“I see a lot of potential” with sprouted flours in terms of nutrition, taste and ease of use, Reinhart said while he mixed a wet dough of sprouted wheat flour to make bread at the Whole Grains Council’s Oldways Whole Grains: Breaking Barriers conference in Boston Nov. 10.
King Arthur Flour, Ardent Mills and many other flour manufacturers do too, which is why they are “kicking up their production of sprouted flour,” Reinhart said.
King Arthur currently is “exploring new sprouted wheat options,” and “how to expand our collection and product selection and offerings,” a company spokeswoman confirmed. The Norwich, Vt., firm already sells online for $8.95 two-pound bags of the organic sprouted whole wheat flour, which launched in early 2013 and is made from whole organic hard red winter wheat berries that are sprouted, dried and milled.
A potential challenge the firm faces as it scales is finding enough wheat, both organic and traditional, that meets its high specifications, she added. She also noted that the cost for the consumer is a factor the firm considers and that at this time King Arthur does not plan to sell a five-pound bag of the sprouted whole wheat flour because it would be too expensive.
Ardent Mills also “is getting in the sprouted grain business,” with the launch of its sprouted white spring whole wheat flour last year, Reinhart said.
How sweet it is to be sprouted
The flour manufacturers and Reinhart believe that sprouted flour and products made from it will appeal to shoppers because it tastes sweeter than traditional whole wheat flour and products.
Reinhart explained that the act of sprouting reduces the typical bitterness associated with whole wheat, which allows bakers to make a sweeter product without adding sugar. This is a marketing opportunity given consumers growing dislike of sugar and sweeteners.
Sprouted wheat flour also has a lower protein level than other whole wheat flours, according to King Arthur, which notes its organic sprouted whole wheat flour is 13% protein.
This could be a selling point given consumer demand for lower gluten products, Reinhart noted.
Improved baking performance
Finished food manufacturers and home bakers also will appreciate how easy sprouted flour is to work with and the improved results it yields compared to un-sprouted flour, Reinhart said.
Ardent Mills found that 100% whole wheat breads baked with its sprouted flour were 12% larger compared to its non-sprouted whole wheat counterpart, according to the firm’s marketing materials.
This natural increase in dough volume means the addition of vital wheat gluten to improve lift can be reduced or even eliminated, according to the Whole Grains Council. This also bodes well given the trend toward reduced gluten products.
In addition, the proof time decreases by 10% when using sprouted grains compared to un-sprouted grains, Ardent said.
“This benefit is brought about by the sprouting and kilning process. First, the sprouting process increases the levels of enzymes, which break down flour components such as starch to simple and complex sugars. During bread fermentation, these sugars nourish the yeast, enabling it to produce more gas to leaven the dough,” Ardent explains.
“Secondly,” it adds, “the sprouting and kilning process naturally mature flour, which appears to improve the dough’s ability to retain the gas produced,” which ultimately reduces the proof time
Finally, baking performance is improved by the sprouted flour’s increased stability. Ardent found sprouted flour could tolerate abuse during production for roughly 11.7 minutes, which is more than twice as long as its non-sprouted counterpart that tolerates only 6.7 minutes of abuse.
Sprouted grain flour also has a longer shelf life than regular whole grain flour, the Whole Grains Council said. It explained: “When a grain sprouts the unstable unsaturated fats in the germ are assimilated into the new plant, making them more stable.”
Added nutritional benefits are a possibility
Sprouted flours also may offer more nutritional benefits, but additional research is needed to confirm the bioavailability of these nutrients after baking, Reinhart said.
“Researchers from Ardent have said sprouting is reported to increase key nutrients in alpha tocopherol, B-vitamins, folate and fiber 1.5 to 3.8 times in germinated seeds,” Reinhart said.
The Whole Grains Council also noted a 2013 study in Food Chemistry found sprouted brown rice had higher antioxidant levels than regular white and brown rice.
“Similarly, Indian scientists sprouted millet and found that iron was 300% more bio accessible, manganese 17% and calcium was ‘marginally’ more bio accessible,” the Whole Grains Council added in materials prepared for the conference.
Sprouted flour also could provide prebiotics to feed the microbiome of those who eat it, said Reinhart, who wrote and published with Random House in October the cookbook “Bread Revolution” dedicated to “world-class baking and sprouted and whole grains, heirloom flour and fresh techniques.”
Reflecting on all the benefits of sprouted flour, he added: “There are too many positives for this not to be the next big thing!”