make time for the bread, the grains.  It's likely the laundry, lawn mowing, and sometime gardening will be the first to suffer.  And anyway, as soon as I see that new babe, nothing else will matter - perhaps not even the sourdough.

I also realize that I haven't been as prolific at writing things down as I usually am, and it's not for lack of making and eating.  Maybe it's lack of inspiration, and a tinge of laziness that prevents me from getting the camera out of my hand an onto a tripod to steady it.  But today in anticipation of a weekend trek to my Parents farm, I had the idea to make sprouted grain biscotti - and the lit-lightbulb-above-head to put it down into words for you.

sprouted wheat biscotti

sprouted wheat biscotti

The biscotti I made my Dad for his birthday in March was a hit, and while the first batch today (traditionally made with slightly less sugar than the Cook's Illustrated Best Recipe version) was in the oven, I figured that I had just enough sprouted wheat berries left in the freezer to try a batch with sprouted flour.  While I was at it, I transformed it into a true whole food recipe and replaced the sugar with rapadura: a whole sugar that retains some of its mineral content from the whole sugar cane.

My result was a crispy biscotti that is decidedly unsweet - I might try adding a couple tablespoons of honey to the next batch - but fully enjoyable.  It's earthy, and just what you'd expect from a coffee-time treat with decidedly wholesome roots.  Increase the rapadura up to 1 cup total if you'd prefer a sweeter confection.

sprouted wheat biscotti

Sprouted Wheat, Sprouted Almond, and Orange Biscotti (adapted from Cook's Illustrated The Best Recipe Cookbook - the one published in 1999)
  • 2 c. sprouted wheat flour
  • 1 t. baking powder
  • 1/4 t. salt
  • 4 T. room temperature, unsalted butter 
  • 1/2 c. rapadura
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 t. vanilla extract
  • 1/4 t. almond extract
  • 3/4 c. sprouted almonds, coarsely chopped
  • zest from one orange
With oven rack in the center of the oven, preheat the oven to 350.  Whisk the flour, baking  powder, and salt together.

In a large bowl, cream the butter and rapadura together with a hand mixer for 2 minutes, until light and fluffy.  Add the eggs one at a time, and beat for 1 minute after each addition.  Add the extracts, the orange zest, and the sprouted almonds and mix to combine.  Sprinkle the sprouted flour mixture over the top and stir well by hand until just combined.  (Dough will be a little sticky.)

On a silicone mat (or parchment) lined baking sheet, divide the dough into 2 equal portions.  Using dampened hands, stretch and pat each portion into a log about 2 inches wide and 13 inches long.  The tops should be flattened.

Bake for about 30 minutes until golden brown, and the tops have small cracks in them.  Remove from the oven and let cool on the pan for 10 minutes.  Reduce the oven heat to 325.

After 10 minutes, slice each log on a diagonal into 3/8 inch slices.  Place on a baking sheet and bake for about 15 minutes longer (flipping them over halfway through the baking time) until the biscotti is crisp and lightly brown.  Cool completely, and store in an airtight glass container.

sprouted wheat biscotti

The texture of sprouted wheat biscotti is a bit more tender; it has less of the biscotti trademark of tooth-breaking snap, the one only tamed by dunking it into a hot cup of coffee.  It has a more gentle and polite bite.  I've laid off the coffee, especially in the afternoon, but I'd suspect it would crumble to the bottom of a cup to be happily rescued by a spoon.  Citrus and coffee are such happy complements in my opinion.

So, I spent most of the day in the company of biscotti.  And very shortly, I recognize that I might not have hours to spend this way, in my own way.  I enjoy my own company and that of the baked goods.  I enjoy the calisthenics happening so frequently now in my belly, and more than anything, I enjoy thinking about just who this new person will be - a bread obsessed toddler who will happily share my tartine lunches of beets and avocado and tomato?  A mere 6 weeks until I can begin to know, and begin that new chapter that I thought was so far away.

Ain't it Funny how Time Slips Away...

I was a little too young for thirtysomething, but think of that term, pop culture, and my current age all the time recently. At some point, I became more the "I'm in my thirties" type, rather than a specific age, and I'm not sure when that happened or came to be. I'm also unsure how by magic I turned from child to parent, and how and when exactly my parents went from being my parents to also being my friends. I wonder all the time if the reason blogs are so prolific and interesting is because people my age, people who know what Snorks are, are hungry for the past, and for the first time they are fully aware of how lightening fast a lifetime will go.

A picture of my Gram hangs in my kitchen. It's a colorized photo of her smiling, sometime in the early 40's when she was a young girl. I must stare at that picture every single day for several minutes, wondering how that young girl became a strong, single parent and wondering how she worked so much and still had the time to make daily loaves of bread for her 5 children.

As often as my hands make their rhythm in the kitchen I think of hers and what they produced, and I think of her even more lately because of my skin ailments. I have inherited a lot of traits from her, and my sensitivity to my environment is just one of them. As I've nursed my swollen, horrible hands this week, I've thought of how continually thankful she was for everything, and how no one ever heard her complain about physical pain. I unfortunately did not inherit that quiet demeanor, but in a way, I feel like the way she handled difficulties in life inspires me to want to be strong in the same way. To be gracious and appreciative of every moment rather than sour and downhearted when I can't do what I'd like due to physical constraints.

barely sprouted wheat berries

Working entirely encased in foodservice gloves, I kneaded my way around a loaf of sprouted wheat bread yesterday. I haven't really been doing too much in my kitchen, and it makes me feel lost and unneeded. I read through the rest of Peter Reinhart's Whole Grain Breads book, and felt only enough gonzo to sprout some hard wheat berries to make a 100% sprouted bread. I knew when I only let the wheat berries soak for about 16 hours and not properly "sprout" that I may be setting myself up for a dense loaf, but I was impatient both for sprouted bread and the feeling of empowerment that making bread gives me. And, Peter did say that soaking the grain overnight, draining and then waiting just a few hours should afford the grain enough time to sport tiny tails - and if you ask me it does look like my grain had a hint of tails.

This is a straight-dough method, commercial yeast bread with no added flour. The dough is made by grinding newly sprouted grain into a paste - something that caused my first ever VitaMix overheating. This is some heavy duty dough! I don't have a meat grinder, but I can borrow one from my Mom, and I think I will when I decide to try this bread again. Not that I was entirely unhappy with my dense result.

sprouted wheat bread, unbakedsprouted wheat bread

My childhood was such an amazing time, and I'm lucky to have so many food memories that I wouldn't know where to start. When this loaf came out of the oven at 1 1/2 lbs. of dense, near-brick stature, I immediately thought of my Eastern-European roots and the near black Baltic Rye bread that my great aunt used to migrate up from Chicago on summertime visits. That bread seemed to keep forever, and I remember eating it sliced wafer thin at my Great-Grandma's, my Gram's and at our own house. Stored in plastic and in the refrigerator, this was a tangy, rich bread that you would eat with cheese or finely sliced, cured meat and that is exactly what texture my bread took on. It may be that I didn't let it rise enough, didn't provide the dough a thorough kneading, was too quick to grind my sprouted wheat, or didn't grind it smooth enough... but all of the mistakes coupled with painful hands made a loaf of bread I'll enjoy every slice of myself.

sprouted wheat bread, sliced 2
it's toothsome.

I'm keeping it in plastic and in the fridge, and I'm able to slice it at a mere 1/4 inch or thinner with a chef's knife, and it makes me long for Summer Sausage which seemed to be a rare treat we gobbled up when I was a kid. At the time, I thought we could only get Summer Sausage in the Summer, and maybe we only did when big city relatives were visiting and mosquitoes were biting, and we all spent so much time together that it makes for stellar memories as a certain someone is approaching the other side of 35.

sprouted wheat bread, sliced

When I was growing up, old people seemed different than the older people I know now - I'll bet they will seem really different than the people I'll likely know when I'm officially old myself. Maybe nobody I know, including me, will retire Cocoon-style to Florida. Maybe the senior housing of the 2050's will be rocking out to Pearl Jam and Pantera and nostalgia t.v. networks will be long running marathons of the A-Team, Airwolf, and Simon and Simon. I guess time will tell, and hopefully I'll be healthy enough to avoid both assisted living and the pitfalls of too much television...

Meanwhile, I'm storing up new memories and trying desperately to be happy with these flawed hands that prevent me from working in the dirt, kneading the dough as I'd like. I'm trying to be comfortable with my increasing age for the first time in my life, trying to embrace the multiplying numbers of long silver hair that seem so noticeable to me but strangely to no one else. And if I feel like singing out loud in the middle of the day, I have made the time and space in my kitchen comfortable enough to do so. I will love the things I love now as much no matter my age and ability, and I pray that I'll just be able to keep the time from running through my (hopefully healing) fingers too quickly.

Sprouted Wheat Flour Quick Bread.

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.

cranberry bread (AP flour)
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.

cranberry bread (sprouted flour)

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.

sprouted wheat quickbread

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.

Sprouted Grain and Poppy Seed Crackers

I never knew you could sprout poppy seeds. When looking for my next kitchen project, I thought I'd give Sally Fallon's sprouted grain crackers a try, and began a 4 day sprouting adventure on some of the tiniest seeds in the world. Poppy seeds happen to be one of my most favorite things, I assume because they naturally pair well with almond extract, an elixir I'm fairly sure I could drink straight up and not feel too bad about.

I had poppy seeds in mind for my Daring Baker Challenge this month (I'll make that next week, and post it on the 27th as usual). In looking up information on the poppy seed and ways to make them into pastes, I discovered that there are between 1 and 2 million seeds in a pound - 3300 seeds making up a single gram. They are an oily seed, and as I've actually noted firsthand, they can go rancid rather quickly. Prior to my project, I got what is considered the finest poppy seed in the world, Dutch poppy seed, from the Spice House. I'll admit, I was actually wondering all the while if they would actually sprout, and what in fact the sprouts would taste like. They did sprout, and were surprisingly tasty.

I'd say that they no longer had their characteristic nuttiness, but more of a "sprouty" flavor, still packed with a fair amount of crunch. I used about half of what I sprouted in the crackers, and ate the rest for lunch on sourdough flatbreads spread with hummus and radishes. It was probably one of my favorite lunches in recent memory - the tiny sprouts reminding me of a vegan caviar.

On about day 3 of the sprouting, I re-perused Sally Fallon's recipe, and noticed that the sprouted wheat wasn't supposed to be dried - that the seeds and grains should be sprouted and then mixed up into a paste, then the whole of it dehydrated together. I knew that I didn't have enough waiting time to sprout up some more wheat (and besides, I only had hard wheat for bread-making on hand). I poked around for a new recipe to use some of the sprouted, dried and waiting-for-me-in-the-freezer soft wheat I did have.

I discovered a site that is probably no secret to most people, but it was new-to-me: Cheeseslave. I had heard of Cheeseslave, but never ventured over before, and now I have just one more devoted place to stop by on my Internet rounds. I knew right away after mixing up the cracker dough that I was smitten...

I found that rolling the somewhat soft dough between layers of parchment worked the best for me. I cut the parchment to the same size as my dehydrator trays, and then cut them into squares with a pizza cutter and slid the whole works into place. One new benefit I've discovered and love about dehydrating is the extra exercise it gives me - my set-up is in the basement, and I have to make several trips down there to load it and keep checking on it. Ann Marie (a.k.a. Cheeseslave) says that you can also bake the crackers, which would give them a nice toasty color. But despite their paleness, these are really packed with flavor. I made a half batch (the amounts listed below) just to test it out, but next time, I'll double everything and make better use of the dehydrator space.

Sprouted Grain and Poppy Seed Crackers (slightly adapted from Cheeseslave)
  • 2 1/2 c. sprouted wheat flour (purchased, or make your own)
  • 1 c. yogurt (or buttermilk)
  • 1/2 c. (1 stick) butter, mostly melted
  • 1/4 c. coconut oil, melted with the butter
  • 1 1/2 t. baking powder
  • 1 t. sea salt
  • about 1/4 c. sprouted poppy seeds
Using a stand mixer with paddle attachment (or by hand), combine sprouted flour with the yogurt. With machine running, add in the butter, coconut oil, baking powder and salt and continue to mix until a soft dough forms. Add in the sprouted seeds last, and mix until evenly distributed.

Divide the dough in half. Roll out dough between two sheets of parchment paper to about 1/8 inch thickness. Using a pizza wheel, cut dough into cracker size pieces - whatever shape or size you like. Transfer dough (I left it on the parchment) to a food dehydrator tray.

Dehydrate at 150 degrees or less for about 16 hours until fully dry and crisp. You can also use the low temperature oven method described by Cheeseslave, or bake them (on the parchment) on a sheet pan at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes.

When fully cooled, I stored mine in the freezer to ensure their freshness (and discourage myself from eating them all right away).

The crackers are surprisingly crisp and rich, but due to their fat content they are still amazingly delicate. They are rich enough, however, that I didn't feel like I couldn't stop eating them - just a few 2-inch square crackers were plenty for me. These taste like the most delicious wheat thin that you could ever imagine, and I would almost swear there was an addition of cheese to them too. That sprouted grain has such a specific, nutty sweetness to it... it's impossible to describe, and it's perfect in a cracker.

About half-way through the dehydrating process, I slid the parchment out from underneath the crackers.

I could see immediately a hundred different uses for these crackers - but since I'm trying Julia's awesome jam on everything lately, I tried that just after eating one plain. It was like a truly fancy dessert, one that upscale places serve that embrace both savory and sweet. The cracker almost took on a pie-crustiness that made me feel wildly trendy: like I could pull off charging $12 for a plate of 4 of these delectables. I smirked all the more knowing that I was tasting it mid-morning with no one else around to have to share with.