Almost every weekend, I make one loaf of what I think of as "sandwich bread". As you might expect from this nomenclature, this is the loaf that I'll be using for sandwiches in the coming week. I generally pick recipes that are reliable, fairly plain, and light enough to make a good sandwich (admittedly, I like dense breads, so I might be less strict about this last criterion than many of you). My more experimental recipes, or those including fruit or nuts or lots of herbs or other goodies, or those that are just extremely dense, fall under what I think of as my "dinner bread" category.
This week's sandwich bread was a 100% sprouted wheat bread from The Laurel's Kitchen Bread Book. My first attempt at this recipe was a few weeks ago. Since that was my first time sprouting grains I didn't really know what to expect, and for some reason thought that I would be able to easily chop/mash the sprouts by hand. This didn't work out so well and I was instead forced to grind my sprouts in small batches in an old coffee grinder. The resulting mess (I hesitate to use the term "dough") rose only very slightly, giving me my first real brick. It was an extremely tasty brick, but even so, would not have made very impressive sandwiches -- fortunately, that loaf was intended as a dinner bread, so I was able to enjoy it anyway.
Since then I have acquired a food processor to help chop my sprouts, so I decided to try the sprout bread again this weekend, and go all-out by using it as a sandwich bread. Beginning Wednesday evening, I started soaking 1.25 pounds of hard red wheat berries. Sprouting is pretty simple; you rinse the berries around three times per day, and other than that, just let them soak on your counter. Just the same, I get a kick out of this part, as it sort of lets me combine another of my hobbies, gardening, with my baking.
By Saturday morning, the sprouts were just beginning to show. I drained and dried the berries and stuck them in the refrigerator in anticipation of the heating they would experience when I began to process them. A few hours later, I combined them with some honey, yeast, and salt in my food processor and gave it its inaugural run. I initially planned to process half at a time, but it turned out that there was plenty of room for all of it.
Having never used a food processor in my bread-baking before, I was a bit nervous, but things worked out very well. I processed in increments of around 20 seconds, between which I would scrape the dough together, break up any larger pieces, and check the temperature. I stopped when the dough was circling around on top of the blades rather than being mixed any further. At this point, it was still a bit below room temperature and passed the windowpane test with flying colors.
After this, I kneaded for a few minutes, more to get a feel for the dough and to pick out a few whole wheat berries that had stuck under the food processor blade than for any real need to develop the gluten further. The dough was somewhat sticky, but certainly manageable. The texture was coarser than dough made out of flour, but still relatively smooth.
After I finished kneading, I put the dough through the two rises and proof standard in Laurel's approach to bread-baking. Below is an image of the dough just before it began proofing. As you can see, it is a fairly large amount of dough for one loaf. This is because sprout bread is not known for its spectacular rises -- in fact, Peter Reinhart recommends significant added gluten as an (optional) ingredient in the similar recipe in Whole Grain Breads. I'm not necessarily opposed to using gluten (though it does feel a bit like cheating), but wanted to try the recipe at least once without it.
Up to the point that I put the loaf in the oven, the rises had been adequate but not spectacular, so I was not sure what to expect for a final result. Fortunately, oven spring came to the rescue again. While the below result will not set any records for lightness, I was quite happy with how much it rose for a 100% sprout bread. What my lousy camera cannot show is the beautiful texture in the crust from the large pieces of bran.
I won't actually cut into this loaf until tomorrow, but right now I am cautiously optimistic that it was a success. The appearance of the crust gives me high hopes of a terrific texture throughout the loaf, and I'll be pleased if the taste is anything like my previous attempt at this recipe. The only possible problem I see right now is that the crust does seem a bit tough - next time, I may try cooking with steam. I'm also interested in sprouting other grains along with the wheat, but would probably not do this in a 100% sprouted grain bread, or at least not one that I planned to make sandwiches with.