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.

Friday, August 31, 2012

Fast Day Bread Baking

Fast Day Breads

Today was the first day that I baked bread while I was fasting (I've blogged about fasting recently here).  Baking bread while fasting really didn't give me all that much trouble.  Nobody wants to use the generally debunked boiling frog metaphor anymore.  But hey.  The smell of baking bread is a little like that.  Since I was at home during the actual baking, I wasn't really cognizant of it, it didn't cause me to become any hungrier; but my wife -- who was fasting too -- left for the post office while I had some loaves in the oven, and when she returned, she moaned, "make it stop!"  

The same thing happened when I tried to play a cute YouTube video by MelodySheep, "Keep on Cooking" sung by Julia Child.  "Everyone is singing about food!" she cried.  "Make it stop!"   I just wanted to turn on the captions, to sing along a few times (was it my voice, or Julia's, that started to drive her crazy?).

I guess the fasting is a bit harder on her than it is on me.

We did end up spending some quality time together that wasn't at the dining room table.  My friend's sister had some grapes that she didn't want, coming ripe, and we picked them for her.  In thanks, we offered her a dozen eggs, from our backyard chickens, but she didn't want them.  Instead, she said she had tasted my bread at her brother's house once or twice before when visiting for dinner.  Could I bake her some bread, sometime?

Why yes; yes I can: I just happen to be baking today, in fact.

I am surprised when anyone besides myself really wants to eat my bread.  It is all whole grain, all sourdough, not at all what people expect as bread these days.  Most people expect a sweeter taste in bread, I think.  Many whole wheat recipes I find even include some sugar (or honey, or molasses, etc.)  I don't understand that.  In my opinion, all the benefits of the whole grain not spiking the insulin as much as white bread are gone, if you add sweetener.

I delivered one of the wholegrain wheat loaves to her that evening, and I delivered one of the multigrain loaves to her brother at the same time.  Loaves still warm from the oven, which they both sliced into right away and later told me they liked them.

But for me, I waited until the next morning to slice into my two remaining loaves and take a crumb picture for the blog.

They were still pretty good.  Only I forgot the wheat germ in the loaves, dammit!  That's what happens when you move it to the basement fridge, you forget about it.   I've since moved it to the upstairs fridge.  I have to keep it close.

The pan integral is: 
  • 100% whole wheat
  • 20% sourdough starter
  • 2% salt
  • 77% water
  • (5% wheat germ: missing this time!)

The multigrain loaf was made with:
  • An overnight pre-fermentation of Arva 8-grain mix, in the quantity 
    • 175g sourdough starter
    • 175g Arva 8grain mix
    • 100g water
    • 100g whole wheat flour.  
  • Dough:
    • entire Preferment
    • 750g water + 50g water
    • 200g sourdough starter
    • 1000g ww flour
    • 20g salt
    • (50g wheat germ: missing this time!)

In Tartine Non-standard bakers' math terminology, this was an 80% hydrated loaf.  In old-fashioned 'official' baker's math, it works out to 79% (not including multigrain), or 69% (if you include the multigrain as part of the flour).

Both of these loaves were soft and tasty, with a flexible crust.  I really enjoyed eating them, once my fast was finished.  I ate some with a three-year old cheese, and I ate some with some homemade wild elderberry jam.

I think that the overnight pre-fermenting of the 8grain mixture was a good idea, this loaf was definitely a lot more flavourful than previous attempts at a multigrain that didn't use a pre-ferment.  On the other hand, the amount of starter in the preferment makes this loaf a bit more sour than the other.  The pre-ferment didn't need that much starter.

Revisiting the Boiling Frog
That frog in the boiling water is at least as infamous as Schrödinger's Cat, but unlike Schrödinger's invented feline, few people remember who first talked about our ambient frog.  Wikipedia says it was Goltz, Heinzmann and Fratscher.  Only with them, it wasn't just a thought experiment.  At least the tongue-in-cheek YouTube video that ostensibly replicates the experiment puts it back where it belongs, in our thought, and in our popular culture, as it gives us something to think about.

The boiling frog has been used as an analogy for many things, most recently how stupid we are about the environmental problems we are causing ourselves (climate warming, pollution, chemicals in our soil and food, peak oil, debt load, foreign ownership of resources, etc.).  

But the nature of a metaphor is that it can be applied in different ways.  Perhaps we don't need to give the frog a rest, just change our perspective toward it.  Perhaps his sitting in ever-warming water could be seen as a way to adapt -- it may even be an evolutionary leap forward, if he would only survive.  

Or it could simply become a metaphor for poorly designed scientific tests. 

Notes to Myself
  • If you bake bread while fasting, be sure to arrange all ingredients before you begin, Mis en place. When fasting, your brain is going to be little bit stupid, a bit low on energy. You are going to feel light-headed, and your brain is trying to tell you to eat something. So it is going to be easier to overlook something, and harder to tell what it is. Mis en place, when you fast.
  • I was rather surprised the day following the fast that I was a bit constipated. With all the fibre I eat, I generally never have problems like this. But perhaps the GI needs a steady input to have a steady output. I was probably a bit dehydrated, too, which is likely to have an effect on the content of the bowels. Once I started eating again, and especially eating whole grains, no problem. Better drink more water next time.  Gee, I hope no one else reads this.
  • Keep your wheat germ close
  • Does using wheat germ make your loaves stale faster?
  • Try reducing the amount of starter in your pre-ferment to about 25-50g, about 1-2 TBSP, as you would for any other refreshing (about 25g starter per 400g of flour+water; and here you are using 550g of flour+8grain+water)

Some Half-Rye Pup Loaves

49% Rye Pup-sized loaves

I've been working nights again, all weekend, and had just enough bread to get me through it.  Baking sourdough bread while working nights is always a scheduling problem.   Fortunately, with refrigeration, you can pretty much do anything.  If you can put up with substandard loaves.

  • Friday: worked all night
  • Saturday: slept till late afternoon.  Refreshed sourdough.  Worked all night.
  • Sunday: mixed dough, refrigerated it, slept. Woke 6 hours later, kneaded, divided, formed, refrigerated. Worked all night.
  • Monday: Dough went directly into preheated oven from refrigerator.  Took bread out, slept.  Woke up, ate some bread.  With some of the new jam my wife just made while I was sleeping.  Yum.

This bread is made with 49% Rye, 51% WW Flour, 5% wheat germ, 2% salt, 70% hydration -- and 5% more hydration with kefir water, to bring it up to 75%.  After baking, I immediately painted some butter on top to glaze and soften the crust.

1000g of flour, about half of it rye, is divided 4 ways to make Pup loaves

Scored 2 of the 4 loaves.

All four tiny loaves fit in a roasting pan

Tiny aluminum pans are a cute size for pup loaves.  All four will fit at the same time into a standard roasting pan, for both proofing and baking.

The bread is okay, nothing special.  It has a slightly cake-like crumb, dense, moist, especially when the bread is less than a day old.  Rye is better the second and third day anyway.

The breads all have stress marks in the sides of the loaves which to me indicates uneven baking temperatures, or problems during proofing (probably related to the too-quick temperature changes of refrigeration).  This is not a technique I would recommend for frequent use, but for me, when working nights, it got the job done.  On the other hand, it was so ridiculously easy to make, there is no excuse not to have some rye bread on hand always.

Question: if the loaf is smaller and denser, do you eat less of it?  

I can eat two thin slices of this without batting an eye; four slices and I'm full.  These little loaves are not much bigger in size than 2 buns, but they are loaded with fiber, and they fill you up.  Don't let the small size fool you.  It looks like this is a quickbread, something you could munch up at tea.  It won't happen.

Making a rye bread -- even this one that is not quite half rye -- made me curious about rye again.

Researching Rye
I've just noticed that PubMed has an autofill search category called "Bread Cancer".  Currently there are 18 pages of results (but it will ask if you've made a mistake, and will suggest 'breast cancer' as a possible alternative to your search).  I'm often found perusing the latest studies that discuss links between whole grains and health (including cancer prevention); but today I'm mostly interested in what studies have been done linking the specific grain of Rye in bread and cancer.  

I've come to the current PubMed listings (well, some of them that were delivered up to me by its search engine, anyway), a sort of snapshot of this time and place and the cumulative research that has been done, and I've asked: Are rye breads better for you, if you are worried about cancer?

In a word: "Yes."  
Hedging that, I'd say: "Yes, probably."  
Reading the latest scientific literature, though, you'd have to say: "Well, maybe."

And that's the way it is, with nutrition research.  It is very frustrating, indeed.  There are so many vested interests, so many ill-conceived studies, so much half-truth, so much theorizing that gets in the way of fact, it makes finding truth really tough.

Prostate Cancer
For example, here is a study from Iceland: Torfadottir, J. et al. (2012) "Rye bread consumption in early life and reduced risk of advanced prostate cancer".  Cancer Causes Control. 23(6). pp. 941-50  This study was performed by food questionnaires, which I feel are notoriously unreliable.  But the rather high statistical results are pretty clear: eating rye bread in your adolescence can significantly reduce your risk of developing prostate cancer.  Eating it at other times in your life seems to make no difference.

But another earlier study from Denmark said there was no correlation (and the tests of this study, taking place over 12 years, looked at all whole grain consumption, but also specifically at rye and oatmeal): Egeberg R. et al. (2011) "Intake of whole-grain products and risk of prostate cancer among men in the Danish Diet, Cancer and Health cohort study".  Cancer Causes Control. 22(8). pp. 1133-9.  In other words, there is no increased or decreased risk from eating these things.

A study (this one has its entire text online Landberg, R. (2010). "Rye whole grain and bran intake compared with refined wheat decreases urinary C-peptide, plasma insulin, and prostate specific antigen in men with prostate cancer." 140(12) pp 2180-6) studied rye and prostate cancer and found something curious.  It was found that rye, if eaten as a whole grain, will reduce PSA (Prostate Specific Antigen) concentration.  Men who were diagnosed with prostate cancer (and who have elevated PSA) were given lots of whole grain rye products, and their PSA went down, indicating a slowing of the progression of the disease.  The authors suspect that this is an effect of a decreased exposure to insulin (increased insulin would cause the cancer cells to grow faster) -- because they were comparing the whole rye to whole wheat products, and the lower insulin response to rye was also noticeable.  

But speaking of reducing insulin response, Giles, G. et al. (2006) "Dietary carbohydrate, fibre, glycaemic index, glycaemic load and the risk of postmenopausal cancer" Int J Cancer 118(7) pp. 1843-7 found that neither Glycaemic index (GI) nor Glycaemic Load (GL) were good indicators that cancer might occur; but they also found that "increased intake of fibre and carbohydrate may be associated with the diagnosis of cancers of more favourable prognosis."

Of course, these researchers were not looking at prostate cancer, but cancers affecting women.

Breast Cancer
Adlercreutz, H (1998) "Epidemiology of phytoestrogens" Bailleres Clin Endocrinol Metab 12(4) pp. 605-23 determined that"Breast cancer has been found to be associated with low lignin levels" in many western countries, and that a high consumption of whole-grain rye bread provides these lignans.

Adlercreutz furthermore studied rye for its increased fiber and bioactive compounds Adlercreutz, H. (2010) "Can rye intake decrease risk of human breast cancer?" Food Nutr Res. 54.  This is a review of research (as I am doing here, only Adlercreutz's was far more extensive), and the conclusion reached: it is a very complex thing to study, there are conflicting reports, but that in theory, wholegrain rye should reduce risk for cancer, and that some studies support this theory.

But an earlier study by Egeberg R. et al. (2009) "Intake of whole grain products and risk of breast cancer by hormone receptor status among postmenopausal women" Int J Cancer 124(3) pp. 745-50 says that there is no relationship between using whole grain products and the risk of breast cancer.

While Hanf, V and Gonder, U (2005) "Nutrition and primary prevention of breast cancer: foods, nutrients and breast cancer risk" Eur J Obstet Gynecol Reprod Biol 123(2) pp 139-49  say in their abstract that "there is  no need to adopt a foreign dietary plan in order to protect oneself against BC" (Breast Cancer); they also say that "Lignans from traditionally made sourdough rye bread, linseed/flaxseed and berries are local sources of potentially cancerprotective phyto-estrogens".  

Colorectal Cancer
The free online text of Egeberg R. (2010) "Intake of wholegrain products and risk of colorectal cancer in the Diet, Cancer and Health cohort study" Br J Cancer 103(5). pp. 730-4 made the startling discovery that wholegrain bread, especially wholegrain rye bread, will reduce colorectal cancer in men -- but the same was not true for women, for whom no relationship was found between the cancer and wholegrain.  How it works, therefore, is still a mystery, as the proposed mechanisms -- increased fiber, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and phytochemicals -- should work for both sexes.  I would conjecture that certain phytates are estrogen-like, which might explain some gender differences, although the reality of the problem is going to be a lot more complicated.

It may not be obvious, but there are differences in the way men and women metabolize plant foods, as Deneo-Pellegrini's team (Deneo-Pellegrini, H. et al. (2002) "Plant foods and differences between colon and rectal cancers" Eur J Cancer Prev 11(4) pp 369-75) discovered by examining patients in Uruguay.  Eating more fruits and vegetables protects men from colorectal cancer, but statistically speaking, the same can't be said for women.  The authors of the study concluded in their abstract that "this is, at least in part, due to the high risk associated with bread intake in this gender."  I take this to mean that women don't eat as much bread, but men do; and if you eat bread, you better damn well also eat a lot of fruits and vegetables, or else your risk for colorectal cancers are going to go up.  The gender nutritional differences may in this study be reduced to socio-economic variables: men take sandwiches to work outside the home; women are trying to eat fewer carbs.  I'm not sure I buy that simple an explanation, but there might be something to it.

Korpela in Finland (Korpela J. (1992) "Fecal bile acid metabolic pattern after administration of different types of bread" Gastroenterology 103(4) pp. 1246-53) studied the faeces of 12 women who ate different kinds of bread, and found that "faecal bile acids" (which "have been suggested to be associated with increased risk of colorectal cancer") have a much lower concentration with a diet of rye bread.  It was felt that this is because rye has more acids (compared to wheat) in a form that can react with gut alkali and saponify (convert into soap).

The EU has done a lot of work investigating acrylamides, which are found every time there is a Maillard reaction (the darker the crust, the more acrylamide) and are now thought to be carcinogenic.  But in Boston, Mucci L. et al. (2006) "Prospective study of dietary acrylamide and risk of colorectal cancer among women" Int J Cancer 118(1) pp. 169-73 they found "no evidence that dietary intake of acrylamide is associated with cancers of the colon or rectum".  They also found that coffee and french fries contained more acrylamide than bread.

Renal Cancer
Then you hear of the report by Ramoner, R. et al. (2008) "Serum antibodies against Saccharomyces cerevisiae: a new prognostic indicator in metastatic renal-cell carcinoma" Cancer Immunol Immunother 57(8) pp.1207-14, which tells the story of patients already diagnosed with renal cell carcinoma (RCC).  Their blood was tested for food-specific antibodies, and it was discovered that those with high level of antibodies against common baker's yeast (Saccharmyces cerevisiae), and another bread component (unnamed in the abstract), died sooner than patients with low levels of this antibody.  This is somewhat startling, when combined with other studies that suggest wheat breads may be linked directly to renal cell carcinoma (for example, Bravi F et al (2007). "Food groups and renal cell carcinoma: a case-control study from Italy" Int J Cancer 120(3). pp. 681-5, which showed "a diet rich in refined cereals and poor in vegetables may have an unfavourable role on RCC").

So unbelievable was it that bread might be linked to RCC, commentators soon hypothesized that it was due to mycotoxins, not the grain itself  Galvano, F. (2007) "Cereals consumption and risk for renal cell carcinoma: can be hypothesized a role of mycotoxins?" Int J Cancer 121(9) pp. 2116-7.

A study of non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL) discovered that the highest dietary nitrite intake was associated with increasing risk (of NHL), largely due to intakes of bread and cereal sources of nitrite.

Exposure to nitrates (NO3) and nitrites (NO2) has also been linked to pancreatic cancer, nasopharyngeal cancer and thyroid cancer, according to the TEACH Chemical Summary (rev 5/22/07) "Nitrates and Nitrites. TEACH Chemical Summary: U.S. EPA, Toxicity and Exposure Assessment for Children's Health"

Nitrates are commonly put into processed meat as preservatives, and these producers still dispute some of the findings.  I have heard it said that some commercial breads and cereals include nitrate as a preservative (and/or volume enhancer), and it may also be in some flour.  But it is also there naturally (it is in most fruit, vegetables and cereals), in the form of sodium nitrate -- perhaps in some cases, growing plants can uptake more because of the increased amount of nitrogen fertilizers used.  This is converted to sodium nitrite when we digest it.  This additive has been studied for a long time now.  In 1975, it was felt to be fairly benign; but it keeps popping up again in various studies like this one about Lymphoma.  

And it makes me wonder whether another reason why the developing picture that rye is better for you than wheat is due to the way in which both grains are normally leavened. Traditionally, rye's gluten is better developed in an acidic environment.  Rather than using only baker's yeast, sourdough techniques are more often used with rye.  And so with rye we have this double or triple whammy: often whole grain, sourdough fermentation (not as much baker's yeast), different gluten structure, different phytochemicals.

While studying the effects of some LAB (Lactic Acid Bacteria) to create substances that can be beneficial to health, Rizzello C. et al (2012) "Synthesis of the cancer preventative peptide lunasin by lactic acid bacteria during sourdough fermentation" Nutr Cancer 62(1) pp 111-20 found that certain LAB in some sourdoughs will make the peptide lunasin even while enzymes in the ferment break down the proteins.  Lunasin has been reported to reduce inflammation that is linked to diabetes, heart disease and stroke by reducing interleukin 6 -- and because it inhibits toposomerase 2, an enzyme used as a cancer marker, it is considered to have anti-cancer effects.  Lunasin has previously been found in soy. Galvez, A. (2001) "Chemopreventive property of a soybean peptide (lunasin) that binds to deacetylated histones and inhibits acetylation. Cancer Res 61(20). 7473-8 and with its appearance now in some sourdoughs, it is thought that these LAB may be added to some commercial breads to turn them into so-called 'functional foods'.

Or here's a thought: why not just make true, fermented, sourdough bread instead of that extruded stuff in plastic bags that is called bread in every supermarket?

Whole Grain Biomarkers
Anna-Maria Linko has done some work with Alkylresorcinols (AR) which are found in whole grain rye and wheat. She found in general that ingesting rye will cause the plasma levels to increase more than ingesting wheat; and she says AR levels are thus a biomarker enabling scientists to measure whole grain diet without having to resort to food questionnaires, which are frequently fudged.

Later, she and Adlercreutz studied the way AR actually changes the membranes of our red blood cells, and she conjectured that ongoing levels of whole grain intake were necessary to maintain the AR alteration of the blood.  She further speculated what this alteration of the cells actually did: altering the membrane can alter the cells "function", its "permeability", and the "activities of membrane-bound enzymes".    In other words, she doesn't know how they have beneficial effects -- only that if you eat whole-grain products, you have a lower risk of diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and some cancer.  Yet the anti-oxidant function of the AR was downplayed. Linko, A and Adlercreutz, H. (2005) "Whole-grain rye and wheat alkylresorcinols are incorporated into human erythrocyte membranes" Br J Nutr 93(1). pp. 11-3.

Cardiovascular Risk
Finally, although it doesn't discuss cancer, but rather cardiovascular risk, I want to speak of one of the most curious studies I've recently seen.  Drogan D. et al. (2007) "A food pattern predicting prospective weight change is associated with risk of fatal but not with nonfatal cardiovascular disease" J Nutr 137(8) pp.1961-67 

A rather large (n= 27, 548 individuals) nutritional study has been conducted in Europe: EPIC (European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition).  Study participants had their food patterns examined, and were then placed on a diet corresponding to "a high consumption of whole grain bread, fruits, fruit juices, grain flakes and/or cereals, and raw vegetables and low consumption of processed meat, butter, high-fat cheese, margarine, and meat other than poultry" -- a diet that was predicted to result in weight loss.  It was felt that excess weight was one of the indicators of diabetes, heart disease, and stroke, and that reducing weight on this diet would be beneficial.

Data collected from the study can now be examined in various ways.  Drogan's team looked at morbidity and mortality and discovered the startling fact that a significant number of people who went on this diet died of cardiac events.  But curiously, the diet was not significantly associated with non-fatal cardiac events. The authors of the study said that this is "difficult to explain"  and "hard to understand".  It would appear that there is a "disproportionate influence of unknown factors", and they want this to be studied further.  

Yes please.

Conclusions: The Three Things I've Learned
So what are we to take away from all this?  What have we learned?

One of my favourite characters in  G. R. R. Martin's fantasy series "A Song of Ice and Fire" is Arya Stark (and of course, these days one can not conjure up Arya's image without seeing the face of Maisie Williams who plays Arya in the TV adaptation).  Arya has many teachers in the books, one of whom sends her out daily into the world to learn three things before returning.  And it could be any three things, as long as when she returns, she knows them.  She is required to state those "three things" as a truth, not as a supposition or the recounting of hearsay.  Sometimes she returns nightly with three new things.  Sometimes she does not return for a turn of the moon or longer.

What 3 things have you learned?
What an amazing way to school someone.  And what a folly our own education system shows itself to be by comparison.  And our entire system of nutritional research, for that matter.

I've been blogging about bread, baking bread, eating bread I've baked, for over three years now.  I've been researching the health benefits of whole grains as I go, trying to learn new things.  Yet what can I honestly say I know about bread today?  What three things have I learned that I can state as a truth? 

It is still all conjecture.  But here goes:

  1. It is generally assumed whole grains are better for you than refined grains.  Reduced risk of diabetes, reduced risk of certain cancers, reduced risk of heart disease (compared to what, one has to ask?  Compared to those who eat no grains, or compared to those who eat only processed grains?)  Yet no one knows why.  Some say it is the fibre, some say it is the lignans, or phytochemicals.  There are still a lot of mysteries here.  And the answers are not forthcoming. I don't know the reason, but I suspect it is because those who study these things are funded by lobby groups and marketing boards of the grain merchants, and they don't want the potential dangers of the products they are promoting to be generally known.  
  2. Sourdough fermentation is better for you than other forms of leavening. But those who have sought to learn why are not so much interested in sourdough as they are in removing parts of that natural fermentation to add them to other unnatural processes of bread production on an industrial scale.  The mysteries multiply because there will always be local variations in sourdough cultures.  You will never know exactly what is in your particular sourdough.  But you can be assured that what is in your particular fermenting environment is prebiotic.  The little critters that ferment your dough (the yeasts, the bacteria) are taking some nutrients but they are providing you with much more nutrition than you originally would have had.  You can trust them if you work with them.
  3. Refined flour and processed food that is made from it (like bread) is ultimately bad for you.  A steady stream of white flour, white bread, will spike insulin levels and it is conjectured that this will eventually make the cells of the body resistant to insulin, resulting in type 2 diabetes.  Plus, processed grains have been linked to cardiovascular disease, heart disease, stroke, although the direct causal link has not been proven.  Furthermore, the way we have allowed grain marketers to promote "whole grain" and especially "whole wheat" is completely misleading to consumers, fostering a world of ignorance and dependence.  The way we mill flour these days takes so many nutrients out, the very best parts are missing.  And it is all allowable by law, so that wider distribution and centralized control (money in the hands of the few) is possible.  Governments make the law, and we elect the government, so who is ultimately responsible?

So what about rye?

  • Rye comes to us usually as a milled whole grain.  
  • Breads with rye are usually made with sourdough or sourdough-like techniques.  
  • Rye doesn't spike insulin levels to the same extent that processed wheat flour does.  

Rye has its own taste, its own feel, its own purpose.  If we eat bread, we would do ourselves good to increase the amount of rye we eat.

Time for me to grow my own rye.  My little garden of anarchy.

Notes to Myself
  • Paranoid conspiracy theory time: Maybe things about grains are known, but are being kept secret from the main populace, by government, industry and agriculture suppliers all colluding together. They know these things are bad for us, but they want to keep us enslaved to them. There is big money involved in keeping us enslaved. Virtually everything we eat is built on grain. It makes sense that the ones who control the distribution of it and make a profit from it want to keep secret how truly bad it is for us.  That's just plain paranoia, right?
  • Still, cracks are appearing in the conspiracy. A picture is emerging in the various studies of whole grains and how they work to increase our health. By insinuating themselves into our bloodstream, whole grains deliver a payload of hormone-like biochemicals to various parts of our body, and thereby they change our body's chemistry.   
    It sounds scary.

    But wait a minute: virtually the same thing can basically be said of all nutrients from food.  That's what food is: it changes your body chemistry.
  • I don't believe in the conspiracy theory, but thinking along those lines can be a good thing if it increases our awareness of what we eat and increases our responsibility to affect change for the better.

Garden Tomato Bread Revisited

Revisiting the Garden Tomato Bread

I've been blogging about my bread now for about 3 years, give or take.  And the first year, I had a lot of failures, which I didn't fail to write about.  I had so many bad loaves in 2010, in fact, that at the end of the year I made a "Top Ten List" of my worst loaves.  That was fun.

The following year, I didn't have quite as many failures, and I was actually thinking of making a "Top Ten Best Loaves List" at the end of 2011.  Because I was working on some nursing research, however, I simply didn't have time to go through all my breads and make a decision on which loaves should make the list, at the end of the year.

One bread stood out in my mind, however, and I felt pretty certain that it should be in the number one spot.  That was my sourdough version of a Garden Tomato bread, that I first saw discussed on Cathy's Bread Experience Blog.  

Cathy said she modified her recipe from Sunset Magazine's recipe from November 2001 (a recipe which was uploaded  on July 2005 to "", which seems to be a permanent link for Sunset Magazine's recipes): didn't provide an author for the original recipe.  I had some difficulty finding the original article because Sunset Magazine's online archives only go back to 2008 (once you know what the article is, though, you can find it on their site, under "techniques".  Because I didn't know what I was looking for, however, I had to take a more tortuous path -- follow me).  A couple of third parties 
( [read part of it here for free], or [where you can find the complete article]) had also archived the Sunset Magazine article however, and finally I learned the provenance of this recipe.

The original Sunset Magazine article is called Crusty Loaves from your Oven (Review) [Now found online as "Artisan Breads at Home"].  Reporter Charity Ferreira wrote a review of Lou Preston's bread and included a couple of adaptations of his recipes, for home-bakers.  The adaptation is Ferreira's I think, but Preston's original recipe was most certainly made with sourdough.  So by my making a sourdough version, I was basically returning the bread recipe to its more original form.  That piqued my interest.

Lou Preston? Who the heck is Lou Preston? I wanted to know.  And more importantly: does he have any more bread recipes?

About Lou Preston

Once I had a name to go with this recipe, I began to do some more nosing around the Internet.  I wanted to know more about this Lou Preston and his bread.  It truly is amazing how much information you can find, if you have the patience to look.  All of this info is "out there".  I'm merely presenting what I found.

Information about Preston's early career is sparse, but some can be found online in wineclub newsletters.  He was starting to draw the attention of wine lovers within a decade of becoming a vintner, and he was making everyone curious about his ideas -- so he was interviewed several times.  Lou Preston was born in San Mateo, California, and his family ran a dairy, orchard and vineyard in Healdsburg since the early 1950's.  He is Stanford educated, and has served the U.S. Army Security Agency in Europe as a linguist and intelligence analyst.  After his term, he worked as an auditor back in California, and it was during this time that he became interested in wineries.  He took the obligatory viticulture and enology courses at UC Davis.  Then in 1973 he purchased his first 40 acres, an old farm at the north end of Dry Creek valley.  The farm had a pear orchard and an old 1917 prune dehydrator (from: Hinkle, R. et al (1991). Beyond the Grapes: An Inside Look at Sonoma County. p. 190),  and he turned the farm into a vineyard, and the dehydrator into a winery.  Eventually he acquired 120 acres.

The Preston farm sits between two streams, where steelhead and salmon traditionally spawned, in the creeks that run through Dry Creek Valley.  The tiny valley has its own microclimate, similar to that in the south of France; and Preston discovered that his farm can grow grapes comparable to those grown in the Rhône region.  It had always grown Zinfandel grapes, planted by the first farmers to break the sod, probably Italian immigrants who wanted wine for themselves; now he planted Syrah, and other Rhône varieties.  Apparently he was the first in the valley to do so.  He continued to experiment with grape varieties, and he began making wine.

That is how Lou Preston became the owner (and in the beginning he was the sole winemaker) of Preston Vineyards near Healdsburg California.    But at what appeared to be the promise of his commercial winemaking success, he raised the consternation of several people by "downsizing" his winery.

He turned his farm back into mixed farming and orchards, even ploughing under vineyards to plant olive and apple trees.  He became interested in the area environment, said a firm "no" to monoculture, planted hedgerows and diversified crops, and began playing a part in restoring the streams in the area, to save the spawning salmon.

Interested in sustainable practices before it was popular, Preston expanded his interests to organic farming and gardening, and Rudolf Steiner-inspired biodynamics.  He raises grass-grazed pigs, sheep and egg-laying hens.  And he continues to grow grapes, concentrating on best methods, best practice, best varieties, but now he also champions composting, which he calls "yoga for the vines".

Preston is enamoured by fermentation, seems to know Sandor Katz (the fermentation guru), loves kefir and is now diversifying further to make pickles.

But what about the bread?

According to the early wineclub interviews, who thought it a quaint touch, Preston started baking in the 80's, inspired by restauranteur and recipe book (The Pizza BookFrench Country Light Cooking) author Evelyne Sloman.  

Preston loves to bake, and soon it became a passion.  According to Leonard Maran, San Francisco, who visited Preston's farm in 2004 for a buffet lunch, 

"He said when he first started baking he would forget all about time; his wife Susan would have to remind him that they were going out to dinner, and he’d have to haul the dough with them. In the middle of dinner he’d have to get up and announce 'Excuse me, I have to go punch the dough.' "

Barefoot baker, a commenter to a 2006 blog about bread mentioned Preston's technique of spraying the sides of an ordinary kitchen oven with water, to produce steam for his bread's initial rise.  During the mixing phase of bread making, Preston uses a biga, long slow rises, and he uses cold water mixing after using warm water to start the yeast.  

His sourdough techniques are featured in Michele Jordan's "California Home Cooking: 400 Recipes that Celebrate the Abundance of Farm".  Here, it is claimed that Preston perfected his breadmaking abilities by the careful study of Carol Field's "The Italian Baker".

Jordan wanted a recipe for her book, and Preston seemed evasive.

"I don't use a recipe," he insists.  

But when pressed, he did give Jordan a description of his technique, which can be read via GoogleBooks.  I would refer you to the original for details (and despite his original reticence, Lou gives a lot of details), but in a nutshell, it is:

  • 1/2- 2/3 cup wild yeast starter
  • 1 2/3 cup water
  • 1/2 pound quality flour
  • 2 tsp salt

Mix it, let it rise 1 hour, then stretch and fold it.  Do this 3 times.  Preheat your stone at 450 degrees F for 45 minutes, then bake your bread with initial steam for 50-60 minutes.
Preston started his first sourdough culture from wild yeast cultivated from his century-old zinfandel grapevines.  Jordan tells us he feeds it twice a day, when baking, or refrigerates it when he travels.

A posting to the Bread channel and now archived at claimed that in 2004, Preston's wild-yeasted doughs were mixed to 72% hydration.  Online buzz about his bread breaks out on unlikely forums across the Internet.  For example, a discussion on "" suggests that Preston once competed in and won international bread competitions.  And that he had a book on baking bread for sale in his tasting room.  Whether he wrote it himself, though, I don't know.  

Preston was limited to 4 loaves at a time in his original oven, in the winery's kitchen, and when he wanted to bake more, he built himself an outside adobe oven.  Peter Reinhart claims Preston as a friend, and reports that Lou built that original wood-fire oven himself, made with adobe, horse manure and straw (Reinhart, P. (1998) Crust and Crumb: Master Formulas for Serious Bread Bakers).  Later Preston would build an Alan Scott brick oven, fired with oak and madrone.  Now he stone-mills his own grain for fresh flour, and over the years began to grow his own hard red wheat, the local Sonora wheat, and rye.

According to, Lou continues to bake bread (sometimes this is reported as daily, sometimes this is reported as twice a week) and sells his bread in his tasting room.  In the beginning, you couldn't buy his bread except in that tasting room.  But as demand rose, he could be found selling his produce and bread at Healdsburg's Farmer's Market -- but whether he's there Tuesdays or Saturdays these days, is anyone's guess.

It was his interest in local markets that led him to invent a "Farmer's Market Currency", an idea that is spreading with the locovore craze.  He supports the farmer's market as the core of the community, and he even occasionally blogs about it (e.g "Tastes and Tidbits: A Tale of Healdsburg Farming" and "Update").

Despite his success at his organic, biodynamic farm, when asked 20questions in an interview, he counted this as his best quality:

"Best quality? Knowing when to shut my mouth. Oh yeah, and I can make a pretty mean loaf of sourdough."

Lots of people who have tried his bread agree.  I've read many bloggers who say his bread is the best they ever tasted.  

Here is a list of Lou's Bread Recipes that I've found in various places online.  The problem with such a list is, these recipes may be adaptations for home ovens (and home bakers who may not want to trouble with sourdough), they may be from earlier stages in his bread making development, and they may not reflect his current practice.  However, one should be able to see at a glance that they often involve the fresh harvest -- what's growing on his farm at this moment:

Notes on these recipes:
The first three are from the original Sunset magazine article.  I suspect that Preston invented the Zucchini Bread with Moroccan Spices after he and his wife Susan toured Morocco on vacation.  I'm intrigued by a Zucchini Bread that isn't a quickbread.

A couple of his Artisan Bread recipes can be found online: one courtesy of Frank Dörenberg of Nonstop Systems, seems to be from Preston in 2001.  Like most of his recipes that one can find online, it isn't made with a sourdough starter, but with a biga (which he claims duplicates part of the sourdough taste).  The other artisan bread recipe was posted posted by Diposkan oleh Angelista di at kindsofrecipes.  Kindsofrecipes also has a recipe for Preston's Raisin Bread.  This is the one recipe that doesn't use a biga, it is a straight yeast dough, and I am surprised.

According to "", the olive-bread is Lou Preston's "favourite bread recipe".  Of course, he grows the olives and herbs on his farm.

Preston's bread recipes have turned up here and there in various recipe books: e.g. he has a sourdough bread recipe in Michele Jordan's "California Home Cooking: 400 Recipes that Celebrate the Abundance of Farm", he is mentioned in Fran Gage's "Bread and Chocolate: My Food Life in and around San Francisco".  

But the recipe book he uses most at home is Sally Fallon's "Nourishing Traditions".  He raises his own pastured sheep, pigs and egg-laying hens, and meals there tend to be memorable -- lots of bloggers have waxed eloquent over them.

I'm glad I did a bit more sleuthing into this Garden Tomato recipe, or I never would have learned about Lou Preston.  There are lots of photos of Lou online, but the very best is one I found of him smiling in front of his brick oven.  Hopefully if I provide enough links, WineTravelAndFood won't make me take it down, because it belongs to them.  You should go there, check out the original:

Preston has been known to donate his produce and bread to the local food bank.  Let's be blunt about it: his is a spiritual lifestyle, consciously chosen.  He talks about how he has developed his identity in his community, in what he does.  But along with that, he has developed character.  He has already done a lot: but as he says on his website, "there is much to do."  He really is an inspiration.

Maybe if ever I'm in Sonoma County, California near Santa Rosa, I'll take a trip to Dry Creek to see what new bread Lou has come up with.   He seems to have the knack of putting the labour of his heart and hand into his land, and the fruit of his land back into his bread.

My Bread
To recap: 
I felt that my first version of Lou Preston's Garden Tomato Bread recipe was possibly the best tasting loaf I had made in 2011.  I made a 100% whole wheat version too, and it was almost as good.  In some ways, it was better, since I included nasturtiums for a peppery taste.  And I retarded the dough for extra flavour.

But I had made those loaves at the end of the tomato season, using the very last of the full-season tomatoes from my garden, and I simply could not see myself making the bread again with store-bought tomatoes.  They just don't have the same freshness and taste.  Without fresh garden tomatoes, this bread would be nothing.

But  with my heirloom tomatoes bursting on the vine again, I felt it was time to make this favourite bread again.

Changes this time
But I made a few changes (mostly through stupidity and/or time constraints).  I cut up a few tomatoes and ended up with 480g of pulp and 7/8cup of juice (191g), when it was pressed into a sieve.  I tossed none of that juice away.  What?  Are you kidding me?  I mixed all the ingredients except the salt and the sourdough and the tomato paste.  My intention was to add the salt and tomato paste together after the short autolyse; but it was after I added the salt and tomato paste that I began to wonder why the bread didn't seem very well hydrated.  Then I realized that I hadn't added any sourdough starter!  I kneaded it in late.  I've never done that before -- but then, usually I add the starter with the water, and this dough doesn't have water, just fresh tomato juice.  So I had forgotten the sourdough.  Until I remembered.

Another change: I couldn't find my sunflower seeds (I know I had them when I was camping, dammit!), so I doubled up on the pumpkin seeds.

And I didn't really measure the herbs, I just picked a bunch and tossed 'em in, going heavy on the parsley.

Finally, I had forgotten also to add my usual 50g of wheat germ to the whole wheat flour.  So I ended up sprinkling some in the banneton before placing my dough to be proofed.  This toasted on top of the loaf during the baking, and gave the bread a toasted wheat germ flavour, on top of all the other interesting scents and tastes.

It was a backwards way of mixing things, to be sure.  "Bread is very forgiving," I thought, as I set the dough in the baskets to prove.  "I hope."

Like the loaf yesterday, I didn't do any Tartine-style stretch and folds or kneading during the bulk fermentation period, I just let the sourdough do all the work of rearranging the gluten structure and raising the dough.  I expected a tighter crumb, less irregular holes.

I gave one of these loaves away to my friend, and kept the other for myself.

Smells great.  Almost sweet smelling, when you slice into it.  The wheat germ, when it toasts, sort of crystallizes, and because the scent is sweet, you almost expect something sugary.  My wife is reminded of raisin bread when she raises it to her nose and takes a bite.  But to me, it doesn't taste overly sweet.  It is full of flavour, however.  Unfortunately there is a slight bitter aftertaste, from my whole wheat, and the bread could have benefited from a longer, retarded fermentation.

This time, the crumb is very dense, and I noticed that it wants to stale faster than I remember.  If I had added the ingredients in the correct order, no doubt I would have had a better crumb structure, as it would have allowed me to stretch and fold it.  Adding the sourdough starter at the end, after the salt, didn't work well.  But the ingredients hold this loaf together.

The taste is still there.  I like this bread with cheese.  You wouldn't want to put peanut butter or an overly sweet jam on it, though.

While I still like this bread, and consider it a good recipe, this loaf made with this recipe wouldn't make the top ten list of breads for 2012.  Not sure if that means I don't like what I did with this recipe this time, or if my ability to bake bread is getting better, or my tastes are changing.  Probably all of the above.

I'd like to try it again.  Right after I try Preston's Leek and Walnut recipe, or one of the others I've uncovered.  Hmm, I wonder how my leeks are coming along in my garden?

Notes to Myself
  • People who know Lou Preston probably think I am pretty stupid, that I hadn't heard of him before.  I suspect he has long been recognized by the baking community as an irrepressible original.  In case you missed it because of all the obscure links, here is the link for Preston Vineyards, which is Lou Preston's main venu.  A lot of his personal story and "mission" can be found there.  But not so much about his bread.  I had to dig for that.
  • Get a copy of Carol Fields "The Italian Baker".  Hey, if it worked for Lou Preston, why won't it work for me?  But then, my interest is whole grain breads.  Haven't seen too many Whole Grain Italian loaves.
  • Consider again making that brick oven in the back yard that you always dreamed about.
  • There are a number of YouTube videos that showcase Lou Preston and his winery, his organic ideas, or his bread. This list is in the order of my interest: 
  • Lou's wife Susan is an artist. She also has a recipe online that I found by searching, and it deserves an honourable mention here: Susan's "chili flavoured butter" recipe, is from "youvegottotastethis".  I would have thought that with all their olive oil, they wouldn't use any butter.  But I'd be wrong.  They also grow chilis, and they use them happily.
  • It may be that the Garden Tomatoes simply make or break this bread.  Without the right variety, you are just not going to achieve the best effect.  Of course they must be fresh; but they also must be juicy, and flavourful, without being overly acidic -- I think.  I admit I know nothing about the pH of my sourdough, or how tomatoes will affect it.  What would be the best heirloom varieties to try with this recipe? 
  • I have linked to a couple of Healdsburg Patch Pages where Lou has blogged.  You may find more, later, linked from this page.
  • I would find links to some old pages where Lou Preston blogged, presumably about organic farming, but these were six years old, and all the links were broken and the pages taken down.  I had already exhausted myself when I discovered them, but they can still be found via the Internet Wayback Machine.  Try this link, for example.  Lou's Musings go back to 2005, and if you browse them, you will get some examples of his style & wit along with a good dose of his interest in organic farming.  You can follow his experiments with bees, and goats, and solar power, and vegetable oil driven tractors, compost tea, whey-based mildew spray for grapes, attending or hosting conferences on sustainability, diatribes against government, curiosity about the natives who walked his land first, etc.  The blogging seems to have stopped in 2006, having achieved its purpose at the time, which was to build a network of like-minded individuals.  Now Lou networks IRL. 
  • I'm not a Twitter user, but Lou is.  Or he was.  It is infrequent.  To me, it looks like he got bored with it, the first of this year.  You can follow his tweets here.
  • Jordan said that Lou Preston had a recipe in"Gourmet Magazine", in the mid 1990's.  I haven't been able to find it, using their online search engineif anyone knows the link, please share the info.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Calories in my WW Bread

Lens of Bread
I am amazed that I continue to write something about bread almost every time I make bread, and that I keep coming up with different things to say as I try to experiment with breads with whole grain and as I learn about what I'm eating and where it comes from.  Even if it is the same old bread -- like today's loaves -- I've still got something to say about it.

After several years of fumbling about, playing with recipes, coming up against opposition from farmers, millers, bakers, family and friends who think of bread one way while I think of it in another, I begin to believe that bread is a lens, through which one can view many things about humans, and our place on earth -- about life itself.  A good bit of fumbling is still going on, but I assume that I'm still learning something as I try to figure it all out.

Today's Bread
is another whole wheat sourdough -- by which I mean I'm using 100% whole wheat flour, to which I am adding the 5% wheat germ allowable by law that is taken out during the milling process, and I am leavening it with fermented 100% whole wheat.  Water and salt are the only other ingredients.

This is not a Tartine bread.  The jumping-off point was a Tartine Bread recipe, but no doubt Chad Robertson would be sorely disappointed if I were to attach his name to this particular loaf.  I haven't followed Tartine methods at all here.  In fact, I have just fallen asleep and let the sourdough do everything.  

After working nights, before falling asleep, I mixed up some sourdough starter (200g) and some flour (1000g), gave it a short autolyse, added salt (20g) and enough water to bring it up to 75% hydration, folded it once, covered the dough and fell asleep.  No more folds.  No kneading.  No developing of gluten.

I awoke about 6 hours later -- a good sleep, for when I'm working nights, sleeping days, which should tell you something about my nearly constant state of sleep deprivation during these night shifts.  This is hard on the body.  Please be understanding if your nurse friends sometimes tend to be a bit crotchety.

I divided the dough, formed one into a bread shape gently, and the other I was a bit more firm with.  Into the banneton.  Two hours later, they were in the oven.  They didn't keep their shape as well as a dough that is kneaded or stretched and folded, but they turned into bread despite my neglect.  Not bread that I'm proud of, but bread.

The crumb is not well developed, but perfectly acceptable.  It is better than many of my early attempts at making bread.  When still warm from the oven a couple of hours after baking, it was delicious.

I am thinking about fasts today.  

The latest science on longevity says that if you limit your caloric intake, the cells of your body change from replacement mode to repair mode.  Here is some info gleaned from a recent BBC Horizon episode: if the average diet is 2000 calories/day, and your food supplies you with only 5-600 calories/day only, the cells begin to conserve energy.  Building new cells from scratch is costly in terms of energy use for the body, but repairing existing damaged cells -- including damaged DNA -- is less costly.  The result of this repair is that many diseases and problems are nipped in the bud; many cancers are curtailed, heart and peripheral vascular disease are prevented.  This may be true everywhere except in the brain, where new neurones may be forming.  The result is health and longevity.

And all it takes is regular fasting.

Now that Ramadan 2012 is recently over (should have ended Aug 18th), and I just watched Michael Mosley's interesting BBC Horizon show called "Eat, Fast and Live Longer", my attention has been focused on fasting.

I used to do occasional single-day fasts.  They probably didn't have the beneficial results that Mosley described (lowering levels of IGF-1, lowering cholesterol and triglycerides and homocysteine levels, burning fat, switching the body's cells to repair mode, etc.), because they weren't long enough.  But I know that I can fast -- especially if unlike Moslems, I can drink water, or like Mosley, I can drink tea or a bit of miso soup.  The question is, do I have the discipline?  Do I have the drive?  Do I have this monkey on my back where I must have bread, a steady diet of exorphins?

If I did without bread during a fast, how many calories would I be missing?

Calories in My Bread
So I was curious: how many calories are in one slice of my bread?  Assuming I eat it with nothing else on it (butter, cheese, tomato, or something else) -- which I never do?

I cut into this loaf, and weighed one of the slices: the largest that you see here in the crumb picture is 27g; the entire loaf weighed about 840g.  (The entire dough weighed 1000g+750g+20g+50g; divide this by about 2 -- assuming I divide it completely accurately, which I never do --  and you get 960g per loaf, but it would appear about 12.5% is lost in evaporation during baking).  I doubt that I get 35 slices per loaf, but let's assume that I do (The next day I cut another slice slightly thicker and toward the middle of the loaf and it weighed 53g  -- so you can see how variable a 'slice' might be, when you are cutting it yourself.  That would be more like 16 slices per loaf).

Many of the free recipe counters that I found online expect you to measure your ingredients by the cup, not by the gram, so I found them useless.  I checked each ingredient in

Water and salt have no calories.
The only other ingredients are whole wheat flour and wheat germ:

120g = 407 calories; 

  • counting the sourdough, I have 1100g; in 1100g, there is 3731cal; 
  • in 1 loaf there is 1865cal; 
  • in one slice there is 53 ( to 116) calories

Wheat Germ: 
115g = 414 calories;

  • in 50g, there is 180cal; 
  • in one loaf there is 90cal; 
  • in one slice, 3 ( to 6) calories

Therefore in each slice of my bread, with nothing on it, I get about 56-122 calories.  Eating an entire loaf a day (1955-1960cal) would nearly give me my daily requirements for caloric intake (but of course, it would be deficient in some amino acids and other required vitamins and minerals, so you wouldn't want to do it for any length of time; and I'd be unlikely to eat bread without anything on it -- e.g. butter, jam, nutbutters, cheese, tomatoes, etc.).

I probably will try fasting again, and I'm curious to see what will happen to my brain when it undergoes detox from exorphins after one or two days of not eating bread.

Notes to Myself
  • Try to keep your caloric intake below 2000 calories/day.  You are eating more than just bread. But with nothing else but bread, you would have to keep your intake less than 1 loaf/day.
  • Try fasting again.  See what happens to your IGF-1 levels, triglycerides, cholesterol, weight.  Try fasting 2 days out of every 7, for 5 weeks, like Michael Mosley, to see what happens to these levels.
  • What will happen to your interest in bread if you fast regularly?  What will happen to your addiction to exorphins?  Will you be able to fast like you used to?
  • My wife bought me a 3 1/2 quart size RachaelRay square 'stoneware' casserole dish, rated for 500 degrees F, for my bread.

    I tried the casserole dish out on one of these loaves, and found that it is too small for my baskets.  The dough didn't fit.  I don't have a square proofing basket, so I won't be using this again soon.  But one nice thing about it: it is light weight, meaning those who have trouble with heavy dutch ovens might find this stoneware easier to use, for baking Tartine or Lahey-style loaves (although I'd probably choose a different shape).  To me, it feels so light it simply won't stand up to use.  But we shall see.  Meanwhile, it sits on top of the stove because our cupboards remain ripped apart due to the water damage we experienced, before we went away on holidays.  There is no place to put this new dish.

    My wife warns me that this will only get worse:  "Better bake lots of bread and freeze it," she told me.  "Your cupboards are about to entirely disappear."  I may be baking on the barbecue before long.  We shall see.
  • I don't watch much TV, we don't have cable, so I never heard of RachaelRay before this.  I assume she is some foodie guru with her own TV show, and now selling cookware, etc.  I searched for some bread recipes on her website.  There aren't many, but they are difficult to search for.  Rachael Ray seems to be a cook rather than a baker.  She does a few interesting things with bread, but she rarely bakes it herself.  These are the only recipes that caught my attention:


Things to do with Bread: