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.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Wheatgrass Juice Loaf and a Loaf with Seeds

"Put down the loaf!  Step away from the loaf!"

I'm continuing to fast twice a week, use green juices daily, and I'm still determined to try a detox from bread.  But addictions are hard to fight, and I openly admit I'm addicted to bread.  I still eat it.  I have to find the right time to do this, to completely fast from baked bread.  I have to figure out what else I'm going to eat, when I finally put down the loaf.  Will I be able to give up everything but fruit and vegetables?  Shall I eschew all grain, all dairy, all tea and coffee, all nuts, seeds, oils and beans?  Can I give up cooked foods for a time?  Should I use enemas and colonics (as so many detoxifying regimins say I should)?

Wheatgrass tray, ready for harvesting

Juicing the wheatgrass for the bread

120g of extremely green juice

Juice and water and sourdough

Aerating the mixture

1. Whole Wheat Bread with Wheatgrass Juice
While I'm still straddling the raw food vs cooked food (soup, bread) vegetarian diet fence, this bread -- a whole wheat bread made with wheat grass juice -- occurred to me.  As I've said before, raw foodists would likely say tsk tsk.  I decided to try it anyway to see what it is like.

  • 1000g organic whole wheat, freshly milled
  • 800g water
  • 200g sourdough starter made with 100% whole wheat flour at 100% hydration
  • 18g salt
  • 120g wheatgrass juice

I mixed up the dough with 700g of the water, and all of the wheatgrass juice.

Wheatgrass Juice added to sourdough and flour

After a short autolyse, I added the salt with 50g more water.   I have never seen or felt a dough behave this way.  The gluten would form, with kneading, but only in one dimension.  Usually a bread dough made with wheat will be gluey, sticky; so when it is kneaded outwards, and then folded over on top, the gluten that has elongated like a muscle will reattach to the dough, and form a complex 3D matrix of gluten, a network of this strange stretchy molecule.  But not with this wheatgrass dough.  At a mere 12% addition to the dough, the gluten was utterly changed.  As I say, I could lengthen the gluten with kneading it, but I could not get the dough to stick to itself, when folding it back into a ball.  Furthermore, the sourdough didn't seem to want to incorporate.  The wheatgrass juice turned the dough quite green, but you could see the sourdough throughout the dough, and it didn't seem to be spreading smoothly throughout the entire dough, as it usually does.

greenish tinge to dough

strange texture: the gluten doesn't seem to want to glue together

It stretches but it doesn't want to stick to itself

The sourdough remains in tiny flecks and doesn't incorporate

flaccid dough

Further rests were beneficial.  I would rest for 30 minutes, then try again, and each time it was a little better.  In keeping with my latest experiments of "steeping" the dough, I added 50g more water after another couple of resting periods, and thereafter I merely stretch-and-folded the dough in the bowl every 30 minutes.
After many rests, the dough seems to get smoother
The bread was baked as usual, with steam at 450 degrees F for 40 minutes; however, I felt that the loaf needed a bit more time, so it remained in-oven another 10 minutes, so a total of 50 minutes.

This was a particularly odd shaped loaf

Evidence of the dripping of the dough through the cracks between the broken baking stones.

This was a very high hydrated dough (is it really somewhere around 92%!?), and I didn't have it sitting properly on the baking stone.  Things were pretty crowded in the oven, I had another bread baking at the same time.  So this wheatgrass bread actually dripped a bit.

A very curious scent and taste.  I've never had anything exactly like it before.  But when it was freshly cut (the next day and the day after), it reminded me ever so slightly of the strange taste one finds with salt-rising-bread.  Though not nearly so off-putting as that (if one isn't used to the taste, salt-rising bread can be not what you'd expect).

A particularly good bread, despite the odd shape and colour.

I liked this bread, and ate it with cheese until it was all gone (tsk tsk).  A couple of days, and this bread had disappeared.

2. Rye Loaf with Seeds
I was hedging my bets with this loaf.  I wasn't sure whether the wheatgrass juice bread would turn out, so I made something a bit more conventional.  This bread was frozen before I cut into it, a few days later.
Wheat, rye, sunflower seeds, pepitas, celery seed
  • 800g whole wheat berries, freshly milled
  • 200g rye kernels, freshly milled
  • 90g sunflower seeds
  • 90g pepitas
  • 15g celery seeds (2 TBSP)
  • 770g water
  • 20g salt

Lots of seeds

Wheatgrass loaf on left, seed loaf on the right

Finished loaves: they could have fermented a bit longer

I kneaded this loaf a couple of times after adding the salt, and then left it to rise while I ran some errands.  It could have used another hour or two of fermentation, but I wanted it baked to take with me to yoga, so I could give some bread away.  I had to make do with the time I had available.

Everything I'm not supposed to eat, when I do a detox: grain, seeds, high baked-temperatures,
and I haven't even mentioned the fats that I want to put on it: butter, cheese, eggs...

The loaf is a bit denser than I'd have liked, but it is an acceptable loaf.  My wife complains that it is slightly bitter -- she thinks it is probably from the celery seeds.

Notes to Myself
  • I can go a single day -- 24-32 hours without eating bread, without eating anything at all.  Why not just give it up for a full 3 days, 10 days, 21 days, or 60 days?  What difference would it make?  Without my constant infusion of whole grain fiber, wouldn't I feel hungry all the time?   
  • Am I just procrastinating trying this fast away from bread?  Obviously.
  • I was  wondering what the effect of wheatgrass juice was on the yeast and LAB of my sourdough culture: would it survive the juice's concentrated chlorophyll and other micronutrients?  Did it alter the gluten structure?  It certainly was a weird texture, after adding it, something I'd never experienced before.

Steeped Whole Wheat, Kamut, Semolina Sourdough Loaf

Whole Wheat, Kamut, Semolina Sourdough Loaf

Is this the last bread I'll ever make?  I never know these days, as I am beginning to put into place my intention to perform a juicing detox, and totally fast from bread for a few days (10, 21, 30 or 60 -- perhaps forever, who knows?).  Meanwhile, I'm still making these whole grain breads, and eating them on the days when I eat anything at all.

This bread was an attempt to repeat the unusual technique of steeping the dough while bulk fermenting, as I did when I mixed a bread with ginger tea.  This time I did not use tea but water alone; and it was not a high temperature, but right out of the tap.


  • 700g Whole wheat berries, freshly milled
  • 200g Kamut flour
  • 100g Semolina flour
  • 200g Sourdough starter
  • 20g Sea Salt
  • 720g Original water
  • 50g water added with salt after a short autolyse
  • 50g water added to steep the dough

(Total water 820g, total hydration 82%)

This method was designed around the fact that I had to sleep during the day, and work at night.  I generally go to bed around 1100 on the first day of a series of night shifts, and try to sleep till mid afternoon, whether I'm tired or not.  It's not a healthy lifestyle, working at night, but someone has to do it, and we nurses each take our turn.

In the morning, after a usual night of sleep, I mixed up the flour and 720g of the water, kneading it for about 5 minutes.  This dough gets to autolyse, or sit there without salt, for about an hour.  The salt is added with 50g more water, and this is folded in, in the bowl, until all the water is incorporated.  At this point, the dough is kneaded again for about 5-10 minutes, until it is smooth and fairly tight.  I let it sit in the bowl another 30 minutes, then I kneaded it again.  

At this point, when I returned it to the bowl, I poured 50g of water over top of it, and just let it sit.  At the 30 minute mark, I did a stretch and fold a few times, until much of the water was incorporated.  There was still a dribble in the bottom of the bowl that I wasn't going to worry too much about.  I let it sit another 30 minutes, then poured the dough out on the counter, divided it, and preshaped it.  After a short 30min bench rest, I finished shaping the dough, and put it in proofing baskets.  Then I went to bed.

I got up around 3pm, and turned the oven on to preheat the stones.  The dough had therefore only been proofing about 4 to 4 1/2 hours before hitting the oven.  This dough seems quite sloppy, and it deflated a bit upon moving from the basket to the peel, being scored, and then transferred to the hot stone.  But over the 40 minute baking period, it did rise enough to fill in the score marks, so I was happy with the results.  The temperature was the usual Tartine bread amount of 450 degrees F, and it sat there for 40 minutes, with steam in the oven during the initial period.

I enjoyed this bread, as did my wife.  It was quite moist.  Without the technique of steeping the dough during stretches and folds, this bread dough would have been extremely difficult to handle.  This is a gentle way to get the hydration level up.

Raw Apes
As I continue to think about a detox from bread (without having done it yet), my interest in juicing has caused me to turn my attention to the raw foodists, to consider their ideas and diet plans.  Everyone has different ideas, of course, about what makes up the best raw food diet for humans.  I stumbled around looking for who I ought to trust in these matters, until I encountered the work of Frederic Patenaude.  

After reading only some of his extensive material (e.g. Patenaude, F. (2006) Raw secrets: the raw food diet in the real world. FrederickPatenaude.Com, Montreal), I hope I'm not doing it a disservice by giving a nutshell synopsis here.  Interested persons can check out his web presence.  He has a lot of YouTube videos, for instance -- this one, "High Fruit or High Fat?" is linked-to from his web page)

Patenaude considers humans to be most similar to the Bonobos in their raw diet requirements, based on our genetics and physiology/biology.  That means he says we evolved eating a mostly frugivore diet.  In other words, our raw diet ought to consist mainly of fruits, and greens, and vegetables, perhaps a few nuts, almost no seeds or beans, and certainly no grains, dairy or meat.  He does indicate that some vegetables (and he even concedes a bit of rice) can be more easily digested when lightly steamed; and thus he doesn't insist on a totally raw or even totally organic diet.  He suggests ways to increase the amount of raw fruits and vegetables and greens in the diet, until one is eating 70, 80, 90 percent or more of one's food from these raw groups alone, always with the understanding that 100% is possible for everyone.  What this means is buying fruit by the caseload, and looking for ways (sprouting your own greens, growing your own veggies, joining or creating co-ops, using community supported agriculture, buying groups, etc.) to make it affordable.

I'm not sure if I have the stomach for it, but someday I'd like to take Pautenade's challenge and see if I can do it for 6 months, following a detox.  But let's see if I can ease my way into it a bit, though, with juicing, and a detox from bread for a shorter period.

Meanwhile, I continue to make my bread the healthiest way I know how, and eat it along with fruits and vegetables, and cheese, and even some cooked vegetarian food.  But I've introduced juices to my diet -- mostly fresh wheatgrass juice and green juice, that my coworkers tease me about because it looks like bile.

Notes to Myself
  • Having become a vegetarian more than a couple of decades ago, I know very well the impact a change in diet has on one's social life.  I imagine that further restrictions in diet (like eating exclusively raw food) would have an even more drastic effect.  I struggle with this: removing cooked foods from one's diet actually challenges our civilized behaviour -- i.e. it challenges my ability to live with civilized people without unintentionally pissing them off.
  • I still like bread.  As I prepare for a detox from it, I begin to wonder how I will fare.  Can I possibly eat enough fruit and veggies raw to make up for the bread in my diet these days?  How will I feel when I remove the dairy fats from my diet?

Friday, April 26, 2013

Basil and Hemp Loaf

Hemp and Basil Loaf

Since my friend David didn't get the last loaf, I made this one for him (and for me too, of course).  This was a simple loaf made with 20% hemp, and 0.7% basil.  It is quite a fragrant loaf -- and because of that, my wife doesn't much care for it.  The hydration was only 70%, but the hemp kept it quite loose, and it tended to sag a bit even at that.  It wasn't kneaded enough, due to time pressures.

  • 80% Whole Wheat berries, freshly milled
  • 20% Cracked hemp
  • 0.7% basil
  • 20% sourdough starter
  • 70% hydration
  • 2% sea salt

I must have been very distracted when I put this bread together.  I thought I took a picture of the loaf, uncut, but must have forgotten.  Am I thinking more about juicing than bread these days?  Is this a first symptom of loosening my bread addiction?

Wheatgrass Attitude
I've found a local organic supplier of wheatgrass, and I've tried it in my new juicer.  It tastes pretty much as you would expect -- like grass -- but it is also extremely, almost impossibly sweet. 

A tray of wheatgrass, freshly harvested for about 4oz of juice.


As easy as it is for me to buy a tray of that local wheatgrass, I figured that a more consistent and less expensive way to obtain it would be to grow it myself.  And as soon as I began looking for instruction on how to do that, I quickly learned of the work of Michael Bergonzi.

Bergonzi grew wheatgrass for 18+ years for some pretty prestigious raw food places -- like the Hippocrates Institute, which grew out of the work of Ann Wigmore, the one who wrote the first books on the benefits of wheatgrass.  In the process, Bergonzi became the defacto expert on how to grow it.  Many of his techniques can be found online, including some YouTube videos of lectures.

Rather than talk about anything specific he says about wheatgrass here, however, I want to discuss one of his prevailing attitudes that I find in just about every one of his seminars that I've seen so far.  You might find his talks a bit annoying.  I did at first.  But despite what he says, and how he says it, which might be off-putting, or inspiring (or boring, since the video is 2 hours long), depending on how you are feeling at any given moment, there is a certain prevailing attitude of his that I find refreshing.  In the midst of so many dieters shouting their advice on what you "should" and "shouldn't" eat, Bergonzi simply refuses to tell you what to do.  Bergonzi appears to have arrived at this unique attitude through years of boredom over all the pointless talk about food:

"Can't we all get along?" he says.  

What he means is, let some people eat raw, some people eat meat, some people eat dairy, some people eat bread.  Everyone has a different metabolism.  What's good for some may not be good for all.

"We have to stop with the judgement on food.  Food is not a religion, it is not a god, it is not a cult.  It's a choice.  That's all it should ever be...
"I'm not going to tell you what you should or shouldn't do.  It's not my job on this planet anymore..." 
"I'm not here to change you; I'm not here to judge you.  I'm over that.  I don't care what you do, I'm going to love you either way." 
--from the YouTube Video, "Michael Bergonzi--Chlorophyll Green Juice Oxygen"

Food as a Choice
This resonated with me because the same day I heard Bergonzi talk about food as a choice, I was reading Kelly McGonigal's 2011 book, "The Willpower Instinct: How self-control works, why it matters and what you can do to get more of it." In the first chapter, McGonigal reports, 

"One study asked people how many food-related decisions they made in one day.  What would you say?  On average, people guessed fourteen.  In reality, when these same folks carefully tracked their decisions, the average was 227.  That's more than two hundred choices people were initially unaware of -- and those are just the decisions related to eating.  How can you control yourself if you aren't even aware that there is something to control?"
In addition to the silos of thought that Bergonzi rails against, with some people shunning others who eat a different way, there is a lot of hype and marketing surrounding food choices.  Making more conscious food choices, rather than letting other people make those choices for us, will go a long way to reconnecting ourselves to what we need to survive, and to our planet's health.  

I am beginning to think that any movement toward becoming more aware of the food you eat -- even a change as small as making your own bread, as in my case -- can go a long way toward loosening the chains of food addiction, or food habit.   Perhaps it has taken me three plus years, but just the act of becoming more aware of what bread is, and making my own, has allowed me to become more conscious of all my food choices.

Our food choices have expanded with the increased global traffic in food materials.  But our food choices do make a difference, and we have to become aware of the far-reaching effects of growing, moving, and processing food.  I'm thinking of history here: for example, do you suppose it was easier for Jesus, who never left his mostly rural Jewish communities, to say to his disciples "when you go into a village, stay with the first person who invites you and eat whatever you are given."  (note:  Biblical/historical scholars might say that it may have been difficult for Jesus too, because Judaism at that time was not completely unified in what was considered proper to eat.  While it might not be apropos to call the various Jewish groups "sects", each sub-group interpreted the texts on food proscription differently.  What Jesus was saying, in effect, was 'Can't we all get along?  I don't care what you do, I'm going to love you anyway.')  I suppose it was less easy for his disciples, who began leaving those Jewish communities to enter predominantly Gentile communities; food was very nearly a make-or-break proposition for the fledgling religion, as it struggled with how to handle the offer of non-kosher food.  And it was harder still for the early Gentile Christians who later began to refuse to eat certain meat because it had been butchered as a sacrifice to a Greek or Roman god.   Their decisions began to change the economies of the cities in which they resided, and it was one of the reasons why early Greek-speaking Christians were persecuted.  And perhaps it may even have had something to do with why the Roman economies faltered, and why Christianity eventually came to dominate Rome itself.

This is not the place to discuss whether or not the Gentile Christians were following anything resembling the path or the attitude of their founder.  The point is, whether you are restricting what you eat, or opening up to further possibilities in your food choices, every conscious choice you make, here today on an individual scale, will not only affect your individual health, but ultimately the health of the planet.  Who will ultimately control the food supply?  Your food choices are deciding who gets rich, and who has a future.

Perhaps, if we finally become conscious about what we eat, we can begin to be conscious of even more important matters.  Take your attention off food, and begin to love.  Show an increase in spirit.

I'll give the last word to Bergonski:

"Don't let food define your happiness."

Notes to Myself
  • McGonigal was specifically quoting the study by Wansink, B. and Sobal, J. (2007) Mindless Eating. Environment and Behavior 39. pp. 106-23, but most of Wansink's accessible work typically contains the concept of Mindless Eating (see for example this article about the small plate movement).
  • There is a lot to digest in Bergonzi's talk, and I wouldn't say I agree with all of it.  But there is certainly enough there to consider deeply.  His idea of not eating anything in the presence of others is antithetical to how food is generally considered in our society; and therefore I suspect that Bergonzi's several jokes about not having any friends might actually have some bearing in truth.  How can you trust someone who will not eat with you?  How can you get to know them if they won't eat with you?  This is a step beyond what most people would be willing to try: to completely refuse the social aspect of food.  Note that as much as I admire some of what Bergonzi says, I cannot imagine emulating this.  Compare his attitude of entirely private eating to that of Jesus, who would eat anything with anyone.  Most of us fall somewhere in the middle of these two extremes.
  • For far too long, I've been letting food define my happiness.  "Happiness is my bread."  Where did that come from?  I no longer recognize myself.  Calling myself an exorphin junkie. Am I nothing more than what I eat?  Somebody else said that.  Someone who also said, man cannot live by bread alone.

Monday, April 22, 2013

20% Rye loaf and some easy food tests

20% Rye loaf

Today's Bread is a simple 20% Rye loaf, made more or less in the Tartine Bread style.

  • 80% whole wheat berries
  • 20% rye kernels
  • 80% water
  • 2% salt
  • 20% sourdough starter

The bread was fine.  My wife liked it a lot.  She refused to let me give one of these loaves to my friend David, she thought we might need it this weekend when company came to visit.  We didn't.  There was a lot to eat.  Too much, in fact -- as always.

Today I want to talk about some easy tests that one can perform to determine whether a food is harmful to you or not.  But lets start by examining one of the tests of the Tartine method.  Please note that Chad Robertson falls short of calling this test a "proof," as many other stages of breadmaking have been traditionally labelled.  I think that's wise.

Tartine Sourdough Float Test
I've mentioned the Tartine Bread test of the viability of the sourdough starter before: the Tartine sourdough starter is supposed to float, when added to water.  That is a rather simple test, which some people have experienced, and yet other people who have tried the Tartline method have reported problems with achieving it.  

For me, in the beginning my whole wheat starter would sink, but now I can usually get it to float somewhat, for a second or two, if I time the starter appropriately.  But I'm not even sure that my starter ought to float, since it is not identical to the Tartine sourdough starter: my starter is whole grain, whereas the Tartine starter is not.  Will that make a difference?  Or would changing the hydration of the starter make a difference?  How long ought the starter to float before it then sinks or dissolves in water?

I'm still not really convinced that the test is telling me anything important. I can make bread with or without the float test.   I tend to think that any dough is going to float unless it becomes waterlogged.  The sourdough is already half water.  The other half is flour, which when mixed with water immediately begins building a network of gluten, which can trap both air and the product of yeasts and lactic bacteria -- gas and alcohol.  How much gas?  How much alcohol?  Alcohol is less dense than water, so will it promote floating?  Brewers like to measure the specific gravity of their worts, but bakers are more interested in the gas than the alcohol, which burns away upon baking.  But if there is more alcohol, there is going to be some CO2 as well -- at least until the cells that trap the dough become waterlogged and release the gas.  So the graph of when the ball of sourdough sinks might be more or less linear.  Sink or swim, the ball of sourdough is going to contain some viable yeast and LAB cells, some water, some alcohol, some gas, some food for the microbiota in the form of flour amylose.  The density of water changes with temperature; at 4 degrees C, it is about 1.0 g/cubic c; at room temperature, between 60 or 80 degrees C, it will be about 0.98-0.97 g/cubic c.  Ethanol is going to be less, somewhere around 0.79 g/cubic c.  But ethanol and water freely mix, so they will not remain separate for long.

So what difference does the Tartine float test make on a loaf?  Clearly, there is a lot more going on in my sourdough than I can describe easily.  And this simple test is a lot more complicated than it first appears.  If we don't actually know what we are testing, why are we doing this test?

Yet in the absence of actually counting how many viable cells there are in my sourdough, a simple test like this may be the only kitchen-worthy method of discovery that we have.  It is simple, it gives us a yardstick into the viability of the starter, and it is fast.  Even if it might be bogus.  And I'm not saying it is bogus.  I'm just saying -- we don't actually know what it proves, or even what it is testing.

Update on my Juicer
Our juicer arrived the other day, and we've used it a couple of times, with great curiosity and interest.  It does take some time to cut up the veggies and mash them into the grinder, but it is also fun and we are enjoying this honeymoon/ experimentation phase with our new appliance.  Some of the drinks have been pretty awful, but some are surprisingly tasty.

As I've been reading more and more about juicing, and raw, 'living' foods recently, it didn't take me long to encounter some of the theories about balancing Acidic and Alkaline foods (such as those examined by Kris Carr in her video "Crazy Sexy Cancer", e.g. Young, R. (2010) The pH Miracle: balance your diet, reclaim your health).  I've been dipping into various books on the matter, as well as revisiting some of the books I've had for some time on raw diets (but never actually read, because I assumed it was not for me).

It turns out, you can't believe everything you see on these videos; and you can't always believe everything you read, either.  At least, I can't seem to take it at face value, I have to look at it a bit more closely.  For example, there is the question of digestive leukocytosis.

Digestive Leukocytosis
Recently I watched the video "Food Matters" and heard the talking heads who were being interviewed quote a study by Swiss researcher Paul Kouchakoff from the 1930s.  This video touted the benefits of a Raw Food diet, and Kouchakoff's study is one of those chestnuts that is frequently trotted out by those who are pro-raw food as proof that the body considers all cooked foods toxins.  Kouchakoff is supposed to have compared white blood cells (both number and types) when eating raw foods, cooked foods, or highly refined foods, and found that raw foods do not alter the body's leukocytes; but cooked foods do, and processed foods do even more.  Kouchakoff went on to determine at what temperature various foods (cereals, nuts, vegetables, dairy products, seafood, meat) cause this increase in white blood cells -- because we also see white blood cells increase when the body senses inflammation.  He concludes that eating cooked and processed foods leads to a pathological state.

However, this study has largely been ignored by the scientific community because it was not reproducible, or else Kouchakoff's conclusions could not be entirely supported by observable evidence.  Today, scientists note that many things affect the body's white blood cell count and distribution: in addition to inflammation and toxins that might increase white blood cells, there are also variants by sex, age, race, level of excitement, exercise, diet, time of day, and season of the year, leading some to suggest that things as subtle as changes in the intensity of sunlight might be triggers for changing the body's leukocyte homeostasis.  Videbaek's 1946 study (Videbaek, A. (1946) Is 'digestive leukocytosis' a reality?  Acta med scand. 123(5) pp. 449-471) was enough to poo-poo Kouchakoff's conclusions in the minds of mainstream scientists (see, for example, Englebreth-Holm and Videbaek, A. (1948) Normal Blood counts in different seasons).  The Gale Encyclopedia of Medicine says that you can have elevated white blood cells after eating a large meal.  How much food did Kouchakoff's subjects eat?  That doesn't seem to be part of the study.

And yet, perhaps there is something to it.  We know that white blood cells do elevate, sometimes dramatically, when the body encounters stress, or toxins, or inflammation, or trauma, etc.  

The term "digestive leukocytosis" is not really used much anymore.  Instead, leukocytosis is defined by the type of white blood cell that is predominately elevated: neutrophils, lymphocytes, monocytes, eosinophils, and basophils.  Which of these are elevated will help the physician diagnose what's happening.

These days, even instead of a specific leukocytosis, one hears of "leukemoid reaction", "systemic inflammatory response syndrome," (SIRS), sepsis, and leukaemia.  Besides these named conditions, there can be a rapid increase of white blood cells due to inflammation.  Often it is due to the white blood cells themselves encountering inflammation, and sending out "colony stimulating factor" or CSF, to ask the bones to release more white blood cells to help fight the inflammation.  The body's response is very quick indeed.

Possibly a form of leukocytosis could be a result of ingesting something toxic to the body.  Possibly a form of leukocytosis could be a result of ingesting a cooked food.  So again, there might be something to it.

But what?  Like the Tartine sourdough starter float test, do we even know what we are testing for, when we check the blood for leukocytes following a meal of a single food following a fast?  How do we know whether what we are testing for is significant?  Is any correlation causative?

And without a lab in one's basement to actually check the blood values as they change, what can the average person do with the knowledge that the white blood cells change when we eat different things?

More info on inflammatory reactions to food might be garnered if instead of white blood cells we tested homocysteine levels, or C-Reactive Protein in the blood.  But again, who has that kind of lab in their basement?

Tests in Felicia Drury Kliment's book
I've been perusing with great fascination Felicia Kliment's popular book, "The Acid Alkaline Balance Die (2010)."  This book has drawn a wide range of comments from reviewers on Amazon, from those who love it, to those who hate it, and the mid-range reviewers mostly didn't get what they thought they were buying. 

I'm simply interested in it for the various tests that she includes.  These tests seem simple enough to do without a laboratory.  Whether or not the tests are bogus or not is beside the point, at the moment: for me, it is enough that they are interesting.  They are also simple to perform in the home without a full laboratory, so anyone can try them.

Kliment suggests that the foods we eat can result in waste products following digestion (or partial digestion) that leave our body in either an acidic state or an alkaline state.  She does not make the mistake that some other authors do, who suggest we ought to eat to balance our pH: these often forget that the stomach itself is quite acidic, and so despite what the food originally starts out with, its pH is going to change chemically anyway.  She notes that some foods start out acidic, but after digestion some of them actually tend to act as a base to neutralize the pH levels.  Therefore some of her recommendations can be surprising.

Kliment once suffered from acid reflux herself, and discovered that eating foods that did not trigger this ailment, she could correct it.  Based on her experience with stomach acids, she came to the conclusion that there are three different ways people metabolize foods: quickly, with excess stomach acid, slowly, with reduced stomach acid, or balanced.  To discover which metabolic type one is, she uses the simple test devised by the dentist/nutritionist Dr. William Donald Kelley (author of One Answer to Cancer, Self Test for the Different Metabolic Types and The Kelley Program) in the 1970s: The idea is to take 50mg of Niacin with water on an empty stomach, and observe its effects 30 minutes after ingestion.  Niacin, or vitamin B3, is water-soluble and acidic, and will complement the stomach's acidity, she says.  If after eating 50mg of niacin you are flushed, feel heat, and itch, you have a "meat-eating metabolism" (she says) and require meat to slow your metabolism down.  If you feel warmer, have better colour and feel euphoria, you have a balanced metabolism and can eat anything.  If you feel nothing, you have a "grain eating metabolism" who will thrive on quickly moving grains, as well as fish.  She calls this the "Metabolic Type Niacin Test." How reliable it is, I won't hazard a guess.  But wikipedia currently says that the RDA for niacin for adult men is 16mg/day, and that most people get the niacin flush at 35mg/day.  So with this metabolic typing, just about everyone is going to have a "meat eating metabolism," if you are niacin-naive.  Of course, this is a vitamin that is sometimes prescribed or suggested by physicians to people who want to lower their cholesterol; the flushing of the skin can go away with repeated use.  Notice that Kliment doesn't mention whether the suggested dose of niacin might be different for different body weights, or if you have already been eating a lot of animal products (organ meats contain fairly high amounts), or lots of grains (whole grains contain quite a bit).  As suggests, everyone's 'saturation level' of niacin is going to be different.  So how can the flushing at 50mg be diagnostic for everyone?   (Incidentally, I've found that Metabolic Typing is still going strong today, witness: The Metabolic Institute; but various firms that promote Metabolic Typing have fallen into disrepute among mainstream medicine and at times they have even run afoul of the law -- see for example, the wiki, or the work of Nicholas Gonzalez, which continues and expands Kelley's work.  See also Quackwatch's article on Gonzalez.)

Still not sure, after taking the niacin test, about whether you should change your diet from vegetarian to carnivore, or vice versa?  I wouldn't be.  To confirm the diagnosis of one's body type, Kliment says, one should take 8g of vitamin C for 3 days to see how you feel: increased irritability, depression or exhaustion indicates a meat-eating metabolism, no change means a balanced metabolism, and more energy means a grain-eating metabolism (she says).  Since the RDA for vitamin C is currently set at 90mg, Kliment's suggested dose of 8000mg seems a bit high.  I think I would be irritable at that dose, considering how much vitamin I'd be peeing down the toilet.  I'd probably be exhausted because I'd also have diarrhea, and the toilet and I would be great pals at the end of those 3 days.

Kliment suggests that the (2 or 3) different metabolic types have evolved from different human cultures and communities who obtained most of their diet from either grains or meats.  Indeed, she makes some specific sweeping claims about various cultures throughout the book which seem a bit uncomfortable, like racial profiling.

I am more interested in another test, popularized in her book, and following the work of the Dr. Arthur F. Coca in 1994, whereby she says we can determine if we are allergic to any given food.  Before one can perform the test on any given foodstuff, one must take one's pulse, several times a day, to arrive at one's norm.  She suggests the pulse be counted in the morning before arising, and then again before meals, and finally in the hour of sleep.  If the rate never exceeds 84, she says, "you probably don't have any food allergies."  After a week of monitoring the pulse, one examines the pulse before, 30 minutes, and 60 minutes after eating one food on an empty stomach.  From Kliment's experience, a pulse that is 4-5 beats higher after eating than before eating indicates an allergic reaction.  Alternatively, one can test the blood pressure; if it reads 135/85 30 minutes after eating a specific food, it indicates an allergic reaction (provided you started out with a BP of 130/80 or less): again, 4-5 degrees higher indicates an allergic reaction.  This allergy test she calls "The Pulse Test."

Kliment also uses a similar test using a thermometer to check one's thyroid status (she calls it the Basal Thermometer Test, or the Test for Underactive Thyroid, and cites the work of Dr. Broda Barrens).  This test is the first step, and then there are a raft of other blood tests that can complement it or narrow down the problems.  Blood pressure and temperature together give information on the thyroid.  Kliment goes on to suggest some foods to eat and avoid that will remedy one's thyroid hormones.

It occurred to me that Kliment's pulse test might be something I could try, since I fast twice a week, and could trial some different foods on an empty stomach quite easily.  And of course, I am curious about whether eating bread affects me negatively.  Unfortunately, my heart rate never seems to get over 60 when I test it at rest.  I do notice some subtle changes in my heart rate and blood pressure when I over-eat, but this doesn't seem to be tied to any specific food, and it is not an increase of 4-5 beats/min like Kliment says.  I really don't think that the pulse test is sensitive enough to tell me that any food I eat is causing me to be allergic or sensitive to it.  Perhaps with some people, the test might work, I don't know.

I'm not convinced, but if some people find these tests work for them, and they believe it, why not go for it?  For me, I wish it was that easy.

Simpler tests, but more and more bogus
Of course there are even easier ways of finding out allergic reactions to food, if you can believe them.  You can try the applied kinesiology techniques of Dr. David R. Hawkins and others.  Simply hold the food item in one hand, and try to hold up the other arm while someone pushes your arm down.  If that foodstuff is no good for you, you will be weaker.  Or so they say.

You could also try a pendulum to contact your subconscious.  Is that piece of chocolate really good for you?  Your subconscious knows it isn't, and the pendulum will swing in the "don't eat me!" position, no matter how your conscious mind intends to swing it in the "eat me!" position.  Or so they say.

Update on the Juicing
The point of all this is, we have to be careful what we believe.  We have to be careful what we think we are measuring.  I might believe that juicing is going to make me healthier in the long run, but I also know that its going to cost me something.  I am going to be ingesting a lot more vegetables than ever before, and that's a good thing, but I also look at the piles of fiber that I'm composting with each juice I make, and I think, "I used to eat all that."  What am I really gaining by drinking these juices instead of eating the whole thing?  As long as I still eat the same amount of vegetables that I used to, in addition to the juicing, I am really just flooding my system with mega amounts of micronutrients, in concentrated form.  What will that do to my bread craving, I wonder?

One of my first thoughts when I saw the amount of fiber I was throwing away was, "I wonder if I can add that to my bread?"  Another thought was, "Why can't I ferment it and eat it?"  No doubt I'll end up trying both, as I walk this new path (juicing, raw food) while still straddling the old diet path (my whole grain bread, and a diet that is lacto-ovo vegetarian).

Eventually, something's gotta give.  When I begin the detox from bread and other dead foods, perhaps I will decide never to return to them.  Or will I?

I'm very curious to learn whether or not I'll break my bread addiction following a juice fast of 10, 21, 30 or 60 days (haven't decided yet how long or what form the detox will take.  More research is necessary).  And if I do, will I become a complete vegan ("one of those people"), or will I still eat some dairy product?

I guess I'll just have to wait and see.  The only real test in the end is whether I feel better after a detox, and if a bread-free diet would be sustainable or desirable for me.

Notes to Myself
  • I still have lots of questions about juicing.  Is an organic carrot that is pulled from the ground, washed, bagged and shipped halfway around the world still a living food, once you juice it?  If you believe in the benefits of whole foods, how can you justify throwing away that much pulp?  If you believe in the benefits of local eating, how can you justify going 1000miles or more to get a vegetable, or 10000miles to get a fruit?  I'm just a neophyte when it comes to juicing, and not yet a total convert.  I've just spent 3+ years baking bread and insisting on whole grain bread, and here I am starting to eat fruits and vegetables that are not whole.  Does that make sense?
  • I wonder what it would be like to add wheatgrass juice to bread, as the bread's hydration.  I'm sure the raw foodists wold be horrified: go to all that trouble to get a raw living juice, and then totally destroy it in the oven?  Tsk tsk.  And yet I'm still straddling the two worlds, still thinking about bread while I'm making juice.  
  • I have not yet begun my 'detox' (or what Joe Cross calls a 'reboot').  Since I'm not overweight (according to my BMI, that is; I have never calculated my total body fat), I wonder if I even need the detox.  Perhaps I will just feel better -- healthier, more energetic, younger -- if I give up bread and dairy and embrace the juice.  Do I have one of those systemic Candida yeast infections, and if I detox it will be like coming out of a fog?  Or am I one of the lucky people who is already fairly healthy, on my lacto-ovo veggie diet?  Who knows?  Unless I try it, I will never know.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

17% Rye Bread with Ginger Tea

17% Rye Bread with Ginger Tea

Dead Food
No matter how healthy I try to make it, whole grain, sourdough, long fermented, organic ingredients, freshly milled, pure water, finest sea salt -- bread is just another processed food.  Sure, it gives me fiber.  Sure, it gives me energy and calories.  Sure it gives me many macro and micro nutrients.  But it is not an unqualified 100% bonus.  There are some negatives to eating bread, many of which I've touched on or outlined in this blog as I've learned about them.

John Gabriel (teacher of the weightloss/eating/visualizing plan the Gabriel method) lost a lot of weight by eating raw foods, juicing -- and visualizing.  I watched the DVD extra interview with Gabriel after the movie "Hungry for Change" (a video which I mentioned at the end of a recent blog).  Jon's take is that you have to forgive your body for becoming fat; it didn't know you didn't want to store all those extra calories you were eating.  Your body was expecting lean times, like what the first humans experienced.

That makes sense, and its also been my experience.  Now that I fast 2x/week, I am giving my body a little bit of lean times, and my body is using the pounds I would otherwise put on.  I'm not losing anymore weight; I'm at a sort of plateau: I gain weight when I eat, I lose weight when I fast.  Just a couple of pounds, but its real.  No surprise there.  Without the frequent fasts, I'm sure that my body would just pack it on, expecting the lean times to come back sooner or later.  And bread to me is like heroin to a junkie.

But something else Jon Gabriel said in the extra interview from "Hungry for Change" really stuck with me.  He said he used to crave bread, but now he considers it "dead food."  He has lost his desire to eat it, since he started eating raw, living food.

For some reason, that phrase struck home.

Gabriel's story (and others like it) have further encouraged me to at least try a detoxification from bread and other dead foods (like dairy, and caffeine), to see how I feel, to find out what might happen.

Enter the Juicer
My wife and I have decided to buy a juicer.  This involved a bit of research, and then a decision on which juicer was right for us and our budget.  I think we might have swallowed a bit of a sales pitch, but we have decided on the Omega 8006.  The sales pitch is that this single-auger juicer goes slow enough that it won't destroy enzymes, and so you get more nutrient, more juice, and more flavour.  Centrifugal juicers say that their machines are faster and more convenient, thus, you are more likely to use them; the Breville Juicer has seen a lot of happy customers since the video "Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead" came out (we've also recently watched this video too and were inspired by it).  Cleaning time for the juicer was another issue.  The Omega juicer we bought can be disassembled, rinsed, and reassembled quickly, so that's a bonus.  Plus, if we don't become "one of those people" (raw food eaters who are juicing all the time and annoying everyone else who puts something dead in their mouths), we figure we can still use it to make nut butters --  and I can continue eating bread with healthier toppings.  Also, unlike the centrifugal juicers, the Omega 8006 can juice wheatgrass.  With my interest in wheat and bread, and my curiosity abut detox and how I determined I am about omitting bread from my diet (at least for a time), I want to try wheatgrass.  If I like it, it should be fairly easy for me to grow my own, from the organic seed I've been using in my bread.  But I don't want to get ahead of myself.  We just have to get the machine first, use it a few times, and then figure out what's the best way, and the best time for me to go on a detox.

I warned my friend David that I am thinking of going on a detox -- no bread, no dairy, no caffeine, no food except juice -- for a period of time.  David has been enjoying my bread quite a lot recently.  He helps me out by eating half of what I make.  He eats other stuff too, of course; but he says that my bread has helped him with his occasional flair ups of diverticulitis and acid reflux (neither of which I've ever suffered from).  I don't want to disappoint him, but I wanted to warn him that the constant flow of bread that's been coming his way may dry up for a time -- or, if I kick bread from my diet entirely, perhaps even forever.  I mean, I just don't know what will happen.  I can scarcely imagine life without bread and cheese, at this point.

Meanwhile until the Juicer comes...

Here's a bread made with Ginger Tea as the hydration, and I've steeped the dough.

Before milling my wheat, I made a litre of tea using Yogi brand organic Ginger Tea.  This steeped for about an hour or more, and it was still somewhat warm to the touch when I combined my sourdough with it.  The freshly milled organic wheat was also warm to the touch, and this made me curious about the dough temperature.  I tested it at 104 degrees F, once I had combined the salt.  That is MUCH warmer than my usual temperature.  I usually use a coolish water from the tap that is hooked up to our sandpoint (shallow well) and its multiple filters.

The Ginger Tea

104 degrees F.

Added some tea with the salt, added more later to "steep the dough"

The Steeped Dough.
Most of the watery tea that this dough was sitting in has absorbed into the dough.


  • 830g organic wheat berries, freshly milled
  • 170g rye kernels, freshly milled
  • 200g sourdough starter at peak
  • 20g coarse sea salt
  • 890g organic ginger tea
  • A few flax seeds for the bottom of the proofing basket

Once the tea was tepid and not steaming hot, I combined the yeasty sourdough and mixed thoroughly with 790g of it, reserving the rest of the litre-o'-tea.  Poured the sourdough tea over the fresh milled wheat and rye combination and mixed well, until all the flour was wet.  Then I let it autolyse for 30 minutes before adding the salt.  The salt was added with 50g of ginger tea, bringing the hydration at this point to 840g.  I kneaded this in the bowl, and squoozied it several ways and then rebuilt the gluten using stretches, turns and air-kneading.  Then the dough sat another 30 minutes.  Finally, I did something I've never done before: I did the usual stretch and turn, but then I added 50g MORE hydration, to bring the total to 890g.  However, this hydration was not incorporated into the dough, the dough just sat in the bowl with it.  And off I went to yoga for a couple of hours.

When I got home, the water had incorporated into the dough, and it had risen.  Must have been the heat, to make the dough rise so quickly.  Also, it was well hydrated, and the bacteria and yeasts must have liked the ginger tea.  I let it sit another couple of hours anyway, and then divided the dough, lightly shaped it, gave it a bench-rest, and then did the final shaping before proofing.  The baskets sat covered another couple of hours, and then were baked at 450 degrees F for 40 minutes on preheated stones, with steam.

Using this technique, the gluten was not well developed, and the dough could have been a lot tighter.  But it was a sloppier style of bread, and I had to be gentle with it.  You can see I was somewhat tentative in scoring it.  It saw a moderate amount of oven spring only.

The bread is quite good.  There is little or no ginger tea scent or taste.  But there is a very subtle hint of something different -- a kind of wakening up of the back of the tongue after you swallow some bread, that reminds me of ginger (but perhaps that is just because I know it is there.  It is really an undefinable something, and I wouldn't even call it a flavour).

I draw my life and nourishment from this bread.  And yet as I nibble at my slices of homemade bread I remember: there are those who call this dead food.

Who knows, when you start on a journey, where it will take you?  Long ago, even before this blog, when I began baking bread, I was baking bread detox loaves.

Well, there's detox, and there's detox.  I wasn't here then, I was there; now that I'm here, and I've moved on, and its time to detox from all bread.  Just to see what will happen.

Notes to Myself
  • This bread was unusual because I steeped the dough in warm water (tea).  I've never done that before, and it did get the hydration up.   This could be a new technique, like the no-knead techniques that took off a short while ago.  Steeping minimally-kneaded dough in water gives it the chance to absorb more water without kneading more.  This idea could be explored further.  I've never seen anything like it anywhere else.  This unique idea came from my kitchen -- just when I couldn't care less.