Wednesday, March 9, 2011

The Greatest Thing In Sliced Bread

. . .or not.

One of the things I love about eating traditional, nutrient-dense foods is that I can make food at home that is BETTER than what you can buy in the store. One of these things is sprouts. Sprouted seeds contain exponentially more available vitamins than the seeds offer before they’re sprouted. Plus, sprouting is easy. The sprouts you get in the store, however, are usually past their prime.

Another thing I learned was that the seeds of grains, even when you grind them, contain enzymes called phytates, which bind to minerals so that your body can’t absorb them (so all of those vitamins and minerals – the reason you buy whole wheat flour - pass right on through you!) BUT sprouting deactivates some of those phytates, making those nutrients more digestible.

So of course I decided to make my own sprouted wheat flour. I had the equipment I needed (wide-mouth quart jars, a dehydrator, and a grain mill), and it’s actually very easy to do. Hooray! Healthy bread.

Except, with most recipes, the bread didn’t bake all the way through. It was all gummy and underdone in the middle. Oddly enough, there are a couple bread recipes that turn out just fine with 100% sprouted wheat flour. They’re wonderful. And I probably should have stuck with them . . .

Except then I read that sourdough bread, due to the wild yeasts and the long sprouting time, do an even better job at reducing the phytates in grain flours. And EVERY SINGLE ONE of the sourdough recipes I tried turned out mushy in the middle. Yuck. We ate a lot of french toast bake and chicken stuffing for a while!

And then, while going through Wild Bread by Lisa Raynor (an excellent book, by the way), I read: “Diastatic malt is a sweet flour produced from sprouted wheat, rye or barley. Diastatic malt is naturally high in grain enzymes (amylases) that are produced during the sprouting process. The amylases transform grain starch into malt sugar (maltose) . . . Commercial wheat millers enrich their wheat flours with diastatic malt to ensure a proper level of enzyme functioning.” BUT: “Beware: Too much diastatic malt will transform too much starch into sugar and create gummy dough.”

Aha! A little poking around on the internet, and sure enough, sprouted wheat flour is just another name for diastatic malt powder. And when I looked for how much DMP is usually used in bread recipes, I found bakers usually used about 1 tsp per 3 cups of flour. I think I found my problem!

So, I plan to minimize my sprouted flour usage (at least in bread making – it’s great for pancakes, quick breads, and such!) and go back to *just* using freshly ground organic whole wheat flour.

Although I do wonder . . . could leaving some phytates in my diet actually be a good thing? Since they like to attach themselves to heavy metals (like magnesium and calcium), could they help in cleaning out the bad minerals in my body, like mercury (old amalgam fillings) and aluminum (Mom always used aluminum pans for baking when I was growing up)? Or would they only bind with minerals in the digestive tract? Hmmmm . . . looks like I’ll need to do some more research . . . ;)


  1. I haven't tried baking with sprouted flour yet - thanks for the heads up!

  2. I'd love to hear your thoughts on almond and coconut flour!

    1. To be honest, Rachel, I haven't tried either - I kind of put that in the "turkey bacon" category - trying to make something perfectly good on its own into something else.
      My family doesn't have problems digesting gluten, so I have no problem using wheat. We do try to limit it to one wheat-heavy meal a day (moderation always seems like a good idea), so if we have, say, pancakes for breakfast, I won't have sandwiches for lunch and pasta for supper, too. This seems to work well for us.
      I'm also very careful to prepare my grains properly - most of our wheat (and rye, oats, etc.) is either sprouted, soaked, or fermented (sourdough) to reduce the phytates and increase nutrient availability.
      So I guess my main reasons for not trying nut flours is that I don't see the need. They seem expensive and putzy to work with, especially when we do OK with wheat.
      So there's my two cents' worth! You asked for it! ;)

  3. Thanks! You have no idea how much I value your two cents!

    We have been working really hard to redefine the way we eat for about a year now. I want to be able to keep grains in our diet and am finding all the ways to prepare them that make them safe and good for you. We eat oatmeal almost every day and now we soak the oats. So simple and I notice a difference in my energy levels. May be placebo but I don't think so.

    Thank you for your blog and inspiration. My next mission is to make a sour dough starter because I really love bread. Love it. Wish me luck!

    1. Ooh! Good luck! Sourdough is great - once you get the hang of it (and it's really not that hard) you can make so much with it!