For peak running function, "Carbo Loading" has been the mantra of distance athletes the world over. The spaghetti bacchanal that precedes every marathon arguably keeps Ronzoni in business. But not all carbs are equal. I know. I've used myself as a guinea pig. And since I have the added pleasure of baking professionally, I've been able to experiment in my own ovens and then on my own body. From San Francisco sourdough, to homemade papardelle, to hand pulled soba noodles, to a vicious slab of cake, the loading of carbs is my mission and great pleasure.
Sadly, cake has never been the most efficient fuel. Pasta tends to burn fast. Soba noodles are a righteous pain in the arse to master and the sourdough, well, I end up eating an entire loaf and fall into a food coma.
But Manna Bread, that's the stuff of endurance. As a food, it's remarkably streamlined and nutritionally substantial. It's available in the freezer section of most high end grocery stores. Frozen for freshness; it's made from sprouted grains and has a short shelf life which bodes well in the nutrition department. In lieu of pulverizing a dormant wheat berry into oblivion so that the nutritional fuel conversion is instantaneous and hardly lasting, Manna bread requires that the wheat berries sprout, creating a nutritionally dense and complex food stuff. The sprouted wheat berries are then ground into a paste and baked at a very low temperature, low enough that the nutritional value is maintained due to the lack of excessively high temperatures that would otherwise knock the nutrients right into dormancy. And with complex carbs and 6g of protein a slice, it's hitting all the right running notes.
The result is a bread that eats more like a moist wheat cake, the lack of leavening makes for a compressed texture that's lush and hearty. Don't freak out when you slice a piece and your gorgeous Manna isn't the dry spongiform to which you've become accustomed in a bread. This stuff is downright dewy.
But why let someone else have all the fun of sprouting and baking? And why not tailor the goodness to runners specifically?
I make Manna in large batches, 4 loaves in each batch, because it's just a easy to sprout 6 1/2 cups as it is two. I store the extra bread in the freezer.
Makes 4 loaves
This process takes a few days. Patience. This is a living food, one that gives you all its worth in nutritional punch and guarantees a carbo load with staying power.
|6 1/2 cups of wheat berries, ready for sprouting|
6 1/2 cups organic wheat berries (find in the bulk section of your grocer)
2 cups spring or filtered water (1/2 cup water for each loaf)
1 cup organic white chia seeds (divided into 1/4 cup servings for each loaf)
1 cup raw, unsalted sunflower seeds (divided into 1/4 cup servings for each loaf)
-In a large bowl, soak the wheat berries overnight.
|drain in a large, fine sieve.|
-Drain the berries in a very large, fine sieve. Keep the wheat berries in the sieve. I keep the sieve suspended over the sink for the duration of the process, you'll see why in a second.
-Soak a clean kitchen towel completely. Rinse the berries, and wrap the moist towel around the sieve so that it covers the sieve and berries entirely, a little hobo bundle of sprouting goodness. The kitchen towel serves an important function. It covers the surface area of the exposed wheat berries, keeping them from drying out and locking in the moisture while still allowing excess water to drain. This keeps any bacteria from clinging to our sprouts. Keep rinsing and recovering the berries with the towel every few hours, making sure the towel stays moist. Do this until the berries sprout. This can take a day. This past week, it took a little over 2 days. You want the sprouts to be as long if not a little longer the than wheat berry itself. Too long and the bread will take on a distinctly grassy flavor.
-Once your little berries are sufficiently sprouted, you should end up with the equivalent of
|four quarts (that's 4 cups a quart...so 16 cups. and we started with a mere 6 1/2 cups!).|
4 quarts of sprouted wheat berry. Not a bad return for just a few days of rinsing.
|a wet paste, ready for some wet hands to take charge.|
-Working in batches, place 2 cups to 2 1/2 cups of sprouted wheat berries into a food processor. Grind the berries until a uniform mass forms. With the machine running, add 1/2 cup water, a hearty pinch of salt and 1/4 cup each of the chia seeds and sunflower seeds.
|4 loaves. I got a bit enthusiastic with some black chia on the far right.|
-Wet your hands and transfer the sticky dough to a sheetpan lined with parchment paper. Form the dough into a loose loaf. Do this 3 more times to form the remaining loaves.
-Bake the bread at 225º (if you're using a convection oven, bake at 200º) for 3 hours. The crust should feel dry but not hard and the interior of the bread should hold it's shape completely but will be very moist.
-Personally, I slather the stuff with cashew butter and apricots. Wait a few hours and then take my lasting carbo load on the road. Feel free to slather it however you see fit.
-For storage. Wrap the loafs tightly in plastic wrap. Freeze the loaves you aren't going to consume immediately.
Nutritional information: 1 slice (56g); 160 calories, fat 2 g, carbs 26 g, protein 6g