Sprouted grains – the challenges of using them in baked goods

By Mike Adams - 19 November 2020

Sprouting has attracted attention recently due to its potential to improve digestibility and increase vitamin levels and mineral bioavailability of commonly consumed foods that are formulated with them. This includes sprouting cereals to produce what would be perceived as a ‘healthier’ bread.

Whether you consider yourself quite ‘clued up’ on sprouting or if this is your first-time hearing about it, we fired some questions to our process innovation lead, Mike Adams, to further deepen your knowledge of this pre-processing technique. For this Q&A, we focused on sprouted grains.

1. Do you feel sprouted grains can grow beyond being a niche ingredient as more suppliers bring products to market?

It’s early days to know the potential market size for sprouted grains. The interest in healthier products that are low in salt, sugar and saturated fat shows no sign of decreasing. Also, the digestibility of cereal products is big news. Sprouting offers benefits to digestibility that could encourage consumers to eat more bread and bakery products. The challenge to the bread sector is to somehow convince consumers that bread is a healthy product, particularly when made using wholegrains. Sprouted wholegrains may help the sector achieve this.

2. What impact does the use of sprouted grains have on the production of baked goods? Is sprouted grain flour suitable for mass production of baked goods, for example?

The sprouting process causes several changes to take place in the grain. The main changes are the increase in enzyme activity as the grain germinates and starts to break down the large starch, protein and lipid molecules into smaller molecules. These are more easily absorbed by the growing plant as its food source. The very act of breaking down larger molecules through enzyme activity creates difficulties during processing of baked products because of the need to create a structure using whole starches and proteins. Bread, for example, relies on gluten development from the wheat proteins, which cannot develop as effectively if enzymatic protein breakdown is taking place. To overcome the enzyme issues, most sprouted grains and sprouted grain ingredients are heat treated to inactivate the enzymes. When you heat treat wheat you obtain malted wheat, providing characteristic malted flavours to products which are not always desired.

3. How should sprouted grain flours be used? Should they be blended with normal flours, for example?

Blending sprouted grain ingredients with flour is the most likely way that baked goods will be produced. In an ideal world, all of the cereal components going into a bakery product would be from sprouted grains. This maximises the digestibility benefits. However, the structural requirements with aerated bakery products like bread are achieved with wheat flour. If all of the flour is sprouted the product would not have the strength or structure to rise during proofing and baking. A proportion of the flour can be replaced with a sprouted grain ingredient, but enough flour must be retained to achieve the desired baked structure. This dilutes the digestibility benefits of sprouting but is hard to avoid. For cakes there is less of an issue; its structure relies less on wheat flour properties than bread. Additionally, cake batter does not have a proofing time, hindering extensive structural breakdown during processing.

4. What (if any) benefits associated with sprouted grains can be supported with scientific research?

There is a lot of scientific evidence that the sprouting process creates changes in the grains that make them easier to digest as well as making some of the minerals such as iron more bioavailable. Sprouting has been used as a pre-process for centuries. Literature and anecdotal evidence suggest it can help maximise the nutritional qualities of grains such as wheat. Published papers indicate a significant increase in some vitamins is possible, however this can be extremely variable.

We’ve conducted research to help improve our members’ understanding of the fundamental changes to nutritional quality and techno-functionality of wheat upon sprouting and extrusion.

How can we help you?

Whether you’re looking to incorporate sprouted grains into your products or you’re seeking support with product innovation or reformulation to meet nutrition and health targets, contact us to find out how we can help. Email at or call our switchboard on +44(0)1386 842000 and they will be happy to direct your call to the relevant person.

This article was originally published in British Baker.

Michael Adams
+44(0)1386 842284

Mike Adams

About Mike Adams

Mike is the Process Innovation Lead, within the Consulting, Technology Group at Campden BRI and joined the organisation in April 2016.

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