By bread with sprouts I don’t mean the vegetable variety, but whole sprouted grains of wheat. Sprouted grain breads have become a permanent category in the American bakery sector and some strong brands have been built around the concept. The products have a particular appeal to health-conscious consumers and there are bakeries that specifically target this market, offering products solely produced from sprouted grain. Although not recommended for conventional bakery processes, they are increasingly being used to add functional and sensory benefits to mainstream products, particularly where health attributes are part of the product feature.

Sprouted wheat can be used as a novel ingredient for the baking industry. The sprouting process is not one for the impatient and takes a week from start to finish. Once the growth viability of the wheat has been confirmed, the sprouting process begins by washing and soaking the grains for two days and then allowing nature to do the rest; hydration kickstarts the germination process and the grain begins to sprout, much as if planted in the ground. If left alone, the shoot or acrospire will eventually form the new plant, but the process is halted by gently drying down the sprouted grain and then stabilising it to control enzyme activity.

While much of the appeal is based on the long-held assumption that sprouting the grain enhances its nutritional content, there is now some science to back this up. Among the changes that occur within the grain during germination are increases in levels of certain vitamins, including folates, increased anti-oxidant activity and a reduction in some anti-nutritional factors. But, just as important in bakery applications is the texture and visual appeal that the grains add to recipes.

EDME, for example, utilises a patented process to stabilise the grains and provide them with a soft chewy texture, the products are supplied ready-to-use and are added with the flour and other recipe ingredients to the mixing bowl. The end result is visually striking as the grains swell further during baking and present themselves as plump wheat berries when the bread is sliced.

Confusing wheat sprouts with the vegetable variety is not as daft as it seems. On determining the whole grain status of sprouted grains in the USA, the AACC returned a ruling that "...sprouted grains containing all of the original bran, germ and endosperm shall be considered whole grains as long as sprout growth does not exceed kernel length...". If the sprout does exceed the length of the kernel then it is, apparently, a vegetable after all.