Sprouted Grain Sourdough Bread

My baking to-do list is rather long, as you might imagine, but I finally had the chance to cross off an item that’s been patiently lingering: working with sprouted grain flour. With my recent successful endeavor into sprouting my own buckwheat groats, and the eye-opening taste and texture they brought to my Sprouted Buckwheat Sourdough, I was keen on venturing further down the same path. My intention was to sprout my own wheat berries, dehydrate the sprouts, and then pass them through my grain mill to produce a fine flour to be used as a percentage in a bread formula. Instead, I was happy to discover that King Arthur Sprouted Wheat Flour offers a sprouted and milled wheat flour. Just perfect for this sprouted grain sourdough bread.

When working with a completely new flour there’s always this dichotomy between excitement and uncertainty. Questions arise when creating a new bread formula: will the flour have ample protein and hold up well to increased hydration and extended fermentation or will it be more delicate? What kind of aroma and taste will it bring to my sourdough? What other flour should I utilize to bring out the best qualities it has to offer? The thing is, it’s through testing, tweaking and the discovery of answers to these questions that I find enjoyment. Well, that and actually eating the resulting bread with butter — can you blame me though?

The first thing to strike me with this flour was how it smelled. The aroma was mild but reminiscent of fresh milled wheat I’ve worked with in the past. When I mixed the first test batch the aroma was amplified as the water hit the flour–this is where I usually get the first inkling of how the resulting bread might smell and taste. If you’ve never paused at this point of the process to take a big whiff of freshly hydrated flour give it a try, after which you’ll surely have a grin on your face.
Sprouted Grain Sourdough Bread @ The Perfect Loaf

In subsequent bakes I worked to bring out those mild and creamy notes by pairing the sprouted grain with other flour I knew would support a lofty loaf but at the same time not be overpowering. I found the flour to be soft, not only before mixing with water but also once incorporated as dough, so I chose a mix of bread and all purpose flour to help add strength without too much strength.

During the first test bake I saw ample fermentation activity, boosted no doubt by the sprouted wheat flour, and so I adjusted to accommodate this in later bakes. I reduced my overall levain percentage added to the final dough mix to help compensate but still, do keep an eye on this dough during bulk fermentation and make the call to divide when you notice the dough is ready1.
Sprouted Grain Sourdough Bread @ The Perfect LoafGoing into this bake I knew the sprouted grain was made from white whole wheat berries, which have a mellow flavor profile and soft quality to them — these were evident in the sprouted wheat flour in addition to a subtle, nutty sweet flavor. I thought it might be nice to add some additional texture to each bite by rolling the exterior of the dough in raw barley flakes, similar to my use of raw rolled oats in the past. Barley is a wonderful grain that has a slightly nutty flavor, crunchy texture when toasted, and high fiber content — a few things I’ve never heard anyone say they don’t want more of.

Sprouted Grain Sourdough Bread Formula

Vitals

Total Dough Weight 2000 grams
Pre-fermented Flour 4.60%
Hydration 86.00%
Yield 2 x 1000 gram loaves

Sprouted Grain Sourdough Bread @ The Perfect LoafThe image above is a snapshot of my ongoing sourdough starter and the level of activity it’s typically at right before I use it to build my levain. You can see how it’s extremely mature, well fermented, and ready to go. As always, if you’re having trouble keeping your starter maintained at a state similar to this have a look at my starter maintenance guide for some simple tips to help.

Levain Build

Weight Ingredient Baker’s Percentage
60g Mature liquid starter (100% hydration) 100%
30g King Arthur Sprouted Wheat Flour 50%
30g King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour 50%
60g H2O @ 90ºF 100%

Dough Formula

Target final dough temperature (FDT) is 78ºF.

Note that the baker’s percentages listed below are with respect to the final dough ingredients and do not take into account the levain.

Weight Ingredient Baker’s Percentage
467g King Arthur Unbleached Bread Flour 47.17%
287g King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour 29.04%
236g King Arthur Sprouted Wheat Flour 23.79%
845g H2O @ 90ºF 85.32%
22g Salt 2.20%
143g Mature, 100% hydration liquid levain 14.47%

Method

1. Make the Levain – 9:00 a.m.

Make the liquid levain (everything listed in the Levain Build section above) in the morning and store somewhere around 75ºF – 80ºF ambient.

This is a really fast and warm levain. It will be mature and ready to go after about 3 hours given the high percentage of mature starter used and the warm water. Check in on it after about 2-2.5 hours and make sure it’s moving along. If it looks like it’s ready, proceed to mixing. Conversely, if it needs a bit more time to mature give it the time it needs.

At the same time you make the levain, also mix flour and water for the autolyse. See the next step.

2. Autolyse – 9:00 a.m.

Mix flour and water (reserve 100g water for mix, later) in a bowl until all dry bits are hydrated. Cover bowl and store somewhere warm (around 75-80ºF) for 3 hours, the same amount of time it takes for the levain to mature.

Why such a long autolyse? When I use a high percentage of bread flour, or whole wheat flour, I like to increase the autolyse period to help soften the resulting dough. During this time you’ll notice the dough mixture becomes more extensible, much easier to stretch out and mix.

Sprouted Grain Sourdough Bread @ The Perfect Loaf3. Mix – 12:00 p.m.

Add the called for levain and about half of the reserved water to the mixing bowl with the autolysed dough and hand mix until well combined.

Dump the dough onto the counter and slap and fold the dough (French fold) for about 5 minutes, just until the dough starts to show signs of a smooth surface. If you aren’t comfortable with the slap/fold method, or don’t like it, you can do stretch and folds in the bowl until the dough tightens up and becomes harder to stretch out and fold over. For me this is usually 30-40 folds.

Let the dough rest 15 minutes.

When finished with the initial mix and rest, sprinkle the salt on top of the dough and use the remaining water to help dissolve. Pinch through a few times and fold the dough over itself to help incorporate. Perform an additional 3 minutes of slap and fold to build even more strength in the dough. It should come together and be slightly smooth but still a tad sticky. Medium development.

Transfer dough to a tub or thick-walled bowl for bulk fermentation.

4. Bulk Fermentation – 12:20 p.m. to 4:00 p.m.

At 75-80ºF ambient temperature bulk fermentation should go for about 3 hours and 45 minutes. If it’s colder in your kitchen 2 it might take longer than this; give the dough the time it needs.

Perform a total of 2 sets of stretch and folds during bulk, spaced out by 30 minutes. I found this dough to be quite strong so I stopped after two sets, but if after the last set of stretch and folds the dough feels overly slack give it another set for a total of three. After the final set let the dough rest for the remainder of bulk.Sprouted Grain Sourdough Bread @ The Perfect LoafThe dough pictured above is when I decided to end bulk. It felt like perhaps it could have gone another 15-20 minutes without harm but the domed edges where the dough meet the bowl, the bubbles on top and just below the surface, and the tension in the dough felt when tugging on it indicated to me it was time.

5. Divide & Preshape – 4:00 p.m.

Dump the dough from the bulk container to an unfloured work surface. The dough will be a little sticky so rely on a bench knife and floured hand to gently preshape the dough into two round boules after dividing the mass in two.

Let the dough rest 25 minutes uncovered.

6. Shape – 4:25 p.m.

Flour the work surface and the top of each rested round. Working with one at a time, flip the resting round over onto the floured surface and fold the top half up and over down to the middle and the bottom half up and over to the recently folded top. You’ll have a long horizontal rectangle sitting in front of you. Turn the rectangle 90º and grab a small portion of the top, pull up and fold down and over a little bit, pressing to seal. Take the rolled top and continue to gently roll it downward toward your body with two hands working together. As you do each roll and work your way down the vertical rectangle, use your thumbs to gently press the dough into itself.

You can see a video of me performing this batard shaping method on my Instagram feed.Sprouted Grain Sourdough Bread @ The Perfect LoafTo coat your dough in raw barley flakes or oats, spread the flakes out in a thin layer on a towel. Then, prepare another towel next to it that’s lightly moist. Once your dough is shaped, gently roll the top of the loaf (with the seam still facing up) on the moist towel and then transfer to the layer of barley flakes, gently rocking it back and forth to adhere as many flakes as possible. From there, transfer the dough to a proofing basket with the seam side still facing up.

Another option is to use a handheld spray bottle to lightly moisten the top of the dough after it’s shaped, then turn it over onto the towel with the barley flakes.

7. Rest & Proof – 4:30 p.m. to 7:30 a.m.

Cover each basket with plastic and then place in the refrigerator at 38ºF for 15 hours.

8. Bake – Next Morning: Preheat oven at 6:30 a.m., Bake at 7:30 a.m.

Preheat oven for one hour at 500ºF.

Take out both of the baskets from the fridge and cut two pieces of parchment paper to fit over the top of each; quickly invert each basket onto each piece of parchment. Using a lame score the top of each at a shallow angle to the dough and just deep enough to cut below the top skin of the dough. Start at the top of the loaf and with a single decisive stroke cut from top to bottom with a slight outward bend in the middle.Sprouted Grain Sourdough Bread @ The Perfect LoafIt can be challenging to score this dough with the barley flakes on top. Make the first long slash with a repeat slash on the same line if you notice the blade did not go deep enough.

Using a pizza peel slide the two pieces of parchment with dough into the oven. Bake the loaves at 500ºF for 20 minutes with steam, then remove the steaming pans from inside the oven. Bake the loaves for an additional 5 minutes at 500ºF, then turn the oven down to 450ºF and bake for an additional 15-25 minutes or until done to your liking.

Please see here for my method for steaming a home oven to bake bread.

Sprouted Grain Sourdough Bread @ The Perfect LoafConclusion

This bread is a welcome shift from some of the heartier breads I’ve been baking lately. It has a subdued, gentle flavor profile and, according to King Arthur Flour’s sprouted wheat guide, the sprouted whole grain has high fiber content and it’s packed with added nutrition. When baking my way through several bags of this flour in testing I found each bag to perform consistently from bake to bake (they have a patent-pending process to ensure this)-always a welcome thing. I feel like this flour would be perfect in some of my other sourdough recipes, perhaps as a substitute directly for whole wheat flour (as in red whole wheat) or even half the total white flour in a formula. I do know one thing, I can’t wait to try this out with my mostly whole wheat sandwich bread.

Crust

Sprouted Grain Sourdough Bread @ The Perfect LoafThe beautiful, elegant golden crust at the score’s opening catches the eye while the darker sides ground it with a certain rustic slant. I think this crust would be equally appealing sans the flakes, or coated with raw oats instead, but I find their crunch brings further interest and mouthfeel to this wonderful bread. It’s a small touch but one that’s a happy surprise as one quickly makes their way through slice after slice.

Sure, cutting this bread with those barely-hanging-on flakes means a slightly messier kitchen, but it’s totally worth it.

Crumb

Sprouted Grain Sourdough Bread @ The Perfect LoafThe soft and creamy crumb is wonderful against the backdrop of a thin, brittle crust studded with crunchy barley flakes. The two work well together, a dance of two opposites, creating a balanced loaf that is neither too soft nor too rigid. The ability for the sprouted grain to handle a slightly increased hydration adds to the overall tenderness of the crumb while the strength provided by the all purpose and bread flour makes for a light loaf in the hand. The open structure of this bread is right at the sweet spot between a light crumb and tight enough for use in just about any setting.

Taste

Sprouted Grain Sourdough Bread @ The Perfect LoafThis is a wonderfully mild tasting bread. I can pick out delicate nutty flavors in the crust & crumb and the distinct, but not overpowering, sweetness inherent in the sprouted grain adds complexity and depth. I find this bread can be used for a variety of purposes from soups to sandwiches to plain old toast with butter and jam. Because the flavor of this sprouted flour is so mild I feel like the percentage of whole grains in this bread could be increased even further without overpowering any of the other flavors present. Just an all around versatile and delicious bread.


Buon appetito!

Thanks so much to King Arthur Flour for sponsoring this sprouted grain sourdough bread post! As always, all opinions and thoughts are my own.





  1. I know “ready” is a nebulous term, try to use the pictures here and my description for when to end bulk.

  2. You can always use your oven (turned off) with the light on inside to create a nice, warm environment