What Is Sprouted Spelt?

Dan Harkins

Many organic farmers and whole foods fans swear by flour that is made from the easier-to-digest sproutings of grain. One popular variety for this method — particularly for bakers — is called sprouted spelt, which is an antiquated genus of wheat with a seed that is particularly hard to break free from its husk. Using the sprouting method, however, allows bakers to utilize the sugar-rich portion of the seed that is emerged from the hull on its own.

Sprouted spelt produces slightly lighter, fluffier baked goods than traditional flour.
Sprouted spelt produces slightly lighter, fluffier baked goods than traditional flour.

Scientifically named Triticum spelta, spelt can be found throughout 10,000 years of civilization's archeological record. Bread wheat, or Triticum aestivum, became more favored worldwide near the end of the 18th century due to easier processing, higher gluten and carbohydrate content, and better baking prospects. Still, spelt's gluten and carbohydrate content is high enough to retain many wheat-intolerant diners, who usually can stomach spelt's old-fashioned levels of about 60 percent starch and more than 15 percent protein — shadowing bread flour's much lower average protein count.

Spelt grains before sprouting.
Spelt grains before sprouting.

Sprouted spelt is made in a unique process that bears resemblance to the sprouted flours made from other grains. Seeds are washed then soaked in water. The hulls are soaked for as long as 14 hours, then rinsed again before spending a day or two in a jar or cloth-wrapped bin, protected from insects by netting or a lid. Once they have sprouted, the sprouts are stripped of the hulls, dried and ground. This process converts more of the enzymes in the seeds to simple sugars, giving sprouted spelt one of the sweeter tastes of the grain flours.

Bakers making bread or dessert treats for wheat-intolerant customers replace bread flour with sprouted spelt flour as a one-for-one trade. Some actually use slightly less spelt, since it is known to produce an airier, lighter final product. A range of recipes using spelt in place of flour is available online, though any recipe with flour is fair game.

Though sprouts made from beans are the most widely accepted form of the ingredient, many harvest sprouts from a range of common grains and vegetable seeds. Each type may have a slightly different soak or sprout time. These sprouts are commonly derived from other grain like buckwheat, barley, rice, amaranth and oats as well as corn, pumpkin and even cucumber seeds. Even almond, sunflower, sesame and mustard seeds produce sprouts prized by culinary experts for their unique flavors, appearances and textures.

Sprouted spelt is often used to bake bread.
Sprouted spelt is often used to bake bread.

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