They Made Bread and History
I was twelve years old and taking a school field trip to Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, where the largest battle of the American Civil War as well as the largest battle ever fought in North America, took place. Little did I know that this particular trip would have a tremendous impact on my young life and set things into motion that my future self would be doing on a regular basis. The tour guide led us to a home that was still intact from the civil war and was held as a shrine to the only civilian killed during the Battle of Gettysburg. That civilian was a young 20-year-old woman named Jennie Wade.
Jennie Wade was a determined young woman who was afraid of nothing. When there was a job to do, or someone needed help, she was the first one with her sleeves rolled up. Her sister had just given birth, so she was in Gettysburg caring for her sister and the new baby while still finding the time to bake bread all day for the soldiers and nurses.
On July 3, 1863, the day began very quietly, with nothing but silence coming from the battlefield. But as the day wore on, there began to be more gunshots once again and many civilians hid in their cellars or shelters. But instead of hiding, Jennie decided to keep baking bread and biscuits for the soldiers. It was on that day that Jennie was kneading dough in the kitchen when a rifle bullet pierced two doors and claimed her life.
I remember that tour as we walked into the kitchen and saw where she had stood and made bread, and I witnessed the many bullet holes in the walls and doors and the bloodstains that had remained. It was just an old story to my schoolmates around me, but it stirred something inside of me. One of the virtues I most value is courage, and Jennie had much of it. I wanted to be courageous, too, and to make my life count for something. Jennie demonstrated that by doing something as simple as making bread for people in need. I went to the gift shop and spent all the money I had on a Jennie Wade doll and took her home with me. I placed her on my dresser and looked at her every day - and I still have that doll to this day.
If you want a more interesting life then learn something new.
A few days later, I found an old recipe and a story about Sally Lunn. The story of Sally Lunn is told in many different ways, but legend has it that a woman named Solange Luyon went to Bath, England, in 1680 after escaping persecution in France. She worked in the kitchen making buttery brioche bread and was selling it in the streets, known in those days as Lilliput Alley. But Solange – who, due to her colleagues' unfamiliarity with French pronunciation, became known as Sally Lunn. It seems that customers were soon visiting the Lilliput Alley bakery specifically requesting the Sally Lunn bread, and today Sally’s bread has earned legendary status around the world.
Intrigued by Sally and her bread, I told my mom I was going to make some. My mom was not a bread baker but she encouraged me to try it even though she had never made it herself. I shall never forget when I pulled that successful loaf of bread from the oven. At 12 years old this felt like a big deal and I had done it all by myself. It made me feel proud, and maybe not courageous, but it was a beginning for me. I found joy in food and recipes and it planted a seed that changed my young life. From that day to this, I have learned much about making bread and found many years later how beneficial using sourdough cultures are to rise my bread. I make bread every week and I have a young 20-year-old woman who gave her life making bread for soldiers to thank for this. None of these foods I talk about are just food to me but rather stories and lessons that have been weaved into my life since I was young. Walking in the footsteps of those who had gone before me, I found guidance that felt like little bread crumbs to follow, leading me to the life I have now.
It's not the bread, it's what we've done to the bread.
Much is being said about how bad bread is for you, but for generations it has sustained many. This led me to discover that it was never the bread, but rather what we have done to the bread that is causing harm to so many individuals. Our modern-day wheat is loaded with chemicals and has been genetically modified. We now use different kinds of yeast to rise our bread instead of bacteria cultures which change the structure of the bread itself - not to mention what has happened to our guts that are largely devoid of the bacteria they need to help us process our food. We have lost our way in all of this and blamed the bread when the bread is just a symptom or sign that we need to rethink all we are doing and eating. I have written another blog about this in more detail, Can Sourdough Change the Gluten-Free Diet, but I hope this will enlighten you and allow you to begin looking at your life and your food differently. We have a contract in this life with food and there are signs all around us, lessons to be learned, and delicious food to make, eat, and treasure.
I recreated Sally Lunn's bread and made them into rolls and wanted to share the recipe with you. These are special sourdough rolls I make for family and company. The process I use is a little different from other recipes since I use a sourdough culture. During Sally's era, there were no instant yeasts, they only used cultures to rise the bread. All the recipes using her name use instant yeast so I made my own version. Instant yeasts are hard on you and sourdough's slow rise culture is the way to go. I'm sure Sally would agree! The slower and longer rise allows the bread to be infused with even more good bacteria, making the bread become more digestible and delicious. I hope you enjoy it and will never look at making bread the same way again because you never know when it could change a life.
“I have come to believe that food is history of the deepest kind. Everything we eat tells a tale of ingenuity and creation, domination and injustice-and does so more vividly than any other artifact, any other medium.” From the book, Sourdough by ~ Robin Sloan
Flour And Water Gets Magical
So as I write, I'm waiting for my starter to become bubbly. Sourdough bread is only flour, water, and salt. It's hard to believe it all comes together to make something that has such flavor and character. Bread made with a sourdough culture is a completely different food than bread made without this probiotic combination of bacteria and yeasts. I love caring for my sourdough starter, and I've spent many a day waiting for it to get bubbly and rise in the jar so I can bake with it. I love watching it rise and bake, and while much of the world was freaking out about gluten, I fell deeper in love with this bread that helped me escape all my fears and worries about the dreaded gluten. I talk about it constantly to the people that work with me. I send them endless pictures of my bread even though I bake weekly and they have seen so many pictures. Nothing has given me more pleasure than pulling loaves of crispy sourdough bread from the oven. I never tire of it, and after seventeen years with the same starter and hundreds of loaves of bread, I've decided it is one of my most cherished possessions, along with my kefir grains, and kombucha SCOBY. My deepest desire is for you to love it too and reap the benefits, not to mention the feeling you'll get when you feel like an artisan bread maker.
Phytic Acid 90% Reduced in Fermented Bread
Before the 1950s, most bread bakeries ran two shifts of workers because the dough was fermented throughout the night with a long and slow process using a culture that contained the lactobacillus bacteria. This slow process was necessary for bread to be properly digested. In the process of making sourdough bread, the bran in the flour is broken down during the long rising time, releasing nutrients into the dough. Only when wheat gluten is properly fermented or sprouted (to learn more about sprouted bread click here) is it healthy for human consumption. When not, it is potentially one of the most highly allergenic foods we eat. Phytic acid, or phytate, is found in plant seeds. It serves as the main storage form of phosphorus in the seeds. It impairs the absorption of iron, zinc, and calcium and may promote mineral deficiencies in the body. 1 It is often referred to as an anti-nutrient. The phytic acid in grain needs to be 90% neutralized in order for the minerals to be absorbed by the human body. When you naturally ferment or sprout bread, you eliminate all phytic acid. About 90% of the phytic acid remains in bread made with instant yeasts unless it is sprouted or bread made with a sourdough culture.
More Digestible and Lower Glycemic Index
During the making of sourdough bread, complex carbohydrates are broken down into more digestible simple sugars, and protein is broken down into amino acids. Enzymes develop during rising. These enzymes are not lost while baking since the center of the loaf remains at a lower temperature than the crust. This fermentation, partly from lactobacillus, also allows for a bread that is lower on the glycemic index, thus making it better for those with blood sugar issues. The fermentation also helps restore the functioning of the digestive tract resulting in proper assimilation and elimination. There have been studies suggesting that sourdough bread results in more even glucose levels. In this study, the subjects’ blood glucose levels were found to be lower after eating white sourdough bread compared to whole wheat, whole wheat with barley, and plain white bread. The subjects tested after eating whole wheat bread that wasn't fermented fared the worst – with spiking blood glucose levels. 2,3
Better For Those With Gluten Intolerance
It was my daughter Maci's inability to digest wheat that started me on a journey learning about foods that were transformed through fermentation and when bread was made with a sourdough culture. People who came to my classes and website were experiencing the same results when eating bread that was made with sourdough cultures or sprouted. Even those who were gluten intolerant seemed to do really well. Now, not everybody who is gluten intolerant can handle it right away. They need to heal their guts first with cultured foods on a regular basis or try Einkorn sourdough which is missing the protein that is hard for those with difficulty handling gluten. After this occurs, I have seen so many people thrive when eating bread as long as these breads were fermented.
All wheat that we consume today is descended from Einkorn wheat which has about 14 chromosomes as compared to other kinds of wheat which have 28 to 42 chromosomes. This is important since some studies show that ancient wheat, with its fewer chromosomes, has lower levels of gliadins. Gliadins are proteins that can cause sensitivities in those who struggle with gluten. Einkorn does not contain this troublesome D genome (it only contains the A genome) and most testing for gluten intolerance is based on the D genome. And while einkorn does contain gluten, it is a different type of gluten that allows for easier digestion and nutrient absorption. It is also delicious and one of my favorite sourdough breads.
You can find out more about Einkorn Sourdough Bread here:
Increases Vitamins and Inactivates Aflatoxins
Sourdough bread has a very distinctive taste, mainly due to its lactic acid content produced by the bacteria during the fermentation process before baking.
This lactic acid bacteria not only preserves the bread but can also reduce mycotoxins. The sourdough process produces changes to the composition of the grain in numerous ways that make it a more beneficial food. Fermentation produces vitamin C and increases the content of vitamins B, B2, B5 and B6. Carotene, which is converted to vitamin A, increases dramatically – sometimes as much as eight-fold. Using a sourdough culture also inactivates aflatoxins which are toxins produced by fungus and are potent carcinogens found in grains. The microbial population during the fermentation period of bread making keeps evolving. In one study, it was found that the starter flours were initially contaminated with Gram-negative bacteria (which are more dangerous) Acinetobacter, Pantoea, Pseudomonas, Comamonas, Enterobacter, Erwinia, and Sphingomonas species. The abundance of these species varied with flour source. However, within one day of the fermentation process, the populations of most of those bacterial species were eliminated and were replaced with gram positive bacteria, represented by lactic acid bacteria, which was present initially at very low amount until fermentation took place. It was suggested that flour type also contributes to bacterial biodiversity. 4
The Flavor and Expression of You!
I love the flavor of my sourdough bread. My bread and sourdough starter are unique to me and the wild yeasts that live in my kitchen and on my hands. A wonderful study 5 done in the Belgian baking center took fifteen sourdough experts from around the world and fed them the exact same ingredients from a lab. Before the bakers could get their hands into the dough, they held them out to get a bacterial swabbing. And surprisingly the microbes found on bakers' hands, mirrored the microbes within their starters which is the soul of every loaf. Ecologist Rob Dunn stated, "It's a reminder that we have a really intimate relationship with our food. Not only do we impact the species in our food, but the species in our food impacts the species on or in our bodies."
Your sourdough starter will adapt to you and your kitchen and the organisms that surround you. This is the ultimate world of creation that I live in. Not only do I make and sell my cultures but they are truly a part of me. They will soon become a part of you and your home, and your bread will be a one-of-a-kind creation that only you can make. Just like San Francisco sourdough bread has a stronger, sharper, tangy flavor than most sourdough breads, the sourness comes from lactic and acetic acids produced by inevitable environmental bacteria in that area. They work on the flour's sugars along with the yeast changing the taste. Different bacteria make a different sour flavor. Don't you think that's cool? San Francisco is awash in local bacteria species that make its sourdough bread famous. Don't you want to find out what your bread is going taste like? Don't you love that it will literally be an expression of you!
About ten years ago I went to a class on “How to Make Sourdough Bread.” My daughter had gluten intolerance and we found that she could eat sprouted bread without the side effects created by regular bread. I had heard that sourdough bread achieved similar results to the sprouted bread, and I wanted to try it. What I learned shocked me. The man teaching the class explained that the process of making sourdough was an ancient art and one that had many benefits that we are unaware of today. Why do so many of us struggle with gluten today? There are all kinds of books and websites dedicated to gluten-free living, and rightfully so, because the bread we have today is very different from the bread we ate for hundreds of years. But why is gluten intolerance an epidemic in this day and age? What has changed?
"Our own physical body possesses a wisdom which we who inhabit the body lack. We give it orders which make no sense."Henry Miller
History Of Bread
Before the 1950’s, most bread bakeries ran two shifts of workers because the dough was fermented throughout the night with a long and slow process using a culture that contained the lactobacillus bacteria. This slow process was necessary for bread to be properly digested. In the process of making sourdough bread, the bran in the flour is broken down during the long rising time, releasing nutrients into the dough. Only when wheat gluten is properly fermented or sprouted (to learn more about sprouted bread click here) is it healthy for human consumption. When not, it is potentially one of the most highly allergenic foods we eat. The phytic acid in grain needs to be 90% neutralized in order for the minerals to be absorbed by the human body. When you naturally ferment or sprout bread, you eliminate all phytic acid. About 90% of the phytic acid remains in bread made with instant yeasts unless it is sprouted bread.
New methods harm the gut
In their efforts to increase profits and speed up the bread making process, bakers began using new techniques that took only three hours to make a loaf of bread - and now can even take only one hour. They used the new instant yeasts which made the old way of making bread (using cultures and fermentation that not only help to preserve food but also increase the nutrients available for our bodies) unnecessary.
During the making of sourdough bread, complex carbohydrates are broken down into more digestible simple sugars, and protein is broken down into amino acids. Enzymes develop during rising. These enzymes are not lost while baking since the center of the loaf remains at a lower temperature than the crust. This fermentation, partly from lactobacillus, also allows for a bread that is lower on the glycemic index, thus making it better for those with blood sugar issues. The fermentation also helps restore the functioning of the digestive tract resulting in proper assimilation and elimination.
Chemicals sprayed on wheat
There is a common process that is happening to our wheat before harvesting. According to farmers who grow wheat, applying the herbicide Roundup (glyphosate) just prior to harvest is commonplace among farmers who grow wheat crops. The manufacturer of Roundup, Monsanto, claims that application to plants at over 30% kernel moisture results in Roundup uptake by the plant into the kernels. This allows the Farmers to harvest their wheat earlier since the wheat plant will be killed off by the roundup. These changes in our bread have had devastating effects on our gut. I believe that along with the chemicals, soil depletion, and the loss of fermentation and probiotic foods that heal and protect our bodies, our diets are wreaking havoc on our guts. This, in turn, is causing a rise in all kinds of food allergies. Our diets are a dim reflection of the nutrient-dense whole foods we used to eat years ago. Pharmaceuticals are the norm and not the exception, and food allergies and gut issues are rampant along with a host of other health issues. The average consumer is unaware of these changes in our food supply and then labels gluten and bread as the enemy when they don't realize the culprit is the dramatic changes in the actual process of making bread today.
Gluten Intolerance And Sourdough
It was my daughter Maci's inability to digest wheat that started me on a journey learning about foods that were transformed when they were sprouted or made with sourdough. People who came to my classes and website were experiencing the same results when eating bread that was made with sourdough cultures or sprouted. Even those who were gluten intolerant seemed to do really well. Now, not everybody who is gluten intolerant can handle it right away. They need to heal their guts first with cultured foods on a regular basis or try Einkorn sourdough which is missing the protein that is hard for those with difficulty handling gluten. After this occurs, I have seen so many people thrive when eating bread as long as these breads were fermented or sprouted.
Ferment it for 7 hours or longer
Sourdough bread is transformed when it is fermented for 7 hours or longer. Then it is not only easily digested, but can often be handled by those who are gluten intolerant. Here is a recipe to make overnight sourdough bread. It is the best one for beginners and the one I think tastes the best. Well . . . that's not entirely true. I love so many, but this one has a great flavor and is easy. I have devised a slower, longer fermentation method that is even more effective for those who have severe gluten problems.
Try an Ancient Wheat
Those who are severely gluten intolerant might want to try an ancient wheat such as Einkorn flour. Einkorn wheat is the most ancient species of wheat. All wheat that we consume today is descended from Einkorn wheat which has about 14 chromosomes as compared to other wheats which have 28-42. This is important since some studies show that ancient wheat, with its fewer chromosomes, has lower levels of gliadins. Gliadins are proteins that can cause sensitivities in those who struggle with gluten. Einkorn does not contain this troublesome D genome, only the A genome, and most testing for gluten intolerance is based on the D genome. And while einkorn does contain gluten, it is a different type of gluten and allows for easier digestion and nutrient absorption. It is also delicious and one of my favorite sourdough breads that I make and eat each week.
You can find out more about Einkorn Sourdough Bread here:
Listen To My Podcast
Our bread is made so differently than in years gone by, and it’s wreaking havoc on our bodies. Understand the science of why this is, and how bacteria can change your bread into something healthy. Walk in the footsteps of those who made bread for thousands of years and called it the staff of life.
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A few years ago, I started hearing about the ancient species of wheat called einkorn. People who were gluten intolerant were writing me letters about it and saying it was allowing them to eat bread again without the problems regular wheat had caused them, and I wanted to know more. I learned a lot about…(Read More)
I think fermentation is essential to bread making. If you don’t use the help of microbes to make the bread, you won’t get the nutrients out of the bread and gluten will become a problem. I’ve made a lot of sourdough bread and I have a new method that is working spectacularly…(Read More)
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I usually make sourdough bread once or twice a week. I make sourdough more than sprouted bread as my family likes it better and I enjoy making it so much. There is nothing as special as having a sourdough starter that has your own unique yeasts from your kitchen and hometown – that makes it…(Read More)
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