Depending on the amount of whole wheat bread flour you add on the second day, this makes anything from a no knead light airy bread, to a soft chewy kneaded bread, to a kneaded, softly crusted, freeform bread. This recipe doesn’t work well if you started your “sourdough starter” with any type of store bought yeast. It relies on the beneficial bacilli (the “probiotics”) that is part of a wild yeast colony.
Before I get to the recipe, let me explain what I’ve been doing since I last posted. I have a friend who’s really into science. She’s worked both as theoretical physicist and an experimental physicist and knows more about molecular chemistry than I will ever know. When she finally got married, as a joke (knowing she really didn’t know how to cook,) her colleagues gave her a “cookbook” that doesn’t have a single recipe in it. What it does have is 818 pages on the molecular chemistry of the foods we eat, with an emphasis on the way the USA “processes” it’s basic foods, such as meats, grains, fats and vegetables. If it’s part of the “normal” process, it doesn’t appear on the label; and “organic” certainly doesn’t mean what I thought it meant!
When it comes to food, I thought “organic” meant, of or relating to foodstuff grown or raised without synthetic fertilizers or pesticides or hormones. But, chemically, “organic” means: relating or belonging to the class of chemical compounds having a carbon basis — or, basically, every living thing (or once living thing) you can find in or on the earth. Unfortunately “synthetic” also has several meanings, including: involving or of the nature of synthesis (combining separate elements to form a coherent whole) as opposed to analysis. Please notice that it’s combining separate elements, not separating previously combined elements. I think everyone knows that one can separate water into pure hydrogen and pure oxygen using an electrical current, but how many people realize that the “Clean Air Act Amendments” have resulted in removing so much naturally occurring sulfur from the air that farmers (including organic farmers) now have to add sulfur to their soil? And what is the cheapest way to obtain calcium and sulfur? Through what is called “beneficial reuse programs.” Without using euphemisms, the “pollutants” captured by coal powered plants are separated out to sulfur, calcium, and a very high quality “synthetic gypsum.” The sulfur and calcium go on farmers fields, while the “synthetic gypsum” is used to make wall board for your house. Instead of pesticides, “organic” farmers use oils. What we currently call “organic farming” is not “sustainable farming” (I suspect you’ll hear more and more about “sustainable farming” in the next few years.) What does all this mean in terms of bread? Buying “organic” store bought flour can (in the USA), may contain several chemicals that are banned in almost every other country in the world. Once I knew what to look for, it wasn’t hard to find lots of confirmation on the internet. Here’s one site that is very easy to understand, and explains the problems very well.
Just in case you don’t want to read the whole article, here’s the basic list:
- Benzoyl peroxide (banned in the EU and China)
- Calcium peroxide (banned in the EU and China)
- Chlorine (banned in the EU)
- Chlorine dioxide gas (banned in the EU and Australia)
- Azodicarbonamide (banned in Singapore, the EU and Australia)
- Potassium bromate (banned in the EU, Canada, China, Nigeria, Brazil, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Peru and more)
- Calcium bromate (banned in the EU and Canada)
- Nitrogen dioxide (banned in the EU and Australia)
(And yet people think it’s the gluten in flour that’s making them sick… Since these are all part of the processing of flours, they don’t have to appear on the list of ingredients.) So how does one avoid these nasty chemicals? By knowing why such chemicals are used — to make flour white in color, to preserve the flour, to enrich the flour, and to “fluff” the flour so it’s easier to use. So… Never buy store-bought bread. Never buy anything other than “whole wheat” (or “whole grain”) flour. And never buy “enriched” flours. I don’t think I’ll ever buy flour in our local grocery store again. (Our local health food store is another story – as long as I read the labels very carefully.)
Beware of flour that is simply marked “Whole Grain.” “Whole Grain” doesn’t necessarily mean it is free of the deadly additives listed above.
If I need to buy flours via mail, I go to Bob’s Red Mill – which is also available in many of the larger grocery stores. Bob’s Red Mill has a blog and recipes that I’ve found to be very precise and (as far as I can tell) accurate.
What does all this have to do with the following recipe? This started not so much as a recipe as an experiment. If I was reading the “cookbook” full of molecular chemistry correctly, the bacilli that lives in a symbiotic relationship with wet flour are largely killed off if the flour has any of the 8 bad ingredients listed above. If all the bacilli are there, in enough quantity, the actual molecules found in whole grains and fats are changed slightly. making the bread much easier to digest. (Both the bacilli and the yeast are killed off when the bread bakes, so the changes have to occur before baking.) Rolled (or pressed) grains are as close to whole grains as one can obtain easily at this time of year, and once re-hydrated, they are pretty easy to see, and everyone knows melted sweet cream butter rises to the top of most liquids… So….
This recipe makes 3 to 8 loaves depending on the amount of flour added later.
Combine in a large bowl:
2 cups rolled (pressed) multi-grain mixture
4 cups boiling water
4 tablespoons unsalted butter or sunflower oil
Stir constantly until the water is no longer too warm to touch, being certain all of the rolled grains are well moistened and starting to swell. You don’t want any of the grains to clump together if you can help it. (BTW, following the instructions on the label, this makes an utterly fantastic hot breakfast cereal!)
While the mixture is still warm, add:
1 cup whole wheat bread flour
1 cup very active, well stirred (so the bubbles disappear) starter
1 tablespoon Barley Malt Syrup
Continue stirring until the mixture looks like this:
Then cover tightly with plastic wrap and let it sit, undisturbed, for 24 hours. At first the butter or oil will rise to the top, but those beneficial bacilli will take care of that. There will be a few slight color changes as other beneficial bacilli get to work on the various grains and the yeasts start to take over.
24 hours later the mixture looks like this:
But does it still make good bread? YES!
Stir in (or use an electric mixer):
- 2 cups of the 7-grain mix
- 2 cups of the whole wheat bread flour
The dough will still be much to wet to use, but it’s obviously dough and not a liquid.
Let it rest for 20 minutes. This gives the rolled grains a chance to expand a bit, adding much more flavor to the finished product.
Stir in, using a wooden spoon, 1 cup of bread flour at a time. When no more flour can be stirred in without kneading the dough, you can divide the dough into 2 or 3 parts, and put it in well oiled bread pans to rise before baking. It will only rise to the top of the pan, and the finished bread will be very airy and light.
I prefer a good firm bread, that’s a bit chewy, so I kept kneading in bread flour, using as much flour as necessary to prevent the dough from sticking. 8 Cups of bread flour later, I was exhausted and was running out of room to knead. I shaped one normal size loaf, put it in a well oiled bread pan to rise, and divided the rest of the dough into two pound packets that I put in the freezer to finish some other day.