Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Wheat and Yeast

Here are a few thoughts on bread making...

I like Wikipedia's comment, "Yeast microbes are probably one of the earliest domesticated organisms." I thought of how my sister-in-law named her sourdough starter, and I talk about "feeding" my starter!

Leavened bread is documented at least 5,000 years ago in ancient Egypt. Until the late 1700s and into the 1800s all bread was leavened with wild yeast (sourdough starter, or by-product of fermenting beverages) and only at that point did commercially produced and packaged yeast become available. Old time cookbooks included beer and bread making recipes together, as the beer yeast was the most reliable form of yeast for light and tasty bread.

I have been enjoying delving into the "how" and "why" of bread making as time allows, and have done some online research about ingredients and processes, as well as working my way through Peter Reinhart's excellent book, The Bread Baker's Apprentice.

Ready to rise

Kaiser rolls for sandwiches

English Muffins
I have married a very thankful and appreciative man, and when he thanks God for providing our food, and the abundant variety we have available to us, before every meal, it helps me see the process of nourishing our bodies in a new light. I see God's provision and blessing in the whole process of bread making. There are only four basic ingredients needed for bread: flour, water, yeast and salt. Wheat is an ideal ingredient for leavened bread; it is full of the potential for developing elastic-y gluten. Yeast is a happy little organism that feeds in that glutinous dough, producing the gases to make all the little air bubbles so that we can have light, soft bread. Salt was given as a preservative to prevent our food from spoiling quickly by slowing the growth of unwanted bacteria and it is also a wonderful flavor enhancer! In bread we want the flavor, but must be careful in how it is combined with the yeast, to stop it from "preserving" our wheat from the growth of the yeast!

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