The Fresh Loaf

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Sprouted Flour - Revolution or Fad?

ElPanadero's picture
ElPanadero

Sprouted Flour - Revolution or Fad?

Two days ago I took delivery of Peter Reinhart's latest book 'Bread Revolution' which as most will know is in no small part advocating the benefits of sprouted grains and flours.  As I am fortunate enough to have both a grain mill and food dehydrator I am currently in the process of sprouting a bunch of spelt grain to make my own sprouted spelt flour to see what the fuss is all about.

Meanwhile, I decided to take a look at a number of flour suppliers to see if all this faffing about to create my own sprouted flour is worth it or whether I might be better to just buy a 25kg sack instead from a reputable source.

Wow, was I in for a shock !   The cost of sprouted flour is unbelievable, to the point of ludicrousness !

Some comparisons of sprouted flours vs standard flours is in order:

Let me summarise this.  The price of sprouted wheat flour is running about 5 times the price of non-sprouted organic wheat flour.   Sprouted rye flour is running about 4 times the price of non-sprouted organic rye and sprouted spelt about 2-3 times the price of non-sprouted organic spelt.

When one considers that the additional processes for sprouting grains are substantial compared to just harvesting grain, cleaning it and milling it, then one has to expect some additional cost.  Commercial sprouting involves special equipment that will maintain grains at specific moisture and temperature levels and do so with top sterility/hygiene standards throughout.  The problem isn't really one of additional cost, it's one of simple business models.

Most small scale artisan bakeries that I know are working on a shoestring.  Micro bakeries are often working "for the love of it" rather than making any significant profit.  Only the bakeries churning out huge volumes are making decent profits as far as I can see.

I ask myself, under these circumstances, in a world that is largely still ignorant of "real bread" vs cheap supermarket horrible bread, is there really any viable business solution here with sprouted flours?

If the cost of the flour is 4-5 times higher, then the cost of the loaf has to rise by similar proportions.  Where is such a customer base going to come from?  I'm just not seeing it.

In terms of people sprouting their own grains at home, yes, absolutely 100% and people have been sprouting all manner of seeds and grains for many years now.  It's great, healthy and nutritious and crucially . . . not expensive.  I can buy a 25kg sack of say, organic wheat grains, for circa £20 and sprout the lot with no extra cost other than some personal time and effort and a little electricity (to dry it out) and then mill it myself.   That's great !  

In terms of translating this to commercial bakeries though,  buying in pre-sprouted flours, I'm strugging to see the business model.  A few niche bakeries maybe but a "revolution"?  No I can't see it.   Even for the home domestic situation, this isn't going to be a revolution.  It's too specialised.

A real revolution would be converting 75% or more of the population to stop buying bread and making their own full stop !  But we are a ways off such a noble milestone I think.

Maybe I have missed something here, and in many ways, I'm really hoping I have, because getting more nutrition into our breads via sprouted grains is a worthy thing, but right now I confess to being utterly confused!

AbeNW11's picture
AbeNW11 (not verified)

With everything there's always some who swear by it and those who think it's all hype. One minute something is the healthiest thing on the planet and next minute it's the unhealthiest. Even scientists change their mind every two minutes. I try to be healthy but at the end of the day it's practically impossible to eat nothing but organic, sprouted, wholegrain, sugarless, vegetarian, unprocessed etc etc etc. 

I've reintroduced white flour for its other benefits like texture as you know. Getting good results and increased the amount of recipes I can try. I'm going to still try to eat healthily but will enjoy myself to. 

Afterall bread is very much talked about when it comes to this. Some people won't touch grains sprouted or not. 

suave's picture
suave

Malters sprout grains on huge scale so it's not much of a technological challenge and, frankly,  availability should not be an issue.  50lb sack of wheat malt at the brew shop I buy from costs $40.

Regarding revolution, perhaps PR realized based on "Artisan" in 5 minutes story that the word sells?

ElPanadero's picture
ElPanadero

Yes there is much similarity between sprouting for flour and sprouting for malt.  On that basis I don't understand why the price of sprouted flour is so much.

We live in an age where the majority of people are eating unhealthy foods, and poor income drives some of this but so also does poor awareness/education of what is good and how simple is can be to select good foods.  I know this is a topic close to DABrownman's heart.   I would feel much happier if the well known bakers and book authors were devoting their energies towards finding great CHEAP ways for people to get hold of more nutritious foods because in the end, if it's not cheap, it's not going to fly.

I remember Jamie Oliver doing his campaign on chickens, trying to get the nation to select free range rather than standard cheap battery hens.  The problem was he didn't in any way tackle the issue of cost and as a result he ultimately failed imo.  People increasingly need cheap food solutions that are still nutritious and generally I think that means rethinking the ways people eat.  For example, instead of going from one individual meal to the next, doing things in bulk, and making a variety of dishes from those bulk basics.  Sometimes called "tumbledown".  e.g. make a big batch of tomato based sauce from real healthy tomatoes, garlic, good oils etc and use it for chillis, pastas, casseroles and so on.  It requires effort and planning but the options ARE there to eat well without excessive cost.  Teaching people how to do that and changing eating and buying habits is where the effort needs to go in.  The sprouted flour "revolution" isn't going to help with this as far as I can see. 

 

Grobread's picture
Grobread

Too add my two cents to the debate, the title of that book may be pretentious to say the least. But still, if it produces better bread, it's worth a try, right? At least at home, if you have the time. If sprouted grain flour is really new right now, it might get less expensive as it becomes more standard, I guess.

But consider yourself fortunate that organic flour is more or less standard already where you live. Here in Mexico City, a kilo of organic flour costs about 5 times more than regular, it's not even bread flour, it's pastry flour, and it's really hard to find, only in a couple specialized stores and very big supermakets. Imagine how much more a kilo of sprouted flour would cost me. Even the whole idea of sourdough, or naturally leavened bread is also quite exotic still, even among the more educated. Rye flour and bread flour are also hard to find, not to mention things like spelt, kamut, etc. And I've never understood why whole wheat flour is more expensive than white "extra fine" four if it is supposed to be less precessing involved. But that again is more about commerce than actual cost of production.

I agree that the "revolution" must first convert a lot more population to make their own bread or a least buy it from good bakeries. But even that still seems far away.

 

ElPanadero's picture
ElPanadero

" it might get less expensive as it becomes more standard, I guess."

Wishful thinking I think.  Over here we have a series called "Dragon's Den" where 5 millionaire entrepeneurs listen to investors and buisness wannabees who pitch their new products and ideas.  Whenever someone comes up with something where the core materials costs way more than existing products on the markets, they are swiftly turned down.

Whilst the prices of sprouted flour remain as high as they are, I can't see where the demand will come from to gradually encourage it to be cheaper.  It will simply not sell.  It's just not a viable business model as it currently stands.    However, I will certainly get stuck into sprotuing my own grains if this proves to be successful and worthwhile.

"I've never understood why whole wheat flour is more expensive than white "extra fine" four if it is supposed to be less precessing involved"

I've raised this same point numerous times myself.  It's a sad indicment of our world TBH.  Good wholewheat flour should definitely be cheaper than white flour which involves the additional process of sieving.  Unfortunately demand rules the roost and as most people want white flour and white bread, the situation is unlikely to change any time soon.   Again it comes back to awareness and education and food choices.

gary.turner's picture
gary.turner

Processing methods are  pretty much automated. Capital costs are non-trivial, but requisite in every case. The real excess cost lies in the loss of marketing opportunity. The mills have ready markets for bran and germ. If they are to profit from whole wheat flour, they must recoup the separate bran and germ incomes.

Stated another way, wheat mills have three products, endosperm, bran and germ. If they sell the whole wheat flour, they must charge for all three products and that cannot be the same or less than the price of white flour alone.

cheers,

gary

ElPanadero's picture
ElPanadero

Let me make sure I understand this.  Are you saying that the primary markets are for the germ and bran (which are presumably for cereals and animal feeds) and then the endosperm for white flour is secondary?  And thus the white flour is purely a by-product of the primary product and so can't be more expensive?

 

gary.turner's picture
gary.turner

I am saying there are three markets for ground wheat. I have no idea which of the three has the greatest or least value. But, if you include the germ and bran with the endosperm and sell it as whole wheat, you should recover the market value of all three in the one product.

cheers,

gary

Hippytea's picture
Hippytea

Just weighing in on this to say that I've been assuming the high cost of wholemeal flour is because of its short shelf life.

The more perishable a product, the quicker you have to transport it and the more likely it is to go to waste, which has to be recouped on the price tag. That plus the fact it is a minority product, being produced, bagged and sold in smaller batches, which increases the unit cost. The lower demand also exacerbates the short shelf life problem - of the five or six bags on the supermarket shelf, how many are going to go out of date before someone gets around to buying them?

The theory of recouping bran and germ prices through whole wheat flour has some sense in it, but only if the price of those parts is greater than the endosperm. If it's about the same, it shouldn't have any impact.

Whole wheat chapati flour in 25kg bags from Tesco UK is no more expensive than the white, though - showing that where the demand is equal, prices equalize too.

 

 

 

 

 

isand66's picture
isand66

I have just started to bake some of the breads from this book. My first 2 attempts using home milled sprouted wheat was not successful but I can say the flavor was like nothing I've had before.  I'm more concerned with the flavor than the health benefits and if future bakes taste as good this will open up a whole new world to many of us.

If this becomes popular the price of the packaged version will come down for sure due to supply and demand.  In the book he mentions 2 mills that are expanding quickly to try and keep up with increasing demand.  Time will tell if this is a fad or not.  

BTW he also has many other non-sprouted breads that are unconventional and worth at least reading about.

i will be posting my bakes from this book as I progress and welcome others to do the same.

dabrownman's picture
dabrownman

for a couple of years now both red and white and the differ-enc is how long you sprout it.   I'm sure I can't mimic the real malt made in huge batches by commercial mlters but malting is 4-5 days  of sprouting vs 1 for sprouted gains where you just want them to 'chit'.  You can put sprouted whole grains in any bread without changing the formula or worrying about a run away enzyme action breaking down the dough.

I can relate to ian's challenges using sprouted flour.  I have relegated the sprouted whole flour to 25% Max of the mix, and I don't use it for autolyse and skip the ferment on the counter too but can squeak out an 8-12 our retard this way.  If you want to use more sprouted whole flour then you what to speed things up if using SD and skip the retard or the dough will break down and the crumb will be gummy.  You also want to bake these loaves to 210 F too - no matter what.

The taste if these breads, even with small amounts of sprouted graisn, is exceptional and, like Ian says, I too  haven't tasted anything like them.  For me 50% whole grain SD. with half the whole ngrain sprouted, has turned out the best and the more whole grains you use the  less sprouted grain should be included from our testing, 

Since I only bake one 800 g loaf of bread a week i;m only sprouting 200 g at most - half for the flour and half for the whole sprout berry add in - to get twice the benefit without the worry of too many enzymes running amok. 

I think the reason millers charge so much for sprouted grain is because they can - at least for now.  Once people figure out they don't need much sprouted flour for their bread, they will just sprout it themselves and grind it in the coffee mill if that is all they have to grind with - the sprouted berries are very soft so no worries.

I really like sprouted grain bread -  nothing like it for taste alone and we will have to see if the health benefits are real. 

suave's picture
suave

I'm sure I can't mimic the real malt made in huge batches by commercial mlters but malting is 4-5 days  of sprouting vs 1 for sprouted gains where you just want them to 'chit'.  You can put sprouted whole grains in any bread without changing the formula or worrying about a run away enzyme action breaking down the dough.

 

Scald it and take to 200 degrees right away.   That'll take care of enzymatic activity leaving behind nothing but 5 days worth of sprouted goodness.

dabrownman's picture
dabrownman

is to not heat it up so that you don't kill off any of the goodness you just sprouted and why sprouted flour is dried at around 105 F and no more.  It only takes 24 hours to chit the sprouted grain for flour but for making white malt it takes 4-5 days.   The idea for diatstatic malt is to not kill off the enzymes so it is dried at a low temperature like sprouted flour.,   But for red diastatic malt.  I dry it at ptogressively higher temperatures, up to 350 F in stages, to brown the malt making it red and killing off the enzymes since red malt it used as an additive or flavor and  color amd not for enzymes 

suave's picture
suave

You kill it anyway when you bake it, so what's the difference?

dabrownman's picture
dabrownman

the half hour of autolyse, 2 hours for gluten development a half hour of bulk ferment and the 12 hours or more of cold retard (in the winter at any rate)  where these enzymes can work their magic in and on the dough to transform it into something quite different before it is baked and everything is killed off,  As PR says, a revolution is going on if that can be believed:-)  One thing is for sure, the taste is quite different even when using 10% sprouted flour in the mix.

suave's picture
suave

I don't think so.  Flour enzymes work fairly slow at room temperature and pretty much stop when cooled down.    Besides, what's the difference between enzymatic action in the dough and in the grain?  The substrate is the same, only the rate of conversion is different.  It'll probably will take some reading, but I bet there is a fairly simple way to calculate what additional germination time is required to get the same conversion as your fermentation schedule.

dabrownman's picture
dabrownman

all claim to dry at low temperatures so the enzymes stay alive rather than being rendered useless with higher heat.  If there is no benefits of sprouted flour dried at low temps, then we are all being hoodwinked and poor PR looks rather strange with his 'revolution'.

I'm thinking that if you took normal flour and heated it a high temperatures the natural enzymes that break down starches into sugars the LAB and Yeast can feed on would also be a bad thing when the poor wee beasties have nothing to eat as a result.

I don't know about the extra supposed benefits of sprouted flour being easier to digest and that more of the nutrients in the flour become available for the human body to digest and use because of the enzymes that sprouting releases. 

The one thing i have noticed is that dough with sprouted flour in it acts like it is on fermenting steroids compared with regular flour.  Coming up with a method and recipe that drags the SD process out long enough to get a 12 hour retard in the mix takes some trial and error to get the most flavor out the bread.    

suave's picture
suave

If I may quote (extensively) Nathan Myhrvold:

"Beliefs that certain foods are unhealthy are both widespread and very strongly held. In some cases, people believe in their dietary choices with almost religious intensity. Vegetarians shun meat, and vegans avoid animal products altogether. Raw food devotees believe they're eating as humans were meant to, benefitting from nutrients that would otherwise be lost to cooking. Fans of the "paleo diet" believe the same thing, but with a totally different set of foods and cooking methods. Banking on an ever-growing number of people who believe they are choosing the healthiest options, stores and restaurants elevate organic food to special status.

Whether they're medical or moral, cultural or religious, such rules about what we should and shouldn't eat—let's call them dietary systems— are almost always well-intentioned, albeit artfully exploited by food manufacturers and advocates. Yet we found, as we explored this topic, that much of the information that we are told by the media, medical associations, and government bodies about which foods cause heart disease, cancer, and high blood pressure is unproved.

Indeed, merely unproved dietary advice seems to be the best-case scenario. In many instances, rigorous research has refuted or cast great doubt on the popular assertions."

dabrownman's picture
dabrownman

in the fad category:-)  I think that sprouted grains in bread may be a fad because they take more time, are difficukt to control the flour is so expensive while the health claims are not scientifically proven.  They should be easy enough to prove or disprove though.  The taste of 10-20% sprouted grain in SD bread is superior in my book - not even close - so I will put them in the mix and care less if they are really beneficial.for health reasons. 

barryvabeach's picture
barryvabeach

ElPanadero,  I saw the price differential and tried to sprout, dry, and mill my own.  So far it has not been successful. In the book, he stresses that the mills use a very high strength wheat - but does not give any details. 

baliw2's picture
baliw2

We bought around 25kg sprouted flour. People didn't like the taste. Maybe its healthy I don't know. It was like baking with 100% diastatic malt. The flavour tasted vegetableish and the consistency of the breads were like cake. Similar to what happens when you add too much malt to breads. We didn't have a problem with oven spring as some people mentioned. We got what looked like nice breads but just the taste was just awful and gummy. We blended it with AP at different ratios. The best ratio was 90/10. 90% AP. Still can't get the taste out of my head.

ElPanadero's picture
ElPanadero

Since you bought a sackful can I assume you are selling commercially? If so, how were you planning to recoup the high cost of the sprouted flour (asuming the baking had all been a success) ? Do you mind telling us how much that 25kg sack cost?

AbeNW11's picture
AbeNW11 (not verified)

Sprouting the grain, drying it out, grinding it and baking into loaves would be very! rewarding. Waste of time buying a sack full of sprouted grain. Afterall you aren't going to be using it for every single loaf of bread you make. You can do two breads a week. One you start a bit early and sprout the grain. The other as usual.

Most of us have gotten into sourdough not because we're wanting quick regular breads. A labour of passion.

ElPanadero's picture
ElPanadero

Did you make a typo there? Suspect you meant to say "Waste of time buying a sack full of sprouted FLOUR".

Buying sackfuls of grain is, imo, an astute thing to do. The grains can be easily vaccuum packed and stored indefinitely, literally for years and years. Currently the price of grains is relatively cheap but that situation won't last. Hyperinflation will drive the costs up soon enough.

Regardless, for people who don't bake too regularly, buying a cheap 25kg sack of flour might not be viable because the flour might go off before it all gets used. Instead they have to buy in smaller quantities which is more expensive. With grains on the other hand, nothing is wasted because they last indefinitely. Thus the price of a seemingly expensive grain mill is recouped. Then you get the added bonuses of milling your own flours, having it as fresh as it can be, ability to also mill seeds (like dried fennel seeds, dried rosemary etc), ability to flate your own oats (if you buy a machine with built in flaker) and, as we are now discussing, the ability to sprout your own grains, dry them and mill them into sprouted flour. For anyone living in remote areas where shops could run dry for long periods, a stash of long life foods is pretty much par for the course and storing grains and using a grain mill is very high up on the priority list.

I'm looking forward to seeing how these sprouted spelt berries come out. So far is has been 2 full days and only a tiny few shoots have appeared. Definitely taking longer than outlined in PR's latest book but that might just be the current cold weather. I'm using the oven with light switched on as a gentle warm environment and am periodically spraying the grains with water to keep them hydrated.

dabrownman's picture
dabrownman

turned our normal 3 - 4 day bake for a typical SD bread into a 5 day one,  Perfect for the slow food movement and retirees :-)

AbeNW11's picture
AbeNW11 (not verified)

I stand corrected. Yes, I meant sprouted grain flour.

Much better to buy normal wholegrains. Sprout some for when you need it and use the rest as normal. I'm not sure and I might very well be wrong but would sprouted grain flour have a shorter shelf life than non sprouted? It's further along (so to speak).

I've just been having a look and this type of bread is popularly known as Ezekiel bread and many claim it to be the healthiest. Could one imagine an Ezekial wholegrain sourdough...

I think the healthiness of sprouted grain is that it reduces the phytic acid. But then so does the fermentation of sourdough.

ElPanadero's picture
ElPanadero

bread is so called because of a "recipe" for bread found in the Old Testament of the Bible. I have the recipe in a booklet that was included with my grain mill (from the supplier not the manufacturer). It would make for a heavy loaf by today's standard but full of goodness.

dabrownman's picture
dabrownman

the non biblical version of Ezekiel bead.  She really went all out for this one. Never made a bread that tasted anything like ths one.

http://www.thefreshloaf.com/node/33645/ezekiels-chacon 

AbeNW11's picture
AbeNW11 (not verified)

Need a lie down. Wouldn't know where to begin. I would buy something like this but no way could I attempt to bake it. So much going on!

AbeNW11's picture
AbeNW11 (not verified)

And note the advice... "In using sprouted grains for flour, be mindful to begin dehydrating the grains shortly after the root tip appears".

http://nourishedkitchen.com/how-to-make-sprouted-grain-flour/

dabrownman's picture
dabrownman

say t0 sprout. Soaking the grain for 3-4 hours and then sprouting in a sprout or like I use a cheese mold with a strainer bottom to let the water drain away.  Just rinse the berries every 12 hours and let them drain.  Keep the sunlight out.9A sprouter will come light tight and have a lid that is a strainer   Rye chits the fastest at 18 hours after soaking, then spelt, Kamut, einkorn and emmer at 24.  Wheat takes about 36 hours for some reason.  Here is a photo of kamut I sprouted this past week at 24 hours and just chitted.  The lead photo above the berries are a little long on the tooth and should have been dried 68 hours or so earlier.

baliw2's picture
baliw2

from the spouts than bake with them. 2 for 1

baliw2's picture
baliw2

If I do it again I would make an Ezekiel mash bread like above. Maybe with raisins which is popular these days. When people want bread they want bread not pain fantasie as a noted baker has said before. The flour is thirsty which is good because water as you know makes a baker rich. If it's nearly twice as thirsty, needing say 90% hydration, then that is 20% less flour than normal. So maybe take 20% off the price? I'm not good with figures. Only thing that matters is what comes out of the oven.