Baking With Sprouted Whole Wheat Flour

Brioche with olive oil and apricotsOne of our resolutions this year is to bake with healthier flours.  Happily, this resolution carries none of the self-deprivation, lackluster flavor or increased effort that often accompany other dietary reforms, because sprouted whole wheat flour tastes better than standard whole wheat and is easier and faster to work with.  Baking with sprouted whole wheat flour is a resolution I’ll have no trouble keeping.

Sprouted Whole Wheat Flour is Super Healthy

This flour is made from wheat kernels that have been allowed to sprout, beginning the process of a seed growing into a plant.  After sprouting, the kernels are dried and ground into a lovely, soft whole grain flour, which is often organic to boot.  Why is sprouting desirable? Sprouting releases vitamins, activates enzymes and makes grains more digestible, particularly for those with mild wheat sensitivities.

The sprouting process reduces phytic acid, a naturally-occurring component of the bran and outer layers of many grains. Phytic acid is problematic because it prevents phosphorous and minerals like calcium, magnesium, zinc and iron from being absorbed. Sprouting is a way to increase the bio-availability of whole wheat’s nutrition, and to reduce the amount of minerals used by the body to process whole grains.

Better Brioche 3bSprouted Wheat Flour is Super Delicious

An added benefit of sprouted flour’s enhanced enzyme activity is better flavor. Enzymes facilitate the breakdown of some of wheat’s complex carbs into simpler, sweeter sugars. As a result, the flour tastes sweet and mild, with none of the bitterness of traditional whole wheat. It’s the perfect choice for our healthy remake of classic Brioche, below.

Sprouted whole wheat flour is available in the U.S. from Arrowhead Mills and King Arthur Flour.

General Tips for Baking Bread with Sprouted Wheat Flour

1. Skip the pre-ferment.  Because of sprouted wheat flour’s rich enzyme content, no pre-ferment or lengthy autolyse is necessary.  Eliminating these steps simplifies bread making and helps avoid a gummy texture that can sometimes result from too much enzyme activity.

2. Avoid lengthy fermentation.  This is partly due to the the need to avoid too much enzyme activity, and also because of the delicate nature of the gluten structure in whole wheat.  We have had good luck rising sprouted wheat flour breads to 1.75x to 2x volume, being careful not to allow the dough to go past that.  Similarly, the final shaped proof often goes quickly- we start checking the bread after 60 minutes at 85F/ 29C.

3. Add enough water.  Whole grain flours are thirsty, and often benefit from a soft, slightly sticky dough consistency.  This helps ensure adequate hydration of the grain and also promotes a moist, light texture.

4. Knead a few extra minutes.  Bran particles in whole wheat flours interfere with gluten bonding, so additional kneading/folding and incorporating some strong white flour can help boost structure.

6. Use a warm rise.  Long, cold ferments may allow enzymes to degrade the structure or create a gummy texture.  We like to use a warm rise of about 85F/ 29C.

Orange-Apricot Better Brioche Recipe

Brioche with apricots

This soft, fruited bread is excellent toasted for breakfast, with tea, or even used for a ham sandwich.

It is based on a classic brioche but made healthier by using olive oil in place of butter, plenty of sprouted whole wheat flour, and dried fruit. It is delicious and healthy.  The orange zest is optional and the apricots may be replaced with raisins and cinnamon for a sweeter, less tart flavor.

Printable recipe

Volume Grams Ounces
Dried apricots, diced* 1/3 cup 51 1.8
Honey 1 tsp 7.2 0.25
Water 2 tsp 10 0.35

*Dried apricots from California have a more intense, tart flavor than Mediterranean apricots.

1. Soak the fruit.  Combine the diced apricots with the honey and water and stir to distribute the honey evenly.  Cover and allow to soak for one hour or up to overnight.

Volume Grams Ounces Baker’s %
Sprouted WW flour 1 c lightly spooned 108 3.8 45%
Bread flour 1 c lightly spooned 130 4.6 55%
Instant yeast 1 ½ tsp 4.8 0.17 2.0%
Salt ¾ tsp 4.3 0.2 1.8%
Water, 85-90F 1/2 cup 118 4.2 50%
Honey 2 Tbs 43 1.5 18%
Egg, room temp 1 large 50 1.8 21%
Olive Oil 1/4 cup 54 1.9 23%
Soaked apricots, from above all
optional: orange zest ½-1 tsp
Beaten egg for glaze 1 Tbs

2. Get ready.  Set up the Proofer with water in the tray and the thermostat at 85F/ 29C.  Grease and flour the loaf pan or line it with parchment. Measure the olive oil and set it near the kneading area or mixer.

3. Mix the dough.  Add the dry ingredients (both flours, salt and yeast) to the  mixer bowl and stir to combine.  Add the lukewarm water, honey and egg. Mix until all the flour is moistened.  The dough will be soft and sticky.

4. Knead.  Knead by machine or hand (Bertinet’s slap and fold method may be helpful for this wet dough) for about 3-4 minutes, until the dough forms a ball and starts to hold together.

Brioche loaf with apricots5. Add the olive oil and apricots.  Knead the olive oil into the dough in four parts (1 Tbs ea). Once all the olive oil has been incorporated, add the apricots and knead to combine. Then turn up the mixer to medium-low speed (3 or 4 on a Kitchen Aid) and knead for 5-6 more minutes to restore the smooth texture and fully develop the structure. If kneading by hand, use a bench scraper to help gather the dough off the counter as it will be very sticky.

6. Bulk ferment.  Transfer to an oiled 1 quart (or 1 liter) container and ferment the dough for 90 minutes at 85F/ 29C, or until it is doubled in size, reaching a volume of 4 cups.

7. Shape the loaf.  Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Cut the dough into five equal pieces (about 113g or 4 oz  each) with an oiled, sharp knife. Shape into rounds.  Place the rounds side-by-side in the loaf pan and place the pan in the Proofer.

8. Final proof.  Allow the loaf to rise until it is about half an inch over the top of the loaf pan, about 1-2 hours at 85F.  While the loaf is proofing, preheat the oven to 350F/ 177C and place a stone (if available)  in the lower third of the oven.

9. Glaze and bake the bread.  Beat the egg lightly and brush it over the top of the loaf.  Bake at 350F/ 177C for 30-40 minutes, until the bread is nicely browned and reaches an internal temperature of about 190F/ 88C.

10. Cool and unmold.  Cool for ten minutes, then unmold by gently tipping the bread out of its pan.  Turn right side up and cool on a rack.

by Julie

Better Brioche 10c