Tag Archives: bread

Sourdough The Way to Go

Since my last post here, I’ve continued my bread making to include sourdough bread, making my own sourdough starter.

It’s actually water kefir sourdough bread made with whole wheat flour, from scratch.

Water kefir is fairly simple to make; just feed water kefir grains with sugar, filtered (non chlorine) water, add a little organic dried fruit or raisins and voila! Every 24-48 hours, you have a zingy probiotic drink! (Photo by Jim Ewing)

Water kefir is fairly simple to make; just feed water kefir grains with sugar, filtered (non chlorine) water, add a little organic dried fruit or raisins and voila! Every 24-48 hours, you have a zingy probiotic drink! (Photo by Jim Ewing)

I made the water kefir then used the water kefir as a lactobacillus for a sourdough starter; then after three days I made the sourdough bread from the starter.
The honey is raw unfiltered from my bees — all natural, no chemicals of any kind.

In my last post, I made bread using flour that I ground myself from raw wheat like that grown locally. This was “store bought” wheat flour. I might try it with home ground later. But I’m also thinking about trying some other grains/sourdoughs, too.

This recipe (if you are interested, below in photo form) should be fine for vegans. This was made without any eggs or any dairy products.

Ingredients: water, water kefir (water kefir grains, organic lemon, organic raisins, organic dried apricots, organic powdered sugar), sea salt, honey, Gold Medal Natural Whole Wheat Flour, Organic Gold Medal All Purpose Flour, grapeseed oil.

I actually had ordered some sourdough starter online, but (as seems to be the case with me more often than not), I fumbled around and went at it backwards. Turns out, I ordered a sourdough starter for a type of grain which I didn’t have.
But, still, in keeping with my learning-through-mistakes trajectory, it turns out also that I had perfect ingredients in hand to make sourdough starter from scratch.

Now, I know, I could have made sourdough from the lactobacteria that we made our kraut from, or from the atmosphere here at the house, which produced the kraut. But I also had some water kefir on hand, which I used to make water kefir sourdough – based on a recipe found in Cultures for Health (culturesforhealth.com).

Sourdough facts
In case you are not familiar with sourdough, other than vague allusions to grizzled San Francisco ’49er prospectors or something, there’s a lot to it that speaks in its favor.

As far as bread goes, sourdough gives you the most nutrients in a balanced form. Since it’s extensively fermented before it’s baked, it’s essentially predigested. The grain’s proteins and starches are broken down by the process and the sugars are transformed into compounds that are absorbed by the body more slowly than with standard bread.

People with gluten sensitivities are told to stop eating wheat and are told to only buy gluten-free bread and pasta products. But it’s been documented that extensively fermented sourdough is essentially gluten free even with wheat.

In a well known study in 2010 by a team of scientists led by Luigi Greco at the University of Naples, a 60-day diet of baked goods made from hydrolyzed wheat flour, manufactured with sourdough lactobacilli and fungal proteases, was found not to be toxic to patients with celiacs disease. (See: http://www.cghjournal.org/article/S1542-3565%2810%2900987-0/abstract)

While there are variables that can change the results dramatically, including flour particle size, kneading protocol, leavening process and baking procedure, it has also been scientifically documented in peer-reviewed studies that blood sugars don’t spike eating sourdough bread in contrast with common bread. That includes some breads that you might find surprising, beyond white bread, to include 11-grain and sprouted-grain breads. That makes sourdough a preferred bread for people worried about being overweight, or dieting or with pre-diabetic conditions.

Note: I’m not a dietician or physician and am only commenting on what I have read in scientific literature based on my own layman’s understanding; only make medical and dietary decisions that may affect your health upon the advice of competent health professionals!

If you are interested in making this type of bread, here’s a photo step by step. This recipe is based on one found on the Cultures for Health Facebook page. But I did not use a gluten-free flour and changed the ingredients somewhat, both in quantities and ingredients (to make it vegan).

First, I made the starter.

I took two tablespoons of water kefir and added it to a mixture of one-half cup of flour and one half cup of non chlorinated (filtered) water. I repeated this (sans water kefir) every 12 hours for three days; except, after the first day, I added only 1/4-cup of flour and 1/4 cup of water.

Sourdough starter Day 1

Sourdough starter after the first day

Sourdough starter Day 2

Sourdough starter after the second day. As you can see, it filled up the jar; so when it settled down the next morning, I poured off the clear liquid (called hooch; which most people nowadays just stir in) and reduced the amount of flour/water I was adding.

Sourdough starter day 3

Sourdough starter on day 3. Here’s the starter with some hooch in it. As you can see, it’s bubbling nicely. When I stirred it, it became thick like dough; so, I figured it was ready. I made the “sponge” or pre-loaf mixture.

Sponge

Sponge: I mixed 1 cup of sourdough starter (that left about 1 cup in the jar, which I fed with 1/4-cup of flour and no more water and set aside for future loaves) with

2 cups of water,

3 cups of whole wheat flour

I covered it with a loose towel and let it sit overnight.

The next morning, I uncovered the mixture and realized I didn’t have a big enough bowl. It was up to the edge and the recipe called for more ingredients.

So, I stirred the sponge, added the honey and salt and 3 cups of flour, and split the sponge into two with one in each bowl.

Split sponge

I kneaded and covered them, and let them sit for four hours.

Two loaves

Then, I kneaded them some more and put each one in a loaf pan and I let that sit for four hours.

Finally, I preheated the oven to 375 degrees and baked for 35 minutes. I have a meat thermometer that I use for baking and checked the temperature of the loaf, which was 200 degrees in the middle – anywhere between 190-200 shows doneness, or no uncooked dough. I pulled them out, let them sit for 15 minutes in the pans,then put them on a rack to cool.

Fresh loaves

Looked good to me!

Yum!

And tasted good, too!

Things I would do differently? Mind you, I’m still a rank novice when it comes to cooking and certainly baking bread; but I’m learning as I go along, and that’s part of the fun of it. It surprised me the amount of dough after the sponge had sat out all night; it was more than one loaf, but less than two full-sized loaves. The recipe said two loaves, but I assumed that was in the pan, not in the bowl. I don’t have a bowl big enough for two whole loaves. So, I’m going to have to think about that.

I also am still dissatisfied with the amount my loaves are rising, or more accurately, not rising. While the bread has a nice consistency, a nice taste, without too much cavitation or holes, it’s not rising enough in my estimation.

I keep my house at 68 degrees and all the cookbooks say the room temp should be above 70. I actually turned up the thermostat to 72 degrees to make this bread; which seemed like a heat wave. But the farmhouse I live in is so drafty, I’m not sure that made any difference and maybe just boosted global warming a bit.

So, I’ll continue to fiddle with that. It could be that the starter is so young, it needs to age a bit. Or, it could be the whole wheat. I’ve found that white flours seem to rise better. That itself poses a conundrum: I want the germ and whole grain, not refined or recombined flour. If the tradeoff is the amount of rise, I can live with that. We’ll see! More later!

I have a lot more plans and ideas and experiments.

Happy New Year, Everyone!

Jim PathFinder Ewing is a journalist, author, writer, editor, organic farmer and blogger. His latest book titled Conscious Food: Sustainable Growing, Spiritual Eating (Findhorn Press) is in bookstores now. Find Jim on Facebook, follow him @edibleprayers or visit blueskywaters.com.

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I’m Loafing Today – As in, Making Bread!

I’ve been “loafing” today –  as in, making bread.

This is an update for regular readers who enjoyed my last post on making bread for the first time. I’ve advanced a little bit since then. I’m up to about a dozen loaves now.

I’m by no means expert at it, but I’ve been having fun and experimenting with making bread from scratch. One of my experiments was grinding my own wheat and baking it. It was a – shall we say – mixed success. Most cooks, I suppose, only show their successes. But I figure, well, if you don’t make mistakes, how are you going to learn? So, I decided to share this experiment anyway.

It didn’t rise as much as I would have wanted and it was rather heavy. But here’s a photo log:

Hard red wheat berries bought from bulk supplies at Rainbow Natural Grocery . (Photo by Jim Ewing)

Hard red wheat berries bought from bulk supplies at Rainbow Natural Grocery . (Photo by Jim Ewing)

First, I bought some hard red wheat – the kind that’s grown locally and is sold in bulk at Rainbow Natural Foods.

I ground the wheat berries in my Vitamixer. (Photo by Jim Ewing)

I ground the wheat berries in my Vitamixer. (Photo by Jim Ewing)

Then, I ground it with my Vitamixer.

The ground wheat looked good in the mixing bowl. (Photo by Jim Ewing)

The ground wheat looked good in the mixing bowl. (Photo by Jim Ewing)

It looked pretty good in the mixing bowl.

The ground wheat kneaded to a nice consistency. (Photo by Jim Ewing)

The ground wheat kneaded to a nice consistency. (Photo by Jim Ewing)

It also looked good and felt good to my hands in kneading it.

It didn't rise very well, though. (Photo by Jim Ewing)

It didn’t rise very well, though. (Photo by Jim Ewing)

It never really rose to fill the pan, however. I waited and waited. Finally, I popped it in the oven, hopping it might expand a little more, but that didn’t happen either. By contrast, the other two loafs I was making, rose quite well and came out with a nice size and consistency.

Those I gave away. This one, I kept.

Even bread "mistakes" can taste good! (Photo by Jim Ewing)

Even bread “mistakes” can taste good! (Photo by Jim Ewing)

This “mistake,” since it was small and heavy, I ate! And know what? It was great! I whipped up some cream and slathered it in honey from my bees, and it was heavenly. 🙂

As I learned in hindsight, I didn’t grind it fine enough. Next time, I’ll know better.

Here are some loaves – two with organic white flour, one with organic whole wheat flour, both store bought! – I’m waiting to rise to pop into the oven:

I've been a regular little  production line, creating loaves today. These are rising and will be set in the oven in a couple of hours. (Photo by Jim Ewing)

I’ve been a regular little production line, creating loaves today. These are rising and will be set in the oven in a couple of hours. (Photo by Jim Ewing)

They’ll be Christmas presents.

I expect that I will return to my grinding my own wheat experiments, and probably using other flours, but since these were meant to be given as gifts, I figured I’d better stick to the tried and true.

Happy Holidays, Everyone!

Jim PathFinder Ewing is a journalist, author, writer, editor, organic farmer and blogger. His latest book titled Conscious Food: Sustainable Growing, Spiritual Eating (Findhorn Press) is in bookstores now. Find Jim on Facebook, follow him @edibleprayers or visit blueskywaters.com.

First Loaf of Bread – A ‘First’ for Me!

I’m so excited, and surprised, I couldn’t wait to share this: I just baked my first loaf of bread, ever!

My first loaf of bread baked from scratch, ever! (Photo by Jim Ewing)

My first loaf of bread baked from scratch! (Photo by Jim Ewing)

Now, maybe for longtime cooks – maybe even everybody, for all I know – it’s no big deal to bake a loaf of bread. But for me, it’s a big deal. I just made it from scratch.

I actually have ordered a bread maker, but it hasn’t arrived yet. And I got to thinking: Hmmm, maybe I could try making one loaf from scratch. If it’s too difficult and I can’t do it, then I’ll have the bread making machine.

So, I bought some flour and some yeast. I followed the directions: well, sort of. My first attempt ended up being a big, gooey mess. I threw it out and tried again. And, voila!

Actually, this is part of a process that started last summer when I read Michael Pollen’s book, Cooked. In it, he goes to great lengths to explain how “iffy” is modern bread bought at the grocery. He also details his odyssey toward making his own bread.

First, I thought, gosh, I didn’t know there was that much to making bread!

Second, I started exploring new breads – their taste, texture, and various types. (At Kripalu, I think my friends thought I was crazy: they make three or four different breads for each meal, and I was snarfing down slices from all of them!)

Third, I thought, hmmm, I could do this!

My initial thought was that I would buy a bread making machine and then, if it wasn’t too hard to learn how to do, then I would try baking from scratch. But, somehow, that got turned around.

As I’m writing this, my next loaf is on the kitchen table, rising, before being put into the oven.

For these loaves, I used store bought yeast and ground organic whole wheat flour. At some point, I want to cultivate my own (sourdough) yeast, and grind my own flour. I also plan to make my own butter. And, of course, I already have my own honey (thanks to my sweet bees!).

Some thoughts….

I have to admit, kneading bread is quite a sensual experience. The dough seems to come alive in your hands. (Photo by Jim Ewing)

I have to admit, kneading bread is quite a sensual experience. The dough seems to come alive in your hands. (Photo by Jim Ewing)

Making bread is quite a sensual experience. If that sounds strange, well, I don’t know what to say, except that when you are rolling the dough on the board and in your hands, it feels quite alive! I started thinking of the dough as a person; a living being that required tender care, caresses. It felt alive in my hands. When I put it in the oven, I apologized to it; hoping that I had done everything right, and it would mature into the substantial, healthy, nutritious bread that it could be in the right hands, with the right cook. I felt a sense of responsibility, and some worry.

So, when it came out of the oven and, after it had sufficiently cooled, I was able to slice it and look at its texture, and taste it, and saw that it was good — just perfect! — I was elated!

Yum! Fresh Bread! That I baked from scratch! (Photo by Jim Ewing)

Yum! Fresh Bread! That I baked from scratch! (Photo by Jim Ewing)

So, now, I’m enjoyed fresh made bread, from scratch! Loaf number three is in the oven, filling the house with the delightful scent of fresh-baked bread!

Yum!

New adventures await!

Jim PathFinder Ewing is a journalist, author, writer, editor, organic farmer and blogger. His latest book titled Conscious Food: Sustainable Growing, Spiritual Eating (Findhorn Press) is in bookstores now. Find Jim on Facebook, follow him @edibleprayers or visit blueskywaters.com.