Friday, 10 July 2015

What's wrong with normal bread (besides putting yoga mats in it)

What is wrong with normal bread?
Let's take a look:

Left: a sourdough from my oven, cooked in a cast iron pot.

Normal bread gets a bad rap. And rightly so. Apart from putting chemicals in there that are found in yoga mats (azodicarbonamide anyone? Yes, Subway, I'm talking to you), there are a lot of other unsavoury specimens to make it spongy and tender. 

Such supermarket breads take a lot of chewing... you'll notice the feeling of glue as you chew a peice of bread and try to swallow it. Properly fermented bread - with no shortcuts - may be crusty, but it melts in your mouth in a couple of chews. 

Here are some tips on how sourdough becomes SUPERdough:

ACTIVATION: Super soak

The proper preparation of grains, beans and nuts is vital if we are to get the most value out of eating them, as these food groups all contain antinutrients potentially harmful to our health. Antinutrients are antioxidants that bind to minerals, making them unabsorbable. Large amounts of poorly prepared whole grains, beans and nuts may result in serious mineral deficiencies and bone loss.

Phytic acid, found in the outer hulls of seeds and the bran in whole grains, can combine with I calcium, magnesium, copper, iron and zinc in the intestinal tract and block their absorption. Whole grains contain other antinutrients: tannins that irritate the gut, complex sugars which we can’t break down, and some contain gluten and other proteins that are difficult to digest, which can lead to allergies, a range of digestive disorders and possibly even mental illness.

Most of the antinutrients these foods contain are there to preserve the seed until conditions allow them to sprout. We can emulate these conditions and neutralise the antinutrient effect in grains and beans by soaking them at least overnight in acidulated water (tepid water combined with whey, naturally fermented vinegar or lemon juice) in the way rolled oats have traditionally been prepared for porridge. Another method is to carry out a period of slow fermentation; in the way ground grain has been made into naturally leavened sourdough breads. By employing the beneficial ‘friendly’ bacteria (lactobacilli) created in these processes, those substances hard for us to digest begin to break down, making them easier to absorb. These processes can also enhance the vitamin content, particularly of B vitamins.

By fermenting a grain we do the following

- neutralise the phytic acid in the grain, allowing us to absorb its minerals and avoid allergic reactions; (in yeasted bread over 90% of the phytin remains)

- pre-digest the gluten in the grain, which is good news for gluten intolerants

- neutralise anti-nutrients as complex carbohydrates are broken down into more digestible simple sugars and protein is broken down into amino acids. Enzymes develop during proofing which are not lost in baking since the center of the loaf remains at a lower temperature than the crust.

- Fermentation, particularly lactobacillus, helps restore the functioning of the digestive tract, resulting in proper assimilation and elimination. These beneficial bacteria help control candida albicans, whereas baker’s yeast is a pro-candida organism. This is a brown bread that truly is "the staff of life" as it enhances the whole immune system.

- Reduces Allergic reations: People with allergies to commercially yeasted breads may not have the same sensitivities to naturally leavened whole grain sourdough bread. The cause may be either the wheat and/or the yeast. Often, people who are sensitive to yeasted white bread do not react to whole wheat bread. Others, who are sensitive to whole wheat bread, do not react when the leavening used is natural sourdough starter, and especially when the flour is freshly ground. Another approach is spelt flour instead of wheat flour. Spelt is the original strain of bread wheat from Europe, and it has not been hybridized. Rye flour is another choice that is nice used in small amounts.

What is Sourdough, exactly?
Here it is summarized well by Brisbane's Sol Bread's website:

You would be amazed at the number of people who don't know what Sourdough bread actually is. REAL Sourdough bread is synonymous with Natural Leaven breads. And what does that mean?

To explain it in a very down to earth/folksy fashion! All "yeasts" exist in a wild/natural state; in the air we breathe and living on the grains that we process and eat. The "yeasts" that are used in a true sourdough system mainly (about 90%) come from the grain. However about 10% are airborne. At some time it was discovered that a certain species of wild yeast was very powerful in its action, and worked more quickly to rise the bread and prepare it for baking. As with so many good discoveries, mankind isolated and selectively cultured this good thing; and carried on until they'd created a monster!

Commercial bakers yeast (Sacchorimices Ceriviceae) works FAST! And that means it doesn't do the job as Nature intended. Now what about the other yeasts? Let's call them, the "wild yeasty critters": The organisms that God (or selective evolutionary processes if you are a Darwinist) placed on the grains we eat. Grains from different regions of the world have different yeasts, that produce slightly different flavours, but more importantly live on that particular grain because that is where nature intended them to be. There are also other micro-organisms that partner the yeasts on the grain. They are able to completely break down the grain (pre-digest it) - and they're NOT in a hurry!

"Fake" Sourdough Bread
Any sourdough bread will contain "flour, water and salt" No yeast is present. here are a number of chemical and natural flavour additives that will give a bread, baked with commercial Baker's Yeast, a "Sourdough" flavour. There is also a process whereby you can use very small quantities of commercial yeast, and still allow the time for natural fermentation … but this takes a real Master Baker to insure that enough time is allowed for the 'pre-digestion' - which is so valuable in Sourdough - to occur.

Real sourdough uses 'wild yeasty critters' - the natural yeasts present in the grain and in the air. My sourdough is made from the wild yeasts present in my organic flour that i feed it and created it from (about 90%) and about 10% come from the surrounding flora in the air at my flat in Bondi.

Celiac and Gluten Intolerance
Although it's true that many folks in the Western World have developed intolerance to wheat through non-traditional diets, it's also true that a certain percentage can tolerate a 'genuine' sourdough.

One recent study has uncovered that Celaic patients fed wheat sourdough had little or no reaction to the bread:

Thirteen of the 17 patients showed a marked alteration of intestinal permeability after ingestion of baker's yeast bread. When fed the sourdough bread, the same 13 patients had values for excreted rhamnose and lactulose that did not differ significantly from the baseline values. The other 4 of the 17 CS patients did not respond to gluten after ingesting the baker's yeast or sourdough bread. These results showed that a bread biotechnology that uses selected lactobacilli, nontoxic flours, and a long fermentation time is a novel tool for decreasing the level of gluten intolerance in humans. (Sourdough Bread Made from Wheat and Nontoxic Flours and Started with Selected Lactobacilli Is Tolerated in Celiac Sprue Patients, Istituto Superiore di Sanità, Laboratorio di Metabolismo e Biochimica Patologica, I-00161 Rome, Italy,5 Department of Food and Nutritional Sciences, University College Cork, Cork, Ireland)

So celiacs, gluten intolerants and IBS sufferers - a solution awaits you but remember, go slow!!