Thursday, April 29, 2010

A little history...

True bread, bread made from healthy whole grains, properly fermented is and has been the most basic form of food since we left the Garden of Eden: "In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground . . ." (Genesis 3:7,19). From this has come phrases like "making a living" which at it's earliest was shorthand for sowing, reaping, harvesting and baking grains into bread...your 'living' and maxims like ". . . if any would not work, neither should he eat" (II Thessalonians 3:10).

Hungry people soon discovered that whole grains like wheat, spelt and rye were serious powerhouses of vitamins and minerals and began to hoard the grains for future eating. Some of the stores would get wet from rain and begin to sprout and man learned that he could plant and grow this nutritious staple. This development in man's history was the beginning of our departure from nomadism; up until humans discovered agriculture, they pretty much had to follow their food like cows looking for new pasture to graze after clearing out the one they left behind. But I digress...

Once early man learned to crush grains with stones (as opposed to just slowly grinding them with their teeth..ouch!) it wasn't long before he mixed the course meal with water to make a paste and then baked that paste on hot stones. This is where the world's flat breads originated; breads like corn tortillas, Indian naan and chapati, Armenian lavash, and Scottish bannocks. It was soon discovered that leavened breads could be made by letting the "paste" sit around for a few days to capture the yeast from the air and the spores naturally present on the surface of the grains, and slowly ferment into a risen dough. This type of bread was desirous because it was lighter, softer, better tasting and easier to digest than the flat breads. Soon people realized that by saving a piece of dough from a batch of leavened bread to put in the next day's dough would save them the time of having to cultivate the yeast for each new batch of bread: this was the origin of sourdough, a process still used to this day.

I made my first ever loaf of sourdough bread last week from my own home grown starter that I began cultivating on January 12th. Daily feedings of flour and water fermented into a strong and tangy "yeast" that I used to slowly (over 40 hours) leaven my loaf. The result was a deliciously sour, nicely crusted loaf--I was trilled to have such good results on a first attempt!!

I'd offer you a piece but it is all gone...


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