If you’ve been around for awhile, you know that I sprout my grains. Doing so increases their nutritional content while reducing phytic acid (an anti-nutrient). This makes grains much healthier to consume, and much easier on those who have allergies. In fact, my children have been dubbed “gluten intolerant” and do not handle regular whole grains at all, but are just fine with sprouted grains. It’s allowed us to live a relatively “normal” life again! (Click the link for a tutorial on how to sprout.)
But baking with sprouted grains isn’t quite the same as baking with unsprouted, as I’ve learned. You can’t just swap out regular flour for sprouted in every recipe. It works well in some but not all. Plus there’s the issue of how much you sprout your grains and how that affects the recipes.
The thing is, sprouting the grain “predigests” it and starts to break it down (because, you know, all the nutrients are being released and all the energy is going to growing that new plant). This means that, depending on how much you sprout it, the entire grain could become mushy, which would make your baked goods overmoist, unrisen, and basically inedible. Luckily this only happens if you oversprout your grains or use a recipe that just isn’t suited to grain sprouting.
So how do you bake with sprouted grains well?
You can buy sprouted breads if you’re not yet ready to mess with this! 🙂
First, let’s talk about how much you should sprout them, for both maximum health benefits and ideal baking properties. I did a series of experiments on this.
1/8″ sprouted — Offered no reduction in intolerance issues, but baked just like regular whole grains. (No good.)
1/4″ sprouted — Offered some reduction in intolerance, baked about like regular whole grains. (Not bad.)
1/2″ sprouted — Offered complete reduction in intolerances, baked slightly differently than regular whole grains. (This is my favorite).
1″ sprouted — No issues with intolerances, but was impossible to do yeasted breads and quick breads were a bit too moist/dense. (Workable, but not ideal.)
2″ sprouted — No issues with intolerances, but produced overly dense, nearly inedible baked goods, even quick breads. (No good.)
Ideally, your sprouts need to be 1/4″ – 1/2″ long for ideal baking. 1/4″ is better for yeasted breads, while 1/2″ is better for quick breads. This is because if the gluten is partially broken down, it can’t develop to give the breads their nice shape and texture, so it results in flatter, denser breads.
The yeasted exception that works well regardless is pizza, because it doesn’t need a second rise, and it’s meant to be dense and chewy when it’s done.
Here are some tips on working with sprouted flour:
- Grind the flour finely enough: If the flour is too coarse, your results will vary from crunchy/grainy to absolutely unworkable. Pie crust attempts with coarse flour simply crumbled apart. Start with finely ground flour for best results.
- Grind as needed: This isn’t really to make it work better, but because any fresh-ground flour is much healthier for you. Flour that is ground and not stored in the freezer goes rancid and loses most of its nutrients in just 3 days! If you do grind ahead of time, store it in the freezer and use up within a month.
- Use enough fat: When I tried baking with little fat, the results didn’t rise well and were grainy/dry. Changing the recipes to include more fat resulted in a softer result. This is true with any baked good, but especially pronounced with sprouted flour.
- Use cultured dairy often: If possible, use buttermilk, yogurt, or sour cream in baking. This lends help with the rising and adds fat to soften the baked goods. This is one way I am able to make my sprouted goods indistinguishable from “regular” ones.
- Consider cutting with unbleached white flour: only for especially delicate pastries, like pie crust. Sprouted flour is delicate, too, so when you bake something delicate with it, well…in my experience it’s been all put unworkable! I’ll keep trying, but especially for newer bakers, just use about 1/2 unbleached white flour.
- Use the right sprouted length: If you’re just baking your average quick bread (any muffins, pumpkin bread, etc.), then anything up to about 1″ sprouted will work fine. But if it’s yeasted, absolutely no longer than 1/2″. If it’s delicate, no more than 1/4″.
I have several sprouted grain recipes on this site that are tried and true, including biscuits, pumpkin bread, muffins, and more. I have several more in my cookbook, In the Kitchen: Real Food Basics if you’re interested!
Do you sprout your grains? Do you have any additional ideas on baking with sprouted grains?