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Soak the grain over-night in a mixture of water, a pinch of salt and a table spoon of an acid medium such as buttermilk, kefir, yoghurt, whey, vinegar or lemon juice.

Many will know that soaking beans overnight such as lentils and chickpeas helps to soften the beans up before cooking the following day. The practice of soaking milled flour, whole grain berries or rolled oats overnight in an acid medium is less well known or even understood. Traditionally, oats were soaked in water overnight in Scotland before being cooked in the pot the following morning though there is no mention of an acid medium being added to the mix.

The Irish traditionally prepared their famous soda bread with buttermilk though whether the flour was soaked over night before use is unclear since few original recipes survive. Similarly early North American pioneers soaked their flour in yoghurt overnight before preparing pancakes the following day. Many German cake recipes still call for either quark, yoghurt or buttermilk. Scones which have been prepared with buttermilk rather than milk have a firmer, creamer texture and are always a hit.

Since soaking involves moisture as well as an acid medium of some form it is, presumably, another form of tricking the grain into germination mode and allowing the release of enzymes in order to reduce the anti-nutrients naturally present in a dormant grain.

This method of preparing grain is useful in limited circumstances – it improves the texture and quality of the oatmeal considerably for breakfast porridges. The table-spoon of acid – be it in the form of lemon juice of whey – does not make the oats taste sour or unpalatable. In fact one can hardly taste it but it does make the final mixture smoother and creamier.

Also listed some excellent waffle and pancake recipes that require the flour to be soaked overnight. Again the final flavour is not sour but tantalising and pleasing.

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