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.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Oat Bread, Spelt Bread

1/4 Oat Bread with Steel Cut Oats

A couple of breads today.  This coming month they will be ripping apart our kitchen to put in new cupboards and floors, so I'm putting some bread in the freezer in case I don't get a chance to bake.  

1. 25% Oat Flour, 75% WW Sourdough loaf with Steel Cut Oats

  • 750g ww flour
  • 250g oat flour
  • 100g steel cut oats
  • 662g water
  • 50g wheat germ
  • 200g sourdough starter
  • 20g salt
steel cut oats
1 TBSP sourdough starter added to steelcut oats, and about 3 TBSP water, fermented overnight

Oats were the first grain discovered to be a functional food, when metabolized by humans.   Oats have a proven cholesterol lowering effect, still not completely understood.  Naturally, we want whole grain oats to ensure it works on us.  Oats are one grain that we can usually find in the grocery store in pretty much its whole form (oat meal).  Other whole grains are hit and miss (barley can be usually found in pearled form, you have to look very hard for whole wheat grains or whole rye).  You can find steel-cut oats in specialty shops, and they are touted to be even better than oat meal.

I recently walked by an oat field and brought home a few handfuls from the unharvested strips still standing beside the headland.  Oats are very difficult to clean by hand, and ultimately I gave up and gave them to my chickens, who spent a couple of determined days to break into them.  Unlike me, they do not give up.

I've been reflecting on how closely our food choices are bound to our technology, and how we select our grains and other food sources based on the tools we have to adequately plant, grow, harvest, store and prepare them.  Nutrition and health has never really been the first concern in this chain.  Of first concern is obtaining food to fill our bellies; our second concern is that the cost of putting it there is not more than the benefit it gives us.  

The long-term health risks of putting it there are generally an afterthought.  

It has always been thus, since we first milled our grains by banging two rocks together.  Imagine a time where all you had to do was walk to the field where it may be growing wild (or you might have planted it in some earlier season).  You gather enough grain for a day.  You bring your basket back to camp, and spend the rest of the day cleaning it -- removing each grain from its husk.  Once cleaned, you grind it into a fine meal using nothing but two stones.  The calories spent on doing this have to be less than the calories you will gain from eating it, or you've wasted a day*.  

Obviously, grains that are easier to clean or quicker to mill are going to be preferred.  And if a new technology comes along -- say a fanning mill or grist mill -- that will ease another part of the job, then all the better.

I do not blame our ancestors who selected a natural mutation of wheat that had an intact spikelet at maturity.  The normally brittle rachis in the wild wheat ancestors meant each grain would have fallen to the ground when ready to eat, and picking up each kernel is just extra work.  Then you had mutations that would have grown more than one kernel per stalk, which would have been seen as a huge advantage.  No wonder few people in Canada grow Einkorn as opposed to other wheat.  And finally: if you have a plant that grows more grain than stalk, like Borlaug's dwarf strains of wheat, you would try growing that too.  Who would blame you?

Perhaps now, however, we are seeing increased allergic reactions and immune responses due to our ancestor's past choices.  At least, now we are beginning to be aware that our longterm health must figure into the chain of decision-making that leads us to select our food and the tools that go into its production.

If you want to see what sorts of tools are involved in growing your own wheat (or oats or other grains) on a small scale, take a look at these 2 cute YouTube videos of Stephen Simpson (aka seedtray1) who does it all himself: from seeds to loaf.  I love this guy.

Allotment scale production of bread making wheat:

Here is a closer look at seedtray1's home-made thresher:

and the link to his small-scale thresher's design, kindly released under the creative commons 3.0 license.

2. 50% Whole Spelt, 50% ww flour

  • 500g ww flour
  • 500g whole spelt flour
  • 50g wheat germ
  • 600g water
  • 20g salt
  • 185g sourdough starter

No crumb shot of this speltish loaf, I gave one away and the other one went right into the freezer.

Results of the Oat Bread

 I quite liked this bread.  At first I thought it was sort of dry, or perhaps it was staling quickly.  But the loaf stayed tasty until it was finished, several days later.  The steel cut oats were pre-fermented a little, but they stayed a bit crunchy in the crumb, more as a texture than as a taste.

Notes to Myself
  • * In terms of nutrient density and satisfaction, is this daily life preferable to a day spent tracking some animal to kill it with a stick?
  • * Anyone who has used a stone mortar and pestle to grind wheat into flour knows what I'm talking about, when I mention calories expended vs calories gained. Even if you have a crank hand-grinder to mill your wheat (better than a mortar and pestle), you are going to appreciate an electric mill.  And roller mills took off because they were better in some ways (quicker, more efficient, etc.) than stone mills.  Not all steps forward are good for us, though, and we now know that roller mills destroyed some nutrients, not all of which are replaced through mandatory enrichment of the resultant flour.  Ultimately, we are going to become dependent on whatever tool we use to obtain our food, and that is a form of enslavement.

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