A couple months ago, I decided to start sprouting some grains here in my kitchen — you know, to have something to do to pass the time. I bought a couple half-gallon jars with stainless steel screen tops, read a few instructions, and got to sprouting. I started with wheat berries — hard white — and then moved on to spelt. It was working ok — the wheat sprouted evenly, but even in my chilly March kitchen I opened the jars to find a spot or two of mold on the berries. The spelt grains didn’t mold, but sprouted very unevenly. No matter — after painstakingly removing the molded wheat berries, I dried them all in my dehydrator and ground them into flour.
Why bother? No, it’s not really because I’m bored (if I was a wealthy woman I’d gladly be paying someone else to do this for me — this, along with laundry, mopping floors, dusting, and occasionally hanging with my kids while I did something luxurious like going to the grocery all by myself — but I digress). It’s a relatively simple task — one that takes just a few minutes of hands-on time each day for a few days. The real reason I bother is that sprouting those berries makes for much more nutrient-dense grains, as well as grains (and therefore flour, and therefore baked goods) that are much easier to digest. The grain is at its height of nutritive value when sprouted, and also neutralized of phytic acid (an enemy of nutrient absorption), allowing you bake things without pre-soaking the flour (if you’re into that sort of thing).
But this week has been two steps back. First, the two jars of wheat berries I began sprouting Sunday night were both replete with white fuzzy mold by Tuesday morning. The berries were just showing the tiniest white sprouts by Monday night — but I figured they needed just a few more hours, so rinsed them and let them go ’til morning. But a quick glance at the jars as I poured my morning coffee told me they’d gone too far: the sprout tails were already 1/4″ long, making them more difficult to grind once dried. And a closer look revealed many clumps of berries held together by fluffy white stuff. Way more mold than seemed wise to attempt to remove. So I dumped both jars into the trash, wincing mildly as I calculated the monetary loss (probably around a dollar or two… but before you scoff, wouldn’t it be hard to throw a couple dollar bills down the trash can? I rest my feeble case.)
As if moldy wheat wasn’t enough: just as I was beginning to feel all wildly successful with my sourdough starter, my little Me-Power trip took a turn south. Last week, I had finally landed on a method that produced two perfect loaves of sourdough wheat sandwich bread (not the one in the photograph — I of course didn’t take a picture of the Perfect Loaves) — to me, the holy grail of sourdough, and the one thing I’ve been hoping to master. I had, per usual, kept fairly meticulous notes on my process. A couple nights ago, I set about making two more loaves — and since the method I’d discovered was so incredibly easy, I wasn’t sweating it a bit. Fast-forward 24 hours, and I’m pulling out of the oven two extremely sad loaves of “bread.” They had absolutely no oven spring, had crust that looked dry and deflated. A cut into a loaf revealed not the soft, chewy crumb of last week’s loaves, but holey, waxy slices that were entirely too sour. WHAT IN THE WORLD. I did the EXACT SAME THING. I am completely, totally perplexed, with no where to turn. I was so utterly undone, I capped my jar of starter tightly and stuck it in the fridge. He and I need some time apart (sorry, Jen — this means another week or so on that package).
So I’m throwing up my hands, and throwing in the proverbial kitchen towel — for a while, anyway. I’m off my game, and not sure what to do next to get my baked goods in the shape I want them to be when we eat them. Anyone have any ideas on how to avoid mold when sprouting wheat berries? Why does wheat mold so much more easily than spelt? Or has anyone been making sourdough long enough to help me figure out how there could be such disparity between two batches of bread made the exact same way? Is it my starter — does the acidity matter? If you or someone you know could offer expert advice, please do share. This is my official Call for Help!
This post is part of Pennywise Platter Thursday at The Nourishing Gourmet.