Making Sunbaked Essene Bread: Snatching Victory from the Jaws of Sprouting Defeat

Last week I posted a somewhat downbeat article on my attempts at growing sprouts to eat. Clumps of hair-like alfalfa sprouts are OK, but the various sprouted beans and peas I made got no traction with me or my extended family. And my sprouted wheat tasted terrible, like a mouthful of grass.

The wheat got me curious – – I have enjoyed plenty of nice “sprouted wheat” bread, and it is supposed to be good for you. In the germination process, the enzymatic chemistry of the wheat seed goes into action and breaks down some of the highly stable compounds in order to activate them for supporting active growing instead of stasis. Studies show that this sprouting chemistry renders the material in the wheat more amenable to human digestion than in the original seed and greatly increases the vitamin A and C content.

So, what did I do wrong? It turns out that the timing of wheat sprouting is critical: if it goes too long, the wheat composition changes dramatically, turning more bitter. That is what happened with my first sprouting effort. Smarting with this failure, I decided to try again.

I bought a sack of “Hard White Wheat Berries” on-line, and soaked them in water for about 9 hours, then sprouted them by sitting them in a colander in a large bowl, covered with a dish towel. I have written up the detailed procedures I used in another article, so here I will just summarize.

Because I was afraid of over-sprouting, I erred on the side of shorted sprouting times. After about 12.5 hours of sprouting, the kernels were just barely starting to germinate, with tiny white nubs starting to appear:

I took some of this wheat to make bread out of, and left the rest to keep sprouting further. I had read of so-called “Essene bread”, made in a pre-industrial manner by grinding up the moist, sprouted wheat and then simply drying loaves on a hot rock in the sunshine. Since I had a hot, sunny day coming up, I decided to go primitive and make my first sprouted wheat loaf in that fashion.

Lacking a proper grinding mill, I ripped into these grains with a decidedly non-primitive food processor, with a little added water. This made a mash with some coherence:

I shaped that into a loaf just under an inch thick, and put it into a cast iron skillet out in the sun:

After fending off ants and birds (again, see the other article for details), by the end of the day in the sun I had a loaf of genuine Essene bread:

(A corner is missing here where a bird pecked it). The texture was OK, still moist on the inside, but firm, flexible crust on the outside. It initially tasted very blah. At my wife’s suggestion, I sprinkled on some salt, and it became pretty tasty. Success!

I kept on sprouting the rest of the wheat for total of 21 hours of sprouting. At this point, tiny 1/8” long shoots had appeared:

I ground this in the food processor, with added water and salt, and then dehydrated the resulting loaves in an electric skillet set at low temperatures like 150-250 F (65-120 C). Again, the product was pretty palatable, and presumably healthy. I am not about to go into the Essene bread business, but it was gratifying to go from raw wheat grains to something bread-like without the addition of any other store-bought ingredients besides salt.

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