Sprouting & Other Alternatives to Sourdough

Here is a question someone sent me:

Question: OK, so I’ve been reading A LOT about sourdough, and I have a beginner’s understanding of the chemistry behind it and why it is more nutritious to eat bread leavened in this way. Could you give me a brief explanation of what my different options are for bread, besides sourdough? I saw a recipe online for bread using sprouted wheat berries, for example, but am still a little unclear.

Answer: Yes, sprouted wheat is another way…but, it can be a bit tricky to make a bread loaf with. I’ve made both bread and crackers. It tends to be very dense. In fact, some companies use bakers yeast in it to make it lighter. Even then, though, it is still considered heavy compared to what most people are used to. I’ve also made fruit loafs, similar to “Manna” loafs sold commercially.

Wheat berries, just like any other seed, needs a moist environment to germinate for a few days. However, you have to rinse them often so that they will stay fresh. To begin, put about 1 cup in a mason jar and cover with water. Cover with cheese cloth and secure with a rubber band. Rinse 2-3 times per day by turning upside down and then refilling with water over the cloth. Within about three days, they will begin to sprout. You will notice small white sprouts at the end of the berry. Then, you can either use them to make sprouted wheat bread or you can dehydrate the berries in a warm oven and store in the refrigerator for future use .

Aside from quick rise breads that use baking soda or powder, you are left with yeast, yeast, or yeast. Yeast that is “baker’s yeast” is merely a single-strain type on steroids. Is is used for speed and consistency, but, as you know, not for health. Otherwise, you can catch yeast from the air (God’s invisible little workers) or from an organic substance such as grapes (or other fruit). Nancy Silverton, of La Brea Bakery, makes her signature bread using such. She is only one of three large commercial bakeries that produces all naturally leavened bread. Using that approach, I used the bottom “yeast” of kefir grape juice (kefir culture in 100% grape juice to ferment it into champagne, then wine) to leaven a wheat loaf, and had good success. You can catch your own strain or buy one from someone else. As you can imagine, you can get extremely different results depending on the type of wild yeast!

And, of course, you can use bacteria such as acidophilus to leaven bread, like the Indian bread “Naan”.

Whichever method you choose, the key is to make sure that you are either soaking or fermenting the grain for at least 8 hours in a mildly acidic solution (e.g. – kefir, yogurt, diluted lemon juice, sourdough starter, etc.)

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