We've been doing a lot of baking with whole grains recently, and we see one technique pop up again and again. This is the idea of soaking the grains overnight before using them in the recipe. When it came up again in the comment thread for our Homemade Soba Noodles, we thought it was high time to learn more.
The basic technique is the same no matter what grain you're working with: simply combine the flour and the liquid called for in the recipe and let this soak overnight before continuing with the recipe. Some people advocate adding a tablespoon of an acidic ingredient like lemon juice or yogurt per cup of liquid. This method can be used for both un-ground whole grains and for whole grain flour.
The overnight soak softens the grains, gives them time to absorb moisture, and breaks down some of their tough starches. This makes the grains easier to work with the next day, particularly the gluten-free ones like the buckwheat flour in our soba noodles. Final texture and flavor of whole grain breads and baked goods is also improved.
It seems that there are also some nutritional benefits to soaking whole grains overnight. Phytic acid found in the bran of many grains prevents some of the nutrients in the grain from being absorbed by our bodies. The overnight soak neutralizes this acid and also goes further by breaking down complex starches, enzyme inhibitors, and other things that can make digestion difficult.
Interesting stuff to think about! We're definitely going to give it a try in our next attempt at soba noodles and will play around with pre-soaking in our other baking too.
Do you ever pre-soak your whole grains? Do you find it makes a difference?
• Nourishing Practices: Soaking Grains from Nourishing Gourmet
• The Value of Soaking Your Grains from Passionate Homemaking
• Understanding the Two-Stage Process: Maximizing The Nutritional Value of Whole Grains from Urban Homemaker
Related: Good to the Grain by Kim Boyce - Book Review
(Image: Emma Christensen)