Soaking & Fermenting Grains for Fluffy and Nutritious Results! Plus - gluten free cheaty chestnut sourdough

Diane Eblin of The W.H.O.L.E. Gang has curated blog carnival month of the most amazing posts on living successfully gluten free. I urge you to pour yourself a large cup of your favourite tea and expand your gluten free knowledge with some of the amazing posts in the blog starry line-up.

Many of my regular readers may have ntoiced that I've started soaking my recipes - see the almond pancakes or almond and buckwheat pancakes? This method is perfect for anyone wanting to get the most out of their food, and aids digestion - especially important for anyone with a damaged gut. My contribution to the carnival is a post on soaking and fermenting grains, flours and nut meals in order to make them more digestible, nutritious and fluffier!

I'm not going to blind you with science, so here's a (relatively) quick explanation of why you would want to soak or ferment. All grains, nuts and pulses contain varying amounts of a substance called phytic acid (read more on the wiki page in this link) contained in the bran of the grain, or skin of the seed/nut/bean. This acid binds with essential nutrients in the gut, such as minerals (iron, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus etc) and B vitamins. As we need B vitamins in order to break down carbohydrates, and grains are a majour source of B vits for many people, it stands to reason that you want to maximise your absorption of them when you consume grains.

Therefore, many people consuming a 'healthy' wholegrain diet, may not be absorbing as many of the great nutrients contained in them as they thought, and the phytic acid may also bind with other nutrients from meat, fish and vegetables consumed in the same meal as the grain.

Seeds and pulses also contain varying amounts of enzyme inhibitors, which work to prevent the seed/bean from sprouting until conditions are right. In your gut, they interfere with your own natural digestive enzymes to prevent complete digestion - and therefore result in imperfect assimilation of whatever you eat. All pulses need to be soaked before being eaten, to leech out these enzyme inhibitors and phytates, so eating any kind of protein powder made from pulses is a no no too.

Soy has such a huge concentration of phytates (in addition to hormone disruptors) that it should not be consumed unless it has been fermented into miso, tamari or tempeh. Tofu, cheap soy sauce, and soya milk can cause malabsorption if consumed in anything more than minute amounts - and considering that these foods are often consumed by those seeking to heal a damaged gut, I would advise giving them a wide berth.

Soy Protein Isolate, Textured Soy Protein and soy flour are processed in such a way that they not only contain all the aforementioned baddies, but the proteins are denatured to such an extent that they become harmful to the body. Protein snack bars, vegan meat substitutes and many processed cheap meat products contain these cheap and harmful substances. Avoid!

Refined grains such as white rice flour and processed starches such as potato flour & corn flour do not contain any phytates or enzyme inhibitors - so you might think that these are a good alternative? Unfortunately, refined foods lack any nutritional content whatsoever - simply providing a starchy carbohydrate filler. When the body receives food that is calorific and yet nutritionally empty, it goes on the hunt for nutrients and stimulates an appetite for more food, even when sufficient calories have been consumed. Try eating three slices of white gluten free bread one day and a slice of buckwheat, teff and almond sourdough the next - I can tell you now which will keep you satisfied for longer, simply because it is more nutritious.

So how can you ensure that you get the most out of your whole-grains? Do as your great, great ancestors did and ferment, soak, sprout and culture them - to eliminate the harmful elements and render all those nutritious minerals, vitamins and carbohydrates more easily absorbable!


You can lacto ferment whole grains before cooking them by soaking them in tepid water with a couple of teaspoons of whey (from strained yogurt) or kefir. keep for 24 hours at room temperature, strain and then cook in the usual way. This can also be done with lemon juice or vinegar in place of the whey. Porridge is also best made this way with whey/kefir, as it has the highest phytate content of all grains.

Recipes containing grain flour, bean flour or nut meal can also be soaked in this way. Simply add the liquid ingredients to the flours, including a teaspoon of lemon juice, two of whey, or some actual yogurt in the recipe. Leave for 24 hours at room temperature and add the rest of the ingredients. You'll find that breads are fluffier and more toothsome, and raising agents work better this way.


These are similar processes in principle. The sourdough process uses wild yeasts and a long leisurely rise to digest out phytates and start converting some of the starch into something that the body can digest much more easily. The process introduces a depth of flavour combining sour, savoury and umami, that may take some adjusting to if you are used to eating white cake for bread, but will soon prove quite addictive! Many cultures ferment grains into a kind of sourdough porridge making all the nutritive elements of a scarce resource, bioavailable.

Culturing generally involves some sort of lactic culture such as kefir or whey and can help render starchy vegetables (that some find difficult to completely digest) easier to assimilate, whilst providing a welcome probiotic boost to the system.


You can sprout any grain, seed or pulse (athough avoid alfalfa as it contains high levels of carcinogenic amino acid ) canavanine. The sprouting process eliminates all enzyme inhibitors and introduces beneficial enzymes that aid digestion and assimilation of other foods. Eat them raw to get the most benefit, or dehydrate and mill into flour, for a maltier version of the grain. Use the flour without soaking for recipes such as pastry, which are difficult to soak.

If you'd like to try the soaking method for yourself, try grain free almond pancakes, or fluffy buckwheat pancakes, or this pancake recipe which uses whole soaked rice, or the cheaty sourdough loaf below, which keeps for about three days - but is best sliced and frozen on the day you make it. Slightly sour, with a malty, nutty backnote and satisfyingly chewy texture, it makes the best morning toast slathered with salted butter!

Chestnut and Buckwheat Cheaty Sourdough Loaf 
(500g loaf)

This bread uses the soaking method to reduce phytic acid content of the grains, to make the loaf more digestible and nourishing. Soaking also improves the rise.

24 hours before you plan to make the loaf, mix the following ingredients together in a glass, ceramic or stainless steel mixing bowl, cover and leave at room temperature for 24 hours.

90g Chestnut Flour
220g Buckwheat Flour
40g Brown Rice Flour
50g Ground Almonds
30g Flax Seeds (Linseeds)
200ml Lukewarm Water
250ml Live Whole-milk Yogurt (or 200ml water kefir for dairy free)
1 dsp maple or date syrup or molasses

When you are ready to start the loaf beat in the following and set aside for an hour in a warm place.

40g Tapioca Starch
10g Fresh Yeast
1 large Free Range Egg
1 tsp (3g) Sea Salt

After an hour, beat the mixture well with a wooden spoon to release all the yeasty gasses and blend everything well.

Line a 1 lb (454g) loaf tin with baking parchment. Pour the bread dough in, tap the tin to level it and put in a warm place for 45 minutes to an hour, until it has doubled in size.

15 minutes before the rise time is up, heat the oven to 200ºC.

Very gently ease the loaf into the oven – if you tap or bang it at this stage it will collapse, as there is no gluten in the mixture to hold the bubbles in. Bake for 15 minutes and then turn the oven down to 180ºC for 15 minutes and 160ºc for the remaining 30 minutes – 60 minutes in total. This prevents the fructose in the flours and nuts burning. If the crust starts to look dark, just put some tin foil loosely over the top.

If your crust is becoming too dark, just put some tin foil over the top – the crust will be pretty dark on this loaf anyway, as buckwheat, rice and chestnut all have fructose in them, which caramelises at high temperatures.

After 60 minutes, take the loaf out of the oven – it should have shrunk away from the sides of the tin a little and sound hollow when tapped on top. Leave in the tin for 5 minutes, then run a knife around the sides and tip the loaf out into your hand. Tap it to see if it feels firm and sounds hollow. If not, just put it back in the oven at 160ºC for another 10-15 minutes to continue cooking.

Cool on a rack and do not cut until completely cold. Slice and open freeze anything not eaten within 24 hours.