Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Larry's Sprouted Spelt: A Felicitous Case of Mistaken Identity

As is often the case with the best things in life, it all started with a mistake. Larry Lowary of Tree-Top Baking on Whidbey Island, WA, was stirring the grain he was soaking for his weekly bake of sprouted wheat bread (a customers' favorite) when he noticed that the berries were already germinating when they should have been barely waking up. He checked the bag and realized he had sprouted spelt instead of wheat (spelt sprouts much faster). It was too late to go back, so he ground the grain, mixed the dough and baked. Other than the fact that it tended to crumble a bit under the knife,  he thought the bread had turned out pretty well and as I happened to be visiting the next day, he kindly gave me a loaf to take home.
Eager to have a taste, I sliced it open that very night and was somewhat surprised not to find it as tasty as I thought it would be. Spelt is one of my favorite grains and I expected more depth. But my disappointment turned to wonder when I had another slice at breakfast the next morning. The flavor had set in (the crumb had probably dried out just enough to concentrate the taste) and the bread was all I had been looking forward to and more. I immediately begged Larry to please make the same mistake again and invite me to come and watch.
Not that I hadn't already seen sprouted berries turned into loaves... When I took Whole Grains at SFBI with Didier Rosada a few years ago, Keith Giusto came and demonstrated the making of his popular Power Bread (which involved sprouted wheat, required the addition of almonds and walnuts and was marvelously sinful). We also made a simple sprouted whole wheat pan bread. The latter recipe is the one which Larry had adapted for use at his bakery. I had never made it at home since I took the class because I didn't own a grinder until very recently. A refresher's course was therefore most welcome.
Between one thing and another (notably a very busy market season on Larry's side and school vacation and grandchildren on mine), a few months elapsed between the day Larry made his propitious mistake and the day I finally boarded the ferry to watch him make it again. It had been early summer then. Now it was early fall. But the boat ride and the island were as lovely as ever...

When I arrived at the bakery, Larry was ready for me. The only things he had done ahead of time were to soak the grain in water for 26 hours (stirring every eight hours or so) and to mix the sponge (which had to ferment overnight). For good measure, he had sprouted spelt AND wheat (he had soaked the wheat for two days), so that we could see how spelt compared. From the photo below, it is clear that it performed very well in terms of rise and plumpness. But even though spelt is probably my favorite by a tiny margin, I also love the taste and texture of sprouted wheat. Something happens during sprouting which not only greatly boosts the nutritional value of the grain but also maximizes its flavor. Heady stuff for a bread lover!

The process

Mixing raisins and water in the food processor

Rinsing and draining the sprouted grain

Grinding up the grain

Combining sponge, salt and ground-up grains and starting to mix

Mixing, checking gluten development and taking dough temperature

Fermenting and folding


Dividing, pre-shaping and shaping




The Formula (an SFBI original, as adapted by Larry)

  • Flour - 100 %
  • Water - 85 %
  • Instant dry yeast - 1.5 %
  • Salt - 2 %
  • Malt - 2 %
Final dough
  • Sprouted spelt - 80 %
  • Whole Spelt Flour - 20 %
  • Water - 5.25 %
  • Gluten (optional) - 2 %
  • Instant dry yeast - 1 %
  • Salt - 1.65 %
  • Raisins, soaked and puréed - 8 %
  • Honey - 4 %
  • Canola oil - 2 %
  • Sponge - 15 %
  • The original formula called for raisin juice concentrate which is both very difficult to find and super expensive. Larry's solution is to add warm water to raisins in the food processor and make a slurry. It works just fine. The bread can probably be made without it but as Larry explained, raisins have mold-inhibiting properties. They have been used for years to prolong bread's shelf-life
  • It is best to sprout more than needed as sprouted grain can be kept in the freezer (scale the quantity you need in ziploc bags and take it out as needed 24 hours ahead of time)
  • If whole spelt flour isn't available, white spelt can be used instead. The crumb will look a little bit lighter
  • If the sprouted grain has been kept in the fridge, use hot water
  • The sponge can be made up to four days ahead and kept in the fridge
  • The water percentage is very low because the sprouted grain is soaking wet. In case you need or want to drain the grain ahead of time, you will need to adjust the water amount
  • Mix ground-up sprouted grain with all of the liquids for two or three minutes on first speed, then add all the dry ingredients and mix again on first speed until desired dough consistency is reached (4 to 5 minutes)
  • Then mix on second speed for 5 to 7 minutes
  • Desired dough temperature: 80°F/27°C
  • Ferment for one hour
  • Scale at 800 g
  • Pre-shape as hard as possible in a tight roll
  • Shape as a tight batard
  • Proof for about one hour at 85°F/29°C
  • Bake for 50 minutes at 400°F/204°C (or lower depending on your oven as the raisin slurry and the honey put the dough at risk of burning at high heat)
  • You know that the bread is done when the sides are brown and no longer pliable
  • Enjoy!
Thank you, Larry, for being such a patient instructor and a wonderful source of information and inspiration, not to mention a very dear friend! I am currently sprouting some spelt and hope to be able to bake tomorrow. I'll report on the experience as soon as I get a chance and post the ingredient amounts for just two loaves.


  1. Hi MC,
    This is gorgeously tasty bread – thanks for letting us have a taste! and for writing about it :^)
    How kind of your friend Larry to share with you how to make this bread; very nice documentation of the process, start to finish!
    The raisin paste looks like a great way to sweeten the dough – interesting that the raisins prolong shelf-life too, but this bread is so delicious we’d eat it right up and wouldn’t have to worry about testing the theory!
    :^) breadsong

    1. Thank you, breadsong! I am glad you tasted the bread and liked it. You've got a point there... I don't see it lasting long enough to dry out. But it is good to know about the raisins anyway since spelt tends to have a shorter shelf life. I remember from my workshop at SFBI that it is one of the reasons why honey is often added to spelt.

  2. What a great "experiment" MC! Loved it, and so nice that you had a chance to go there and see it all again

    Now I am wondering about the taste of the bread right after baking and the next day - you are definitely an expert bread taster, getting all the nuances of flavor!

    1. Thanks, Sally! Oh, no, not an expert, but definitely a bread head!!!

  3. Interesting to know about the raisins extending the bread's shelf life! I don't have a grinder, so I won't be able to make this myself, but I still enjoyed reading about the process and seeing the photos of your beautiful trip to Whidbey.

    1. Hello Mary and thank you for stopping by! I watched your tango video and loved it! Wow is the only word that comes to my mind. Beautiful...
      Re: grinder. I held off making the bread for years after I took the workshop at SFBI in San Francisco because I didn't have a grinder either but I was rereading my notes the other day and the instructor actually said you could grind the sprouted grain in a food processor. Just do it in small batches so as not to overheat the machine. Maybe it's worth a try? I know you are interested in fitness and nutrition and sprouted spelt bread is considered a powerhouse, nutritionally speaking.



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