Thursday, November 13, 2014

Adventures in Sourdough Bread

I've always found great weight-loss success with a paleo-ish diet - that is, cutting out grains and other high glycemic foods like rice and potatoes.  But I don't really like it.  I miss bread.  I LOVE bread. And eating paleo meant cutting out SOOOO many things that I truly enjoy eating. Like bread.

So this blog post is about bread.  I love cooking and I love making bread.  I don't eat bread all that often and I avoid sandwiches, but it just seems wrong to cut out that gorgeous rustic artisan bread whether I make it at home, or buy it in a speciality bakery.

I was doing some reading and I've learned that if you're going to eat bread, the best kind to eat is sourdough.  Why? Because the flour in sourdough is fermented, breaking it down into basic amino acids.  The longer the bread is fermented, the more broken down the starches and proteins become, and theoretically, the healthier it is for you. Some believe if it's fermented long enough, even celiacs can eat it safely, but there hasn't been enough research done to know if that's true or not.  Of course the "healthiness" of a food is a relative and debatable term so keep that in mind.  IF you believe that fermented foods like yogurt, sauerkraut, kim chee, and sourdough are good for you, then you might find this worth trying. (Check out the Mark's Apple site link below for more info)

So - the problem is - you can't make sourdough bread with regular yeast. You have to make it with "wild" yeast which is found in the ground grain (and some believe, in the air, and on other items in your kitchen).  Supposedly easy to make, you simply mix ground flour and warm water and leave it out on your counter for a week or longer until the yeasts begin to take hold and multiply.  And of course, you need to "feed" it every day, and then later 2-3 times a day - you dump out half of your starter, and stir in more water and flour.

After a week or two, you should have a starter that doubles in size within a few hours of a feed, and it's ready to made into bread.

Of course, it's not as simple as that. I've read a ton of websites and recipes (links below) and have been trying to get some sourdough starter going for the past two weeks, without a lot of success.  But I've just started my third batch now and I'm planning to use the citrus fruit juice method and see if it works.  The science behind this method can be found here.

Apparently, within a few days of starting a flour/water mixture,  it starts to bubble and bloom but it's not actually yeast growing yet, it's just growing normal gas-producing bacteria. The yeasts can't grow in this environment. Supposedly, once you wait for that stage to pass, it seems to die and stops doing anything. Then, finally the yeasts start to grow.  Mine doesn't seem to want to reach that stage though. It dies and doesn't do anything else. So what to do?

Day 2 - Do I see bubbles?
The flour with the highest success rate is supposed to be rye flour, which I am using. Many recipes say to use distilled water, which I have not tried (tap water only so far).  But the pineapple or orange juice method is supposed to work because the bacteria that produces the gas in the early stages, can't grow in an acid environment so supposedly the yeast is able to start growing right away, and doesn't have to wait for the bacteria to die off. I dunno - I'll let you know how it goes. I'm on Day 2 right now.

And it's important to note, that once you have good starter, you need time to make the bread.  Plan to start it two days before you want to bake it.  You make a sponge with the starter and let it ferment for 6-12 hours, then you mix the dough and let it sit for 12 hours, then you form and let it rise for 4-6 hours, and then bake. If you put it in the fridge for a day or two, it takes even longer but supposedly tastes even better. I can't wait until I have starter and can try some of these....

Here are links to some good websites I've found

Two excellent, very comprehensive bread making websites with a focus on sourdough.

Another guy's 5 steps to sourdough starter

Mark's Daily Apple talks about fermented foods in general

Five Reasons to Make Sourdough Bread

Michael Pollan talks sourdough in this anti-paleo article (read #2 and #3)

And apparently, this is THE book to have if you are in to bread making. But the kindle version is over $80 so I won't be buying it soon. It's cheaper on the US Amazon site.

And $100 for the soft cover


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