This article is about baking the ultimate non-white bread, a sprouted sourdough that is very healthful as a daily staple. Accompanied by a salad, sometimes a soup, of fresh, local, organically grown vegetables, mushrooms, and a little seasonal fruit, it will keep you healthy enough to pedal your bicycle everywhere you need to go.
I’m going to give you a simple fifteen-step recipe for the bread, which you can easily adapt to your own situation. But I want to talk about the cultural considerations that go into perfecting bread, so I’m going to explore each of the six major processes involved in creating it. First, let’s talk about designing your home to bake bread.
It is not unreasonable to plan one’s home around the baking of daily bread. In cold climes, there is a great case to be made for putting a masonry oven – stone, brick, or ceramic – near the low center of the home as a heat sink. In hot places, you would want to move the cooking operations away from the core, perhaps even convert to a raw vegan diet, which is easier in the tropics.
If you plan to enjoy daily bread, you will want to consider your sources, as well as means of delivery, of the fundamental raw materials:
· Seeds, whole and raw from a local, organic grower (you might even grow them yourself);
· Water, pure and clean (absolutely essential and to be used sparingly); and
· Heat, ideally from the sun, perhaps through an intermediary such as wood.
Balanced salts and cooking oil can also be nice, but are not absolutely essential.
Your home will need appropriate spaces for each of several processes, listed below in order of temperature. Besides determining how you will generate heat, think about how you will utilize it in varying intensity as it rises from the source.
· 40°F – Starter must be refrigerated for storage. If you cease daily baking for a time, you may want to freeze it (30°F). [Note refrigerating an interior space generally involves heating an exterior space. Use that heat!]
· 55°F – Storage of seeds should be cool and dry, while sprouting will be cool and moist. Both processes are better in relative darkness. [This is the mean temperature of the earth’s crust below frost line.]
· 75°F – There is flexibility in the range for sourdough to work, but this is the ideal average. Apparently some bakers prefer longer, cooler processes, while others speed it up with more heat.
· 85°F – Starter and water should be preheated to facilitate yeast growth.
· 350°F – Baking bread will require a hot oven for about an hour each time.
You are going to need quite a few tools for the process of making your daily bread. Each will need to be stored somewhere while not in use. Plan ahead for comfortable processes. Necessary tools include:
· Appropriate containers for gathering and storing seeds;
· At least five sprouting jars, one gallon is ideal, but at least ½ gallon, fitted with screen lids for easy draining;
· A three cup water container (quart jar with a line marked will work);
· A big catch basin for water, at least one gallon, bigger is better;
· A grinder/mixer, ideally capable of course grinding cereals and kneading bread (you will make up for its inadequacies with physical labor);
· A large breadboard for kneading & shaping dough;
· Four large, steep sided, mixing bowls, five quart ideal, but at least ¾ gallon, with cloth covers (built in elastic is luxurious);
· Two-cup starter containers with cloth covers and optional tight lid for freezing (if you plan to suspend operations for more than a few weeks);
· Two or more bread pans;
· Racks, one mounted in the center of the oven, one outside the oven for cooling cooked loaves;
· A good slicing knife and a toaster are optional, but nice;
· A breadbox made of tin with small perforations for air;
· Means of cleaning everything regularly. While sterility is an impossible notion, we want to encourage symbiotic cultures and discourage intruding pathogens. Be alert to the culture of your kitchen.
MIX – The first process in making the ultimate non-white bread is selecting the whole, raw (preferably grown with organic techniques on a local farm) seeds. It’s good to change up this mix regularly, as long as you follow the main principles. I cannot overstress that the seeds must be alive, never roasted, rolled, cracked, or ground, or even too old or over-treated to sprout.
About three quarters of the seeds must be glutinous cereal grains, in order to allow the bread to rise properly. If you are intolerant of gluten, it may be because you’ve never had it prepared properly, but please don’t risk your health. Others know how to make gluten-free bread. This is not. 75% of your seeds should be:
· triticale; or
· wheat (I’m particularly fond of hard, red wheat).
The other quarter of your seed mix should mostly provide complementary proteins to the cereals. These could come from either of two groups.
· Pulses: alfalfa, clover, fenugreek, lentil, pea, chickpea, mung bean and soybean (non-GMO).
· Oilseeds: sesame, sunflower, almond, hazelnut, flax (linseed), peanut.
The oilseeds, except flax, increase the hassle factor because they have shells that must be removed, however, they also provide essential oils, which can be tough to get in a vegan diet. Plus they taste great! Make sure they are live, not roasted or salted, if you want to include them in your daily bread. Alternately, they can be roasted and made into a spread to be applied after baking.
There are several other varieties of seeds that add nutrition and flavor to your bread, but should be used in smaller amounts, because they are not as essential. These include the following groups. Play with different combinations!
- Non-glutinous cereals: maize (corn), rice, quinoa, amaranth and buckwheat (these last three are used as cereal even if botanically they are not). In the case of rice, the husk of the paddy will be removed before sprouting. The brown rice is widely using for germination (GBR - Germinated Brown Rice) in Japan and other countries.
- Brassica: broccoli, cabbage, watercress, mustard, mizuna, radish, daikon (kaiware sprouts), rocket (arugula), tatsoi, or turnip.
- Umbelliferous vegetables: carrot, celery, fennel, or parsley.
- Allium: onion, leek, or green onion (me-negi).
- Other vegetables and herbs: spinach, lettuce, milk thistle, or lemon grass.
SPROUT – The second major process in making the ultimate non-white bread is to soak and rinse the seeds to allow them to begin the growth process. This will bring out natural sugars and begin the process of breaking down the basic nutrients so they will be more available to your body upon eating.
Sprouting imitates the natural process that a seed follows when planted, but without that messy dirt. Generally we begin by soaking the seeds for 24 hours in cool (55°F), pure water. Then we drain the seeds for three days in the same cool, moist, dark space, rinsing with fresh, cool water daily. The seeds should begin to grow, but not produce much green. A little won’t hurt anything, but white stalks are easier for the next process.
You could just eat these sprouts now and forget the bread. That’s what a raw vegan would do, although she might first give the sprouts a day of sunshine to green them up and put them into a salad. You could add them to soup. If you get adventurous, you could grind them with more water and culture them with anaerobic yeast in a sealed container to make beer. But I’m presuming you still want bread.
GRIND – The third process of making the ultimate non-white bread is to chew (not with your mouth, yet) all the sprouted ingredients into tiny bits and mix them thoroughly with warm (85°F) water and culture, and optionally a little salt, to make bread dough. Use about three cups of water for a half-gallon of ground sprouts and two cups of starter. Use not more than 1 ½ T salts.
This grinding becomes a vigorous kneading process, which brings out the gluten web that will hold the little bubbles of carbon dioxide created by the yeasts in the culture. Dough must have the right texture to make edible bread. You may use a modern food processor with a bread hook or do it by hand on a breadboard dusted with cornmeal.
Once you get started, you will save a bit of the dough from each day to start the next day’s batch, thus preserving the diverse, symbiotic culture of yeasts and bacteria that make truly great sourdough. For the first time, you could make your starter from commercially available yeast with a dash of kombucha, or you could get some from a baker who makes particularly delicious bread.
As long as you bake bread, you want to maintain this healthy culture. Never let it get contaminated. If you suspend operations, it can be frozen. Any time it isn’t actively working, it should be refrigerated. Watch for opportunities to enhance your culture by trading and combining successful cultures with other healthy households.
Please let me share a bit of understanding about salt, an optional ingredient. People have an ideal combination of electrolytic salts in our bodies. We lose these, mostly through sweat, and must replace them in our diet. While all of these minerals are found in a healthful blend of vegetables, the standard American diet tends toward too much sodium and too little potassium and magnesium. I use this blend in place of table salt as much as I’m able.
Balanced Electrolyte Blend
30% Chloride 20% Sodium
10 % Phosphate 20% Potassium
10% Bicarbonate 7% Calcium
CULTURE - The fourth process of making the ultimate non-white bread is the most important and least demanding. Let it sit completely still in a warm place (70°-90°F) for three days. This will allow the microbes in your culture to spread throughout the dough. The yeast will digest the simple sugars and the bacteria will digest the alcohol the yeast produces. Acids and enzymes will break down nutrients to make them more digestible. Applied with appropriate timing, this culture makes good bread into great bread.
It is important not to shake or disturb this process. The gas bubbles caught in the gluten web are fragile. The microbes in the culture are sensitive. Put a label onto each bowl daily so you know how long the culture has been working, but don’t move the bowls around. Don’t let dust (mold spores) contaminate your culture.
You will remove about 10% of each batch of dough to start the next batch. Theoretically, you could have three different cultures going at the same time. This provides some protection in case a batch gets contaminated. It also gives you room to experiment with improvements in your culture. Play with it!
BAKE - The fifth process of making the ultimate non-white bread is to shape the dough into baking pans and set them in an evenly hot (350°F) oven for about an hour. Some combinations of ingredients will cook a bit differently, so test the loaves with a toothpick before turning them out of the pan onto a rack to cool.
It can be a good idea to coat the baking pans as well as the mixing bowls with oil. Any oil that imparts a good taste without smoking will do. I find avocado oil the ultimate cooking oil. Peanut or sesame oil each has a strong, but not unpleasant taste. Flax (linseed) or hemp oil is also fine. Be sure any oil you use is food grade. Olive oil is wonderful for salads, but often smokes when used for cooking.
EAT - The final process of making the ultimate non-white bread is to consume it. You may want to slice it and maybe toast it. You could spread it with berry preserves or nut butters or make a sandwich with both.
If it doesn’t all get eaten immediately, bread is best stored in a clean tin with tiny perforations for air. Observe how much gets eaten, how hungry people are, and adjust the amount of bread you bake each day to accommodate.
Okay, as promised, here is the step-by-step recipe for baking the ultimate non-white healthful daily bread.
1. Check the breadbox to see how much is left from the last baking. Adjust quantities to match consumption.
2. Remove sourdough starter from refrigeration and preheat to 85°F for an hour before mixing dough. Preheat oven to 350°F.
3. Select seeds (¾ glutinous cereals) into a clean gallon jar with screen lid. Fill with pure water to soak for 24 hours in a cool (55°F), dark place.
4. Pour off and keep water soaking seeds from yesterday, Set upside down in a cool, dark area to drain.
5. Preheat 3 cups of water from sprouts to 85°F. Preheat oven to 350°F.
6. Reuse remaining water to rinse middle two jars of sprouts, leaving them upside down to drain. Pour excess water onto a thirsty plant.
7. Dump a gallon of grown sprouts, after 3 days rinsing, into grinder with 1 ½ T salts (optional).
8. Grind to an even, course consistency, add preheated starter & water, and vigorously mix to doughy consistency. Hand knead if necessary.
9. Oil 5 qt. bowl and put dough into it. Cover with a clean cloth to sit undisturbed for 3 days.
10. Move #1 label to fresh bowl, #2 label to #1 bowl, and #3 label to #2 bowl without disturbing the working cultures. Remove finished dough from #3 bowl to breadboard with minimal disturbance.
11. Wash empty gallon jar, #3 bowl, starter container, and bread pans thoroughly with a dash of Dr. Bronner's soap, preserving water for irrigation.
12. Extract 2 cups of fresh dough for starter, cover with clean cloth, and refrigerate until tomorrow.
13. Shape dough from breadboard into oiled bread pans.
14. Bake ~1 hr. @ 350°F until done. Test with a toothpick
15. Turn loaves onto a rack to cool. Set pans to soak overnight.