Overunity Pumpkin Bread
Not many people read this blog, or reply to what I write. That's probably a good thing, because conversations have the potential to keep my thoughts derailed for days. Here's an example: an off-hand remark in the recent reply of a reader Anja to one of my recent blog entries sent me to Google. I had to quickly self-teach myself what she was talking about.
For those who likely missed it, my original blog was about the energy costs of making bread, and Anja (who keeps both a bread blog and a cheese blog, her hobbies) said that her spouse's hobby is working on overunity projects, with the ultimate aim of providing free energy to all.
What is Overunity?
All I know about overunity is what Google categorizes and gives to me in the first page or two of its millions of hits. That is a moving target, of course, and as new findings are posted under the overunity flag, Google will shift its findings and someone reading what Google dishes up might get a different idea. But if one browses through what I found from searching, these days, one quickly comes to the consensus opinion that "overunity" is bunk.
Basically, we have basement electronic experimenters who are winding coils in exacting ways (often around ferrite or magnetic rods or rings), in the spirit of Nikolai Tesla, and they are measuring more energy coming out than what they are putting in. Hence, the prospect of "Free Energy For All" is suggested.
Overunity proponents try to describe the difference between efficiency and the co-edicient of performance of the systems they design. In a nutshell, overunity proponents say that their energy devices can allowably draw some energy from the environment to still obey the 2nd law of thermodynamics. Ore else it allows for hidden or as-yet-unexplained energy sources.
Google offers up what the debunkers say: to actually do what the overunity experimenters say they will do, can do, and have already done, would require us to re-write everything we know about physics. Any time someone claims to have built such a machine, it can therefore be explained away as a mismeasurement of some input or output. There is no such thing as a perpetual motion machine. Anyone who claims to have achieved overunity is therefore misguided, a charlatan, a con artist, or delusional.
Undaunted, some of the basement explorers are actually attempting to re-write those physical laws. How they will do this is anyone's guess, but you can already see some cracks in the existing mathematical explanations of how the universe works where they might try it: Dark Matter or Dark Energy, quantum physics, the mysterious edges of nanochemistry and nanotechnology, even the methodology and philosophical underpinnings of Science itself can be drawn into question.
Some overunity explorers claim that they are being debunked because the corporations that currently provide energy to the planet would lose too much money if overunity were widely known. A certain paranoia sets in, where overunity defenders claim they are being silenced, their ideas and even their experiments are being confiscated or ridiculed.
There are electrical plans already online, however, of designs that it is claimed, demonstrate overunity. Make it, the overunity proponents say, make it for yourself and see. And sometimes a debunker will make it and find something strange but still won't believe it: the extra energy comes from the environment, they say. But usually if they build it they don't see the extra energy: the proponents say "you didn't make it correctly," and the back and forth continues. More often the debunkers won't build it, but will look at the designs and say "poo-poo" before trying it.
I am not in any position to say that overunity is possible or not. I haven't made any of these devices and I am not likely to. I don't have the tools, the equipment, the knowledge, the know-how. To me, it seems quite unlikely that a basement experimenter will discover ways to give free energy to the world simply by winding wires around graphite cores in specific ways.
But I can understand their human impulse to experiment, to push the boundaries, and to hope for a solution that will benefit all humans.
Segue to Bread
And in a way, I place myself among their number in this regard: after all, I am merely a home baker who likes to try different recipes for bread. I eat my results, good or bad. All the while I'm baking loaves, I am thinking about the multiple aspects of grain, yeast, flour, dough, bread, and about whether we as a planet are going to be able to grow enough food to sustain our human population without destroying the habitat of all other species. I wonder about the new technologies in grain production, and have taken it upon myself to edit the wiki on transgenic wheat, even though I haven't ever accomplished transgenesis myself, let alone some tried-and-true hybridization techniques. I'm not a farmer, not a seed producer, not even a baker. I am a home baker, a rank amateur who needs to eat something and has discovered bread fills a particular void in my diet. I am a health professional, who is curious about the effects of eating grains in the amount I consume (and in the amount the world consumes), but I do not have a laboratory and cannot do the requisite science to even know what it is I am eating.
To put it bluntly: does it make sense that I will discover a way to make bread that is healthy, different, excellent? Does it make sense that I will find a way to feed the world? I am a basement dweller, a bottom feeder. I am going to continue to do the basement kind of work required to keep a hobby, and I am going to continue to try to think globally, asking whether this could or should work for all. But realistically, what am I going to accomplish by blogging about bread?
By now, most people know the marvellous story of Viktor Frankl, who conceived of logotherapy while interred in a Nazi concentration camp. What he discovered through observation was, the ones who had meaning in their life had a survival advantage. When they lost their reason for being, death was virtually assured.
Perhaps for me, blogging about bread is a small toehold to meaning. I may not save the world, but I'm interested in it. I can't abandon it. And I say all of this in reply to yet another comment Anja has left on another blog of mine.
Maria Speck suggests in her book that when we cook at home, we become aware of our food, we become aware of its subtleties and its flavours. We are less likely to overconsume such food, and it can actually be a way to diet. For me, baking bread is a path of awareness to what I'm eating.
As for writing about it, I find the more I put into it, the more I get out of it. For me, that's overunity bread.
I finally got around to pureeing the hallowe'en pumpkin. I know, I know, you are supposed to use those "sugar pie" pumpkins for baking, not the jack-o-lanterns. But I always use these, it works fine, and they are a lot easier to find. And this time of year (post-Hallowe'en) you can often even find them for free, tossed out at the curbside or in farmer's fields. I dragged one home yesterday that I found while walking the dog. So I decided to do something with one of them, the one we already had.
I washed the pumpkin thoroughly, then cut the pumpkin in half and placed it down-side in a roasting pan in about a cup of water. Then I roasted it for 90 minutes. My pumpkin was pretty big, and both halves wouldn't fit in the roasting pan. I thought I could do it with 2 roasting pans, but the top one burned a bit under the broiler. That's okay, though. The inner pumpkin flesh was fine. I scooped it out and pureed it.
|starter is combined with the puree|
|after kneading to incorporate all the puree|
I made a couple of Tartine-style loaves, using the pumpkin puree as the 75% hydration. I figured that it wouldn't be enough hydration, but I started there, and was able to entirely incorporate the 1000g of whole wheat using it. I did have to knead it for about 5 minutes to get it all incorporated though.
I let it sit for a bit, then added 100g of water. I let it sit a bit longer. Then I added the salt with an additional 50g of water. So who knows exactly what the actual hydration of this loaf is? The original 75% puree was not entirely water. So you can't say it is 90% hydrated. You'd have to know the actual hydration of pumpkin flesh -- and I suspect every pumpkin will be different. So it will always remain a guessing game. But my dough feels more or less like a regular Tartine dough that is somewhere between 70-80% hydrated.
I gave it a couple of turns and then added some pumpkin seeds (150g).
I was also thinking about adding some whole coriander seeds, and some paprika. The Folks at Healthy Bread in 5 Minutes a Day give a pumpkin puree bread recipe that I've used before, and they include some fresh pepper. I was thinking along those lines. But all I ended up doing, this time, was adding some paprika to the whole wheat that I used for the crust, during the final folding, on my counter workspace. It is barely noticeable in the final taste.
A nice loaf. My wife is particularly happy with it, because she can put honey on it and it doesn't drip through the holes. It is a bit denser, but not terribly heavy. I think it has a nice flavour, only mildly pumpkiny. The shelled pumpkin seeds give it some interesting local texture. The unshelled seeds on the crust are just decoration, they don't add or detract much in any way.
Despite her advice, I made some soup with about 6 cups of the puree and the bread and the soup together make a nice lunch meal. But I probably still have enough for a few more pumpkin loaves.
Notes to Myself
- Next time I might try adding whole coriander seeds. Nasturtium seeds might be nice too, for a peppery flavour without pepper. Capers might be a bit too peppery.
I've given a loaf away to someone whose cooking I respect, and asked him what spices he would suggest. I hope to get some input from him.
- Or: this entire segue to bread from Overunity could just be the junkie in me talking out of my ass. To learn about my own addiction impulses, I'm
currently reading Gabor Maté's fascinating book "In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts". He says
"recurring themes emerge in my interviews with addicts: the drug as emotional anaesthetic; as an antidote to a frightful feeling of emptiness; as a tonic against fatigue, boredom, alienation and a sense of personal inadequacy; as stress reliever and social lubricant. And … the drug may -- if only for a brief instant -- open the portals of spiritual transcendence"
I think we as humans can give anything -- even a drug, even bread, even blogging -- deep meaning. We are basically able to turn anything into a religion. We can find our meaning anywhere, and that might be another definition of animism. That ancient impulse becomes a thread that continues through all our religious expressions:
"Split a piece of wood; I am there. Lift up the stone, and you will find me there."
Hey, presto. I'm bread.