When we decided to eliminate white flour from our diet years ago, a good French baguette was the one thing I missed most. Bread with soup, bruschetta, crostinis with baked brie, homemade croutons, and garlic bread were all off the menu until I could find or make a better alternative. Converting from white to whole wheat was not enough; there was the issue of the phytic acid in untreated grains that I also wanted to avoid. Soaking the wheat flour breaks down the phytic acid, which can act as an anti-nutrient if untreated.
Phytic acid in grain combines with key minerals, especially calcium, magnesium, copper, iron, and zinc preventing their absorption. Soaking or sprouting the grain before baking neutralizes this acid, releasing the full benefit of the grain. This simple step also aids digestion, avoiding that too-full feeling often experienced after eating bread products. Although it was easy enough to find sprouted sandwich bread at the health food store, a sprouted wheat baguette was nonexistent.
At first, I was intimidated by the idea of soaking flour (8-10 hours) or sprouting grain to make a loaf of bread. It was easier to just avoid bread at dinnertime all together, but as I said, I missed it. With a little research and determination, I converted a French bread recipe to include the soaking method with great success, yielding a wonderful loaf with the classic pull and chew I always loved about French bread.
The only down side was my own spontaneity when cooking, I don’t always know a day in advance what I’m going to prepare. My mom, who is rich in colloquialisms, calls it “getting a wild hair”. So, when I found sprouted wheat flour that I could purchase at Whole Foods or on-line, ready for recipes without further soaking, I was pretty excited. My bread basket can now be filled any day of the week.
This recipe requires a little time to let the dough rest, but the work is minimal and the loaves are beautiful and delicious. I often bake and freeze several at a time, so it is easy to enjoy healthy, whole grain bread any time the mood strikes. Fresh baked bread warms the house and draws everyone to the kitchen with hope it is ready for tasting—just be sure there is extra-virgin olive oil nearby for dipping.