Welcome to my crazy world of real food cooking ...

Eat Food. Not too much. Mostly Plants. -- Michael Pollan

I wish I could take credit for that because I think it sums up how we should eat. Simply -- eat stuff that really is food, instead of stuff that is food like substance. The supermarket is almost entirely food-like-substances, and, my friends, you should probably never ever eat them.

Fortunately, there is a world of deliciousness out there, and it can all be had in a way that not only doesn't harm your health, but in a way that benefits you hugely.

I think it's important to eat stuff that satisfies you, that keeps your blood sugar stable, and that gives you stuff your body really needs to run optimally.

But baby, it's gotta taste good.

I really like getting experimental in the kitchen. I love cooking, I love layering flavours, and I love coming up with really super yummy food. I have very strong opinions about what constitutes food, and there are a lot of things I won't touch in the kitchen. Bottom line? Pretty much everything I make is ridiculously good for you even if it tastes decadent. Although there are occasional big fat cheats ... but even those stick to real food, my friends.

For food that is usual gluten free, usually free of cane sugar, usually super low on the glycemic index, full of protein, fiber, flavour, and excellent energy, join me and Alice down the rabbit hole.

Every recipe on this blog is my own original effort and idea, so please pass 'em on, giving credit where credit is due.

Many thanks, and come back often. I'm really glad you are here!


Sunday, 11 May 2014

Harvesting the wild yeast -- Sourdough -- spelt sourdough from starter to sublime

I  was listening to Michael Pollan's Cooked as an audiobook. I made it through the part on barbecue which seemed to last forever, but was somehow enjoyable despite the fact that I'm vegan. I was rather more compelled by the part on fermenting foods, as I'm already a little fermented at heart. I do my own sauerkraut, and have done other variations with other veggies. I'm not a drinker, but still had to resist the urge to start making beer. And then I came to the section on bread. And I was a goner. I had to get busy with it. The homesteading hippie naturalist inside me found the idea of making bread from a starter using wild-caught yeast simply more than she -- that is to say, I -- could resist.

So this is what I did.

I combined equal weights of water and whole grain spelt flour in a wide mouthed mason jar, covered it with a  clean cloth, and put it aside to ferment. Except that it seemed too thick to me so I added more water. Every morning and night I added equal weights of spelt and water and stirred well. Soon: bubbles. I had caught some wild yeast, and it was enjoying a feast. The smell became tart and sweet at the same time, and I knew good things were happening.
Feeding once every 24 hours apparently selects for micro-organisms that result in a sourer dough. Feeding once every 12 hours selects for micro-organisms that result in a less sour, slightly sweeter dough.

People keep their starters for years, and they treat them like pets, taking them with them on vacation and feeding them faithfully at regular intervals. Passing them on, generation to generation like a family heirloom. If you want to take a break from the monster in your mason jar, apparently you can also spread it on a silicone mat to let it dry completely, then store it dry until you want to use it again. I will try that at some point and let you know how it goes.

After about a week and a half, both the starter and I were ready to try a loaf.
It was thick, and puffy, and swelled up to fill the jar in between feedings.

This is what I did next:

1. I combined 1 cup of the starter with 2 cups of water and 3 cups of spelt flour (I was going to use 1 1/2 cups of water, but the starter was apparently a little too dry for that. So, 1/2 cup more water, and it was a thick, gloopy mass.
2. I set this resulting 'sponge' aside in a covered bowl to get busy for 2 hours. (I put it in the oven with the light on to give it a little warmth) You can do this part for longer -- up to 8 hours I believe
3. After it had greatly increased in size in the oven, I mixed in about 2 1/2 tsp sea salt and stirred well
4. then I turned it all out on a large mat, and kneaded in a couple more cups of spelt flour until a nice dough was formed. I erred on the side of stickier, because that's the take away I got from Pollan's experiences.
5. After some lazy kneading, I flattened, folded, rolled, and tucked, and then put this dough inside a large cast iron dutch oven lined with parchment. And let it rise for a couple more hours.
6. I then baked it covered in its cozy little pot at 345 for 1 hour
7. I then took it out of the oven, removed it from the pot, and let it cool

I think this loaf was a triumph. Full of small holes, with a lovely spongey texture and a pleasant flavour. I'm excited by my first efforts, and shall look forward to the next loaf.

Of course, there are many cook books and web pages dedicated to artisanal bread making. I do not attempt to achieve any kind of artisanal status. I am also not ever going to try baking bread with the correct refined flour that would result in the much lauded 'oven-spring'. For a whole grain bread, however, this one is definitely satisfyingly airy. And I'm giddy -- just a little bit -- to have corralled and exploited some wild air-borne yeast, and made bread with only flour, water, and salt. Good fun for a cooking nerd like me.

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