Monday, January 31, 2011

Soaking Flour: The Why's and How's


The process of soaking flour was always a little confusing to me.  ("Wait, I'm supposed to get my flour wet before I use it?  Wouldn't this change the recipe?  What am I supposed to soak it in?"  etc...)  But a few pages and a few clicks later, it all made perfect sense.  "Soaking" your flour before you bake with it has numerous health benefits, and can give baked goods a deliciously rich flavor and texture.  Sally Fallon, in her book Nourishing Traditions, sites the following benefits of soaking your flour before baking with it:
-activates the enzyme phytase, which breaks down phytic acid (phytic acid inhibits the absorption of calcium, magnesium, iron, copper and zinc)
-provides lactic acid and lactobacilli, helping to break down complex starches and proteins
-increases vitamin content
-makes the nutrients in grains more readily available
-softens whole grain flour, making it more palatable

Basically, soaking your flour makes your end product more digestible, readying nutrients for easy assimilation in the body.  Also, soaking your flour is one awesomely healthy change you can make for your family's diet without spending any extra money!  Can I get an "AMEN!"  Here's how it's done:

How to Soak Flour
You need the flour called for by your recipe and an acidic liquid medium.  Here are some of those mediums:
cultured milk
cultured buttermilk
cultured cream
yogurt (Can't contain additives, even natural ones.  Just milk on that ingredient list.)
kefir
whey
vinegar
lemon juice

If your recipe calls for cultured milk, cultured buttermilk, or cultured cream as the liquid base:
Mix the cultured milk/buttermilk/cream from your recipe with the flour from your recipe and let sit in a warm place, covered, for 12 to 24 hours.  After soaking, add remaining ingredients and finish recipe as instructed.

If your recipe calls for water as the liquid base:
Replace one tablespoon water with one tablespoon acidic medium for every cup of liquid in recipe.  For example, if your recipe calls for two cups of water, spoon two tablespoons of acidic medium into your measuring cup first, then finish filling with water up to the 2 cup mark.  So you still have two cups of liquid, but two tablespoons of that are now acidic for soaking.  Mix the water/acid from your recipe with the flour from your recipe and let sit in a warm place, covered, for 12 to 24 hours.  After soaking, add remaining ingredients and finish recipe as instructed.

If your recipe calls for uncultured milk, buttermilk, or cream as the liquid base:
Use cultured instead... it will be so much better!  :)  But if you can't...
Follow the "calls for water" directions above, using yogurt or kefir as your acidic medium.

The actual process of soaking is super easy, it just takes a little bit of thinking ahead.  An easy way to start getting in the habit is to soak your breakfast batter (if you're making pancakes, waffles, etc) overnight.  When you get up in the morning you'll have a half-finished recipe already (yay!) and a more beneficial breakfast to devour!

Happy soaking to all!

24 comments:

  1. One thing that confuses me, are you supposed to use ALL the flour? Because I tried this once using all the flour, and I thought my bread tasted very bland afterwards, rather than better. So I assumed I read it wrong. But everything I've come across, like yours, says use it all. The bread recipe I use (and I double it so these amounts reflect that) calls for 10 cups flour with 4 cups water. The recipe instructs that I use only 6 cups flour with the additional dry ingredients (gluten, dough enhancer, salt, and yeast) and all the water. Once that sponges for 15 minutes, I add the remaining 4 cups flour plus oil and honey, then start the kneading.
    So I don't understand how I could possibly adapt it to the soaking method, since everything I read seems to indicate I use ALL the flour initially with NO yeast, then go from there. I don't know HOW to go from there if that's how I do it. Any ideas?

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    1. Try this recipe. I have found with bread it doesn't really work to take any old recipe and turn it into a soaked recipe. If you don't soak all the flour it defeats the purpose. Grain is very hard to digest unless it is properly prepared. In order to get the benefits ALL of the flour must be soaked.


      http://theelliotthomestead.blogspot.ca/2011/07/soaked-whole-wheat-bread.html

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    2. Also the bread should have a distinct flavor to it because its very similar to sour dough bread. Soaked bread, traditional breads, will not have the same soft airy texture as what we are used to today.

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  2. Could you soak the flour in a water/milk mixture overnight and then add honey and yeast to sponge? Then after sponging you could add gluten, enhancer and salt to knead. I have always done the "three rise" method to "soak" the grains- but may try this way instead.

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    1. Adding the gluten would defeat the purpose. Soaked bread will not be the way we are used to like store bought bread or white bread. It will be dense and have a distinct flavor, like sour dough. If you add the gluten then you are just adding back in all the phytic acid that depleats the body of nutrients.

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  3. Hi, I stumbled on your site. This is probably a silly question, but can I soak my store-bought all-purpose flour? I am having trouble finding more natural alternatives where I live.

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  4. A quick question: I have just encountered a site that explains how using a calcium based medium for soaking flour (such as buttermilk or whey, etc) is not as nutritious as soaking in simple water, since the calcium inhibits the production of iron/our ability to absorb the iron. Does anyone know why buttermilk/milk products are preferred to water, and if this information I read is correct? It seemed to be an upstanding site.

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    1. Hi !! I've heard that the calcium medium inhibits iron absorption, not calcium absorption. There are different things you can use instead of buttermilk, kefir, or yogurt for soaking. You can use about 1 TBSP lemon juice or apple cider vinegar (either or ) per cup of water.. you could even use whey. From what I've read.. whey seems to be okay.. but the others are options you can use instead for the same result and besides.. dairy acid mediums seem to leave a sort of tang or sourness to whatever you're baking.. and I didn't like the overpowering taste. I just use Braggs Apple Cider Vinegar to soak flour or oats.. and water and lemon juice to soak my brown rice.

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    2. Also, those other option were mentioned in the original posting. I guess dairy based mediums seem more convenient since they're already cultured.. no mixing and measuring (2 step) like you would with lemon juice and water or apple cider vinegar and water. It's one less step with dairy but only if you're willing to go with convenience at the expense of iron. That's possibly why calcium in supplements isn't as high as it should be because it would compete with iron. I think.

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  5. phew, that is a long ago posted question and I am not the blogger but I also follow Sally Fallon and the Nourishing Traditions method so I will take a gander (if anon is interested). I believe that simple water will NOT do the trick because you need a living acidic liquid. This basically starts the digestion process outside of our bodies so active enzymes are necessary. I could be wrong, but this is what I have read.
    Okay so now I have a question, does anyone have a recipe to soak flour to use in a bread machine so I don't have kneed it by hand? I'm not actually that lazy but I do have a problem with one of my arms that leaves me with very little upper body strength. Any help would be great!
    Grace and Peace

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    1. I would love an answer to this question as well. There's just only so much time in a day... ;)

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  6. Could I pre-soak a large amount of flour and then freeze it in portions to be saved for future recipes? I don't always have time to plan 24 hours ahead of baking time.

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  7. I have been scouring the internet for the answer to this question and maybe you could help out, or anyone who knows a bit about soaking and baking.... if the item Im baking is pie crust , my liquid to flour ratio is incredibly off and will not be sufficient in soaking all of the grains without the fat added in to it etc.... or in another case my banana bread recipe does not contain enough liquid (milk , eggs , and mashed banana) to be able to soak it... do i need to find special recipes or adjust the liquid ratio of these recipes?? I guess im just wondering if I'll have to ditch all of my old tried and true recipes and find new ones that include the soaking process?

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    1. I'm confused about this as well - hope someone answers! Some recipes like cornbread call for no liquid at all so how do you use soaked flour??

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    2. Ooh wait I think I may've just figured it out! You know how when you soak nuts & seeds you dehydrate them after so they return to their normal crunchy state? Well I'd imagine the same would go for flour. Do the soaking process to reduce phytic acid, enzyme inhibitors, etc then dehydrate the water out so you're back to dry flour but now with the bad stuff gone!!

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    3. i have been wondering the same thing. i make a pumpkin bread, and planned to remake it tomorrow, soaked, for the first time.
      (if you can, buy sprouted flour. the "soaking" process has already been done.)
      but i cant go out and buy the flours, soo...
      i measured the flours, but was stumped what to soak it in, when i realized my only liquids were pumpkin puree, yogurt, and a flax egg. i added warm water, about 1/2-2/3c, when i realized i couldnt drain it. thus began even more research, (eventually leading me to this site), and found that the pumpkin can also be used as a "soak". before i had assumed that the soak was water which would be drained.
      so, to sum: SOAK in the MILK and mashed BANANA, add a little water if needed (just a little, test it out). make sure your liquids are warm

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    4. http://www.ehow.com/how_5989727_soak-flour-whole-grain-recipes.html

      There is some great info here about soaking and making yeast breads including what to do with the fats and yeast. You will have to click at the bottom of the text to get the full article and then scroll down to the"Tips and Warnings" section:



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  8. Sprouting grains is another way to break through phytic acid.

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  9. do you have any soaked flour bread recipes that do not use huge amounts of fat, sugar and eggs? thanks

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  10. I have a question about soaking wheat flour in buttermilk that has been refrigerated. After mixing the two can this be left unrefrigerated for the 12-24 hours without spoiling?

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  11. Where do the anti-nutrients go? You can't rinse the flour like you can other soaked foods such as nuts and other grains. Since the flour can't be rinsed, is it possible you're still getting the anti-nutrients or does the acidic medium kill them?

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  12. I believe soaking causes the anti-nutrients to breakdown altogether.

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  13. Wonderful! So simple. I think it could also be useful for everyone to know how and where to merge documents online. I mostly use http://www.AltoMerge.com to merge my PDFs. I think it also allows you to fill the merged documents.

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  14. Sorry, this question may have been answered before, if so, I missed it. I get the whole idea and procedure but, when I knead the bread what do I use to stop the dough from getting sticky? Maybe it is treated more like a "batter| bread?

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