The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Sprouted "White" Flour

Tyler Dean's picture
Tyler Dean

Sprouted "White" Flour

Hello all. I'm interested in baking the best quality bread in terms of healthy and in terms of enjoyable to eat. I know all about the health benefits of sprouted wheat, but sprouted wheat does not perform nearly the same as white bread flour. I'm thinking it has a lot to due with the fact that ALL sprouted flour that I have ever seen is completely whole wheat, containing the bran and germ, so there is much less gluten than if it were only the endosperm.

My questions are:

1. The content of gluten in the endosperm vs the bran and the germ?

2. What happens to the "tails" or the "sprouts" themselves that pop up out of the grain as it sprouts? Are those ground into the flour as well?

3. How far along is sprouted wheat flour usually allowed to sprout, as in how many days sprouted?

4. Does anyone know the differences in health AND in gluten between newly sprouted wheat and several day sprouted wheat?

5. Does sprouted whole wheat flour differ in baking and gluten quality than unsprouted whole wheat flour?

multiple part question:
6. Why are white flours labeled as "All Purpose" or "Cake" or "Bread" or "Pastry" but whole wheat flours are not? Isn't it the type of wheat berry (IE winter, spring, hard, soft, white, red, etc) which determines the gluten content, which determines the type of flour? So what kind of wheat berries are used for bread flour, for AP flour, for pastry flour and for cake flour VS. what types of wheat berries are used for whole wheat and white wheat flours? What about making whole wheat flour with the type of wheat used for bread flour VS. making whole wheat flour with the type of wheat used for making cake flour?

and my biggest question:
7. Can you make PURE white flour from wheat that has been sprouted?

I'm not talking high extraction, I'm talking about being completely white fluffy bread flour consisting of sprouted endosperm with little to no traces of bran and germ. I understand that it's nearly impossible to make white flour at home without a very expensive and large series of sieves and such, but how come there are no companies like King Arthur or Central Milling that are using their factories to make pure white flour from sprouted wheat?

I see the benefits of sourdough over traditional breads, as in the complex of multiple organisms and acids allowing a long fermentation time to make the grain more digestible. However I'm interested in using 100% sprouted flour to begin with to make my sourdough because with the combination of being sprouted AND long fermented it must be the healthiest way to make wheat bread. 
I also understand that you typically need to mix your sprouted/whole grain/home milled flours with commercial white bread flour if you want a proper structure, a large oven spring and a nice open crumb.
So what I'm getting at is why can't there be a white flour that is sprouted that we can use for bread so that it's as healthy as possible, WITHOUT losing any quality in the texture and rise?

Other questions sort of on topic:

The double zero flour (Tipo 00) is referring to the size of each piece of flour being smaller than the size of each piece of regular flour, as in how finely ground it is. So why aren't they differentiating between types of wheat berries? How does Tipo 00 flour compare to bread flour or cake flour in terms of gluten? Are there types of Tipo 00 that are made with different gluten contents? Is there a such thing as whole wheat or sprouted Tipo 00? Can Tipo 00 be produced with other grains, like semolina, barley, rye, or even something way out there like amaranth or even teff? Has anyone seen grains like rye or semolina made into "white" flour? Has anyone ever seen sprouted grains other than wheat made into flour?

Let's talk big here.

barryvabeach's picture

Wow, that is a lot of questions.  

1. The content of gluten in the endosperm vs the bran and the germ?   No idea

2. What happens to the "tails" or the "sprouts" themselves that pop up out of the grain as it sprouts? Are those ground into the flour as well?   Yes.

3. How far along is sprouted wheat flour usually allowed to sprout, as in how many days sprouted?  For me, usually 24 to 36 hours - you want the tail to be very short - 1/8 inch is plenty.  When it gets too long, the bread won't hold it structure.

4. Does anyone know the differences in health AND in gluten between newly sprouted wheat and several day sprouted wheat?  No idea

5. Does sprouted whole wheat flour differ in baking and gluten quality than unsprouted whole wheat flour?

Yes -  according to Bread Revolution by Reinhart, it is very different - and does not need, nor benefit, from long cold fermentation. 

6. Why are white flours labeled as "All Purpose" or "Cake" or "Bread" or "Pastry"   -  those labels are based on the protein content of the flour - which is usually a mix of various types of wheat.    I have both hard winter white and soft winter white  - which is closer to cake flour, and do blend them depending on what I am making.  For banana bread, I use only the soft white wheat, for pasta,  I go 50 50.  

Good luck in your quest for answers to the rest of the questions.

BreadLee's picture

I can't believe you just tackled that! Hats off to you! Phew. My head was spinning reading that post.  Lol

Elsie_iu's picture

My 100% whole grain bread usually composes of a mix of unsprouted and sprouted grains. The more sprouted grains I use (up to 50% of total flour), the weaker the dough. The difference is quite significant if you ask me, which makes sense when you consider what has happened during sprouting. Enzymes, including proteases, are produced and activated so some gluten is broken down. Dough with sprouted flour is much less elastic and extensible as a result.

One should therefore make adjustment to the baking method. Since there is less gluten to start with and more proteases to degrade gluten, I like to shorten the autolysis and fermentation. It's no fun when the dough turns into a batter after being left for too long. Don't ask me how I know... Also, sprouted flour tends to absorb less water than unsprouted flour. I guess the lowered gluten content might have played a role in that. 

Tyler Dean's picture
Tyler Dean

I'm wondering if sprouted flour absorbs less water because in order to sprout the grain it must be soaked, so the grains themselves are more moist when milled, or do sprouted grains undergo a drying process similar to unsprouted grains before being milled? I have sprouted grains like farro to make Italian dishes with but I've never milled anything at home (besides spices and coffee).

Are you using other sprouted grains besides wheat? What about the other unsprouted grains in your bread, tell me about that? I've only ever had success with bread flour, I've barely worked with any kinds of grains so far besides adding wheat germ and corn meal. Working with whole grains is something I really want to get more into, especially for our bakery.


Elsie_iu's picture

No. Sprouted grains are dehydrated to their original weight before milled. At least that's what I do when I sprout my own grains because my grain mill can't grind wet grains. Some bakers (not me) incorporate a wet mixture of ground up sprouted berries into their dough. More adjustment to hydration is needed in that case since you can no longer use it like flour. 

Tom aka Our Crumb have provided much more detailed information about sprouted grains and he is on point about the rationale of using sprouted grains. Sprouting grains intensifies their sweetness drastically as complex carbohydrates  (starch) is hydrolyzed by amylase into simple sugar (e.g. maltose and glucose).

I've baked with both sprouted and unsprouted spelt, rye, einkorn, durum, kamut, quinoa (white, black and red), millet, sorghum, buckwheat, rice (red and purple), corn (popcorn, regular corn, masa harina) and barley in addition to red (regular and red fife) and white wheat. Sprouted spelt and rye are particularly hard to work with because of their high protease and amylase activity respectively. A few things I've learnt when using sprouted grains: use cold water (refrigerated), don't over-hydrate, skip the autolysis (mix everything together including the levain and rest for 20-30 minutes before mixing instead), avoid a long fermentation (especially at room temperature) and develop the dough well. Dabrownman taught me a lot in this area. You may want to check out his earlier posts or my recent blog posts if you're interested in whole and sprouted grains. There's so much knowledge about them that it's hard to explain all in a few sentences :)

Try sprouted kamut or durum first if you aim for sweeter bread. Even a little (10-20% maybe?) would contribute noticeably to the flvour of the final product. My personal favourite is sprouted black quinoa though. It gives me an illusion that ground nuts are mixed into the bread. Sprouted red wheat (fruity) and spelt (malty) are runner-ups. They make bread with a balanced sweetness-acidity profile unlike sprouted kamut and durum, which are candy-like. As for unsprouted grains, my favourites would still be red wheat and spelt. 

It might take a while of experimenting to get whole grain bread right if you're used to baking with bread flour. Yet I believe it'd be a worthwhile investment for your bakery. Hope this helps and good luck with your bakery business!

Our Crumb's picture
Our Crumb

My $.02…

1.  Gluten’s constituent polypeptides, gliadin and glutenin, are seed storage proteins and therefore deposited essentially exclusively in the endosperm and not in the “germ” (embryo) or “bran” (seed coat).
2.  Yes, the radicles (as the root “sprouts” are technically called) are dried and milled along with the grain in sprouted wheat flour.
3. Time required to produce appropriately sprouted grain depends on the condition of the grain itself (old, fresh, dry, less dry, certainly genotypic [varietal] differences as well) and conditions of sprouting (moisture and most importantly, temperature).  In general, 3 to 5/7 days.
4. The “health differences” between short and long sprouted wheat are likely to be so minute that one needn’t concern oneself with them.  But a personal disclaimer:  In our obscenely — often excessively — adequate diets here in the developed world, the health benefits of sprouted vs unsprouted wheat in our bread are, as above, risibly insignificant unless bread comprises an inappropriately large proportion of your caloric and protein intake.  IMHO, the benefit of sprouted wheat flour is digestibility for the unfortunate few who are particularly sensitive to intact wheat’s constituents, and flavor (see below).  YMMV about the health benefits to the general population.
5. Imbibition of wheat seeds (“sprouting” them) engages all the seeds’ machinery evolved to break down stored polymers to fuel the embryo’s early development.  That includes scissoring up proteins, carbohydrates, lipids and even nucleic acids.  Gluten’s constituent polypeptides do not get a free pass.  They will get hydrolyzed during germination along with everybody else.  The longer you sprout, the more you risk losing crumb structure-forming gluten.  So yes, sprouted flour will perform differently but how different depends on wheat variety and your sprouting protocol/outcome.  The product will taste “sweeter” because there is a general inverse correlation between the length of carbohydrate polymers and their sweetness:  starch (long chains) is pretty tasteless, but disaccharides (2-sugars long: sucrose, maltose) taste sweet and the monosaccharide fructose (as in HFCS) is the sweetest.  Germination ("sprouting") reduces the length distribution of all stored polymers, carbohydrates included, resulting in an inevitably sweeter product.  But note that sourdough microbes like to eat those little sugars as much as we do.
6.  Way too many parts to answer, but all answers can easily be found by internet searching or book reading.  Combinations of wheat genotypes (hard, soft, winter, spring, high/low protein) and milling protocols yield the variety of flours you mention.
7. Mills can make “pure” (not an appropriate term for this issue, but I assume you mean 100% endosperm hearts) white flour from any wheat.  But “you” cannot, unless you have industrial milling equipment at your disposal, as you point out.  Theoretically, a mill could make “white” flour from sprouted wheat.  But you’re right, it’s not readily available.  I don’t know why.  Perhaps its baking qualities would be too compromised or more likely it’s just very hard (-ly worth it?) to separate out what little endosperm is left in sprouted wheat kernels.

I’ll leave an authoritative response to your 00 flour questions to others (Michael W — you here?).  But (Michael and) Italian bakers will tell you that there is a very specific milling and bolting process to be followed to produce genuine Tipo 00 flour (kind of like a DOP spec).  That is the only Tipo 00 flour.  Funny you ask though:  I actually questioned a baker in Italy about her label of “Tipo 00 Integrali” on the packages of some of their biscotti I particularly like.  She admitted that oops, that’s “probably not correct” (because "integrali" is Italian for "whole wheat").  Probably just an omitted "and" on that label.

Ok, that's more like $.04


barryvabeach's picture

Tyler, you asked whether sprouted grains absorb more water than non sprouted due to the water they absorb during sprouting - I don't know the answer to that, but anyone who has ground sprouted wheat berries in a home stone mill will tell you they need to be fully dried before they are ground - otherwise they will glaze the stones, and the mill will clog.  I usually dehydrate on the lowest setting in my dehydrator for 12 hours before grinding.