Food Reformation: Learning to Make Sourdough Bread

Several years ago I tried to make sourdough bread. I remember that the bread came out as hard as a brick and didn’t rise at all. It didn’t take much neglect until the starter was rancid and in the trash. I really didn’t believe it could be done.

Then one day I was reading my friend Keri Mae’s blog and saw that she had been making sourdough bread. And her bread was soft and delicious and she didn’t use any yeast other than her starter. I was amazed! I wanted to try again, but really lacked confidence in myself to make it happen. I decided to order a couple of starters from the company Keri Mae suggested. It took be over a year to get the nerve up to try them (I didn’t want to ruin them waste my money).

One day someone posted a link on Facebook to a free e-book, Vintage Remedies Guide to Bread. Now I will tell you, I was blown away by all the research done for the book. It totally makes sense to me. I have been grinding my own wheat now for 6 or 7 years, and I could never buy into the idea of soaking my wheat berries then drying them out so that I could grind them. For one thing, it is just too much hassle for me. Second, I was really skeptical of the perceived benefits of soaking the grain.

Thankfully, what Jessie shows in her book (in a nutshell) is that sourdough really is the way to go with baking. Sourdough is full of beneficial bacterial that is so good for our gut health. And it makes the nutrients in the bread more readily available. So I believed in the concept, I just didn’t know if it was doable on a practical level.

Anyhow, I decided to jump right in and get started. At first, I experienced the same presumed failure I had experienced before. The bread didn’t rise and the starter started smelling like paint thinner. However, this time instead of throwing it out, I went to Google first. Come to find out, I hadn’t ruined my starter after all. I just needed to feed it much more often, and wait about a week before using it. I did that and I now have the most pleasant smelling starter that works every time!

Here is what I have learned so far:

I took about a cup of flour (freshly ground whole wheat–soft or hard, doesn’t matter), a cup of water, and half of the starter from my packet. I stirred that up in a jar and left it sitting on the counter. I have found that my starter needs to be fed at least 2-3 times a day. I take about 1/3 cup flour and 1/3 cup water (always use approximately the same amount of each) and stir it into the jar. The first week while you are getting it ready to use, you will end up feeding it so much that it is too much for one jar. If you want, you can poor half into another jar and start it for a friend (or you can just poor out the excess).

After about a week, I noticed that when I fed my starter, not only would it start to bubble (it had been bubbling from about day 2), but it would also rise in the jar. After a few hours it would fizzle down and develop liquid on the top. This liquid is normal, just stir it back in when you feed it next.

When I make bread now, I usually try to feed the starter about 30 minutes before I want to use it so that it will be good and active in the dough.

I tried several recipes before I finally came up with my own. I wanted something simple and the size of this recipe is perfect for my large cast iron pan. I am not sure how many loaves it would make, as I just make rolls with it.

Flaxseed Sourdough Rolls

5 cups whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup oil (I use olive oil most of the time, but have also used coconut oil with good results)
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup (before it is ground) flaxseed
1 cup starter
1 1/2 cup water, lukewarm

Very simple instructions…I just throw everything in my mixer and mix for a good 6-8 minutes. I usually don’t time it precisely, just make sure the dough has a nice elasticity to it.

I then roll the dough in balls and place in my cast iron skillet. I cover, let rise overnight, and pop them in the oven in the morning.

I usually bake at 350, but I am not sure how long I leave them in there. I just check to see if they are done.

More With Sourdough

I know that I have just scratched the surface with sourdough baking. I tried to make some sourdough donuts, but it was before my starter had really starter going and they were just too tangy. I am anxious to try it again now that I “got the hang of it”. In her book, Jessie has recipes for all kinds of sourdough goodies.

My friend Keri Mae is writing about sourdough today as well. I can’t wait to see what she posts. I am always learning something new from her and I am sure I will today as well. She has been using sourdough for a while now, so she’s sure to have some goodness in store! Make sure and visit her to learn more about sourdough bread.

Hopscotch with us January 14th – 18th as we share another round of over 110 posts full of homeschooling activities and advice, Biblical encouragement, and much much more!

Bread of Idleness

Do Not Eat The Bread of Idleness

by Sue Becker, 1994
(An edited version of this article appeared in Above Rubies magazine #44)

 “Blow the trumpet in Zion, and sound an alarm in my holy mountain.  Let all the inhabitants of the land tremble; for the day of the Lord cometh, for it is near at hand. “Joel 2:1

There is a health care crisis in this land.  Liberals and conservatives alike agree on this fact.  The cause of the crisis is quite another issue.  Some blame lawyers, while others blame doctors, insurance companies, medical suppliers or the government.  While all of these have certainly played their part, the truth of the matter is that we are to blame.  We are a sick and unhealthy people. God’s word in Matthew 9:35-38 certainly describes the state of our country today.  We are sick, but as we turn to doctors and medicine, weight loss clinics and diets we are often left “bewildered – harassed and distressed and dejected and helpless – like sheep without a shepherd.(v36)  Our health does not depend on doctors and medicine but on how we live our lives.

The God who created our bodies also caused the earth to bring forth vegetation and gave to man “every plant yielding seed and every tree with seed in its fruit” to have for food. (Gen 1:29)  After the flood His provisions for man included “every moving thing that lives” as well as the green vegetables and plants. (Gen 9:3).  I trust God completely in His provisions to know what foods will best nourish our bodies.  Man, however, has altered His provisions first for the sake of convenience and now for greed.

Look for a moment at the example of the children of Israel in the wilderness.  With nothing to eat, God lovingly provided them with manna from heaven.  It was to be gathered daily.  Some tried to gather tomorrow’s portion today so that they would not have to gather tomorrow.  God says six days shall you work and one day shall you rest and so on every day but the Sabbath, God caused the manna that was gathered early to get worms in it.  I’m sure if some enterprising Israelite could have discovered a way to keep the manna from spoiling, to allow it to be stored for several days, he would have had a very marketable product, especially to those who were simply too lazy or too busy doing other things to get their food every day.

This is exactly what we see if we look more closely at the foods offered in the grocery store and how they got there.  Jesus prayed, “Give us this day our daily bread.”  God designed the wheat kernel, as well as other grains to perfectly store the nutrients within.  Once broken open, as in milling, the nutrients immediately begin to oxidize.  Within about 72 hours 90% of over 30 nutrients are virtually gone.

Prior to the 1900s most flour was milled locally and the bread baked at home. Since the flour could not be stored, only enough grain was ground fresh each day to meet the needs of the community.  This meant that just about every family was “gathering” their manna daily.  However, in the 1920s new technology allowed enterprising millers to separate the wheat components.  By removing the germ, germ oil, and the bran the remaining white flour could be stored indefinitely.  This began to eliminate the need for local milling and people began to relinquish their own responsibility of preparing their bread daily.

Lucrative markets were also found for the nutritious “by-products” of this new milling process.  The bran and wheat germ were sold as high protein food supplements for cattle.  Local mills soon went out of business as the large roller mills produced huge volumes of long lasting white flour.

This appeared to be a great advance in technology.  In just a short time, however, cases of beriberi and pellagra began to drastically increase.  Both of these diseases are the result of vitamin B deficiencies and health officials traced the problem to the new white flour.  The new milling process strips the B vitamins as well as about 24 other nutrients from the wheat kernels.

Health officials urged mills to return to producing whole wheat flour again but they did not want to lose their very profitable market of selling the germ and bran as cattle feed.  Instead, millers chose to “enrich” the white flour by replacing 4 vitamins for the 25-30 that are removed.  This solved the problem of beriberi and pellagra; however, we are now plagued with many diseases that are directly related to our consumption of white flour (appendicitis, diverticular disease, hiatal hernia, heart disease, diabetes, obesity and more!).

Our willingness to be free of the responsibility of preparing our bread daily has now put the control of what we feed our families into the hands of huge food companies with one goal in mind – MONEY.  As we shop for our food we get to choose from what someone with only profit in mind is offering.

What can we do now? “… Thus saith the Lord of host: Consider your ways. Ye have sown much, and bring in little; ye eat, but you do not have enough; ye drink, but ye are not filled with drink; ye clothe yourselves, but there is none warm; and he that earneth wages earneth wages to put it into a bag with holes. Thus saith the Lord of host: Consider your ways.”  Haggai 1:5-7  We as women must consider our ways and turn our hearts back towards home.  We must be willing to reclaim the ground that we have relinquished to others.  There are actually many” holes in our bags” where we have lost control.  I wish to focus on one that I think is key.  I call it The Bread of Idleness…….

“She looketh well to the ways of her household and eateth not the bread of idleness.” Proverbs 31:27

Upon first reading the verse I almost laughed.  Who could be idle with children, home-schooling, laundry, a husband and a home business?  The list could go on and I can honestly say I don’t think there is ever an idle moment in our house – or is there?  A further study of this verse was truly enlightening and opened my heart to some new truths.

The words “looketh well” come from a Hebrew word meaning “to lean forward”, “to peer into the distance” or “to observe, to wait”.  “Ways” means “a walk, or a step” and “household” means “family” with its roots coming from a word meaning “to build”.  “To build” called to mind a familiar verse from Proverbs.  “Every wise woman buildeth her house but the foolish plucketh it down with her hands.”  Proverbs 14:1

This wise woman that builds her house does so by looking ahead to see what lasting effect today’s activities may have on her future and the future of her family.  She ponders each step she must take in her walk with the Lord and in serving her family.  As she peers into the distance she is considering the future and outcome of her children.  She trains them accordingly.  She does not worry about tomorrow but certainly plans her steps as she observes and waits on the Lord’s direction.

Considering the foolish woman of Proverbs 14 caused me to wonder what makes one foolish.  I know that God’s word says that it is bound in the heart of a child.  Considering the behavior of my own children shed great light on the answer to this question.  Basically children’s one desire is for the “pleasure of the moment”.

All their decisions, actions or reactions, and thoughts are based on obtaining this “pleasure”.  They can not really think about “tomorrow” or future consequences.  They want what they want and they want it now!

The foolish woman, for the pleasure of the moment, is tearing down her house with her own hands.  The wise woman of Proverbs 31 does not eat the bread of idleness but this foolish woman consumes it.  The word “idle” means to “lean idle, having no value, use, or significance”.  The root of the word “idle” means “to burn or shine” either in the sense of “only apparent” or “burned out”.   “Bread” is “food, especially grain for making it”.  Another word for idleness is indolence.  Indolence means “disliking or avoiding work”.

We can not afford to be indolent any longer.  We must carefully consider the activities in our lives.  Are they pleasures of the moment that can masquerade as any worthwhile cause?  We must honestly ask ourselves do we merely have the “appearance” of being very busy.  Are we “burned out” because much of what we do (or don’t do) is for the pleasure of the moment (either mine or someone else’s) and has no real value or significance?  Can we look at our day’s accomplishments and say as God did “It is good”?  Are we tempted to work on the seventh day because we are not satisfied with our weeks’ work?

Can we see that women have relinquished much of the homeward responsibilities and that the milling of grains and baking of bread was left to others because it freed them (and men) up to do other things.  These “other things”, unfortunately have taken us more and more out of the home.  The food products in the stores are there because America wants fast and easy.  “We just don’t have time to cook anymore.”

I am here to tell you, however, that the food we eat is the “bread” of our own idleness.  For the pleasures of the moment we now have sickness in our land in giant proportions.  God has not sent these judgments on us, rather we have brought them on ourselves by altering His provisions designed to perfectly nourish our bodies.  Many of the foods we now eat for convenience are literally making us sick because they are devoid of the fiber and the nutrients that are essential to our health.  Yet, vital life-giving whole foods are available.

With the purchase of a grain mill and the baking of our own bread we began to discover many of these whole foods and their benefits.  We began to see many positive results – constipation relieved, warts disappeared and a considerable decrease in our cravings for sweets.  This led to our virtually eliminating white sugar from our home.  The use of our grain mill opened the door to unlimited possibilities.  It brought joy and creativity back to food preparation.  Now after 5 years we have seen tremendous health improvements.  We have not been to the doctor for an illness nor have any of us had to take antibiotics in more than 3 1/2 years.  With 7 children (ages 16 yrs -2 month), this is a blessing and testimony of God’s perfect provision.  God has the answer to the health care crisis!

“And Jesus said unto them, I am the bread of life; he that cometh to me shall never hunger and he that believeth on me shall never thirst.” (John 6:35)  As Jesus is the very beginning and source of our spiritual life, we believe that bread -real bread – should be the foundation of sustaining our physical lives.

“Give us this day our daily bread” – If God is willing to provide, are you willing to “gather and prepare”?

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