For years I’ve wanted to delve into the world of bread making. I’m a bread lover at heart. But the task of making the perfectly, crispy, chewy loaf of bread was so overwhelming to me that I put it off for far too long. We have several kids with allergies and eczema, so I decided now would be the optimal time to work on our diet in terms of keeping the over-processed and over-hybridized wheat out of our home. (Note: this is definitely a work in progress).
I began with a simple sourdough recipe from the classic cookbook,
Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon. This cookbook is a treasure trove of information on diet and its effects on our bodies as well as foods from traditional cultures. I started with this recipe because I wanted my bread to be easier for digestion and made of a more ancient (traditional) wheat.
The recipe starts out with making your own sourdough starter. You begin with freshly, ground rye for the starter because it is more easily broken down by the good bacteria and good yeast. So your starter begins healthy and strong teaming with lots of good stuff to get your sourdough going. I started with 2 cups of rye flour and equal amount of cold water. You mix it up and cover with cheesecloth. The cheesecloth is key to allow the good bacteria and yeast to come in to your starter but keeps the bugs out. For the next 6 days you move your starter to a clean bowl and add another cup of rye flour and enough water to keep it soupy. By the end of the 7 days you should have a nice starter that has gone through a bubbly, foamy stage and smells similar to wine. I decided to keep mine strictly rye so that it will ensure a good strong starter.
For the actual bread dough, I decided to use kamut. Kamut is a more ancient type of wheat that I know for sure doesn’t exacerbate our little one’s eczema. So I began with freshly ground kamut flour utilizing the whole grain for the most nutrition. I placed approximately 2/3 of my starter for the dough into a big bowl and saved the other 1/3 as my starter in which I added fresh flour and water. Into my dough bowl, containing starter, I added 13 cups of kamut flour, 2 1/2 Tablespoons of sea salt and about 3 or more cups of water. This recipe was for 3 large loaves. Now please remember, this is my very first attempt at making traditional homemade sourdough bread. I’m sure some of you out there are laughing at my quantities. I mixed the dough by hand but had a very hard time. The actual quantity of water in the recipe was for about half the amount I ended up putting in. Note to self, use the mixer with the dough hook next time for mixing. This will make life much easier.
My first batch of bread lead to a very, flat, dense loaf of bread. The family and I all loved the flavor of the kamut and the sourness that the bread developed but I knew there was something I must have missed. After talking to a friend who makes bread every week for his family, we figured that I had not let the dough ferment long enough before kneading it and letting it proof. He also offered to give me some of his rye starter that he had started many years ago on his own with the same process. So I offered him a trade: some rye starter for some milk kefir grains.
My second and third go-rounds produced a much better loaf but to my and my family’s dismay I forgot to put salt in it. Silly mistake but it makes such a huge difference to the flavor. The bread was still very edible especially as french toast the next morning.
I have now made the bread four times and I will say that I’m starting to get the hang of it. I did remember to put the salt in and the result was a success. Since using the mixer with the dough hook I’ve been able to keep the water about the same as the recipe. The crust comes out nice and crunchy with the addition of a pan of water in the oven to produce the necessary steam. The flavor was great and I feel much better about feeding this to my kids than store bought bread that hasn’t gone through any true fermentation process. Most breads and sourdoughs have yeast added to speed up the process of proofing or rising which we can just do without. I’m sure I will never make the perfect loaf of bread but as long as the bread is edible and more nutritious I will continue to make it for my family. I’ll keep you updated as to how my quest is going for the perfect loaf of traditional, homemade sourdough. As well as any other tips or tricks I have learned along the way.