About Sprouting & Malting
In the following pages, wheat is sprouted three different lengths of time to produce three very distinct kinds of sprouts. They are not interchangeable. If the grain is sprouted only a little, it can be ground into dough to make airy yeasted bread. Sprouted longer before grinding, it will make a dense, caky loaf. Sprouted still longer, until enzyme activity is at its peak, the grain, ground and dried, becomes malt flour, or dimalt.
The crucial element here is the timing. So much is going on so fast in those tiny powerhouses we call sprouting grains that there is very little leeway for using them in the recipes: one talent develops, peaks and fades, and another appears, only to have its brief flowering and also pass away. If your sprouts are at their best when you aren't, or vice-versa, put them in the refrigerator to use later in casseroles or salads; they are delicious. And by all means try again.
How To Sprout Wheat
Rinse the grain and cover with tepid water, letting it stand 12 to 18 hours at room temperature. Allow the longer period in cooler weather, the shorter period in warm.
Drain off the liquid, rinse the grain with fresh, tepid water, and store in a dark place with a damp cloth over the top of the container. Rinse at least every 12 hours for as many days as is specified in the recipe you are following, checking carefully on the progress of the sprouts themselves.
For making malt flour, any grain grinder that you would use for dry grains will work, providing it does not heat the flour above 120º F.
If you want to use your sprouts without first drying them, you can chop them fine or coarse with a knife, blender, or food processor, or in a meat grinder. Do not try to grind sprouts that are not completely dried in a grain grinder or stone mill that is not designed for wet grinding.
For the sprout breads use a food processor, a Corona-type mill that can accommodate wet grains, or a meat grinder.
Unyeasted Sprout Bread
This "simplest of breads" contains only sprouted wheat: nothing else. The commercial versions sold under the brand names Essene and Wayfarer's Bread (and perhaps others) have been very popular, but making them at home is pretty challenging: but here it is, a recipe that does work. If your first try is off in some way, either bland-tasting or else too wet, next time pay more attention to the timing of the sprouts, because that is the crux of it. The finished bread should be moist, flaky, dark, a little sweet-dense without being heavy. Its devotees consider it the purest of breads, and since it has no flour, no yeast, no salt, sweetener, fat, or dairy products, who can argue?
Use about a pound of wheat per loaf. Start with 2 to 3 pounds, about 6 cups of wheat: that will make three good-sized leaves. Choose hard spring or winter wheat. Soak it in warm-room-temperature water for 18 hours, then keep it covered in a dark place, rinsing it three times a day until the little sprout is one-third the length of the grain. This will take about 36 to 48 hours, maximum. If you fear that the sprouts may get away from you before you can grind them up, slow them down by putting them in the refrigerator toward the end of the time.
If the sprouts are too young, the bread will not be sweet; if too old, the bread will be gooey and will never bake out.
Remove the excess moisture from the sprouts by patting them with a terry towel. Grind them with a Corona-type mill or a meat grinder, or about 2 cups at a time in your food processor, using the regular steel blade. Make them as smooth as possible. What results from the grinding is sticky, but knead it very well, nonetheless. For this, mechanical help is welcome, and if you ground the sprouts in your food processor, just keep processing each 2 cups for about 3 minutes in all, stopping just before the dough ball falls apart. How long this takes will depend on the kind of wheat you use: watch carefully.
By hand or with a dough hook knead until the gluten is developed, somewhat longer than you would do with a normal dough. If you are kneading by hand, keep the dough in a bowl and use a hefty wooden spoon or dough knob unless you want to abandon yourself to the ancient mud-pie method of squeezing it between your fingers until the gluten gets going and the going gets easier.
Whatever method you have used to get to this point, cover the dough and let it rest for about an hour or so, then shape it into smallish oblong loaves and place on a well-greased baking sheet. Bake slowly, not over 325º F for 2 1/2 hours or until nicely browned. (The bread does well in a solar oven, if you have one.)
Cool the leaves and wrap them in a towel. Put them in plastic or brown paper bags, and set aside in a cool place or in the refrigerator for a day or two. This softens the leathery crust and gives the insides time to attain their moist flaky perfection.
VARIATION (and a big improvement): Grind 1/2 cup of dates along with each pound of sprouted wheat. Other dried fruits can work well, too, but we like dates best by far. Raisins make a very sticky, very black loaf; it is too sweet unless you reduce the measure by half.
Yeasted Sprout Bread
This is a distinctive bread with lots of chew, lots of character, lots of appeal. We suspect that we should credit some of the goodness of our own version to the inefficiency of the third-hand (reformed) meat grinder that we use to grind the sprouts. It simply will not grind very fine, so the bread is quite coarse and flecked with the bran. We like it that way, but if you can grind the sprouts really fine, you can make extremely fine-textured light bread.
In developing this recipe, we had help from Al Giusto, who has been making sprouted wheat bread for the natural foods market in the San Francisco Bay Area for thirty years. His bread is featherlight, velvet-textured, excellent. For him, the secret is the extremely fine grind. Coarse or fine, though, the bread is good.
In this recipe the trick is to sprout the grain just until the tiny sprout is barely beginning to show and the grain itself is tender; about 48 hours. If the grain is not tender, your grinder will heat up, making the dough too hot. But if the sprout develops long enough for diastatic enzymes to get going, you will have very gooey bread that will never bake through. It is because the grain is not sprouted long enough to develop the enzymes and be sweetened by them that the recipe calls for a generous amount of honey. Without it, the bread simply doesn't taste very good.
This recipe, as we mention above, is based on what we can make with our grinder or food processor. If you have equipment that can produce a really smooth grind with only tiny bran particles, the resulting dough will make lighter bread and so probably be more than enough for two loaves. You can either make a few rolls or buns with the extra, or reduce the quantities to what you would use for two normal loaves: 2 pounds of wheat, 1/4 cup honey, 2 1/2 teaspoons salt, 2 teaspoons yeast.
Sprout the wheat berries as described above, drain them very well, and cool them in the refrigerator for several hours.
Dissolve the yeast in the warm water.
Add the honey, salt, and yeast to the ground sprouts and mix together well. The dough will feel sticky but stiff. Add water if needed to soften the dough, but be cautious, it should be just right without it. Knead well. This is not so easy as with a normal dough, particularly if the grain is coarsely ground; it takes plenty of work to develop the gluten fully. Knead until the dough is really elastic, considerably longer than the usual amount of time.
Form the dough into a ball and place it smooth side up in the bowl. Cover and keep in a warm draft-free place. After about an hour and a half, gently poke the center of the dough about 1/2 inch deep with your wet finger. If the hole doesn't fill in at all or if the dough sighs, it is ready for the next step. Press flat, form into a smooth round, and let the dough rise once more as before. If the dough is cold, which it may be unless your grinder warmed it up, the first rise will be fairly slow, but as the dough warms up, the rising will telescope.
Divide in half and gently knead into rounds. Use water on your hands to prevent sticking, and keep the balls as smooth as possible. Let them rest until they regain their suppleness while you grease two standard 8" x 4" loaf pans, or pie tins, or a cookie sheet. Press the dough flat and divide in two. Round it and let it rest until relaxed, then deflate and shape into loaves. Place in greased loaf pans and let rise in a warm, draft-free place until the dough slowly returns a gently made fingerprint. Bake about an hour at 350º F, though if your bread rises very high, it will take less than that.
6 cups hard spring or winter wheat berries, (2 1/2 Ib or 1135 g), a little more than 3 quarts sprouted, weighing about 4 Ib (2 k)
2 teaspoons active dry yeast (1/4 oz or 7 g)
1/4 cup warm water (60 ml)
1/3 cup honey (80 ml)
4 teaspoons salt (22 g)
FOR ONE LOAF
3 cups hard spring wheat berries (1 1/4 lb or 575 g), (about 6 cups sprouted)
1 teaspoon active dry yeast (1/8 oz or 3.5 g)
2 tablespoons warm water (30 ml)
2 teaspoons salt (11 g)
3 scant tablespoons honey (40 ml)
SPROUT BREAD IN YOUR FOOD PROCESSOR
Sprout bread makes excellent use of the talents of food processors. The steel blade grinds the sprouts and kneads the dough too; a big contribution with this bread, which is hard to knead by hand. The result is a flaky-textured bread with incomparable flavor, easy as pie.
The honey and the water with the yeast make just enough liquid for the processor to work the grain into dough.
Sprout the wheat berries as described, then refrigerate until they are cool, overnight or longer (but since they still grow in the refrigerator, not more than a day or two.)
Dissolve the yeast in the warm water.
Put the regular double stainless steel blade, not the dough blade, in a standard-size processor and measure just over 2 cups of the sprouted wheat, a third of the total, into the bowl. Pour about 2 teaspoons of the dissolved yeast liquid, a scant tablespoon of honey, and about 2/3 teaspoon of salt over the in wheat in the bowl. To protect the yeast, use separate measuring spoons for each of the ingredients.
Process until the ground wheat forms a ball, about one minute. Scrape the sides of the bowl, and process about two more minutes. Stop processing before the ball completely falls apart; if your wheat is not exceptionally high in protein a minute and a half might be all it can handle. If it falls apart, check the time, and with the next two batches, stop a little sooner.
Repeat with the remaining two-thirds of the ingredients, in two parts. Knead the three dough balls together.
For the rising and baking, proceed as with the recipe on the previous page.