Have you ever noticed that most “whole wheat” breads are not actually 100% whole wheat? Usually they are a blend of whole wheat and white all-purpose or bread flour. This is because whole wheat breads are actually difficult to coax into a soft, chewy loaf, and many people won’t be interested in them.
Exception: this sprouted wheat bread. This bread is 100% whole wheat, no refined white sugar, dairy-free is a perfect staple bread to keep in the house. It requires just a little pre-planning, but the results are beyond worth it. This dough yields a soft loaf, sturdy enough for a ham sandwich, but fluffy enough for eating with butter at the dinner table.
A second little secret is sprouting the wheat berries.
Here they are, unsprouted berries on the left, sprouted berries on the right:
Sprouting the wheat berries takes an extra step, but it makes the bread that much more flavorful and healthy, releasing tons of nutrients (see this article on the health benefits of sprouting wheat berries). You just need to cover them with water, and let them sit overnight, then drain and cover for a few more hours the next day. A little extra planning, but this bread is truly worth it!
- 1 cup wheat berries
- Sprouted wheat berries
- 1/4 – 1/2 cup water
- 2 T. vegetable oil
- ¼ cup molasses
- 1 ½ tsp salt
- 2 tsp yeast, instant if possible*
- 2 c. whole wheat flour
- The day before you plan to bake your bread, soak 1 cup of wheat berries in a bowl with enough fresh cool water to cover by about an inch. Soak the berries for about 12 hours, drain and return to the bowl and cover. After about 4 hours you should see a little white nub popping out of the ends of the berries, that is the sprout.
- Place the sprouted berries in the bowl of a food processor with a metal blade, add ¼ cup water, whirr the berries for about 2 minutes till they are well ground up and look a little creamy, a bit like cooked oatmeal.
- With the dough blade in place, add the rest of the ingredients.
- Pulse to combine. Let the processor run until the dough forms a ball around the blade and the sides of the bowl are clean. Add additional water or flour as needed in very small amounts until the dough rolls freely around the bowl. This should take about 2 minutes.
- Remove the dough from the processor bowl onto a lightly floured surface and hand knead by hand or use a mixer with the dough hook attachment to knead. If kneading by hand, knead about 15-20 minutes, if using the mixer, knead about 10 minutes to be sure the dough is well developed. The dough may get a bit sticky, sprinkle a bit of flour as you go to keep it from sticking to your hands or the sides of the bowl but not so much as to stiffen the dough with too much flour. This is the important thing about 100% whole wheat doughs, the more developed the dough, the lighter and loftier the finished loaf. See notes for more information on kneading.
- Place the dough in an oiled bowl, and turn once to the dough with oil. Cover with a cloth and place in a warm place. Your oven with the light on makes a nice insulated proofing box. Let the dough rise until doubled in size and a finger pressed gently into it leaves a small indentation, about 1-2 hours.
- Turn the dough out onto a very lightly floured surface and pat gently into a rectangle about 8 x 6 and roll into a log, pinch the seam together and place seam side down in an oiled 9x5 loaf pan. Cover the loaf with a cloth and place it in a warm spot to rise. If you use your oven again, be sure to remove the loaf before pre-heating the oven to bake the bread.
- The bread is ready to bake when it has doubled in size and a finger pressed gently on the surface leaves a small dent that slowly springs back.
- Bake the loaf at 350 degrees for 30 to 35 minutes, immediately turn the finished loaf out of the pan to cool.
- Do not let the wheat berries sprout past 4 hours, the wheat berries will end up too tough. I like to soak the berries at 9pm the night before, drain them at 9am the next morning, then begin the process of baking the bread at 1pm. This allows you to have fresh bread at about dinner time.
- If you use regular yeast, add it to the wheat berries after grinding them, pulse a few times and let the mixture stand for about 5 minutes before adding the rest of the ingredients.
- This is a bread we make with a commercial spiral mixer with excellent results, the key is the amount of kneading. The more you can mix this bread the lighter and loftier the loaf will be. That said, you can make this same recipe using a mixer with dough hook or by hand kneading just be sure to fully knead the bread, the more the better.
- When shaping the loaf try not to "punch" down the dough, be gentle, pat and roll being careful not to de-gas the dough too much.
- With whole wheat doughs it is important to know that the bran from the whole wheat tends to '"cut" the gluten strands we are trying hard to work into a nice stretchy dough by kneading so you must knead the dough longer to achieve a nice strong dough with enough gluten strength to rise nicely. Keep kneading. When the gluten is stretched enough you will see strands of dough form between the bran bits, the more strands the better. The dough will be elastic and springy when it is fully kneaded.