A few years ago, there began a trend in baking in keeping with the broader social trend of eating more healthfully: sprouted grain baking. Much has been said about the tangible benefits of sprouted grains, but, when it comes to actually incorporating this into baking, there seems to be a few ways to go about things.
When I first considered incorporating sprouted grains into my baking I looked at sprouted flours: milling sprouted grains into flour for baking, as you would. My intuition is that through the milling process a portion of the healthful benefits are lost via degradation, much in the same way benefits are lost in the milling of traditional flour. That said, assuming the flour is used in a reasonable time frame, I’m certain that some of the benefits will make it through to our guts.
How else might a “healthful” individual bake tasty sprouts? Sprouted grains, whether wheat or others such as spelt or kamut, can be added during the bulk fermentation phase in a standard baking cycle. I have not yet tested this for myself, but plan to do a post on this in the future – stay tuned!
Okay, there’s the how. Here’s the why.
There are a few reasons why sprouted grains appear to improve the overall nutrition of a loaf of bread. Specifically, sprouting grains increases key nutrients including the antioxidants tecopheral, riboflavin, vitamins B3, B7, B9, and fiber by up to 1.5-3.8x. Now, I’m no nutrition expert so I can’t point to specific benefits from these antioxidants, but from what I understand they can… help out… some. Additionally, sprouting grains reduces anti-nutrients such as phytic acid by increasing native phytase activities – an enzyme that attacks phytic acid much in the same way that the lactase enzyme (the enzyme lacking in lactose intolerant or sensitive folk) attacks lactose (the sugar that lactose intolerant or sensitive folk struggle with).
Phytic acid itself is found in the bran coating of grains and interferes with the body’s ability to absorb various minerals and nutrients such as calcium or zinc. Phytase is said to be at its most active as dough pH is reduced – think sourdough breads, an acidic environment. So, when dough is ‘acidified’ when fermenting in a sourdough loaf, phytase reduces or eliminates the effects of phytic acid, making the blocked nutrients available to the eater and improving the overall nutritional profile of the bread.
Lastly, a few numbers to associate with the reduction of phytic acid in bread. I’m a bit annoyed that I managed to lose the source for these numbers (promise I’m not just pulling these out of thin air), but bear with me. In terms of milligrams per 100 grams of dry matter, the starting point for phytic acid in wheat bran is 4,873. Okay, maybe that’s a lot or maybe it’s not, we have no context at this point. Whole wheat flour itself is 942, while a baked whole wheat loaf of bread is 493. A sourdough loaf of whole wheat bread? 79! Unfortunately the reference material did not provide an estimate for a sourdough containing sprouted grains, but I’m willing to bet that it is lower still.
I know what you may be thinking: number, number, number, snore. The takeaway? Sprouted grains can improve or boost the benefits provided by sourdough. Now, by no means am I suggesting that you sub in this for this (I would not eat that…), but some of the benefits of sprouted grains can be incorporated in small amounts much in the same way we mix in a portion of whole wheat flour for flavour and nutritional value.