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Saturday, March 30, 2013

Hippie Alert: I'm Now Making Bread Like Laura Ingalls Wilder

Check it!  Wanna know what that is?  A bubbly sourdough starter that's what.  I got this new book called Wild Fermentation and it's all about making foods the old fashioned way so they maintain or enhance the nutrients available to your body... by using good bacteria.  

There are a ton of recipes that interest me like honey wine, sauerkraut (which I've already made, but he has some good tips), sour pickles, brined garlic, kefir, buttermilk, farmer cheese, kvass, ginger beer, and HOMEMADE apple cider vinegar!

But the thing that stood out to me was that he said you could catch your own yeast for making bread!  I was so curious I had to try it.

So March has been the month of sourdough experimenting.  I'm following Trina's example of getting the kids involved by talking to them about what I'm doing and even letting them help stir in the flour when we "feed" it every two days. I've heard many people say that a sourdough starter is a little bit like a small pet and Trina and her kids are calling their pet "Bubbles" which I might totally copy.

The sourdough starter is kind of liquidy and bubby and you glop about two cups into your initial dough... the process takes almost two days (almost none of that time involves any work on my part) and it allows the good bacteria to get to work on the flour.  The process of kneading it for ten minutes is kind of intense, especially for someone who's been pretty in love with the no-knead bread method for the past three years.

But if Laura Ingalls Wilder could do it, so can I!

Want some sourdough fun facts that I learned from my cookbook?  Of course you do.  Stop laughing at me right now and just pretend you're interested in this.

Fun fact #1: You can literally "catch" wild yeast from the air in your house to make bread!  I was super skeptical about this, but sure enough... stir some water and flour in a bowl, cover and leave in a warm place (right on top of my living room heater works awesome), and just "feed" it periodically with a few more tablespoons of flour... and you catch yeast! It's magical!

Fun fact #2:  A sourdough starter can be maintained for a lifetime and even passed down through generations! Immigrants would bring their sourdough starters with them on their journeys.  (So you know that I've already thought about the fact that if I can keep this going I am TOTALLY bringing my Germany sourdough starter back to the USA with me.  *nerd*)  It's pretty interesting now that we can use the technology of refrigerators/freezers cause you can slow the yeast down in the fridge or even freeze it and apparently bring it back to life when you need it!  (I haven't tried, yet.)

Fun fact #3:  Until 130 years ago ALL bread products were made this way!  Being able to go to the store and buy yourself some specific strain of yeast is a new(ish) novelty.  The kind of yeast you buy in the store is a "pure" strain of yeast that has been bred for specific bread (ha. ha.) but the kind of yeast you harvest from your living room is wild and who knows what the heck is in it!  Cool, right?  Or gross, if you think about it too much.

So my recipe makes two loaves of bread at once and we can't eat it fast enough before it starts to get dry and crumbly (I have since started popping one loaf right into the freezer)... but we did enjoy homemade sourdough french toast one morning!  (Thanks for the idea Trina!)  It was a hit with everyone... except maybe only a half-hit with Jesse... he's a little skeptical about this whole fermenting-bread-shenanigans.  I'm so lucky that he's at least humoring me, cause the starter kiiiiiind of gives that corner of the living room a slightly tangy smell ;o)

Besides toast with butter/honey and french toast, my experiments have been sourdough pizza and sourdough Easter Egg Bread.  When it got dry and crumbly I turned the leftovers into breadcrumbs and stashed them in the freezer for when a recipe calls.  Next on my to-try list: sourdough tortillas and rye bread.  

Using the sourdough starter requires quite a bit of planning ahead, which is thankfully something I'm good at.  But I'm kind of learning as I go that the rising times are very flexible.

Why am I going through all this trouble, you ask?  In part, because in my research I'm finding that true sourdough bread helps break down some/most/all (still have some research to do on specifics) of the gluten and phytic acid** that make conventional bread products difficult for people to digest.  And though you kill the active cultures (good bacteria) during the baking process, apparently they still add extra B-vitamins to the bread that normal homemade bread wouldn't have.

[**Phytic acid is bad because it interferes with your body's ability to absorb minerals like calcium, magnesium, iron, and zinc.  Apparently this acid exists in all grains (even legumes, rice, oats, etc.) and traditional cultures always soaked the grains in an acidic medium (fermenting) or sprouting the grains (yes, I do this, too) which also neutralizes the phytic acid.  Translation: less phytic acid = more easily digestible.]

But the main reason I'm trying sourdough is because I was curious if I could do it.  And also curious if we'd like it. Which we do.  Most of us.  Jesse would still probably eat Wonder Bread if he could, but since I'm the primary grocery shopper and resident hippie... it sucks to be him ;o)

So there you have it folks.  My most recent kitchen experimenting.  Have a great Saturday!


  1. You and my mom would get along SO well lol

    1. Yes! I love hearing about other kindred spirits out there. Makes me feel less weird ;o)

  2. I've been thinking about digging into reading more about sourdoughs. I was recently diagnosed with a gluten allergy. Apparently this 4-year-long painfully "bum gall bladder" with which I've been living is actually a pretty severe gluten allergy. Right now I just need to heal and get out of this pain, but once the ol' GI tract is back to business, I'm going to look into this more. Gluten-free food isn't all delicious or cheap.

    1. Oh man! So sorry to hear about the allergy Hil! I hope your gut heals fast and then I really do hope you are able to tolerate a little sourdough bread here and there ;o) Then we can be bread-making buddies again!

  3. I'm sipping on bone broth as we write. I have some great resources to access for bread-making. We can be bread-making buddies, we'll just be baking two different types!

  4. we JUST listened to the section of By the Shores of Silver Lake where Laura writes about Ma teaching a friend how to make sourdough. yum.

    1. I was thinking about sourdough this morning... I can't wait for our whole30 cleanse to be over!