A wheat berry is the whole kernel of wheat before it has been processed into its constituent parts. When wheat berries are ground, they create whole-wheat flour. It is very healthy to incorporate wheat berries into your recipes, but most recipes simmer them in hot water to soften them for salads or breakfast cereal. This wheat berry bread recipe soaks them overnight until they are soft enough to grind into a paste in your food processor and combine with a “sponge” to make extremely flavorful bread.
Lights, Camera, Bake
I have heard that pets are creatures of habit and don’t like changes to their routine. However, the furry ruffians we call our cats adapted easily enough to their sophisticated new cat tower in the living room. They have taken a liking to the new high-definition TV but seem to prefer Planet Earth over cooking shows. They have even adjusted to my video production schedule and don’t jump on the counter during a take (unless fish is involved). The difficult adjustments have been for the homo sapiens in the house after I installed studio lights in the kitchen for filming video and diffusers on stands over the windows for photography. It still dazes me to flip the lights on in the kitchen at night and meet 600 watts of daylight-balanced LEDs when all I wanted was to not trip over something in the dark. It’s also unfortunate that our bookshelf is mostly obscured by lighting equipment and my Manfrotto camera tripod limits the viable number of exits from our main room. But, the show must go on.
Wheat Berry Bread Beyond Breakfast
You must start with high quality ingredients to arrive at a high quality product, so I recommend the Non-GMO Project Verified Hard Red Spring Wheat Berries from Palouse Brand in Eastern Washington. The wheat they grow for these wheat berries has a high protein content and each bag is field traceable on their website to show location and date of harvest. It’s great to be able to support businesses like this in the pursuit of healthy nutrition.
The hearty, wheaty, sweet flavor of the bread makes dreamy toast for your breakfast scramble or omelette du fromage. It doesn’t have the bitterness of a typical whole-wheat loaf of bread. My favorite new organic, stoneground nut butters are made by Jem in Bend, Oregon and they are great with this homemade bread. I’m partial to the Jem Cinnamon Red Maca Almond Butter. To be honest, I still don’t know what sprouted organic almonds are but it sounds healthy and tastes even better than it sounds.
Later in the day, you could eat a slice of this rustic bread in place of a baguette for a French Melt with marinated mushrooms, spinach salad or small cup of roasted asparagus soup to extend the health benefits. Your future sandwiches and your future self will thank you.
If you have a specialty banneton (bread proofing basket) you can make artisan loafs like the one in my photo but it isn’t necessary. In fact, you don’t even need a loaf pan to make this bread recipe because you can use a colander and dish towel to proof the loaf. You also don’t need to know specialty baking terminology to follow this recipe (and the upcoming video) and get your own fantastic results but you will need to soak the wheat berries for at least 12 hours. The overnight soak allows you to process them into a fine paste that still gives a wheaty chew to the final loaf. You can use that time to let your sponge develop too. It is recommended to use a KitchenAid stand mixer to make this recipe.
Made the wheat berry bread from scratch? Congratulations, I have a Bread Baking Master badge for you (scroll down past the recipe). After all, this is not a beginner’s bread (yeah, now I’m telling you). Post your results on social media with #morselsofparadise.
- 1¼ cups (8 ounces) wheat berries
- 1 cup (8 ounces) water
- ¾ cup (4⅛ ounces) bread flour
- ½ cup (4 ounces) water
- ¼ teaspoon instant yeast
- ¼ cup (2 ounces) water
- 1 cup (5½ ounces) bread flour
- 2½ teaspoons instant yeast
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
- 1¼ teaspoons sea salt
- Combine wheat berries and water in a bowl, cover tightly with plastic wrap, a let sit at room temperature until grains are fully hydrated and softened, at least 12 hours.
- Stir all ingredients in a 4-cup liquid measuring cup until well combined. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and let sit at room temperature until sponge has risen and begins to collapse, 6 hours up to 24 hours.
- Process soaked wheat berries, soaking liquid, and the additional water in a food processor on high speed until the grains are finely ground, about 4 minutes, scraping down the sides as needed.
- Whisk flour and yeast together in the bowl of a stand mixer. Stir wheat berry mixture and honey into the sponge until well combined. Using the dough hook on low speed, slowly add the sponge mixture and mix until no dry flour remains, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap and let the dough rest for 20 minutes.
- Add oil and salt to the dough and mix on medium-low speed until dough is smooth and elastic, clearing the sides of the bowl but sticking to the bottom, about 5 minutes. Transfer dough to a lightly greased large bowl, cover tightly with plastic wrap, and let rise for 30 minutes.
- Using a bowl scraper, fold the dough over itself by gently lifting and folding the edge of the dough towards the middle. Turn the bowl 45 degrees and fold the dough again. Repeat turning and folding for a total of 8 folds. Cover the dough tightly with plastic wrap and let it rise for 30 minutes.
- Repeat the folding of the dough with a bowl scraper. Cover again and let rise again for 30 minutes.
- Fold the dough with the bowl scraper a final time then cover the bowl and let the dough rise until doubled in size, about 2 hours.
- Mist the underside of a linen couche or dish towel with water. Line a colander or banneton with the towel and dust the towel with flour. Transfer the dough to a lightly floured counter. Press and stretch the dough into a 10-inch round, deflating any large gas pockets.
- Fold the edges of the dough toward the center until a ball forms. Flip the dough ball seam side down on the counter. Using cupped hands, drag in small circles on the counter until the dough feels taught.
- Place loaf seam side up in the prepared colander/banneton and pinch any remaining seams closed. Loosely fold edges of towel over loaf to enclose, then place the container in a large plastic garbage bag. Tie, or fold under, open end of bag to fully enclose. Let loaf rise until it increases in size by about half and the dough springs back minimally when poked gently with your knuckle, 30 minutes to 1 hour.
- One hour before baking (or after placing dough in garbage bag), adjust oven racks to lower-middle and lowest positions. Place a baking stone on the lower-middle rack and place 2 disposable aluminum pie plates filled with lava rocks on the lower rack. Heat oven to 450°F.
- When dough is ready, bring 1 cup of water to boil Remove colander/banneton from the garbage bag and lay a sheet of parchment paper on top of the dough. Invert the dough onto the parchment paper, place on a pizza peel, and gently remove the colander/banneton and towel.
- Carefully pour ½ cup boiling water into one of the pie plates with preheated rocks and close the oven door to capture steam. Meanwhile, make two long slashes in a cross pattern across the top of the loaf with a lame, razor blade, or sharp pairing knife.
- Open the oven door and quickly slide the parchment paper with the loaf onto the hot baking stone then immediately pour the remaining ½ cup water into the second pie plate with preheated rocks and close the oven. Bake until the crust is dark brown and the loaf registers 205 to 210°F internally, 35 to 40 minutes, rotating halfway through baking. Transfer the loaf to a wire rack, discard parchment paper, and let cool completely, about 3 hours, before serving.