I’m trying something new for sourdough quarantine baking: pumpkin cinnamon rolls. The two cans were the perfect amount. Because the filling is wetter than regular cinnamon rolls, the unrisen rolls are droopy. I don’t think it will matter, but I’ll see! I intend to eat these for breakfast, so they are healthier, too: less sugar, basted with melted vegan butter, but none in the dough or spread on the rolled out sections.
I’m reading news reports about the disappearance of baking yeast in many grocery stores. If you keep a #sourdough culture, you never need to buy baking yeast. You even can convert quick bread and related baking recipes to sourdough versions!
My book, “Wild Bread,” explains how to capture your own sourdough culture in your own home and care for it. It also explains how to convert baking yeast recipes and quick bread recipes to sourdough versions. I have had my sourdough starter for 25 years! You can purchase my book, “Wild Bread,” in Kindle form if you want an instant download to avoid possible coronavirus exposure. Of course, paper copies are also available from Amazon and lisarayner.com. My friend Dan runs lisarayner.com.
A brief essay on making substitutions for sourdough baking if you’re living in a state with shelter-in-place or stay-at-home orders: I ran out of semolina due to other people’s panic buying because of the pandemic. I’m at high risk for coronavirus complications so I’m avoiding shopping in stores. I was going through my food storage and realized I had blue corn atole, a type of roasted cornmeal. It works perfectly well for dusting pans. I also have some garbanzo flour and teff grain in my freezer. I have started adding small amounts of one or the other to each sourdough bread loaf to stretch out my supplies and spread out consumption of extra nutrients to maintain my health. I’m using olive oil to oil pans because I have more olive oil on hand than other oils and fats.
You can purchase my book, “Wild Bread,” in Kindle form if you want an instant download to avoid possible coronavirus exposure. Of course, paper copies are also available from Amazon and lisarayner.com. My friend Dan runs lisarayner.com and runs a considerably more sanitary operation than Amazon warehouses are experiencing right now. He only has one employee.
My gardening book, “Growing Food in the Southwest Mountains,” has a chapter on food substitutions—how to use local and home grown ingredients in place of imported foods. A sustainable future will require a relocalization of food systems based on small farms with permaculture polycultures.
Nationally-known cookbook author and food writer Lorna Sass interviewed me on Feb. 21, 2010. See Part I, Part II, and Part III.
I’m wearing one of my handwoven tunics. In this second video I talk about how I became a vegetarian in college. I later interned for Farm Sanctuary taking undercover videos in Pennsylvania stockyards. Watching the horrific abuse made me a vegan. I also talk about my early effort to write a cookbook based on foods that grow well at high elevation. Finding a word-processor in a dumpster was a big help to creating the first edition of my book, Growing Food in the Southwest Mountains (now in its fourth edition). I also discuss how I became interested in baking sourdough bread. I explain the feeding schedule for my sourdough starter and show off my Lehman’s grain grinder
Flatbread is the most flavorful kind of sourdough. That’s because there is a high crust-to-bread ratio. It’s also fast to bake. When the sourdough culture has been fed flour and water several times and is ready for baking, I first save 8 oz of the culture in it’s storage jar, feed it more flour and water, and let it sit on the countertop for an hour. Then I add salt, water and my hand ground whole wheat flour to the dough and knead for about five minutes. When I make flatbread, I give the dough a bench rest to relax the gluten. Then I flatten it out and moisten the top with olive oil using wet hands. To prevent pita pockets from forming I use my Uzbeki bread stamp to poke holes in the dough after it has risen and bake the bread. My Kindle edition of “Wild Bread” is only $9.99. Also, I now have a YouTube channel. More free videos forthcoming!
My book, “Wild Bread: Handbaked sourdough artisan breads in your own kitchen” is now available on Kindle. Amazon is supposed to link the Kindle edition to the paper edition within the next 48 hours. You can buy the spiral-bound paper version here.
In this three-minute silent video, Lisa Rayner, author of “Wild Bread – Handbaked Sourdough Artisan Breads in Your Own Kitchen,” demonstrates how to knead the dough for whole wheat sourdough bread. Visit Amazon to purchase my new Kindle version. The link below takes you to the paper version. Use my index and search box below left to look up sourdough blog posts.
A loaf of my whole wheat sourdough flatbread stamped with a bread stamp I bought from Uzbekistan. I bought the stamp on Etsy. Bread stamps prevent flatbreads from developing pockets like pita bread.; it’s the same principal as when I use a fork to keep pizza crust flat. You stamp the bread after it has risen, right before you bake it. Central Asian bread stamps are particularly artistic and come in many different designs, often with a floral look.
Top two photos: a baked loaf of my whole wheat sourdough bread that was overproofed before baking. Bottom photo: A loaf bread baked from perfectly-proofed dough.
I always set my portable kitchen timer when I am preheating the oven to ensure that the sourdough does not overproof. However, in this case, either Dan or I absentmindedly turned off the alarm. I was busy with another activity and forgot about the rising dough until about 20 minutes after the alarm probably went off. I blame it on too much multitasking (you think?).
I caught the overproofed loaf just in time. It had risen about an inch and a half higher than it should be before it is baked. I immediately put it in the oven to bake. It sunk a bit, but not as much as it could have had I not caught it when I did. As you can see from the middle photo, the final texture turned out fine, despite the overproofing.
The first few minutes of baking create an explosion of steam that creates “oven spring,” a very important part of good bread baking. If the bread is overproofed, the oven spring will cause the dough to rise beyond the ability of the gluten web to hold it together, causing the dough to collapse. Inexperienced bread bakers often wait too long before putting bread dough in the oven to bake. When in doubt, underproof.
These photos show hard red wheat being ground into flour in my grain mill for making my sourdough breads.
Wheat flour has a number of characteristics that affect the quality of bread. These characteristics produce breads with different textures, flavors and degree of rise. Gluten quality is one of these characteristics.
Hard high-protein flour is bread flour, while soft low-protein flour is pastry flour. Bread flour contains up to 14–18% protein. Spelt is also relatively hard. Softer wheats range from 6.5–11 percent protein and are used for pastries and quick breads. All-purpose flour is a blend of hard and soft wheat.
The protein content and quality of wheat is directly related to the development of gluten—the long, flexible, rubbery strands of protein that form the structure of bread dough, creating millions of tiny air pockets that fill with the carbon dioxide gas produced by yeast. While gluten is a type of protein, not all of the proteins found in wheat link together to form gluten. Protein molecules are composed of linked chains of amino acids. Gluten is composed of two amino acids, glutenin and gliadin. When water is mixed into wheat flour, the water molecules link together with the glutenin and gliadin to create gluten.
The ratio of glutenin to gliadin varies among different wheat species and varieties. Glutenin gives gluten its elastic strength. Gluten with a high proportion of glutenin is very difficult to stretch, like a tight new bungee cord. On the other hand, gliadin adds extensibility — it stretches easily. Gluten containing a higher percentage of gliadin can stretch farther without breaking, which allows it to capture bigger air bubbles, creating a lighter, fluffier texture in the finished bread. However, a very high ratio of gliadin to glutenin creates slack dough that cannot hold its shape without a pan.
Gluten high in glutenin is “strong.” Gluten high in gliadin is “weak.”
Hard common wheat and spelt have strong gluten. To make free form loaves of whole wheat artisan bread, you must use at least 75 percent hard wheat or spelt flour. However, many artisan bakers use softer or all-purpose flour if they use refined flour to make artisan breads, as too much gluten in white flour creates a dense crumb structure while softer wheats create the more open holes characteristic of artisan breads.
Durum (called semolina in it’s coarser form) is very high in glutenin and low in gliadin. This makes durum dough very “tight” and time-consuming to knead.
The ancient wheats (einkorn, emmer, kamut) tend to be high in gliadin, which makes them slack and less able to hold their shape without a loaf pan.