We’ve now addressed the issue of grains being good or bad, and why we want to prepare grains by sprouting, soaking, or souring. But how do we do this? What about recipes we already use– how do we adapt them?
I’m starting with this because it’s not my specialty and I don’t have a lot to say about it. Souring is supposed to be the best way to prepare grains because it’s long, slow fermenting and can be used for both “yeasted” breads and quick breads. It’s actually quite versatile! I’ve never successfully baked with it, although I’ve had successful starters.
(The one time I actually managed to bake with it instead of forgetting about it, I’d used sprouted flour in the starter — it just didn’t have enough rising power after having been treated two different ways. Don’t do it!)
Here’s how you do a starter:
- Combine equal parts freshly-ground flour and filtered water (I do about 1/2 c.)
- Stir and cover with a loose cloth and a rubber band. It needs air, but no bugs.
- Feed it with equal parts flour and water twice a day for three days.
- Some funny-colored liquid, or “hooch” may develop on the top. This is normal. You can stir it in or pour it off — stirring in will make it more sour.
- The starter will get bubbles in it and start to rise up in the jar after feedings — this is good! It means that your starter has “caught” wild yeast from the air.
- If your starter isn’t bubbling or showing any activity after 3 days, discard and restart.
- If your starter is looking good, keep feeding once a day and start using some to bake bread.
- If you don’t want to bake for awhile, put the starter in the fridge.
- Remove your starter from the fridge once a week, allow it to come to room temperature, feed it with equal parts flour and water, let it sit a couple more hours, and return it to the fridge.
Simple, right? You just have to remember to feed it!
I’m told you can make lots of different types of breads, crackers, cakes, and much more with your starter. I’m no expert, though. That’s why I’ll let Wardeh teach you!
This I know a lot more about. I’ve been experimenting with sprouted grains for almost two years.
Sprouting grains is simple. I won’t discuss it here because I already have a neat tutorial, so I’ll refer you over there. Sprouting changes the grain dynamically and makes it safer.
I also have tips on baking with sprouted grains.
Generally, you can substitute sprouted grain flours 1:1 with any other flour in a recipe. However, the result may be a bit heavier than you are used to, since the flour lacks gluten. It does better in quick bread recipes than yeasted, since you don’t want to develop the gluten in quick bread recipes anyway. That’s typically how I use sprouted grains now — quick breads.
This is something I’ve been experimenting with over the last few months, and which I have begun to prefer for yeasted breads. Soaking involves letting flour sit overnight in an acidic medium, which helps to deactivate the phytic acid and make the grain more digestible.
Recent research shows that any dairy-based mediums (whey, buttermilk, yogurt, kefir, etc.) are not recommended, because their high calcium content inhibits the breakdown of phytic acid. Many recipes call for this, as per Nourishing Traditions, but research doesn’t agree.
Instead, using plain warm water or warm water with lemon juice will help to break down the phytic acid more effectively. I use lemon juice in all of my soaking and it works well for me. Where a recipe simply calls for a couple tablespoons of acidic medium, simply swap out a dairy-based culture for lemon juice.
What if a recipe calls for buttermilk as the main liquid, as well as for soaking? Honestly, I don’t have a good solution for this yet, and would recommend finding another recipe. This isn’t usually a problem with yeasted breads, which is why they are easier (in my opinion) to soak. You could swap the regular flour for sprouted and use the buttermilk without soaking, of course.
How do you adapt a recipe to soak?
- Put in all the liquid ingredients (except eggs) — honey, butter, coconut oil, etc.
- Add water and 1 tbsp. lemon juice per cup (or skip the lemon juice if it might add a weird flavor, as with oats)
- Do NOT add eggs, salt, or high-calcium foods
As an example, I adapted this bread recipe to soak by changing the directions this way:
- Melt butter (or coconut oil) and stir in honey.
- Pour butter (or oil)/honey into 4 c. flour.
- Add about 1 c. water with the juice of 1 lemon and stir.
- Add more water as needed to make a soft dough (not more than 1/2 c. more).
- Allow to soak overnight.
- In the morning, mix in salt and yeast (no need to proof).
- Continue with the recipe as stated.
I played with it a lot before I came up with that. But I figured out that yeast doesn’t need to proof (I regularly bake at least 3 different soaked bread recipes, with regular active dry yeast, and never proof it, and never have a problem). I don’t need scalded milk because the purpose is to soften the bread, which the soaking takes care of.
It takes a little practice to learn to adapt recipes, but it is possible in many cases. If in doubt, though, simply search for “soaked _____” and use a recipe that comes with soaking directions already!
Are you ready to take the next step and prepare grains by soaking, sprouting, or souring?