All grains contain peptides that mimic morphine or endogenous opioid substances. This is where I deal with my latest loaf craving. Get your bread-based exorphin fix here.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

25% Rye Sourdough with WW

Even before the last Quinoa loaves were finished, I made a couple of 25% rye wild leavened loaves.  This is my typical everyday bread anymore.  I just love the taste of it -- lots of flavour, not too sour, slightly bran-bitter, with a gently sweet aftertaste.

But I'm still throwing away some sourdough once in a while.  I would like to get to the stage where there is no waste at all.  Where one only uses what one needs.  These days, I bake too frequently because I want to use up the sourdough I'm making.  And then my wife gets angry because there are all these leftover crusts everywhere.  Sure, we feed it to the chickens.  But she wants me to slow down with my baking, and I want to speed up to keep up with my sourdough culture.  I am still struggling to find the balance.

With this loaf I am not learning anything new.  Just striving to put the bread into my life schedule (or vice versa).  As usual, I'm giving away half the bread I make, to a friend.

These hands that daily hold the hands of the dying:
Today they also mold dough that will become bread for the living.
Again and again I behold the mystery at hand.

It is too easy today to wax religious about the bread I am baking.  My thoughts turn to God and the ways we may know God.

Notes to Myself
  • More rye breads please.  I feel safe with rye.  I feel nourished, in body and spirit, when I eat rye breads.  I'm a junkie for wheat exorphins, but I feel nourished by rye.
  • Recently I thought I read somewhere (was it in a dream? I have tried to find that passage again in one of the several books I haphazardly take up and put down, but to no avail) that there is no grain that is poisonous for humans.  Somewhere I thought I read that all grains contain no human toxins.  But that simply isn't true.

    I love to pick up books like G.P. Chapman's "The Biology of Grasses" and graze through it.  Books like this show that grasses have been existent on earth for 70 million years, far longer than humans of course, and yet they remain in evolutionary flux, and highly adaptable to climate, terrain, and the influence of humans who are such a relatively new force on their environment.  I love to read the story of how we still struggle to put these grasses and their seed-grains into some sort of evolutionary, systematical categorical framework, to better understand and appreciate them, and I love how grasses so often thwart our ordering of families, genera, species.  They are like little ubiquitous zen koans, breaking apart our organized-mind way of thinking with their absurdities.

    Today while trying to
    find the passage I thought I had read about grasses being benign for humans, I instead came across a few paragraphs about one grass in particular that has long been notorious for its toxin.  It is darnel  (Lolium temulentum, also known as cockle, or the Biblical tare).  When young, it looks similar to wheat.  The wiki says that ingesting the seed makes one feel "poisoned with drunkenness and can cause death" (although another source says that while it has killed animals as big as horses, there have been no reported human deaths).

    The mechanism of the darnel toxin remains a mystery, or a curiosity.  Some say the seed contains the alkaloid
    temulin; one also reads of a fungus that invades the grain. 
    "The symptoms are those of a deliriant nerve poison. There is confusion of sight which was known in very early times and is mentioned by classic writers. Further symptoms are dilation of pupils, giddiness, drowsiness, staggering and stupefaction. Trembling is followed in some cases by convulsions. In others vomiting and purging may take place. The respiration is laboured and the pulse slow. Inflammation of stomach and intestine have been observed."  - Poisonous Plants
    I imagine women sitting together, chatting happily as they sort grain after a harvest, from the very earliest agricultural settlements, separating tares from wheat, prior to milling the grain.  "By its fruit you shall know them."  Everyone knew what this image meant.  The black grain of the tare is obvious and simple -- but tedious and time consuming -- to separate by hand.  All of this was known by humans working with grains, with cereals, from the very beginning.  We have lost so much knowledge because we work now with processed goods.  Ask anyone today what "cereal" is, and they will point you to the aisle in the grocery store that contains boxes of processed grain products.  We have even forgotten what cereal is. 

    I think that we are still struggling with finding a mythology that we can believe in.  The story of Ceres is a tale told to children, that explains a mystery.  But it is a mystery we are no longer cognizant of.  Instead, we tell our children tales of Santa Claus -- a myth that answers a wholly irrelevant and concocted mystery.  For real world problems, we look now to science.  But the story of the evolution of grain (and humans who share the same DNA) is likewise a tale told to children.  We want explanations.  So we give them to ourselves. 

    The truth is beyond what our feeble minds can handle.  But when you touch again the actual grain, and grow it, and transform it into bread yourself, you are once again taking part in the mystery, a mystery that has been reenacted through generations of humans beyond counting.  And on some level, at the level of touch or on the somatic plane, you finally "get it."

    That is the Nirvikalpa Samadhi I am after.  To take the bread, and know it, and say "I am that."  No separation between subject and object.  "Take and eat." 

    Every mouthful a memory.


  1. How much of sourdough culture do you keep? I have two: the rye and wheat culture and I don't have any waste. I keep them in the refrigerator, only 1-2 tablespoons of each and I feed generously them 12-24 hours before I start mixing the bread dough. And I don't need hens/friends to eat my bread. And my husband eats maybe 25% of a loaf (he prefers fresh baked, I don't care). I was brought with a lot of respect for bread (my parents were rather poor and sometimes hungry when they're young). Wasting flour or even very old slice of bread is like a sin to me. I feel sorry when I see how much of bread is thrown away everyday.

  2. I agree with you. I hate waste. I'm still learning to live with my sourdough, still trying to harmonize my life cycles with its life cycles.

    Currently I only have one sourdough starter (I have had as many as 6 at one time) and it is made with whole wheat at 100% hydration. I mix up about 400g at a time, but probably I don't really need to have that quantity on hand always. I can bake 4 loaves with that amount, but usually only bake 2. I can elaborate this ww-starter into a rye (or spelt, or barley, or oat...) starter overnight with one tablespoon. My starter is never refrigerated (except when I traveled to British Columbia recently), and it is refreshed every couple of days at the very least. I think it would be more active if I refreshed it daily or more frequently, but I don't really care that it is not so active. It ferments and rises a fairly good loaf in 8 hours, and that's good enough for me.

    I don't know, but I find it works better when never refrigerated. Certainly the culture will be different (I read somewhere that refrigerating it will favour the growth of the lactobacillus at the expense of the yeasts; I have no way of knowing whether that is true or not, but I feel it tastes best this way). Usually my sourdough is refreshed at least once between baking, and the discard sometimes therefore gets (shudder) 'discarded'. I keep trying various ways to use it up -- pancakes, crackers, pizza, bread, buns, wraps, etc. Sometimes I just dry it out, grind it up, and put it back into loaves.

    I wish I didn't have to throw any of it away, ever. But sometimes it goes into the compost. Which is still not entirely waste -- although it still feels wasteful.

    I'm still learning how to deal with it.