Monday, December 6, 2004

Fermenting grains
(for food, not drink - we're not that Reformed!)

Alexandra asked about "sponging bread" in the post below. Making a bread sponge before baking is the really old fashioned way to do it. It's the way Ma made bread in the Little House on the Prairie books, and I always just assumed it was something you did if you didn't have any yeast, but it turns out that it actually increases the bread's nutrition. Let me explain. To make a bread sponge, you put flour and milk or buttermilk into a bowl , and let it soak overnight, or at least 12 hours. The next day, you mix into the sponge the rest of the ingredients (yeast, salt, honey, butter, etc.) and begin kneading in the rest of the flour, then let it rise another two hours or so before shaping and baking.

Whole grains have phytic acid in the bran layer, the part that gets stripped off in order to make white flour or white rice, which combines with various minerals and makes them difficult to absorb. They also have enzyme inhibitors which are built-in preservatives, keeping the grain from decomposing as long as it is kept dry. Soaking grains for seven hours or longer in water along with milk, yogurt, or yeast, neutralizes both the phytic acid and the enzyme inhibitors, which means that the good healthy whole grains you eat don't cause you to be deficient in minerals, plus it allows the grain to begin producing beneficial enzymes which "increases the amounts of vitamins in the grain, especially B vitamins (Nourishing Traditions, by Sally Fallon, p. 453)."

I usually have to eat lots of protein for breakfast since carbs tend to make me need a nap, but Kelly has been making porridge for breakfast almost every morning and I'm finding that a bowl of porridge is very filling and I don't have blood sugar trouble with it. Porridge is just oatmeal that's been soaked overnight in warm water plus a little milk or yogurt, then soaked overnight. In the morning, you just add some more water or milk, and cook it for a few minutes. We've been sweetening it with sorghum, which is delicious and much better for you than brown sugar.

Update on the Christmas Ball preparations:
I have officially reached the panic stage.

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