Friday, April 12, 2013

Thoughts from a Reader

Thoughts from Readers What is "Normal" bread? Hello baker friend, The other day I had dinner with a friend and she made a paleo yeasted bread. She is quite the explorer in the kitchen and especially around baking. Though she hasn't shown much interest in sourdough yet. She was hoping to make a paleo challah. She said the dough wasn't the right consistency for challah so it came out as a loaf. It was very beautiful and delicious, almost cake like. She also expressed that she wanted to make a high rising bread. (Her bread had risen quite well and looked like"normal" bread.)

I share all this with you because I think that we are culturally bred (pun intended) to regard bread as being big, grown into something with a particular shape and consistency. While exploring and enjoying my sourdough loaves, which are not big and light and fluffy, my partner and I often reflect that it's like working with a different artistic medium. Pastels and oils can make a portrait, but the effects are quite different. It's a reminder that sourdough gluten free baking is just different. It's not meant to look like Wonder bread. Just like Wonder bread isn't intended to have the same nutritional or digestive properties GF sourdough does.

My partner and I like to reflect upon the origin of bread and what early loaves might have been made from and how they were discovered. It's easy to imagine that some ancient woman had porridge left over and it sat in some corner of her hut for awhile as she was unwilling to throw precious food away and as it aged and fermented, rather than throw it out, she patted it together and put it on the fire somehow and came by bread. Looking at the origin of breadmaking like this, makes me feel that what I am eating is actually closer to its origin, than the fluffy light yeasted loaves we regard as "normal" and desired today.

That's my tangent for today. Wishing you happy baking, J. Oregon

Sharon's Response:
Here is my opinion about light and fluffy bread:


I totally agree with your opinion that we are culturally "bred", (excellent pun, by the way) to expect bread to be light, fluffy and tall. This is what most of us in the US grew up with. Wonder bread is the epitome of light and fluffy but even the "real Jewish rye' breads from bakeries in Brooklyn, where I grew up, were light and fluffy.

There was light rye and dark rye. I asked a baker what the breads were made of, (this was before the era of mandatory labeling). She said mostly white flour with a small amount of rye flour. I asked what was in the dark rye bread and she said it was the same ingredients with a little caramel color added to make it dark.

Wow, was I surprised! I had this fantasy that the dark rye was some ancient recipe handed down from baker to baker. In reality it had a bit more substance than Wonder Bread but probably no more nutrition.

We all know that that gluten makes a wheat bread rise. To create a light and fluffy bread, one must have a variety of wheat that has a high amount of gluten in it. Over the last 50 years, perhaps, I believe wheat growers have been selectively seeding for strains with more and more gluten in them to fill the desire for light and fluffy.

Humans can adapt to selective seeding over long periods of time but the amount of gluten in current strains of wheat has been increased so much and so quickly it is probably more than most of us can adapt to. As a result our digestive systems are stressed. If we continue eating these strains of wheat we may develop Celiac intolerance and end up with the autoimmune disorders and many other serious diseases our population is dealing with.

To have the expectation that good bread is light and fluffy may mean that we have been greatly mislead. The breads of our ancestors, no matter what our lineage is, was coarse, dense, fermented, nutritious and with a long shelf life.

When I set out to make my breads my first goal was to make a nutritious bread using only food ingredients. Using an old rye sourdough technique made it possible. The bread was not light and fluffy but was chewy and substantial. I didn't need to eat much of it to feel sated.

When people taste my bread, the ones have only light and fluffy as a reference point don't care for it. The people who appreciate old world breads love it. The people who appreciate sourdough love it. And of course, the gluten-free people, who are looking for something beyond potato flour and tapioca starch breads, are really happy to have it.

Bread has sustained humans for perhaps 5,000 years. Fluff never sustained anyone!