Report from Asheville, Part One

On Saturday, April 2nd, I attended the seventh annual Asheville Bread Festival. I've been attending since the very beginning, haven't missed a one, and each year it gets better and better and more people show up from all over the country. The format has been that the first few hours are held at Green Life Grocery (now owned by Whole Foods), where local bakers display and sell their breads to the public (by local, I mean from as far away as Chapel Hill to the east and Knoxville, Tennessee to the west--about a 150 mile radius). Mark Witt, who many of you know as the host of the website internetcookingschool.com and also the webmaster for the recipe testing site for my upcoming book, even came from Cleveland and set up a booth selling baking tools such as linen couches, instructional videos, and plastic dough scrapers. At 12 noon, the focus shifted to various off-site demos and presentations all around Asheville, including the new flour mill project that I blogged about here a few weeks ago, and a number of classes by world famous bakers Didier Rosada and Lionel Vatinet and others, as well as a demo by me and Joe Lindley, owner of Lindley Mills. The classes went on till about 4 PM and were all filled to the max; we had about 150 attendees at ours, which was a new record against any of my previous classes at the festival. I'll be posting a photo gallery later this week, as soon as I have a chance to upload them from my camera (I'm very inept at those kind of simple tech things) and will have more commentary next week in this space, but I'd like to focus this week on the topic of my presentation because we introduced a new kind of flour that has me very excited about the future of whole grain baking: sprouted wheat flour.

I made two doughs in advance of the festival, on Thursday actually, and brought them with me on Saturday to Asheville, which is two hours northwest of Charlotte. Just prior to the demo we baked off some sandwich style loaf breads, and a few hearth style batards, and five pans of raisin and cranberry breakfast focaccia, all made exclusively with the sprouted wheat flour (my helpers included students from the excellent culinary program at A-B Tech, where we held a number of the classes, as well as some of my own students from Johnson & Wales University -- they were all great! In fact, it was my students who made the doughs on Thursday).During the class, I showed how to use the flour and Joe Lindley answered questions about it.

Here's the story on the flour, which was provided by Lindley Mills:
Anyone who has ever had Ezekiel Bread or Alvarado Street Bread knows about sprouted wheat, but this new flour is something different. Those aforementioned breads use wheat berries that have been sprouted and then mashed into a pulp, supplemented with vital wheat gluten, honey, salt, yeast, and water and, voila!, it makes a pretty decent bread without using any "flour" at all because the wheat is never actually ground into flour, only into a pulp. But with the new version of sprouted wheat flour that I used at the festival, on the other hand, it starts with sprouted wheat berries but then the berries are dried, and then the dried sprouts are milled into a very fine flour, and treated as flour from that point on. The amazing thing is how much water this new flour can absorb--typically around 90%-100% of the flour weight (as opposed to a typical 72%-75% for regular whole wheat flour, and only 65%-68% water to flour for white bread). More importantly, the flavor of this sprouted flour is unbelievable--sweet and tender -- yet it forms a strong gluten network and is high in protein. I added no oil to tenderize it, no sugar or honey to sweeten it; it was perfect without any of those additions. In my opinion, it makes the best whole wheat bread I've ever eaten or made, and I think it definitely represents the next frontier in flour and bread making. The supply is limited right now so it's not yet available for home bakers, as bakeries like Whole Foods and some other companies are buying all that the three mills who make it can produce (I'm even consulting now with a pizza company that wants to use it for their doughs--this flour makes fabulous pizza crust!). But, as the capacity of the mills increases, you should be able eventually to buy it directly from them or, hopefully, off the grocery store shelves. I will keep you up to date on this as the story unfolds but, when it becomes all the rage, remember that you heard it here first.

I'll continue this next week, along with other highlights from the festival. Till then, may your bread always rise and may your pizzas all be perfect!

 

Comments 

 
#1 B-ry 2011-04-06 13:06
Very interesting Peter!

Can this method for sprouted wheat flour be done at home if you have your own grain mill and some wheat berries? If so, can you post the method?
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#2 Diane in Los Angeles 2011-04-06 20:28
Adding a second to that request. I've done a lovely sprouted wheat flatbread from crushed berries, and would love to try working with the sprouts and my grain mill, without reinventing the wheel or imperiling my 25+ year old impact mill.

So....any suggestions as to how long the sprouts are before the sprouted berries are dried, and how they're dried (lower than the home oven minimum temp of 175 degrees would be very hard for me to achieve consistently).
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#3 Peter Reinhart 2011-04-07 07:44
I don't know the actual technique that Lindley Mills and the other two mills use (Essential and To Your Health who, I think, sell it via mail order if you go to their website), but what I'd do is soak the wheat berries overnight, drain them and wait for them to show a nub of a sprout. Then, use a food dehydrator to dry them, and then mill them to a fine flour. If you don't have a dehydrator, put them on a screen in front of a fan and dry them that way--it will take longer but should work within a day or two. Let us know how it goes and, if you get a good product, I'll send you a recipe to make bread or focaccia with it. Write to me at peter@pizzaques t.com
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#4 Diane in Los Angeles 2011-04-07 08:23
Just discovered the convection/microwave has a 100 degree setting.

Soaking some hard white wheat berries now!
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#5 B-ry 2011-04-07 09:20
Thanks Peter. How long do you think it will take in the dehydrator? Is there a good method to check if the berries are dry?

Diane - where do you get your hard white winter from?
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#6 Diane in Los Angeles 2011-04-07 09:45
I get my wheat by special order from my local health food store. When I lived in the Midwest, I had so many problems with them that I often ordered directly from Natural Way Mills:
http://www.naturalwaymills.com
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#7 Peter Reinhart 2011-04-07 19:48
I'm not sure, but I'd guess about 24 hours in the dehydrator, maybe less. If anyone has first hand experience with this, please let us know. Thanks!
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#8 Diane in Los Angeles 2011-04-10 16:28
Ok, wheat is sprouted. I started with 500 grams of hard white wheat. It took 24 hours overnight soak; another 28 hours of occasional rinsing; then about 7 99-minute sessions at 100 degrees in the convection oven to dry them back to 525 grams, close enough to starting weight, I think, to mill. Documented the process so far in this photoset on Flickr.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/debunix/sets/72157626346245215/detail/
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#9 dMax 2011-04-11 05:13
I made my first dough w/Supersprout and got pretty good results but not what I hoped for.

I made the Classic dough, substituting 25% of the bread flour with an equal amount of sprouted by weight. I upped the hydration to 79% - that's weighted 75% for the bread flour and 90% for the sprouted.

The dough felt great when balling and putting in plastic containers and I was afraid it was too dry. When it came out after 2.5 days the outside was not a bit tacky but the ball itself was very sticky, hard to handle and more fragile than the usual Classic. The flavor was **great** but the rim was dry with very little puffiness.

Would more water yield a moister crumb? (weight at 100% hydration for the sprouted?) A little more olive oil for tenderness? Maybe a little more kneading for strength?

I'm a beginner and don't know how to fix a dough but I'm not giving up - the flavor is too good and I still have 3.5 pounds of the stuff!
Thanks
Dave
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#10 Diane in Los Angeles 2011-04-11 18:40
Sounds like waiting for some handling tips will be in order, given the preciousness of this stuff--that was a long time in the convection oven, and a lot of energy used to make it. It might seems a little less precious if I had gone faster in my regular gas oven, where I could have spread it out thinner, and dried it at higher heat--the minimum temp is 170°F, which is less than the temp achieved during baking, when the crumb temp is at least 195°F. So....would it harm the dough development potential if I dried it more quickly that way?
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