Q: What does it mean when a bread is “sprouted”? Sometimes I see them at the grocery store, but I wonder what the health benefits are (if any), and if I can make them at home.
A: Sprouted breads contain—surprise!—sprouted grains. When grains begin to sprout, or germinate, their vitamin content increases dramatically. You can find several expensive brands of sprouted grain breads at the market, but it’s not so difficult to make your own.
To develop our own recipe, we first had to determine which types of grains and legumes work best. We tested loaves made with sprouted lentils, corn, wheat berries, quinoa, and chickpeas. While corn and chickpeas tasted sour and dense, wheat berries, lentils, and quinoa all made great-tasting loaves. We also found that many recipes for sprouted bread omit the flour altogether, or substitute vital wheat gluten (also known simply as “gluten,” and the protein component of wheat flour) for flour. Bread made without flour turned out leaden and vital wheat gluten imparted off-flavors. Instead, we include bread flour for a sprouted loaf that’s hearty, but not heavy.
How exactly do you sprout grains for homemade bread? It’s very easy:
Soak the grains and drain
Combine the grains and water in a large container, cover, and let soak at room temperature until the grains are fully hydrated and softened, at least 12 hours or up to 24 hours. Then drain the grains through a fine-mesh strainer.
Allow the soaked grains to sprout
Store the rehydrated grains in a covered container at room temperature, rinsing and draining them daily, until small sprouts appear on each type of grain, about 3 days. Note that not every individual grain needs to sprout, just a few examples of each type of grain. We have found that the lentils are usually the slowest to sprout.
Process the sprouted grains to a paste
Before making the bread, process the sprouted grains in a food processor to a smooth, sticky paste, 2 to 3 minutes, scraping down the bowl often. Processing the grains allows them to release their liquid so that they can be incorporated into the flour-yeast mixture.