Monday, April 19, 2010

Soaked whole grain bread

What the heck is soaked bread?  (Conjuring up mental images of bread cubes dipped in milk for a meatloaf...)  Up until quite recently, this would have been my reaction.  I have baked bread for years and had never heard of soaking grains prior to cooking or baking with them.  But the challenges of cooking for food allergies and improving my own health have led me to discover some other methods of baking with grains.  Even with my food degree, I never knew about the phytic acid and enzyme inhibitors in many grains that can prevent efficient nutrient and especially mineral absorption.  Fortunately, most of these grains also come equipped with the phytase enzyme required to deactivate these "antinutrients".  Conveniently, traditional methods of preparation take the time to activate the enzymes with an acid medium.  While this takes more time, it really takes little extra effort.  No more than remembering to feed your sourdough starter the day before you want to bake with it does.  Another benefit to soaking grains is that it makes them much more digestible.  I have even heard that some people who are gluten sensitive can tolerate soaked grain baked goods.  Soaking the grain also happens to make some of the nutrients more bioavailable and at much higher levels than unsoaked grain.  At any rate, I felt it was worth a try.

I've made this loaf quite a few times because it is bread machine friendly.  I've also served it to skeptical company who proclaimed it delicious.  Very tender and flavorful crumb.  Just pop it into the machine to knead together a few minutes and leave until the next day.  Then just add the salt and yeast, knead as usual and bake as usual.  So really it takes almost no extra effort, just a longer resting period.  I recently switched to extra thick rolled oats because I found the most popular store brand didn't hold up to soaking and I cannot stand gooey creamy oatmeal (library paste.)  I boil it for three minutes, (4-5 for the thick oats)  drain it and that's enough cooking.  We like our oats with plenty of tooth to them still.  What I found with this particular recipe was that the thick oats absorb more water than the old fashioned oats.  So depending on your oats, I might add a tablespoon or more extra water to achieve a sufficiently workable dough.  And remember, bread dough would always rather be too wet than too dry.*  Also, the salt is not added until the next day because it inhibits the whole soaking process.  This is one of those "baby steps" toward slow food/nourishing food ways of eating.  I just consider it another tasty way to help me learn to plan ahead better.  This batch turned out well enough to be yeast spotted.

*Unless you're working with spelt - that does not like to be overhydrated or the gluten structure will collapse easily.

Bread Machine Friendly Soaked Whole Wheat Bread
makes 1 loaf

1 Tbsp apple cider vinegar (or whey, kefir, buttermilk or yogurt) plus enough water to make 1 cup (227g)
2 ¾ cup (311 g) whole wheat flour (I use white whole wheat)
½ cup (44.5 g) oats
¼ cup (84 g) honey
3 Tbsp (42 g) melted coconut oil (or olive oil or melted butter)
2 Tbsp (12.5 g) coarsely ground flax seed (I keep my golden flax meal in the fridge to prevent rancidity)

2 Tbsp (28 g) warm water
¼ tsp (1.75 g) honey
1 ¾ tsp (5.5 g) Instant Yeast
1 ¼ tsp (7 g) salt
1 Tbsp (9 g) vital wheat gluten

Put the water mixture, flour, oats, honey, oil and flax seed in the pan of your bread machine in the manufacturer’s recommended order. Turn the bread machine on the dough cycle and let run for about five minutes, until all the ingredients are well mixed. Turn off the machine and let this sit for 12-24 hours.

Next day, combine the 2 Tbsp water, ¼ tsp honey and yeast and let sit for a few minutes to activate the yeast (mixture should rise and become foamy).  Add the yeast mixture, salt and gluten to the flour in the bread machine.  Select the dough cycle and watch it for the first few minutes to make sure it doesn’t need more flour.  I actually added a tablespoon of water because of those thick oats.

When the dough cycle is finished, turn out the dough onto a floured surface.  Pat or roll into a rectangle, then roll up to fit in your loaf pan.  (I use a smaller loaf pan, about 8x4".)  Place in greased loaf pan and allow it to rise until doubled, about 30 to 45 minutes. Don't over raise or it will fall.  Bake at 350º for half an hour, until crust is brown and it sounds hollow if you tap on the bottom of the loaf. You can brush the crust with melted butter to keep it extra soft and tasty.

I was asked if this recipe works without the gluten and owing to the fact that I forgot to add it once, I can say that it does.  You really need to be careful not to over raise without it though because it will have less structure and therefore less forgiveness on timing.  It will have a larger, more delicate crumb but still tastes and works fine.  Here's what happens when you forget to set the timer for the rise, or you turn it off and then get distracted:

Oops.  Not too bad though.  I've seen some soaked recipes that basically overflowed all over the pan or oven.  Not pretty.  I like this one because it looks like a nice traditional loaf - no flat top.  Even the one with the missing gluten would have had a decent crown if I hadn't forgotten it.  You can see that it also has a larger crumb than the loaf with that extra little bit of gluten.  The girls were quite willing to eat it up though. 

Original recipe credits go to and


  1. This look truly stellar. I will have to try soaking grains next time I'm feeling creative. I hope you are having a wonderful day. Blessings...Mary

  2. What a nice loaf! The texture looks so great to me..

  3. This is going to be on my to try list. I'm just wondering how wet is the dough when you first mixed everything in the bread machine?

  4. This being the first time using the thicker oats, I had to add a couple tablespoons water to the recipe to make it come together. It really should be just like a standard dough though. And since it will lose a little moisture over the soak period, being on the wetter side probably wouldn't hurt. Bread dough would always rather be a bit too wet than a bit too dry. If it is quite stiff the next day, as mine was this time, you may pull it into smaller bits to more easily incorporate that little bit of water, yeast and gluten and ease the initial strain on the paddle of the machine. (My machine is over 11 years old and starting to lose it's oomph.) I hope it turns out well for you! :)

  5. Do you think it is possible to do this either by hand or in a stand mixer?

  6. Oh yes, certainly! Use whatever method you prefer. I have seen versions that include machines, mixers and hand kneading, with soaks that range from batter like to more dough like. I like to do stretch and fold when I make my regular dough by hand but I think this method probably needs regular kneading. Good luck and have fun!

  7. be happy and love. kiss

  8. Hey there - any chance that it can be baked straight in the breadmachine? If so, suggestions as to which setting you'd use?

  9. Yes, it is possible though the results will not be quite as good. (I never liked bread machine crusts though I haven't tried the Zojirushi machine which supposedly does better.) The loaf will probably be shorter and more dense but still good (and great toasted). I would select the whole wheat setting with the longest rise time possible, or whichever setting has a long rise, maybe sweet bread? Depends on the machine and if you can find your manual, lol! (Mine is 13 years old now!) You'll probably want to bump up the yeast to a full 2 tsp for instant or 2¼ for active dry. I would also recommend regular oats or quick oats, not thick, if using the machine solely. Another trick to give it a boost would be to use a small portion of white flour, like the ¾ cup. Good luck, I hope it turns out to your liking. ☺

  10. I googled soaked bread recipes...tried a few....this is my favorite!! Thank you. Love the addition of oats. I did not use a bread machine and I also added a pinch of vitamin c powder instead of the VWG. Fabulous!! soft and very flavorful, easy to slice and no crumblies. Perfect for sandwiches and toast.

  11. Not sure if my comment posted so I’ll do it again....I googled soaked wheat bread recipes and tried a few....this one was the best. Loved the addition of flax and oats. I did not use a bread machine, I used regular yeast and instead of VWG I used a pinch of vitamin c powder. Perfection. Very sliceable without crumbling. Perfect for sandwiches and toast. Yum.

    1. I love the vitamin C trick! Better than trying to keep VWG on hand if you rarely use it. So glad you like how this loaf turns out, you have reminded my how much we enjoy it as well. Need to make it this week!


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