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Sep 11, 2006 02:36 AM

Wheat Berries

Do you think I could substitute wheat berries for bulgar in a bread recipe (about 1/2 c.)? I think it will be OK if I just soak them longer, but don't want to end up with bread filled with tooth-breaking bits. Has anyone ever made bread with wheat berries? Thank you.

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  1. I just love Honey Wheat Berry bread, but the first time I made it I did not cook the wheat berries, and it was like chewing pebbles in the bread. Cook the wheat berries like you would brown rice, in fact they have a brown rice taste. This will soften them up and they'll be ready to bake in your bread.

    1. Wheat berries make an excellent addition to bread but I wouldn't substitute them for bulgar which is small and readily absorbs moisture. If you do want to substitute wheat berries you must cook them first (there's a method at the end of the post).

      Here's a recipe for bread that features wheat berries. It takes a while but it's more than worth it! This is a spectacular, flavorful bread that you can enjoy with a smear of a creamy blue or a hearty soup.

      Coarse-Grained Whole Wheat with Toasted Walnuts

      Recipe By: Amy's Bread (Amy Schreiber)

      3/4 teaspoon active dry yeast
      1/4 cup very warm water (105 ̊-115 ̊F), (2 oz.)
      1 2/3 cup organic whole wheat flour, (8 oz.)
      1 cup unbleached all purpose flour, (4 1/2 oz.)
      2 tablespoon + 2 teaspoon coarse cornmeal, (1 oz.)
      1 tablespoon kosher salt
      1 cup Sponge Starter, (8 oz.)
      1 cup cool water (75 ̊F), and/or reserved wheat berry cooking liquid
      1 tablespoon honey, (1/2 oz.)
      1 tablespoon walnut or vegetable oil, (1/2 oz.)
      1 1/2 cup walnut pieces, toasted, (6 oz.)
      1/2 cup cooked wheat berries, (3 oz.)


      Place the yeast and warm water in a medium bowl and stir with a fork to dissolve the yeast. Allow to stand for about 3 minutes.

      Whisk the whole wheat flour, unbleached flour, cornmeal, and salt together in a medium bowl. Set aside.

      Add the sponge starter, cool water, honey and oil to the yeast mixture. Mix the ingredients with your fingers for 1-2 minutes, just to break up the sponge. The mixture should look milky and be slightly foamy. Add the flour mixture and stir with your fingers to incorporate the flour, scraping the sides of the bowl and folding the dough over itself until it gathers into a shaggy mass.

      Move the dough to a lightly floured surface and knead for 5-7 minutes, until it becomes supple and elastic. If the dough seems too stiff and hard to knead, add additional cool water 1 tablespoon at a time until you get a malleable dough. Shape the dough into a loose ball and let it rest, covered with plastic wrap, on the work surface for 20 minutes. (This rest period is the autolyse.)

      [Rainey: OR throw everything to this point into a bread machine and process on "dough" cycle.]

      Combine the prepared walnuts and wheat berries (directions appear below) in a small bowl. Set aside.

      Flatten the dough and stretch it gently with our fingers to form a rectangle about 1" thick. Spread the walnuts and wheat berries evenly over the dough. Fold to enclose the whole mass and knead gently until the nuts and berries are well incorporated, about 2-3 minutes. If the dough resists, let it rest for about 5 minutes and then continue kneading. Some of the nuts and berries may pop out of the dough, but they can easily be incorporated again after the first rise when the dough is soft.

      Shape the dough into a loose ball and place it in a lightly oiled bowl along with any loose nuts and berries. Turn the dough to coat with oil and cover the bowl tightly with oiled plastic wrap. Let the dough rise at room temperature (75 ̊-77 ̊F) for 1 hour, or until it looks slightly puffy but not doubled. [Rainey: I like plastic food tubs with printed gradations and snap on lids for proofing. Dough won't stick to them so the oiling and turning is unnecessary.]

      Refrigerate the dough overnight to intensify the walnut flavor.

      Remove the dough from the refrigerator and allow it to rise at room temperature for 2 hours.

      Gently remove the dough from the bowl and place it on a lightly floured board, pressing in any loose nuts and berries. [Rainey: If you use the tub, put a straight spatula down one side to admit air and then just gently shake as you hold the tub upside down.] Divide it into 2 equal pieces and shape each piece into a boule. Dust a peel or the back of a baking sheet generously with coarse cornmeal. [Rainey: Fine semolina works as well and bakes away from the bottom of the finished loaves.] Place the loaves on the peel or sheet, seam side down, leaving several inches between them so they won't rise into one another. Cover with oiled plastic wrap and allow to rise for 2-3 hours, or until they have doubled in size (a finger pressed lightly into the dough will leave an indentation). [Rainey: I put my shaped loaves in baskets lined with well-floured sack cloth towels seam-side-up and turn the risen loaves onto the semolina-dusted peel, slash and bake].

      Meanwhile, 30 minutes before baking, preheat the oven to 450 ̊F. Place a baking stone in the oven to preheat and place an empty water pan [R: A cast-iron skillet is great for this but DON'T let yourself be tempted to take it by the handle!] directly below the stone.

      When the loaves have doubled, cut a shallow X on tope of each one with a single-edge razor blade. Shake the peel or pan slightly to ensure the loaves aren't sticking [R: Rising in baskets ensures they won't stick.] and slide them onto the baking stone. Quickly pour 1 cup of very hot water into the water pan and immediately close the door. After 1 minute, using a plant sprayer, mist the loaves quickly 6-8 times, then shut the door. Repeat the misting procedure 1 minute later. [R: You can skip all the drama to create steam inside the oven if you like but the crust will suffer and what's homemade bread without a great crunchy crust?]

      Bake for 20 minutes, then reduce the oven temp to 400 ̊F and bake for 15-20 additional minutes until the loaves sound hollow when "spanked" on the bottom. Transfer the loaves to racks and allow to cool before serving. This bread freezes well wrapped tightly in aluminum foil and a heavy-duty plastic freezer bag.

      Makes two 1-pound loaves

      Toasting Walnuts: To toast walnuts or other nuts, spread them on a cookie sheet and toast in a preheated 350 ̊F oven for about 8 minutes, stirring once or twice. Let cool.

      Cooking Wheat Berries: To save time, you can cook the wheat berries a day ahead. Place the berries in a saucepan with water to cover them by at least 1", cover and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and cook. until they're plump, 30-40 minutes. Let the berries cool, then drain, saving the cooking liquid to use as part of the water called for in the recipe. Refrigerate in an airtight container if you don't plan to use them immediately. (Whole rye berries can be cooked the same way, but you should increase the cooking time by 10 minutes).
      Wheat berries (and rye berries) triple in volume when they are cooked. To determine how many dry berries you need to cook, simply divide the measured amount in the recipe by 3. Or cook a bit more and sprinkle on your morning cereal or toss with a salad.

      2 Replies
      1. re: rainey

        you did a lovely job of walking through the proceedure. I just might try it myself. Do you think this might be made with all WW flour? maybe some lower gluten WW flour?


        1. re: toodie jane

          Personally, this is one of my favorite breads so I don't monkey with it (except sometimes to add some chopped green onion). It has a lovely blend of hearty elements, good leavening and well-developed flavor.

          If you do try to do 100% whole wheat you'll have to add wheat gluten. It's important to *add* gluten to whole wheat not to think in terms of lower gluten or you won't get a rise.

          Are you gluten sensitive? If that's the case I hope someone else will step in and help. I've never done low-gluten baking and don't know anything about the techniques or issues of sensitivity.

          PS The kudos for the clarity of the recipe belong to Amy Schreiber. "Amy's Bread" is an excellent bread cookbook with a number of my go-to favs. I just pulled together as many of her recipes and techniques as called for and added my own tips in brackets.

      2. i make bread with wheatberries a lot. i soak them overnight before adding them to the dough, but i don't cook them. usually i make a poolish and soak the berries at night, then i finish it all in the morning. there's a recipe like this in _bread alone_. they're yummy, chewy, nutty. i sometimes add cracked wheat too (is bulgar the same thing?) and wheat germ.

        i like to cook them and put them in my yogurt too.

        1. Thanks so much everyone. I did use the wheat berries, but did not try the recipe from Rainey as I had already started a sponge for another recipe (cracked wheat bread from the _Bread Bible_). I'll have to try it next time-- sounds delish. I ended up doubling the recipe and using 1/2 c. wheat berries (cooked, as you all wisely suggest) and 1/2 c. sunflower seeds. I made on loaf and the rest into rolls. The flavor is amazing.

          1 Reply
          1. re: Procrastibaker

            If you have a few days in advance, try SPROUTING the wheat berries. They are tender (like cooked), but also the germination process has vitalized them to start converting endosperm starch into vitamins, etc. It's delish.

            How to sprout them:

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