Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Soaked Granola Bars

Of all the things I am reading about the traditional foods diet, soaking grains is probably the most confusing. Not confusing due to the labors involved, but confusing as to the benefits of soaking. I am all for making work for myself, but am I making more work for a reason? Is there actual value to soaking, say, oatmeal in whey inoculated water for a day and then dehydrating it for many hours before using it? On taste alone, I would say yes - since these granola "bars" were superior to any granola I've ever made at home. But as for nutritionally, I would say that for me the jury is still out.

Soaked and Ready Oats.

It is so easy for me to read and believe almost anything written relating to healthy diet. It wasn't hard for me to banish my microwave to the basement (for occasional Husband-usage only) and to commit to using my cast iron pans for almost all stove-top duties. After a while, it wasn't even hard for me to give up canola oil - though that was probably the most difficult given the overwhelming insistence that for years health and diet sources told me was the superior and healthiest oil to use. But giving up non-soaked grain, oatmeal in particular, proves to be the highest hurdle to date.

The flavors that come from soaking and sprouting grains and then grinding them is reward enough for the extra demand for my time and devotion. But soaking oatmeal in whey-water and then drying it... well, that isn't so intoxicating. You need the bit of acid to kick-start the process in things, like oatmeal, that won't sprout. The smell of the dehydrating oats was pleasant enough (I am so lucky that my Mom never got rid of the food dehydrator that we used years ago - it's now proudly perched atop my childhood play table in the basement), but the taste of soaked then dried oats was not so much. Aside from looking rather like dog kibble, it had a certain fermented sourness that I knew I would have a hard time passing over on my picky boys.

A sure way to get this one to try something is to have him help me make it!

Cultures around the world have soaked or fermented grains before consumption for generations. Americans, and our independent and inventive spirits, appear to have successfully removed this extra work from our lives and perhaps that may play a role in some of our collective poor health. Obviously, I don't think just because we have modernized and something has a Whole Grains Seal of Approval that it is going to be healthy - I'm certainly not going to run out and buy General Mills cereals. But sometimes I think it is probably speculation at best. Other cultures are subject to other climates and geographic anomalies that we New World-ers are not. The coconut and palm oils well used by tropical cultures are readily available in those areas, and maybe my northerner ancestry will never do well with them. It's hard to say, but so far, I'm happily using coconut and olive oil most of the time; I am choosing not to worry too much about it.

We do know that the phytic acid present in all grains, nuts and seeds can be reduced greatly by a gentle pre-treatment of either acidulated soaking or sprouting. According to Sally Fallon (who is very well-researched), "untreated phytic acid can combine with calcium, magnesium, copper, iron and especially zinc in the intestinal tract and block their absorption. This is why a diet high in unfermented whole grains may lead to serious mineral deficiencies and bone loss." How about that, Sally Field?

Last week I read this post at Kitchen Stewardship bulleting the differences between soaking and sprouting and the benefits (or disadvantages) of each. It is confusing to know what to do or what is best for human consumption. We all will "live until we die", I suppose, but sometimes I wish I was a more science minded type who could really know and decipher all the dietetic contradictions I come across.

No matter what I have read and the confusion I feel, I still wanted to try this recipe for soaked granola bars from Kitchen Stewardship. I made a half batch using the soaked and ready oats, and let the Boy-O dictate the add-ins: equal parts chocolate chips and coconut. Since the soaked and dehydrated oatmeal is so crunchy, the recipe is better than any other granola I've tried. (I chose the baking method: 10 minutes at 325 degrees.) I couldn't cut true bars from them, but rather have large chunks that are easy to pick up and eat. Because you essentially make a caramel from honey and butter, the chocolate melted - masking all remaining traces of whey flavor from the oats. The final result was a richly satisfying snack that the Boy-O loved, and I felt good about giving him. Since I have the dehydrator now, I will be making more soaked and ready oats.

Soaked and Ready Oats (Kitchen Stewardship)
makes enough for 1/2 batch of Soaked Granola Bars (easily increased)
  • 3 cups rolled oats
  • 1/3 c. whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 T. whey
Place the oats and wheat flour in a non-reactive bowl. Measure water and add whey to the water, stir to mix. Pour water/whey over oats/flour, and stir well. Let sit for at least 7 hours at room temperature. (I didn't have any standing liquid at all, and didn't need to drain any off. Most of the liquid should be absorbed.)

Spread in a thin layer on a baking sheet lined with a silicone mat or parchment paper. Since I dehydrated, I lined the dehydrator tray with parchment - and dehydrated at 147 degrees for about 12 hours until completely dry. Kitchen Stewardship recommends drying until hard and crispy in a 250 degree oven for 2-4 hours.

When dried and cooled, break into chunks resembling oatmeal size. You can pulse in a blender or food pro, or even break by hand.

Kitchen Stewardship really does have many great recipes, and I love them as a resource for both soaking/sprouting grains and for using sourdough starter. The soaked granola bar recipe is actually from the ebook Katie Kimball wrote called Healthy Snacks to Go. I have never purchased an ebook, and am thinking that this may be my first one. There is something about holding a book in my hands, even though I appreciate the paper-freedom of the computer, especially in the kitchen. (Obviously, since the "M" key and some punctuation near my right hand are sticking on this kitchen netbook... How do you even clean that?)

Meanwhile, I'll likely go on sprouting and soaking a number of things. It is true that the more fermented foods you introduce your taste buds to, the more they will accept and even crave them. And, while I can't see cooking up a bowl of "soaked and ready" oatmeal in the morning, I can see making more of this delicious granola. I may eventually try eating it plain, but likely will need to add some sweetener, maybe maple syrup.
What do you think about sprouting and/or soaking? I am anxious to hear some thoughts from other fermenters and experimenters!


  1. Soaking to sprout... or soaking to soak... that's the question, isn't it?

    The jury is still out for me as well, though I often wonder if each method has its place. Peoples' bodies react so differently to foods, it's quite possible that sprouting is better for some, and soaking for others. I'm content to chalk some of these things up to the mystery of God's universe, and move forward with the things that seem to have benefit for me.

    Still love reading all of your musings, though. Reminds me of my thought processes when I read and digest new information... glad that's something we share.

    BTW, am reading this as we nibble one of the last panna cotta. SO good, even after a few days in the fridge.

  2. Was just passing through you blog looking at your dehydrated granola when I decided to peruse your recipe collection...the soaked section caught my eye - as I am a soaker.

    When doing your grains, and I do mine all whole, soak them and then rinse thoroughly before putting them into your dehydrator. This will rinse off the acid that you added to your water but all the joyride acid that the soaking releases from the grain.

    This will produce a "nice" smelling, tasting and texture.

    After soaking & dehydrating you can mill it, crack it, or roll it as you would a graing that hasn't been through the phytic acid releasing process.

    When dealing with a rolled or cracked grain that you're soaking & then dehydrating...again, rinse it after soaking but before dehydrating...it will rid most of the "sour" flavor away.

    Good luck!

    PS - the nutritional value comes into play because the phytic acid on grain will not allow our digestive systems to digest the grain properly if this acid is in place. Also, the soaking starts tha growth process of a grain thereby releasing additional nutrients

    1. Thanks! I've always ground the grain first (wheat, spelt, etc) then soaked before using. This way sounds easier. Do you soak, dry, grind and store in the freezer? I like to do as much work ahead of time so I have things on hand when I need to do something quickly.

    2. I have been sprouting the whole grains, dehydrating and then storing the freezer - then I grind them just before using. Being frozen helps the flour from getting too hot to use right away too. I did also try sprouting oat groats, but they didn't sprout! Apparently, they won't if they are hulled first, which almost all oats are. (White rice is the same way, virtually no benefit to soaking it first, from what I've read.) I am far from sprouting or soaking all of my grains, but I am making it more a part of my kitchen life. I totally agree on using the freezer, since then it is easy to just grind and use sprouted grain on demand!

  3. Thanks, Debbie! I'd never thought about rinsing the oats (though I've come to like their slightly sour taste quite a bit actually. I wonder if they fall apart with rinsing? I was soaking rolled oats, not oat groats - but maybe I'll try sprouting some whole oats...

  4. I rinse my soaked oats too. Funny, I found your post when I Googled "soaked oat fail" lol! I attempted to make granola using soaked oats, following a recipe from some foodie blog. Now, I normally soak my oats for regular old oatmeal when we eat it, but it took me ages to figure out how to do it right so they didn't taste sour. I have to rinse them! Now I love soaked oatmeal.

    I appreciate your thoughts. I'm trying so hard to avoid tooth decay in my kids (who are eat up with it despite a "healthy" diet from birth. UGH). The phytic acid thing, yeah I'm not totally convinced and there is so much contradictory evidence out there in the area of nutrition. :-(

    1. That's funny, Carrie! I actually still haven't tried rinsing them - I let my yogurt culture die (on purpose, since I'm getting a new strain from a friend) and when I get a new batch of whey it's going on top of the list... And, yes, contradictory nutrition info is so frustrating!


Communication is a good thing, most of the time...