Friday, April 2, 2010

An Adventure With Sprouting Wheat

I recently read The Maker's Diet and got very excited about all the health benefits Dr. Rubin promised from his diet. We already try to eat very healthily, and there weren't many changes we needed to make to follow phase three of the Maker's Diet (a fuller post on the Maker's Diet is hopefully in the future... I will probably read the book again first... I highly recommend it!) except for sprouted wheat. We had already been buying whole wheat berries in 50 lb bags and grinding it ourselves for fresh, homemade bread, but according to Dr. Rubin, this was not as good as it seemed.

"Seeds become real nutritional power-houses when they are soaked and sprouted. The germination process (sprouting) produces vitamin C and increases carotenoids and vitamin B content, especially B2, B5, and B6. Even more importantly, sprouting neutralizes phytic acid, a substance present in the bran of all seeds that inhibits the absorption of calcium, magnesium, iron and zinc. Sprouting also neutralizes enzyme inhibitors present in all seeds. This is important because these inhibitors can neutralize our own enzymes in the digestive tract." - The Maker's Diet by Jordan S. Rubin.

After reading that, I no longer felt that whole wheat was healthy at all. Maybe it wasn't processed and bleached with added preservatives and all the other things done to white flour, but enzyme inhibitors and phytic acid neutralizing the absorption of calcium, magnesium, iron and zinc sounded pretty bad to me. My parents readily agreed. I saw no reason not to try sprouting our wheat, so that's exactly what I did. After being successful the first time, and a few subsequent trials, I now have what I consider a pretty good method.

Mom found 3 large jars that she'd saved after the "bean salad" they contained had been consumed. Be sure to start with clean jars. If you wish, you can rinse the wheat berries before you begin soaking. I just fill each jar around halfway with whole wheat berries...

...and nearly to the brim with filtered water. (The water is cloudy because I didn't pre-rinse the berries. But all of that will be drained later.) Screw on the tops and let them sit for about 8 hours.

See how much space the berries are taking up after just adding the water? After soaking 8 hours they will have swollen even more, and when they're sprouting you want them to have a little extra room. I have found that filling the jars a little less than halfway is best.

After 8 hours, remove the lid and cover the opening with a cheesecloth. I secure it with a rubber band.

Then drain the liquid from the jar, rinse the berries two or three times, and invert the cheesecloth-covered jar into something a suitable size to allow the excess water to drain. I've heard there are special sprouting lids you can purchase. I just found these three dishes that are narrow enough to support the jar at the "shoulders" and tall enough hold the lip of the jar off of the bottom of the container.

Leave like this, rinsing once or twice a day until sprouts appear about 1/8 of an inch long. This usually doesn't take very long for me, about 12-18 hours. Once sprouts appear, the berries are ready to be eaten fresh on salads (or by the handful!) or dried to be used as flour.

I am fortunate that my family had already acquired a dehydrator. It has 8 slatted trays (good for drying larger food like tomatoes, bananas or hot peppers), and I use what they call "fruit roll sheets" that are just thin plastic sheets laid on the tray to keep my wheat berries from falling through while they dry. I dry them at 95 degrees fahrenheit for 8 hours.

You can do this in your oven layering the wheat berries on cookie sheets. The temperature should be as close to 95 as possible. If your oven doesn't do a low setting, I suggest turning the oven light on, heating the oven to the lowest temperature possible and then turning the oven off, leaving the light on. Depending on the temperature of your house, you may need to warm up the oven every so often.

Once the berries are dried, they are ready to be ground. Again, I was fortunate that my family already owns a stone grinder. I can fill the hopper, turn the grinder on and have about 12 cups of flour in 45 minutes. If you don't have a stone grinder, you can try a coffee grinder, a blender (I've heard Vita-mix blenders specifically do flour) or a food processor. I haven't tried them myself, though, so if you try it let me know how it goes!

In baking, I have found that the sprouted wheat has a tendency to cook more thoroughly on the outside while still leaving a more "wet" dough on the inside, which I'm attempting to remedy by baking at a lower temperature for longer. So far I have had more success with smaller items like muffins and biscuits than things like bread and pizza dough. I have enjoyed learning how to make sprouted flour, and look forward to fine-tuning its use in my baking.


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