Adapting a Yeast Bread for Soaking
If you bake your own whole grain bread, you are already giving your family a great nutritional advantage over eating store-bought bread. Even organic, whole grain breads from the store almost always contain refined sugar, processed vegetable oils, and added gluten (which, I speculate, is one reason we are seeing such a rise in gluten intolerance in this country!). You can avoid those undesirable ingredients - and fill your house with the most glorious smell - by making your own bread at home.
I used to think that baking yeast bread was really difficult. It's true that there are many factors at play and that flops sometimes do happen, but it's definitely not the most complicated thing I've done in the kitchen. If you are afraid, just give it a try! You can start with my honey oatmeal bread recipe. If you're afraid to try on your own, ask a bread-making friend if you can come over and bake bread with them sometime! This was how I first learned how to make bread (thanks friend!).
Whole grain bread made at home does present us with an issue, though. Whole grains can cause vitamin deficiencies (which can lead to tooth decay and osteoporosis, among other things) if they are not properly prepared by soaking, sprouting, or souring. I think soaked yeast bread is the easiest of these to incorporate into your break-baking routine. We also love sourdough in our house, and we sometimes buy sprouted bread, but sometimes it is nice to be able to make a healthy bread without the fuss of a sourdough starter.
We've been told that whole grains are better for our health than refined grains. And it is true that they contain nutrients that are stripped away during the refining process. However, many of those nutrients are bound in a substance called phytic acid, which prevents our body from actually absorbing and using them. It doesn't matter what is in your food if your body can't use it! Grains also contain enzyme inhibitors that make then more difficult to digest. When you soak, sprout, or sour grains (as many traditional societies did), it neutralizes these substances and allows more of the nutrition from the grains to be used by our bodies. Some people have experienced quite a difference in how they feel after eating soaked whole grains vs. unsoaked whole grains. I choose to incorporate this practice into our lives as much as possible.
Is it hard?
Not all types of baked goods can be soaked, for example those that do not call for enough liquid to saturate the flour. In those cases it is best to use sprouted flour, which doesn't need to be soaked. Yeast bread is one example of a type of food that is easy to soak, because the amount of liquid called for easily moistens all the flour. So no, it is not hard! All it takes a little forethought, which is easy if you are already meal planning. I write down "soak bread" and "bake bread" right on my meal plan so I know when I'm going to do it. All you need is 7-24 hours between the soaking time and when you plan to mix, rise, and bake your dough.
Now get this: you don't need a special recipe for making soaked yeast bread. You can convert your favorite recipe following my method below.
Adapting Your Favorite Recipe for Soaking
Step one: Combine flour and liquid.
First, look at your recipe and find all whole grain flours and other whole grains. Add them to a mixing bowl. (My Honey Oatmeal Bread calls for 2 c. rolled oats, 2 c. wheat flour, and 2 c. white whole wheat flour.)
Then find out how much liquid - usually water or milk - it calls for. If you are not using instant yeast, leave out 1/4 c. of the liquid in order to dissolve the yeast when you are mixing the dough. Replace at least 1/4 c. of the remaining amount of liquid with cultured dairy such as whey, yogurt, buttermilk, or kefir. Gently warm the liquid (do not heat it to the temperature that would make your say "ouch!" because then you are killing the good bacteria in your cultured dairy). Add the liquid to your flours in the mixing bowl and mix thoroughly so that all the flour is moistened.
(My Honey Oatmeal Bread calls for 2 1/2 c. of water. I leave out 1/4 c. of that for dissolving yeast, which brings me to 2 1/4 cups. I replace 1/4 c. with whey. So in all I am adding 2 c. of water and 1/4 c. of whey. The remaining 1/4 c. of water will be used to dissolve the yeast the next day.)
Note: if you do not find the amount of liquid sufficient to moisten all the dough, you may add some of the liquid sweetener or fat from the recipe at this point. Some suggest that sugars and fats inhibit the soaking process, so I choose to leave that out of the soaking step if possible.
Step two: Soak.
Cover the mixture with a plate or damp towel (or both) and leave it to soak in a warm place (such as next to the fridge or in the oven with the light on) for 7-24 hours. Warmth is important because phytic acid is best neutralized at warmer temperatures.
Step three: Mix the dough, etc.
After the soaking time, add the remaining ingredients to the soaked mixture. Be sure to dissolve the yeast in the 1/4 c. of liquid you left out of the soaked mixture, unless you are using instant yeast. Mix and knead the dough as usual, and continue on with your recipe!
Have you ever adapted a recipe - yeast bread or other - for soaking? Was it successful? I'd love to hear about it!
This is part of Fight Back Friday, Monday Mania, Fat Tuesday, and Real Food Wednesday and Simple Lives Thursday.