The Scoop on Grains: Experimenting With Soaking My Bread Dough

I’m going to take a break from focusing on specific grains to explore the technique of soaking grains. Some advocate simply fresh-ground grain as the healthiest option, while others insist grain is unhealthy no matter what form it’s in and should be virtually eliminated from our diets. I fall in the middle ground here. I definitely think nearly everyone will benefit from greatly reducing grain consumption, but I’m not convinced it’s necessary to eliminate them completely. Using quality fresh-ground whole grains and soaking, sprouting, or fermenting those grains seems like the best route to me at this point.

I’ve discussed before why soaked grains are better for us and easier to digest, so I won’t rehash it all here. I’m also including links for additional information at the end of this post.

I’ve done a lot of soaked grains for things like pancakes, muffins, and quick breads. I’ve tried it with my everyday bread recipe a few times, but haven’t made it a priority. But, it’s become more and more apparent that grain and/or gluten affects my husband’s psoriasis and probably other lesser issues in the rest of us, and the more I research it, the more convinced I become that soaking, fermenting, and sprouting grains are the healthiest options. So, I’ve renewed my efforts to soak all our grains, including adapting my everyday bread recipe.

I’ve been experimenting all month, trying to hit on what works best to get a nice fluffy, loaf with the soaked grain. Since the dough sits at room temperature overnight, it’s harder to get it to rise nicely. I think I’ve finally succeeded! My last batch came out very nice. I thought I’d share the revisions I’ve made to accommodate the overnight soaking. I’ve been making half batches until I make sure I have it down.

Here are the ingredients and instructions for a half batch of my fresh bread, divided into what you’ll need to soak and what you’ll need after. You can refer to my original bread tutorial for more details, most of which still apply here.

For soaking:

  • 8-10 cups fresh ground flour
  • 2 1/2 cups hot water
  • 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar, lemon juice, soured milk, whey, yogurt or kefir
In the evening after supper clean-up, I grind about 10 to 11 cups of grain (I’ve been using a mixture of hard white and hard red lately). I add 8 cups of the fresh-ground flour to my mixing bowl, along with the 2 1/2 cups of hot water and 1/2 cup of vinegar or other liquid. I mix it just until combined, cover it, and leave it overnight. I put the additional flour in a ziploc bag in the freezer.


After 8-12 hours soaking:

  • 2/3 cup coconut or olive oil
  • 2/3 cup honey
  • 1 cup ground flax seed (optional)
  • 2 eggs
  • 4 tsp sea salt (I use Real Salt)
  • 2 tbsp yeast
And, in addition to my original recipe, you’ll need these:
  • 1/4 cup warm water
  • 1 tsp honey
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
The next morning, I combine 1/4 cup warm water, 1 tsp honey, 1/2 tsp baking soda, and 2 tbsp yeast in a measuring cup and let it stand for 5-10 minutes. This starts the yeast proofing, which will help the bread rise. Since the dough has been sitting overnight and has cooled off, we need to do something to get it going so we can get a nice rise!

Meanwhile, I whisk 2/3 cup oil, 2/3 cup honey, and 4 tsp salt together in another measuring cup and get the additional flour out of the freezer.

Now the yeast mixture should be nice and bubbly. I slowly work the two eggs, the oil/honey/salt mixture, and the yeast mixture, into the dough, adding additional flour as needed to make a nice dough that cleans the sides of the bowl (I’m finding I usually need to add 1 1/2-2 cups more flour). I’ve been leaving the ground flax out lately, but this is the point when I would add it also.

I allow the dough to knead in the mixer for ten minutes, then I let it sit for about 20 minutes. I mix it briefly again to “punch it down” and turn it out onto a floured surface, where I let it “rest” for another 5 or 10 minutes. I’ve found that the soaked dough is slightly stickier and has a different feel to it than the unsoaked dough, but letting it rest for a few minutes and using a well floured surface makes it a nice consistency to work with.

While the dough rests, I preheat my oven to “warm” and grease my bread pans.

I form the dough into four loaves and put them in the bread pans. I’ve been putting them in my oven on “warm” to rise, leaving the oven door slightly cracked. The rise time takes longer than with unsoaked grain, just watch for the loaves to double.

Once the loaves have doubled (30 minutes or so), I bake them as usual at 350 for about 25 minutes, then brush with melted butter.

Voila! Beautiful loaves with the added benefit of soaked grain!

Although it seems intimidating at first and it can be tricky to get the loaves to rise as nicely, I’m finding it really doesn’t take me any longer to do it this way as it does without soaking. It only takes a few minutes to grind the flour and mix it for soaking the evening before, and the rest of the work takes the same or less time than I usually spent anyway.

The trick is to find what works to make your dough rise…time and temperature will vary for everyone I think. It will take longer to rise and need a warmer temperature after sitting at room temperature all night. I’ve had a couple of flat batches…they tasted fine, but didn’t look so pretty. Just keep experimenting to find what works for you!  The bread is delicious and the health benefits are worth it!


Don’t forget to refer to my original bread tutorial as needed for additional tips on the grinding/mixing/kneading process:

Next, I’m going to experiment with sourdough! Baking with sourdough offers the same or even better benefits as soaking, and is super versatile. I’ve signed up to take the online sourdough class at GNOWFGLINS. I’ll keep you updated on how things go!

In the meantime, here are some further resources for learning about the benefits of soaked grains:

Lastly, if you haven’t downloaded the free e-book Is Your Flour Wet? click on the picture below and get your copy! I was thrilled to contribute to this project, which contains over 40 soaked grain recipes plus information on the why and how of soaking grains.

This post is linked with Real Food WednesdayWhole Food Wednesday, Simple Lives ThursdayPennywise Platter, and Make Ahead Monday.

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Comments

  1. I just made my first soaked whole wheat bread loaf, and I had no idea it would be so easy, and I think so much tastier than my usual recipe!I would love for you to come share this post on my link-up, Make-ahead Mondays, at Raising Isabella!http://naturalparentingunnaturalworld.blogspot.com/2012/02/make-ahead-monday-6.htmlHope to see you there!

  2. Love all you’re information on wheat – I’m reading your stir with a view to growing and grinding my own!

    Reading this I’m not sure why you don’t jusr go ahead and make the entire dough the prior night – or at least add the yeast with the flour and water, you then get the benefit of the action of the yeast digesting the flour some. It adds the benefit of a bit of fermentation ( though overnight won’t make it sour). You can add the salt/sweetners/yoghurt the next day, just let the yeast work the flour. Turns out it really brings out a nice depth of flavor

    you can just knead and use as usual the next day, you probably can reduce the yeast, perhaps even in half since it will be reproducing on the long overnight rise.

    This is how i typically make my bread – started accidentally when I didn’t have time to complete a batch and just refrigerated til next day. (I tend to add the salt at the start for convenience, and I don’t use any sweetners in my loaves)
    Thanks for the blog!

    • I’m glad you’re enjoying it, Jen! I’ve never thought to do it that way, but I don’t see why it wouldn’t work. I’ll have to give it a try sometime! I’ve been doing mostly sourdough lately – yum!!

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