An Olive Loaf for Kathy
One of my co-workers has been asking for some Olive Bread. This is so easy to make via the Lahey method, how could I say no?
But easy = boring. Of course, I thought I'd try something a little bit different. I would have to experiment. Instead of yeast, I would use some sourdough that I should have discarded when I refreshed my motherstarter today (but I am too cheap to do that!). And I decided to use up some more of that Multigrain Bread Dough that we've had kicking around for awhile. I was hoping that the many grains in the mix might add to the flavour.
The recipe calls for 3 cups or 400 g of bread flour. This multigrain flour is so dense, it required only about 2 cups to reach that weight. I dumped in some kalamata olives, and the water, and stirred it up.
How much sourdough starter would I use? There were no guidelines in Lahey's book. He expects this dough to rise in 18-24 hours using only 3 g of dry yeast.
I used 1/3 c of my whole wheat motherstarter. It seemed to me to be a bit more hydrated than the rye motherstarter, even though I've kept the amounts of flour and water that I've refreshed them with exactly the same throughout their life cycle. Lahey likes a wet dough, so I was hoping these wild yeasts would fit right in and do their job.
I set it aside, expecting it to take a bit longer than the 18-24 hours that the commercial dry yeast would take. I was hoping for a doubling in volume, but I thought it might be great if I could get even more than that.
It more or less doubled before the 18 hour mark, but I waited until then to refrigerate it. I wouldn't be able to bake it until Saturday night after work, which was good because that was when I was working with Kathy, the one who likes olive bread. If I baked it Saturday night, it would be ready to take on Sunday morning.
The trouble was, I would have to enlist the help of my wife to take the dough from the frig before I got home from work or I would be up past midnite. She took it out a couple of hours before I got home and when I arrived home from my shift on Saturday, I began shaping the loaf and baking.
The dough was very wet, and gooey. I thought that perhaps the gluten structure was spent, or past its prime. Nevertheless I proceeded. I used some cracked wheat for the crust: lately I've been enjoying the way this tastes.
The dough has to sit 2 hours after forming, and then it bakes for almost an hour. So I was up until 11 pm anyway.
The results were okay on the outside. I used a casserole dish as a makeshift Dutch Oven, and there was some decent oven spring. I had to wait until I got to work to crack open the loaf to see the crumb. Luckily I took my camera to work to get a picture of the inside of the loaf. It was pretty dense, and perhaps a bit too moist.
Kathy said she liked it (but she may just have said that to be kind), and a physician who dropped by and tried a piece said he liked the slice that he had. But others refused to try it or tossed it away with a 'blechh'. The olives were very salty, and the sourdough was truly sour, and I can see how it might not be to everyone's taste. I liked it well enough with some brie cheese. I tried some with nothing but some olive oil, and found it fairly bitter that way. I think I like the olive loaf made with the ordinary bread flour better, for colour and taste. But the crust was nice. The cracked wheat makes for a nutty and crunchy crust.
Over all, this one was a fairly good loaf.
Notes to Self:
- Sourdough isn't to everyone's liking: when making a bread for public consumption, you probably should use yeast, unless you specifically are asked to bring a sourdough loaf.
- When using sourdough to raise a Lahey-style loaf, 1/3 of a cup is good and works well, but you probably could have used less and it still would have worked well. Either try using 1/4 cup, and/or add a bit more flour to make the dough -- and the crumb -- slightly less wet.
- Eating sourdough bread means you are ingesting lactobacillus, which converts lactose and other sugars into lactic acid. These beneficial organisms thrive in wild yeast doughs and give sourdough breads their distinctive sour taste.
Today at break while at work I was reading a bit more of Sandor Katz' book, "Wild Fermentation". Katz said something about Lactobacillus that caught my eye: these little beneficial bacteria live in our gut and they make Omega-3 Fatty Acids - they actually give off nutrients that are essential for our well-being. Hey, isn't that cool? A symbiosis right in our own human gastrointestinal tract, an ecology of thrift, a culture of cooperation.
This news particularly intrigued me as I have been looking for ways of increasing the Omega-3's in my (vegetarian) diet. I read one of the popular books on Omega-3 recently, that says that Flax Seed Oil is one way, but that only gives you the short-chain Omega-3s, not the more beneficial long chain Omega-3's (EPA and DHA), which comes almost exclusively from seafood and some ocean algae; and besides, Flax Seed also contains Omega-6's which we should be cutting down on even as we are increasing our 3's. Jerry Brunetti in his slide show 'Food as Medicine' says the body may be able to make EPA and DHA from the short chain Omega-3s in small amounts, but that you need extra "magnesium, zinc, B-6, and Vitamin C." The book I read, Evelyn Tribole's 'The Ultimate Omega-3 Diet", says that some algae that vegans can use to supplement their diet will give you DHA but not EPA; but while the body cannot manufacture EPA and DHA out of the short-chain Omega-3's (despite what Brunetti says), it can make EPA from DHA easily. Not sure what to believe.
But wouldn't it be nice if we could just live in harmony with a little, otherwise maligned, microbe in our own digestive tract? We could feed it, and nurture the culture of lactobacillus in our guts, and it could feed us, and everybody would be very happy. Right?
Well, maybe not. I was thinking: if the best thing for us is to create an environment where the beneficial organisms are thriving, how do we do this? Do we eat more fermented, sour (acidic) foods, like Katz suggests, to add more lactobacillus life forms to our gut, or do we feed the ones already in our gut with things they like so they will reproduce and thrive and give us the nutrients we need?
I know, for myself for instance, that if I eat sour cream (which I love), something in my gut loves it too: but they manufacture gas in huge amounts, and it is loud, painful and smelly. The culture in my gut might be happy but I am unhappy because I cannot enjoy human culture at that point. So for me, eating sour cream to keep my flora happy is not going to be a permanent solution. I can't eat it the day before I am working with patients, for instance. That's not fair to them.
I have a ton of questions. Why does sour cream affect me this way, but not cheese, not milk, not yogurt? (or perhaps these items do affect me this way, but there is quicker pass-through so the gas doesn't build up to quantities that I notice?) Is the gas that these microbes give off the only way to know if the bacteria in our gut is thriving? Is it the lactobacillus in my gut that loves sour cream, or some other bacteria? If lactobacillus ferments bread and other things we eat, does it also ferment things in our gut? Is this a good thing to do inside us? Would it have the same effect if we just ate fermented things instead?
Obviously I need to do a bit more research.
I have been thinking lately that my own human gut is like a black box, where you don't see anything that is happening inside it, you only know what goes in and what comes out. I can analyze what goes in, in terms of ingredients and how that breaks down to nutrients. And I suppose I can also analyze what goes out: I can examine my scats, my farts, my boogers, my sweat, my energy levels. But there is the thing: is this blog the place to do it? Should I be talking about farts in a blog that has been so far mostly about bread and recipes?
I can't really think of a better place. After all, it appears no one is reading my blog or looking at my pictures of bread (and why should they, after all 'nobody cares what you had for lunch'). But do I really want to have pictures of my bread side-by-side with pictures of my stool, for all the world to see? Yuck. I've actually been thinking of starting another blog, linked to this one, with the pictures of the output. There would be pictures of things that I would be examining under a microscope. But I would restrict access to that other blog to myself.
I mean, a blog with scat pictures is the human cultural equivalent of GI flora manufacturing too much smelly, bloating gas.
Best to think on these things some more.