I’ve done a lot of poking into the subject of soaking grains, and through it all I’ve continued soaking, sprouting, and souring my baked goods.
The most common question when people first hear about the idea of “soaking grains” isn’t usually “why?” but “how?” People get this funny image in their heads – and I did too, at first – of drowning flour in water and then somehow, making a great mess but with some miraculous method, getting the flour back out of the water and proceeding with the recipe.
Luckily for all of us, that’s not how it goes.
The purpose of this post is to be a go-to resource for everything soaking grains: a basic how-to primer, links to resources for the “why?” science geeks among you, quick notes on sprouting and sourdough, and recipes.
Basic Soaking Techniques
Flour Based Recipes:
- Mix the flour with whatever liquid is called for in the recipe, preferably warmed to about 100-110 degrees F. I do often use room temperature water…you do what you can.
- Sometimes include the sweetener and fat if needed to get everything wet enough just to mix.
- If the liquid is water or milk, replace 1 Tbs per cup with an acidic medium:
- vinegar, lemon juice, whey
- If the liquid is something cultured already, you can just mix it up with the grain:
- yogurt, buttermilk, kefir
- Cover and allow to rest at room temperature or above for 12-24 hours.
- Add remaining ingredients and proceed with recipe.
Now that’s a bit of a simplistic explanation. If you’d like more details, including special considerations for yeast bread, please read How to Soak Flour in Whole Grain Recipes. You can also find a brief explanation for the “why?” question at Why Soak Whole Grains?
Whole Grains: Quinoa, Millet, Oat Groats, Barley, Spelt Berries
To cook whole grains in their whole form, you can simply soak in warm water with 1 Tbs acidic medium per cup (same as above).
- Allow to rest 12-24 hours at room temperature.
- With whole grains like quinoa, millet, and spelt berries, you can drain off the water and proceed with cooking as you normally would.
- I recommend measuring the water you soak with and the water you drain off the first couple times to see how much liquid was absorbed. You’ll have to adjust your cooking water accordingly if volume is important to recipe success.
- For example, a cup of brown rice absorbs 1/2 cup of water. When I add new water for cooking, instead of the usual 2 cups, I only add 1 1/2 cups. However, when I cook spelt berries for a cold salad, I’m only looking for “done” and I don’t measure the water. I drain it off the berries after cooking anyway, so this wouldn’t be important.
Because oatmeal soaks up almost all the water, it’s nearly impossible to drain the soaking water. Follow the directions for how to soak oatmeal, and please take note of the extra wheat flour needed. Use that information any time you’re soaking a recipe using oats.
There’s a special and really nifty, well-researched method for soaking brown rice that knocks out 96% of phytic acid. Accelerated fermentation feels a little bit like keeping a sourdough starter, but much easier. Check out the directions for soaking brown rice – I promise, it’s just as easy as the other ways.
Sprouting is Awesome Too
Yesterday’s post on soaking vs. sprouting surprised me when I saw how long the list of advantages to sprouting became. You can sprout whole grains like quinoa and rice, any legume, and wheat berries for flour as well.
Sprouted flour does take a special touch, which is why it’s nice to find recipes that call specifically for sprouted flour. I’m so pleased that the free eBook is sponsored by Shiloh Farms, maker of Essential Eating sprouted flours and some recipe books using the product. Also check out Kate’s tips for baking with sprouted grains.
For the frugal crowd, two DIY resources for you:
And for the science geeks, here’s the health benefits of sprouting.
Sourdough is my Favorite
Health-wise, sourdough preparation has the most research and the most historical tradition when it comes to nutritious preparation of wheat baked goods. You can make almost anything with sourdough, as I learned to my great surprise in the sourdough eCourse at GNOWFGLINS (enrollment ongoing).
To get you started, here are some more resources:
- How to Make a Whole Wheat Sourdough Starter
- The Health Benefits of Sourdough
- Sourdough Crackers
- Sourdough Pizza
- Sourdough Honey Whole Wheat Bread
I’ve written extensively on the subject of grains, and you can find the whole series at the exploration of soaking grains.