Soak some grain seeds until they grow, grind them into a mash, then form them into a loaf.
It's bread baking the biblical way, with a dash of seriously hippie subculture. And now, thanks to growing interest in whole grains, so-called sprouted breads are getting a surprising amount of mainstream attention.
Once limited mostly to natural foods shops, sprouted breads recently have begun showing up in mass market grocers, and no longer just as loaves. Consumers can get sprouted grain bagels, English muffins, hamburger buns, even hot dog rolls.
It's a traditionally flourless bread baking technique supposedly drawn from Ezekiel 4:9 of the Old Testament, in which people are told to form bread from a mixture of wheat, barley, beans, lentils and millet.
Modern production techniques involve soaking grain kernels until a small sprout emerges. The sprouted grains then are mashed to create a damp paste that is used to make breads, tortillas, bagels, pasta and cereals.
The result is a dense, chewy bread with a distinctly grainy yet pleasant taste. But it isn't easy to make, which might explain why the growth in products hasn't been accompanied by do-it-yourself recipes.
The germinating process isn't the sort of thing to try at home, says Joseph Tuck, chief executive of Alvarado Street Bakery in Petaluma, Calif. "If you under or over sprout the product, it doesn't work," he says.
Tuck declined to give sales numbers, but said business is robust. The worker-owned bakery recently expanded, producing 13 organic sprouted breads, including one sold under the Trader Joe's label.
Food for Life, maker of the popular Ezekiel 4:9 brand of sprouted grain products, has seen similar growth. The Corona, Calif., family business started as a natural foods store in 1964. Today, it sells more than 60 different sprouted products.
Unlike many breads, sprouted breads lack preservatives to keep them fresh on the shelf, so most are found in the grocer's freezer section. That can make it a hard find for first-timers.
Most shoppers reach for their bread at the bakery or in the bread aisle. That's why Alvarado keeps some in the freezer section, but also thaws its bread daily at grocers such as Stop & Shop so customers can squeeze and feel it.
"We want to be the normal, average American choice for bread," says Tuck.
Part of the appeal of sprouted grain breads are the health claims, including that they help with weight loss, are easier to digest than regular grains and are good for diabetics (their complex carbohydrates don't affect blood sugar as much as refined grains).
Joan Salge Blake, a spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association, isn't sure there is evidence that sprouted grains are better than conventional whole grains, but says the sprouted products certainly are excellent nutritional choices.
But she is impressed that sprouted grain products have made the jump from niche natural foods stores to mainstream grocers, saying it's evidence that people are developing a better understanding of the role of food in good health.
Stop & Shop began selling Ezekiel 4:9 and Alvarado Street Bakery sprouted breads seven years ago, and company spokesman Robert Keane says sales have doubled every year since.
Lynn Gordon says getting into sprouted breads back in 1997 is what pushed her bakery, Minneapolis-based French Meadow Bakery, from a small-time operation to a multimillion dollar bakery and cafe business.
Her inspiration was her own diet. She'd stopped eating bread in favor of sweetened power bars, but her then teenage son convinced her to instead try making a protein-rich bread minus the sugars.
At first, Gordon thought it was impossible. Then she hired a cereal chemist and started working with sprouted lentils and fava beans. "At first, the breads tasted horrible. But once we had it, we had it."
Today, French Meadow Bakery employs 65 people and every month bakes 25,000 loaves of bread formed from a blend of traditional flours and sprouted grains.
Not everyone who eats sprouted breads is a total convert. But people such as Phil Mackler, a 51-year-old sales manager from Longmeadow, Mass., says he does like what eating it has done for him.
Since eliminating flour and sugar from his diet as part of switching to sprouted grain breads, Mackler has lost 20 pounds. Now he urges other to eat it, even though he still prefers the taste of a buttered white roll.
"I'm not an organic tree hugger-type," he says. "I mentioned it to one guy and now he's eating it and his daughter is taking it into school for her sandwich."