I made these two loaves to rid myself once and for all of the "Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day" Anadama dough that I used in yesterday's pizza. One loaf I made as the recipe indicated, i.e. as a freestanding boule; the other I put into a casserole dish and baked covered, the way Lahey suggests for his loaves. The freestanding loaf spread sideways too much -- that seems to be the common fate of all the breads I make using the "Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day" recipes. The other loaf fared better, although it was rolled in cornmeal and that is basically the taste of the crust now.
I form a boule and put some other dough in a couche-lined basket
The free-standing loaf spreads sideways too much in the 90 minute proofing
Upside-down into the casserole dish
Both of these loaves are kind of flat
I don't care for either of these loaves. I hope that Reinhart's Anadama bread that I'll be baking next is somewhat better.
These loaves both have quite a yellow crumb: this night shot doesn't do them justice.
Notes to Myself
- Cranky Musings
The lousy bread is making me cranky. I've been overthinking things. The past week or so has been the time for a lot of musings on bread. This is partly because I have been tasting bread that others have made, not just my own. Each time, there was cause for reflection. Here are a few rules or insights I've come up with.
- Bread Snob
My brother-in-law invited my wife and I for lunch last weekend, and he baked some nice rolls using some rye flour. He asked me how I liked it. Perhaps he noticed that I had two. "It was good," I told him. But then I added, "Perhaps a bit salty."
On the way home, I sheepishly turned to my wife, and confessed what I had said. "Have I become a bread snob?" I asked her.
"Yes," she said.
I felt contrite the whole way home.
I should know better. I once lost the online friendship of someone whose opinion I value highly when I inadvertently dissed her bread. I didn't even directly say anything negative about her bread, but she took great offence at what was implied and has not spoken to me since.
Rule #1 in learning to get along with other bread makers: never diss someone else's bread.
Corollary: Never diss another culture's bread, this can be construed as a great insult.
But here is the thing: when you begin making your own bread, and moving toward the elusive perfect loaf, or best taste, you run the risk of going against the cultural norm, or changing your own personal tastes such that other people's bread becomes somewhat lacklustre. Refined by your unique individuality, your bread becomes a sine qua non ("that, without which, it is nothing"), which oftentimes other people cannot eat or do not like. In short, you become a bread snob. Even without meaning to.
- Crust Frustrations
My wife had my mother-in-law for lunch the other day and offered her some of the Haferbatzen I recently made. Now I really like the taste of this loaf, and the texture of it. It is chunky, and has lots of really excellent whole grains in it. But my mother-in-law complained, "Why does he always make bread with crust that is so tough? Can't he make a bread that has a soft crust?" This is a good question, especially from someone who once broke a tooth on one of my breads.
My wife carefully explained to her that the reason I make breads like this is because I like breads like this.
In fact, I can't buy anything like this, I have to make my own.
Giving her a knife and fork to cut off the hard oatmeal crust, my mother-in-law was able to at least try the interior of the bread. There were no raves from her, but she was somehow able to choke it down by cutting it into small sized bites. Fortunately, the whole rye grains in the interior had been soaked long enough that apparently they gave her remaining teeth no trouble.
Rule #2 in learning to bake your own bread: don't try to please everybody, you will fail.
Corollary: "The People's Bread" or "Bread for the masses" or "Everybody's Loaf" will please no one.
The old Ricky Nelson song says it best: "You can't please everyone, so you've got to please yourself."
- Taste Tells
We were fortunate enough to visit my son in Hamilton last week, and we supped at 'The Bread Bar', where they make some interesting breads for sale during daylight hours, and they bake some lovely pizzas for patrons in the evening.
Three of us shared two medium sized pizzas, a supposedly wild mushroom pizza, and one made with goat cheese. They were pretty good. Although I asked our waiter what kind of mushroom it was, and was told it was a 'Foraged Mushroom'. In other words, he didn't know. I suspect that someone had been foraging at the local grocery store that day.
For the table, we also got a couple of bowls of their pizza-crust dipping sauce. One of these sauces was a smokey-flavoured tomato sauce, and my wife was particularly taken with it. They would not sell it to us, and claimed the recipe was a secret, so we ended up making our own, from a couple of different recipes found on the internet. I spent most of the afternoon smoking some Italian Roma tomatoes on the backyard open fire cauldron, with a roasting pan over it to catch the smoke. My wife put together the sauce later with garlic and other ingredients, making it to her taste, and it does taste very nice. Because we made it ourselves, it is special.
I was especially curious about the Bread Cafe's Red Fife Loaf, and we took some home with us. I ate it alongside the Landbrot, the first loaf I made from Nils Schöner's Bread Recipe book, "Brot". I liked the bread I made better than the Red Fife loaf. I suspected that their Red Fife Bread was only partially baked with Red Fife Wheat flour, probably about 40% worth; the rest must have been ordinary all-purpose flour. There was only enough of the very expensive red fife wheat flour to change the colour and add a hint of flavour. This was not a whole grain loaf by any stretch of the imagination. It was good, and it was better than anything you might ever buy in a grocery store. It was better than 99% of the breads for sale anywhere. But it still was not as good as a loaf I can make myself.
The point is, when you begin to make your own bread, you begin also to train your tastes, and can thereafter begin to determine what it is you are eating even when you don't personally bake the bread.
Rule #3 in baking your own bread: When you change what you eat, what you eat will change you.
Corollary: If you don't change what you eat, no change is possible.
One could argue the early history of a religion like Christianity purely from a change in diet. The earliest followers of Jesus changed their diet from the start: Jesus set the example to never refuse a meal that was offered. "When you go to a town, eat what is presented". Of course, he was going only to Jewish households. He taught his disciples to relax some of their rigid dietary regulations, but then told them to "Beware the leaven of the Pharisees." I won't go into the obvious parallels here with the Jewish traditions of using unleavened bread, as a remembrance of the Exodus. It was merely yet another way for Jesus to indicate that he and his disciples were moving away from the religious ways of what then constituted the norm. After his death, the Gentiles among the early followers began to proliferate, and Peter's dream that all animals could be eaten was a complete departure from normative Jewish dietary law. But the early Christians drew the line at eating meat that had been sacrificed to pagan gods. And so they ran afoul of the both the Jewish communities and the Gentile communities in the cities where they settled, because they began to threaten those communities, whose food (mostly meat consumption) was somehow tied to the sacrifices to the local god of choice. The Christian refusal to eat these sacrificed foods went so far as to threaten some of the economies of the cities they lived, and thus upset the balance there.
The Romans were known as 'porridge eaters' by the tribes that they encountered and began to defeat in their military conquest -- that is, until they learned from the Greek speaking countries that they conquered how to bake bread. Then, using bread, they enlarged their armies and conquered much of the known world. Long before Napoleon said "an army moves on its stomach," this was understood by Caesar and every great Roman general. Bread enabled soldiers to move quickly on well-engineered roads of grain supply.
A change in diet can either express or inaugurate a great spiritual transformation. Many people who suddenly become filled with compassion for other life forms become vegetarians or vegans. The extreme case of this is a follower of the Jain religion who refuses to ingest anything anymore, and so starves to death, arguing that he or she is no better ultimately than the fruit or vegetable or animal that might sustain them. Other examples that might be found are Mother Teresa, who refused to eat more than the poorest person in Calcutta, or Ghandi, who simplified his own diet as an example for a nation.
Lemma (a): if you control what a people eats, you have full power over that people.
Note that in our modern world, the farmer often no longer has control over his own seed, or her own land. Indeed, most of us have very little say over what goes into our own mouths.
Lemma (b): if you don't control what goes into your own mouth, someone else controls you.
Appetite is something we must have self-discipline over. I recently saw "Scott Pilgrim vs the World", a fun movie. In the middle of the show, Scott makes some bread for his new-new girlfriend. There is the following exchange between Ramona V. Flowers (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) and Scott Pilgrim (Michael Cera). Cera's face when he says these lines is priceless. He is everyman, who knows nothing, least of all himself.
Ramona: This is actually really good garlic bread.
Scott: Garlic bread is my favourite food. I could eat it for every meal. Or just eat it all the time without even stopping.
Ramona: You'd get fat.
Scott: And why would I get fat?
Ramona: Bread makes you fat.
Scott: Bread makes you fat?
It takes a great deal of discipline to change one's diet, and it takes even more discipline to regain some sort of self-control over consumption when you are learning again to appeal to your own true tastes. This is going to be even more challenging, if it is true, as they say, that certain grains contain exorphins that will appeal to your reward centres. You become an exorphin junkie: it is not just that you say "I want" this grain, you crave it so that you say "I need" this grain. It is the obsession with bread that gets into your blood that you have to continuously be on guard against.
This is my story, but it could be yours: one day you wake up, realizing that everything you've been eating is swill. You decide that you aren't going to take it any more. You begin to change what you think is the staple in your diet, and you experiment to find out what your true tastes are (you don't know what your true tastes are, because you have been raised to think that everything you can eat is swill). You begin chasing an elusive ideal taste that you have never yet tasted, but somehow you know is out there. The quest becomes an obsession; ultimately your own appetite becomes dangerous to those who seek to control the culture that you live in, by offering up only swill. But how do you know when your appetite is out of control, and controls you? If you have abandoned the norm (swill), how will you know when you reach the ideal?
Rule #4: Cultural norms exist to curb natural appetites.
Corollary: When you no longer control what you eat, but it controls you, you are a slave to your appetite.
What are you a slave to? Are you enslaved by those that offer you swill? Are you a slave to your own taste and appetite? Or are you enslaved by the grain itself, which contains minute amounts of narcotic that appeal to your reward centre? Bob Dylan said, "You're gonna have to serve somebody."
Who will you serve, with your bread?
- Cold Turkey
I have been conversing with a Great Soul from Australia who chanced upon my blog and read my initial posting about exorphins (I was as surprised as anyone that someone read one of my blogs), and my brief discussion of Wadley's and Martin's thesis on the origins of human culture. This correspondent pointed me to another article about the origins of agriculture in the fertile crescent (Hillman et al. (2001) New evidence of Lateglacial cereal cultivation at Abu Hureyra on the Euphrates), which suggests that rye was the earliest domesticated grain, not wheat; and it was not the exorphins that precipitated the shift to agriculture, but rather a long period of aridity during a dramatic climate change. The article did say, however, that the exorphins of the domesticated grain ensured that the shift to sedentary farming communities would be an irreversible change in human culture.
The original Exorphin Junkie blogger
That would suggest, in essence, that all humans, from the time of the first farmer, have been enslaved by the grains that they eat. Lierre Keith, the author of the book "The Vegetarian Myth: Food, Justice and Sustainability" has even gone so far as to suggest that grains have used their exorphins to get from us what they want, which is to become the dominant plant life form on the planet.
But the shift to monocrop agriculture from humanity's previous hunter-gatherer status took place in many areas of the world, and exorphins were apparently not involved in all of those areas: rice, for example, has no exorphins, so areas where this grain was first domesticated did not have this problem to contend with when they were choosing their staples. This would seem to refute Wadley and Martin's thesis. But it doesn't refute the fact that the exorphins are there in our staple grains. Ever since Takahashi, Fukunaga, Fukudome and Yoshikawa discovered the first gluten exorphins sometime around the year 2000, we have been learning slowly about what these tiny peptides are doing to us.
I have read a few articles by other scientists who are working on learning more about the exorphins. The exorphin peptides are part of the gluten. They can be found in the bloodstream after ingesting products with gluten. They may cross the blood-brain barrier, at least in some people; or they may cause other molecules to so cross the barrier. For that reason they are garnering a lot of attention by pharmaceutical companies who look to them as a possible drug-delivery system. The exorphins seem to have a role in the satiation response. They apparently also trigger insulin production from the pancreas, once they are in the bloodstream. Their effects can be reversed with Narcan, an opioid antagonist drug that is given to people who have overdosed on narcotics.
But basically, we just don't know much about them.
How do we regain some sense of control over what we eat? Is the consumption of grain (individually or world-wide) indeed irreversible? Can we (should we) go cold turkey, and get off the grains?
The Great Soul I was speaking with also pointed me to the writings of Masanobu Fukuoka, one of the pioneers of the Sustainable Agriculture movements. I have now been reading one of his books, the out-of-print text, "The One-Straw Revolution: an Introduction to Natural Farming" (1978). Fukuoka's greatest insight can be summed up thus:
"Humanity knows nothing at all. There is no intrinsic value in anything, and every action is a futile meaningless effort."Fukuoka was a genius. If he knows nothing, the rest of us know even less.
Rule #5: You will never know definitively anything about what you eat.
Corollary: Your beliefs about what you eat are inconclusive and most certainly mistaken.
In the exchange of emails with this Great Soul, I have admitted that I have questioned whether the end result of my bread-baking blog might be to give up grains (or perhaps just glutenous grains) altogether. The more I learn about grains, the more I wonder if indeed they are truly healthy. I know that I want them, and I need to eat something, and I am trying to make it whole grain: but frankly, I do not know what I am doing. I don't know that whole grains are good for us, I don't know that any grains are good for us.
- The True Cost of Bread
The purchased red fife bread at the Bread Bar was a very tiny loaf, and expensive. If I add up all the rustic loaves I've made over the past year, and multiplied it by the amount we spent on this one bread, I guess I've saved a lot of money. On the other hand, one would have to factor in all the money spent by me not only on flour and other ingredients, but also on electricity to get my oven hot, or the tools that I've purchased and used to bake with, not to mention the time I have spent trying to learn how to make a good loaf. Maybe I haven't saved all that much money after all.
I hear the same voice of a co-worker, who replied, when I suggested she start a vegetable garden, "It's not practical." Baking bread at home is also not practical. You don't do it because you have to anymore, or because it is more practical. You do it for other reasons: taste, health, self-respect, self-control, curiosity, for fun, for anarchy, or any other number of reasons.
Rule #6: You cannot measure the true cost of bread, there will always be something left out of the ledger.
Corollary: The value of bread is immeasurable.
Do we value bread because it is life, or because we believe it is life? How do we evaluate bread's worth? What are the hidden costs of ingesting wheat and other grains as a staple in the diet? Are there health costs? Environmental costs? Cultural costs?
Bread or its absence has sparked revolutions. If you value peace, you will give the poorest person bread. If you want to elicit revolutionary change, or terrorism or anarchy, deny someone their bread.
- Reconstructing the Whole Grain
Although it may not be practical, there are many advantages to baking one's own bread, not the least of which are taste, and health. By baking my bread at home, I have been able to control more of my own ingredients.
The flour that comes from our modern mills is very highly regulated by government overseeing bodies. Recently, because I have been trying to find out exactly how our Canadian flour differs so much from German flours, I have been examining these regulations.
The point of the regulations is supposedly for health purposes of the population who uses the flours. This has been beneficial, for example, in reducing the incidence of pellagra and beriberi in the western world. What it means is, if a mill is going to take out the bran and germ from a grain, they must fortify the flour before they can sell it. There are mandatory fortifications, and there are still more regulations over bread additives that are not mandatory but are considered elective. And finally, there are some ingredients which mills and markets are forbidden to add. The list of what is required, what is allowable and what is forbidden continues when the flour is used by bakeries. In short, there is a whole list of flour and bread additives that I am only just beginning to learn about. For the most part, these things do not have to be added to whole grain flours: the theory being, if you take nothing out, you do not need to put some things back in.
Rule #7: The farther you step from the whole grain, the more adulterated and less healthful and tasty the final result.
Corollary: No amount of reconstruction will fix a grain that has something removed from it.
I hope to put together a file listing what is known about the various common flour and bread additives. The task is huge, though, and that is why my meagre beginnings have not yet been posted.
- No Conclusion
So the recent thoughts I've been having about bread, and the recent experiences I've had with bread baking and bread consuming, have taken me to this moment. I have come up with some generalized rules, which are not in fact rules or even theorems, but just some general thoughts that identify where I am at this moment in my quest for the perfect loaf.
While the rules in this article are not earth-shaking, by writing them down, they do indicate where my thoughts and experiences have taken me lately. They are not conclusions. In writing them down, I am merely able to examine some of my postulates or assumptions, which I have not, before now, fully understood, and am only now beginning to question (the way Bolyai and Lobachevsky began to question the inviolable truth of Euclid's axioms, and so developed one of the first non-Euclidean geometries).