Tag Archives: sourdough bread

An Experiment: Sourdough Pumpernickel Bread

It’s the weekend, so I must be cooking, right? Those who enjoy my blogs on bread making might find my latest experiment of some interest: sourdough pumpernickel.

I'm not sure I would recommend my sourdough pumpernickel bread. It's a bit strong for my taste! (Photo by Jim Ewing, ShooFlyFarmBlog)

I’m not sure I would recommend my sourdough pumpernickel bread. It’s a bit strong for my taste! (Photo by Jim Ewing, ShooFlyFarmBlog)

I debated whether I should write this because frankly, I would say, sourdough pumpernickel may be an acquired taste. Think about it: pumpernickel bread already has a strong flavor; add the “tang” or sour flavor implicit in sourdough bread and what do you have? I can tell you: a very strong flavor! I haven’t decided if I like it or not.

If pressed, the closest flavor I can think of that approximates it is licorice.

I blame my friend Lisa for this! (Joking. Sort of. I’ll take her some and see what she thinks.)

Lisa asked if I was thinking about doing pumpernickel and, if so, to let her know so that we could compare notes. She said she wasn’t satisfied with how her’s came out.  I told her that these days I just do sourdough (except for white bread for my grandson).

After we discussed it a bit, I got curious. I wasn’t even sure if it was possible to make sourdough pumpernickel, since the ingredient that gives it the unique flavor is molasses, and sourdough is all about converting sugars. So, I thought, well, I guess I could try it.

I don’t have a recipe, per se. I just put the ingredients together how I thought they should go. I looked at a pumpernickel bread recipe but substituted sourdough starter and played it by ear from there.

Take some sourdough starter (after feeding it rye flour for a couple of days to acclimate it) and mix it with water, olive oil, caraway seeds, salt, molasses and rye flour. (Photo by Jim Ewing, ShooFlyFarmBlog)

Take some sourdough starter (after feeding it rye flour for a couple of days to acclimate it) and mix it with water, olive oil, caraway seeds, salt, molasses and rye flour. (Photo by Jim Ewing, ShooFlyFarmBlog)

I took my sourdough starter and poured out about a quarter cup into a separate jar three days before I started cooking. I fed the starter (which had been bred with organic all purpose flour) with organic rye flour: one quarter cup with an equal amount of filtered water twice a day. On the third day, I had bubbly starter from the rye flour. (If changing to a different type of flour for sourdough cooking, you need to allow time for your starter to get accustomed to it.)

Amounts are approximate: I mixed one and half cups of the starter and one cup of rye flour with one-half cup of molasses, half a cup of warm water, two tablespoons of olive oil (substituted for shortening), one tablespoon of salt, two tablespoons of caraway seeds. Stir and mix in one cup or so of bread flour judiciously to make it less sticky, and more for your kneading board. Knead thoroughly, then put in a covered, lightly oiled bowl. Let sit for 4 hours.

Take it out and knead and shape it, then put it back in the covered bowl for four more hours. Then put it in a dutch oven, in a heated oven at 400F, with the top on. After 30 minutes, take the top off, and back for another 15 minutes.

Put on a rack and let it cool.

Let the sourdough pumpernickel bread cool on a rack before eating. Yes, that's the hardest part: waiting for it to cool! (Photo by Jim Ewing, ShooFlyFarmBlog)

Let the sourdough pumpernickel bread cool on a rack before eating. Yes, that’s the hardest part: waiting for it to cool! (Photo by Jim Ewing, ShooFlyFarmBlog)

Again, I’m not sure I would recommend this. I did not leave it overnight, which might improve it, since that’s how most sourdoughs are made, but I was a bit hesitant since I added so much molasses and wanted to keep an eye on it; also, leaving dough overnight normally makes the flavor stronger (which might not be a good thing with pumpernickel).

 

Next time, if I choose to make pumpernickel bread, I think I’ll just use the rye flour by itself and not sourdough starter. It’s just a bit too strong for my taste.

Onward!

Jim PathFinder Ewing is a journalist, author, and former organic farmer now teaching natural, sustainable and organic agricultural practices. His latest book is Conscious Food: Sustainable Growing, Spiritual Eating (Findhorn Press). Find Jim on Facebook, follow him @EdiblePrayers or @OrganicWriter or visit blueskywaters.com.

No-Knead Sourdough Bread Works Great!

Regular readers of this blog know that I’m a rank amateur when it comes to kitchen matters. I can grow food well; it’s the cooking part that stumps me. But I’ve embraced my fears/inadequacies and have been embarking on a trail into the unknown: cooking from scratch.

I think I’ve mastered making bread from scratch – or rather, I can make bread that I’m happy with, even if it maybe wouldn’t win any medals at the county fair. But sourdough bread – which I think is much more nutritious than regular bread (read previous blog entries) – has somewhat eluded me.

With this in mind, I tried a no-knead recipe from Mother Earth News (December 2012/January 2014), and it works great! See: http://www.motherearthnews.com/real-food/no-knead-sourdough-bread-recipe-zmrz13djzmat.aspx

I can attest that the no-knead sourdough recipe in Mother Earth News works great. If I can do it, you can, too! That's corn meal sprinkled on the top, by the way. (Photo by Jim Ewing)

I can attest that the no-knead sourdough recipe in Mother Earth News works great. If I can do it, you can, too! That’s corn meal sprinkled on the top, by the way. (Photo by Jim Ewing)

Part of the problem I’ve been having, I think, is that I haven’t been feeding my starter enough, and I’ve kept it out. If I had fed it until it was robust, then put it in the refrigerator, that probably would have done better.

My old water kefir sourdough starter kind of went limp; so I threw it out and started another starter that I had ordered online – one meant for gluten-free grains. It started off OK, though I used regular organic all-purpose flour; but I left it out too long without feeding it enough and it developed mold.

I researched what to do and was told that you can scrape off the mold and it will recover if you feed it enough. So, I did that — for a week …. scraping of mold, feeding it; scraping off mold, feeding it… Seemed like all I was doing was feeding the mold. So, I threw it out (into the flower bed, so it could return to earth).

But when I came back inside, I noticed there was still a quarter inch of starter clinging to the bottom of the jar and it actually looked pretty good — bubbly — and smelled good — fruity. So, I thought, what the heck, and fed it with quarter cup of flour and quarter cup of filtered water.

Well, it came back great guns! And it’s now fed and resting in the refrigerator. I’ll probably pull it out in a week or two (remembering to feed it once a week), and cook some bread with it.

Meantime, I had started another batch of water kefir sourdough starter (see previous blogs). Since I keep water kefir going, I thought, why not? It’s free.

So, I put two tablespoons of active water kefir with one-quarter cup of flour and quarter cup of filtered water and refed it with flour/water every 12 hours for a week. When the jar was full (Friday), I made my sponge and followed the recipe in Mother Earth News.

I also went out and bought a three-and-a-half quart stainless steel dutch oven (stainless because I bake so much now, I get tired of scraping off dough that’s like concrete). And I bought a spritzer that holds olive oil that deposits a fine spray for cooking surfaces. That’s a big help, too.

I’m quite pleased. If I can make it, so can you. Give it whirl! (And,yes, the corn meal on the top adds a little pizzaz.)
Jim PathFinder Ewing is a journalist, author, and former organic farmer now teaching natural, sustainable and organic agricultural practices. His latest book is Conscious Food: Sustainable Growing, Spiritual Eating (Findhorn Press). Find Jim on Facebook, follow him @EdiblePrayers or @OrganicWriter or visit blueskywaters.com.

Sourdough Bread Update

A short note….

Regular readers of this blog know that I’ve been trying my hand at making my own bread from scratch. It’s been a couple of months since I started and now have more than a dozen loaves under my belt — literally and figuratively!

In my last bread blog, I told how I had tried a new sourdough recipe and it worked OK; maybe not as well as I wanted, but it worked. Since then, I’ve baked a few more loaves; but the last two that I did came out like bricks, really thick and heavy!

Even though I fed my sourdough starter every day (and even hired someone to feed my cat and sourdough daily when I was away!), it still lost its umph.

So, I started a new culture a week ago. Here it is with some fresh flour looking good and bubbly….

Here's some bubbly sourdough starter just right for starting a new loaf of fresh homemade bread. (Photo by Jim Ewing)

Here’s some bubbly sourdough starter just right for starting a new loaf of fresh homemade bread. (Photo by Jim Ewing)

and here’s one of the first loaves….

This sourdough bread loaf is a bit thin, but it's light as a marshmallow. I'm still working on getting it right! (Photo by Jim Ewing)

This sourdough bread loaf is a bit thin, but it’s light as a marshmallow. I’m still working on getting it right! (Photo by Jim Ewing)

It’s maybe not so pretty as some of those that people more experienced than I might make, but I can attest that it’s very light. Pick it up, and it almost seems to float off your hand! It’s like a big marshmallow.

I used the same recipe as before, except I used Organic All Purpose Flour rather than whole wheat.

For cosmetic purposes, I probably ought to invest in a bigger pan, rather than splitting the dough into two standard loaf pans. As it is, one pan is too small without the dough rising over the sides and overflowing; two pans results in a thinner loaf.

Pretty or not, I now prefer to eat my own bread than “store bought.” And I certainly have a greater appreciation for others’ home baking!

I’ll keep playing with it, and keep you posted.

Jim PathFinder Ewing is a journalist, author, and former organic farmer now teaching natural, sustainable and organic agricultural practices. His latest book titled Conscious Food: Sustainable Growing, Spiritual Eating (Findhorn Press) is in bookstores now. Find Jim on Facebook, follow him @EdiblePrayers or @OrganicWriter or visit blueskywaters.com.

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.