This Sprouted Wild Yeasted Whole Wheat Bread recipe is a nod to how the first breads probably got their start. Wheat berries were probably softened with water, ground and left out in the elements where they were then populated by airborne yeasts and bacteria, causing the dough to rise slightly. Placing this dough on hot rocks in or near a fire probably resulted in a fine vegan treat like nothing else available at the time.
Similar to Flourless Sprouted Wheat Bread and Wild Yeasted Wheat Bread, this bread is a great example of how amazing breads can be when you allow nature to do most of the work. This is not your grandmother's bread; since this bread utilizes sprouted, ground wheat berries that are then wild yeasted, the result is an extremely dense, hearty and flavorful loaf. Since the sprouting of the wheat berries and the wild yeasting of the dough provides so much complex flavor there is no need to enrich the dough with sweeteners and excess salt. A little salt is added as a flavor enhancer. This bread is very similar to Manna Bread which I reviewed here. Due to this bread consisting of wild yeasted wheat berry purée, it doesn't rise considerably and is extremely dense. It takes several days to make but if you enjoy hearty, crusty, dense breads such as pumpernickel bread then it will be well worth it. Once you've mastered this bread feel free to make several loaves at a time, slice it then freeze it for maximum convenience.
3 ½ cups wheat berries
1 ¼ teaspoon salt
6 Tablespoons water
Sprout the wheat berries
Soak the wheat berries for about 18 hours. Drain then sprout the wheat berries, rinsing 2 to 3 times per day until the sprout is barely visible. This should take about 24 to 36 hours. If the berries sprout and you don't have time to proceed to step 2, place them in the refrigerator to slow their sprouting rate down. Here's more information on sprouting grains.
Pat the berries with a paper towel to remove as much moisture as possible. Divide the sprouted wheat berries roughly in half into two separate batches and process them in a food processor until they form a ball and break apart. This should take a few minutes per batch.
Make the starter
Add ½ cup of the wheat berry purée and 6 Tablespoons of water to a clean small bowl and mix together with a clean fork until well incorporated. Cover the bowl with a cheese cloth secured with a rubber band to keep flies out and keep it in a cool, dry place. Transfer the remaining purée into a covered container and refrigerate. Mix in 2 Tablespoons of wheat berry purée and 1 Tablespoon water into the smaller portion of the mixture every day for about 8 days. After about 8 days the mixture should be slightly bubbly and smell sour from fermentation. Although rare, if the mixture smells putrid it may have gotten contaminated with undesirable microbes. In this case you may be able to correct it by mixing in 2 more Tablespoons of wheat berry purée and waiting another 12 hours or so. If the mixture continues to smell putrid, discard the mixture and do not proceed with this recipe.
Knead the dough
Place the large portion of wheat berry purée on a large clean counter surface. Flouring this surface is not necessary. Squish it so it's flat, add the fermenting wheat berry mixture and salt. Fold over and knead the ingredients together.
Let the dough rise
Knead it for 15 minutes. The dough will start out a little firm and get stickier as the gluten gets activated and the dough warms from the heat of your hands. The dough will seem more moist than traditional bread dough- this is ok. Resist the urge to add additional flour like you would in a traditional bread recipe. Coat the dough with olive oil, place it in a bowl and cover the bowl with a plastic bag. Let it rise for about 12 hours. When it's done rising do not degass the dough by squeezing the gasses out of it; we'll want to maintain the rise as much as possible and handle it extremely carefully from now on.
Proof the dough
With dampened fingers, carefully form the dough into a lightly oiled loaf pan, taking special care to press the gas out of the dough as little as possible. Cover it with the damp cloth and and let it sit, or proof, for 4 hours..
Bake to perfection
Preheat your oven to 375F (191C). Bake until the internal temperature of the bread measured with an instant-read thermometer registers 180-190F (82-88C). If you don't have a thermometer, this is about 45 minutes or until the bottom of the loaf sounds hollow when the loaf pan is tapped with a blunt object like a rolling pin. Rotate the loaf 180 degrees in the oven halfway through the baking duration for even baking. Remove from the pan when cooled completely. This bread is best stored covered in a cool dark place or pre-sliced and stored in a plastic freezer bag in the freezer. Makes one loaf of Sprouted Wild Yeasted Whole Wheat Bread.