The only problem with having killed off the sourdough starter was that I still desperately needed to eat bread, real bread. There’s just no going back once you start eating proper bread. (Gentle reader, as an illustration, can I interject a little tale? One of the perks of working at the bakery is that I get to take a couple of loaves home for personal use. Normally, I like to take a loaf for someone at church. One Sunday, I gave a loaf to a friend who was moving into a new flat – a kind of house warming present. The following Sunday, she came to me with a beaming smile and said: “Oh, you know that loaf, it was soooo nice! Even Dylan [that’s her small son] who is so fussy about food and hardly eats bread ate it up and enjoyed it.” Now, she didn’t know the ins and outs of how the loaf was made but all she knew was that it was a loaf of bread with a difference.)
So, having already been long accustomed to that difference myself, not just the taste but even more so the health benefits, I had to find an equivalent to sourdough, albeit without the sourdough. And so began my foray into alternative breads that still have some of the value of traditional grain preparation methods.
When it comes to traditional grain preparation, sourdough is one spoke of a three pronged instrument: you have souring, soaking and sprouting. All three are beneficial and appropriate for use depending on what you have to work with and what you want to achieve.
For me, the most convenient option at that moment was soaking since it required nothing more than putting the grains or the flour to soak overnight in a slightly acidic medium. Now, these methods will never yield the type of open structured bread that you can get with using sourdough but in terms of taste, the results are nonetheless pleasing in their own right.
My initial efforts were with soaked grain recipes. This is where you soak the grain (i.e. the berries) overnight in a water/acidic medium, drain and rinse them, and then blend them with the other ingredients before baking. I tried Sophie’s ‘unbelievable bread using millet and qunoa’. Mine came out like this:
It was not as pretty as Sophies’s, and I don’ know how hers tasted but even though I like quinoa boiled the regular way like rice, I wasn’t too keen on the taste of it in bread form. Admittedly, Sophie did say that it didn’t taste like a true bread but that it was delicious in its own right.
I actually found it delicious with a topping of mashed ripe bananas, yogurt, raisins and almonds – not a great food combination for optimal digestion, I know, but it took this ‘bread’ up a notch on my taste rating scale.
I made another attempt at making the millet and quinoa bread but replaced the quinoa with rice. It didn’t rise very well and it even fell drastically once I took it out of the oven-a typical side effect, I imagine, of gluten free baking.
The texture was even less bread-like than my first attempt but it tasted okay. Altogether, it reminded me of pudding-the kind we make in Jamaica.
Now, gentle reader, my primary purpose for baking bread is that I can have something to eat, so I have not always been perfectly diligent in recording what I have done. On one of those less diligent recording days, I baked a soaked grain bread and it came out like this:
And this is the same bread turned right side up – not very appealing but still fairly tasty.
Then I tried a few recipes where I soaked the flour itself overnight. Of course, I was very limited in some ways because not every recipe calls for enough water to accomplish the soaking of already ground flour. But I did find a few where I was in fact able to soak the flour in yogurt, or in water with a tablespoon or two of apple cider vinegar. In such recipes, buttermilk, whey or kefir are also often suggested as media in which you can soak the flour but almost always, I used yogurt or water with cider vinegar.
One that I tried was Sarah’s picnic yogurt bread. Her recipe didn’t say to soak the flour but since it called for enough yogurt, I decided to add in the yogurt soak. I didn’t photograph that effort but suffice to say, I really enjoyed it. I made it one day during the summer when Lisa from Leominster came over to Hay and we actually went for a picnic in one of Hay’s many green areas. We each brought different foods and snacks, and we had several different toppings and spreads and dips that I thought went very well with the bread. (Gentle reader, no matter how busy life gets, it’s really important to take moments to stop and smell the roses.)
Dr. Mary Louise Rodio’s yeast-free bread recipe is another one I tried out. Her’s didn’t say to soak the flour either but again, I opted to add in the soak. It tasted fairly okay but I did struggle with the bread sticking terribly to the baking dish.
This is one of my soaked flour efforts; and if I remember correctly, it was a combination of several recipes all rolled into one:
It was a bit overdone but nice nonetheless. Here is the side view of the same bread:
The soaked flour breads tasted okay enough but nothing like sourdough breads, and I soon got bored of them. I looked for some more recipes and came across Ali and Tom’s gluten-free flat bread recipe made from soaked rice and millet. I’d actually had this recipe saved for a while but not tried it. Can I tell you, it truly is a pretty amazing little bread. I didn’t think much of it on the day it was baked . . .I thought it was okay but that’s it. But it really mellowed in flavour by the following day. Here it is . . . what was left of it by the time I remembered to get the camera out:
Now, gentle reader, you will remember that I told you failure is a precursor to success, and you would do well to remember that in relation to whatever tasks you have standing in front of you like extraordinarily tall hurdles.
One day, Alex gave me some Einkorn berries that were at the bakery. I decided to use them in a flat bread recipe. I used Al and Tom’s recipe, substituting the Einkorn for the rice. But first I sprouted them: it took about 3 days for the tiny sprouts to appear. The blender had a hard time of it grinding them down.
I wasn’t sure what to expect when the bread came out of the oven but I wasn’t quite expecting the awesome tasting treat that it turned out to be. It tasted fantastic! Maybe the fact that the berries had been sprouted made the huge difference. It was the best of all I had made so far. I cut them up into little squares as Al and Tom suggested:
I left two pieces of the bread as bigger slabs and made them into a toasted goat cheese sandwich, with raw veggies and a garlic/olive oil dressing. It was colourful and oh so tasty! A visual and gastronomic feast!
I was quite getting into this alternative bread baking thing. I was throwing together all and any grains and trying out a thing. This is one I decided to make with pearled spelt because I didn’t have regular spelt. It tasted nice toasted with selections of butter, honey and raw veggies.
All in all, I am looking forward to starting my sourdough starter again but until then, I’ll be dabbling in these soaked grain alternatives. There’s no telling what treasures will be unearthed along the way.