Homemade bread has everything going for it: It tastes better than store-bought; it’s cheaper; and it’s better for you. Mill your own flour from wheat berries, and you’ll bump up both nutrition and flavor. But if you really want to make great bread, add sprouted grains or a variety of flavorful whole grains.
Our master recipe for Homemade Whole-Grain Bread is infinitely adaptable. Increase the healthfulness of a single loaf of bread significantly by swapping out some of the flour in the ingredients list for a variety of cooked, uncooked or sprouted seeds, nuts and grains — including sprouted wheat berries.
Get Your Sprout On
Sprouted-grain breads taste fuller and more complex. Bread chemistry expert Emily Buehler, author of Bread Science, says sprouted breads have a longer keeping quality and a pleasantly subtle sweetness. Fermentation expert Sandor Katz, author of The Art of Fermentation, explains how this works: “The main difference in using sprouted grains [versus flour] is that enzymes digest complex carbohydrates (starches) into simple carbohydrates (sugars). This makes bread sweeter and more easily digestible,” he says. In addition to added nutrition, sprouted grains contribute acidity to the final dough, which contributes flavor and acts as a natural preservative.
You may be familiar with some store-bought brands of sprouted bread, such as Ezekiel, which are usually kept in the freezer section. The famous Essene Bread recipe is another variation of sprouted-wheat dough. (Find the recipe in How to Make Sprouted Grain Bread: The Essene Whole Grain Bread Recipe.)
To sprout wheat berries, soak them in room-temperature water overnight. About 8 hours later, drain the water and rinse the berries thoroughly. Continue rinsing two to three times per day for the next couple of days. Sprout tails should emerge within a day or two. The sprouts are ready as soon as the tails emerge. When they reach a quarter-inch long, you may refrigerate them for up to a few days. Katz recommends sprouting grains in small quantities so they will be distributed well in your container and thus maintain good oxygen access. He also suggests frequent rinsing.
Do not put wet sprouts into a mill intended for dry grains. Grind the grains in a food processor (good option), with a mortar and pestle (exhausting option) or a meat grinder (best option). Don’t be dismayed by the appearance of your ground sprouts. They’ll be thick, gluey and unappetizing, but they’ll contribute to bread structure and flavor. Any leftover, unground sprouts will make a nice addition to salads.
The texture of sprouted-grain breads can be dense because they don’t rise as much as regular wheat breads. That’s easy to overcome by adding extra gluten to your dough in the form of a product called “vital wheat gluten,” which is widely available in supermarkets and health food stores. Gluten helps trap gases, allowing dough to expand.
To make a beginner’s sprouted-grain bread, sprout a portion of the wheat in the Homemade Whole-Grain Bread Recipe. Sprout 6 ounces of wheat berries to add to the final dough, along with a half-ounce of vital wheat gluten; omit the soaker step.
To make a hard-core, 100 percent sprouted version of our versatile bread recipe, sprout 1 pound of wheat berries, omit both the soaker and sponge steps, and add 1 ounce of vital wheat gluten and 8 to 10 ounces of liquid to the final mix. There’s no need to make a soaker in these variations because sprouted grains contribute the same flavor-developing benefits.
To modify your own bread recipes, substitute sprouted grains for up to 100 percent of the flour content. For better rise, add 1 ounce of vital wheat gluten per pound of dry wheat berries.
Multiply the Multigrains
Incorporating grains, nuts and seeds into your bread is an easy way to add flavors and nutrients. Want extra tenderness and even more protein and fiber? Add oats. Interested in protecting your heart with omega-3 fatty acids? Toss in flaxseed or walnuts.
Some grains, nuts and seeds can be added to bread doughs as is, but many need to be softened by cooking. Softer and smaller grains (amaranth, flaxseed, flours, rolled oats, sprouted wheat berries, sunflower seeds, etc.) can be added raw. Larger and harder grains (buckwheat, grits, millet, quinoa, rye berries, wheat berries, etc.) should be precooked by being simmered in water until soft. Refer to the Cooking Grains chart in the Image Gallery for the cooking time and water required for each grain.
To add whole grains to your favorite bread recipes, replace half the weight of flour with a combination of cooked and raw grains.
To add whole grains to our bread recipe, create your own unique combination of 6 ounces of cooked and raw grains — use it to replace 6 ounces of the flour in the soaker step. Alternatively, substitute either of the grain combinations below for 6 ounces of the flour in the soaker. These two mixtures worked well for us.
Multigrain Mixture No. 1
1 ounce cooked millet or quinoa
2 ounces uncooked cornmeal
2 ounces uncooked rolled oats
1/2 ounce uncooked wheat flakes or wheat bran
1/4 ounce cooked barley or uncooked barley flour
1/4 ounce uncooked flaxseed or chia seeds
Multigrain Mixture No. 2
2 ounces sprouted wheat
berries, whole or ground
2 ounces cooked corn grits
1/2 ounce cooked rye berries
1 ounce uncooked amaranth
1/2 ounce uncooked, hulled sunflower seeds
Sample Schedule for Sprouting Wheat Berries
8 a.m. Friday: Put berries in a jar with water to soak.
8 p.m. Friday: Rinse and drain.
8 a.m. Saturday: Rinse and drain.
8 p.m. Saturday: Rinse and drain.
8 a.m. Sunday: Sprouted berries are ready to use.
Kick the white and try the wheat: Learn more tips and tricks for making delicious and nutritious whole-grain bread in Homemade Whole-Grain Bread: You Have to Try This Amazing Recipe. Try our delicious recipe in Homemade Whole-Grain Bread Recipe.