Let's Make Sourdough Bread!

By Cherie Chikousky

There is nothing in this world that smells better than bread baking, other than horses, but that is apparently a less universal opinion. Very few people, no matter how shy they normally would be, can walk into a house filled with the aroma of homemade bread and refrain from asking for just one piece. With the windows open in the summer the smell can cause anyone working in the yard to suddenly need to step in for a minute, just for a glass of water, and “Oh, is the bread just out? A quick slice would be great.”

My first step in bread baking was kefir bread, a very good stepping stone. Moving on to yeast bread was a bit more difficult. Mine still refuses to rise like moms. When we finally had a reliable and consistent source for organic flour we rejuvenated our starter we had ordered from Carl’s. We haven’t attempted to “catch” a starter. It is said to be a trial and error method of beginning sourdough, sometimes you get lucky and have beautiful bread, other times it goes in the compost pail and you try again. The method described in The New York Times Natural Foods Cookbook by Jean Hewitt is as follows:

Combine one-half cup of the flour (rye) and one-half cup of the lukewarm water in a large glass, or ceramic, bowl and let stand, uncovered, at room temperature for 50 to 60 hours. The dough should bubble and increase in volume. Stir if necessary and add more water if evaporation seems excessive. At the end of the time, the starter should be bubbly, good and smelly and increased in volume. Taken from the recipe “Whole Wheat Sour Dough Onion Bread” on page 250.

I have tried a few different sourdough recipes since we started, and the best so far is this:

Sour Dough Bread

1.5 cups starter
2 cups water
2 tbsp raw sugar or 1 tbsp honey
6.5 cups unbleached white flour, or 3 cups unbleached white flour and 3.5 cups whole-wheat flour, approximately
.25 cups melted butter, cooled

1. In a large bowl beat until smooth the 1.5 cups of starter, water, sugar, and two and one-half cups whole wheat flour.
2. Let stand in a warm place 12-18 hours; overnight.
3. Stir batter down. Mix in the melted butter and remaining whole-wheat flour and knead in enough of the remaining unbleached flour to make moderately stiff dough.
4. Cover and let rise until doubled in bulk, about 2 hours.
5. Grease well two loaf pans and your hands. Punch down the dough, divide in half and shape into loaves. Cover, if your dough is extra sticky use buttered plastic wrap, and let rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk, about one and one-half hours.

6. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Place a dish of water in the oven and leave in while the bread bakes
7. Bake 40-50 minutes or until bread sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom. Cover with aluminum foil if bread starts to over brown. Cool on a rack. Store in fridge/freezer to avoid sour bread.
Yield: 2 loaves

Feed starter equal parts rye flour and water, allow to stand 12 hours before refrigerating (if necessary), or feed every 24 hours. Remove from fridge 12 hours before using.

It has become very important to our family during our journey through the maze of what and how we should eat that we attempt to consume only certified organic cereals and grains. The main reasons include avoiding exposure to herbicides, pesticides, and chemical fertilizers, and our concerns regarding additives to commercial flour. The two big additives we are concerned about are bromide, which blocks your iodine receptors, hindering your thyroids ability to function properly, and L-cysteine, an amino acid derived from human hair, pig bristles, or duck and chicken feathers, using a process involving soaking the chosen medium in hydrochloric acid. L-cysteine is a dough conditioner, and when used in things like bagels or pizza dough, it is listed on packaging and so easy to avoid. The problem is that from our research we believe this to be added to all commercial flour. It follows, then, that any product containing flour would also contain all government approved additives, and we do not feel comfortable that our bodies be forced to potentially consume what we believe to be harmful ingredients.

This has brought us to buying all our flours and other cereal products in bulk from a certified organic source, and reselling smaller amounts to local families who are trying to change their diets and do not have the need or availability to buy bulk. I have seen the blessings our family has received through godly people who believed in helping a young family who needed a hand, and we try whenever possible to follow that example in small ways to teach and give opportunity to others. We have a strong belief in the way we eat, and have seen it change people’s, including our own family’s, health for the better. If we can make buying organic a little less overwhelming for people starting through that same maze, we are happy to do it.

As anyone who has ever had problem with a yeast imbalance knows bread made using single-celled yeast isn’t good for your body. Our bodies are much keener on the traditional method of sourdough. The fact that a portion of the flour is soaked overnight is very important. Grains contain a high level of something called phytic acid in the outer portion of the grain, the healthiest part. Phytic acid is bound to phosphorus. In your intestines phytic acid binds with calcium, magnesium, copper, iron and zinc, blocking absorption. These minerals are obviously very important to our overall health. Grains also contain enzyme inhibitors, which slow down digestion and stress your pancreas, irritating tannins, complex sugars which our bodies cannot break down and gluten. Through soaking, sprouting, and fermenting, we begin the breakdown our digestive system cannot incur on these foods prior to consumption, allowing our bodies to be saved the stress of attempting to process the portions of the grains we are not equipped to and the ability to absorb the important vitamins and minerals we need.

As I finish this blog my kitchen is filled with the smell wafting from the oven of three loaves of bread and a dozen buns baking. I’ll be honest here. All I’m thinking is “mmmmm.”

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