Bread, real bread, has very few ingredients. Flour, water, salt and yeast. When you are talking about true sourdough bread, the yeast itself is made of flour and water, so in the end, there are only three ingredients! 

This section explores these basic ingredients - and some of the variations within them.

Of course, it's possible to neglect another ingredient without which bread could not be made at all - heat. Even the original sourdough breads, possibly made accidentally from fermented porridge left to bake on a hot rock in the sun, still required heat to create the transformation from porridge to bread.

When viewed this way, then, bread is a transformative process requiring four ingredients - and these ingredients are the elements to create this transformation.

Heat, or the element of fire; flour, or the element air, (as it's the protein transformed to gluten which holds the air); water (self explanatory), and salt, or the element earth. So sourdough is truly Elemental bread

You can add lots of other ingredients to bread, and it would be possible to fill this section up with many more than I have chosen here. However, in the name of simplicity and focus, I won't be discussing the multitudes of other ingredients here. It's the elements of bread that are important. Everything else are just accessories.

Rye Flour

Written by Warwick Quinton. Posted in Flours

 

rye grain  illustration

Rye is one of those grains that bakers in Australia don't really understand. Apparently farmers don't either, because we have a very different soil topology here to where rye comes from in Central Europe. Thus, our rye flour is quite harsh by comparison with the european's offering, according to german bakers who have worked extensively with rye. We also have less grades of rye flour too - ours tends to be quite coarse, and so it's  difficult to make a lighter rye bread with what's available domestically.

Wheat Flours Explained

Written by Warwick Quinton. Posted in Flours

 Wheat is the second most commonly cultivated grain on earth - and it's used for everything from alcohol production to our humble loaf of bread.

The wheat we grow today has its origins in the middle east emmer wheat, which has been shown to have been cultivated for over 10,000 years.

Like all things agricultural, wheat has been constantly hybridised and refined to produce countless varieties, suitable for many different geographical regions and uses over the centuries.

Today's wheats are high yielding, and designed for quite specific soil types. In some ways, they are a triumph of agricultural method - after all, we have about seven billion people to feed on this little planet, and quite frankly we couldn't do it without the millenia of practice that has gone into the production of wheat.

There has been quite a lot of talk lately about wheat free diets and so on - which is fine for the first world - and not taking into account the nutritional benefits of sourdough bread - but in the end, wheat is the grain we have developed for possibly ten millenia to feed an ever growing population. Sure, we may be using too much wheat in our diet, but compared to other grains (like rice), wheat is definitely more sustainable. You think not? I suspect your definition of 'sustainable' may be different to mine. Wheat, in one form or another, has been cultivated by humans as an integral part of our diet for almost as long as we have walked the earth.

Spelt Flours

Posted in Flours

Many of us are shifting away from wheat and on to spelt flour. We're using spelt because we've been advised to use no wheat at all. It doesn't seem to be used as a 'blending' flour - we are using spelt flour because we have to. That's a bit of a shame, because spelt flour makes a lovely additive to regular breads. It's quite expensive, though. Certainly, making spelt bread at home will be economical compared to buying store bought spelt bread.

Once you get used to working with it, lovely breads will result.

There are four common grades of spelt flour, which can usually be found at your local health food store:

  • Wholemeal - this means that only the husk has been removed, so there is a lot of bran left in the flour. This is suitable for wholemeal breads, which will be heavier and tastier than their white counterparts.
  • 80/20 - which is essentially wholemeal less about 20% of the bran. So it's a bit lighter, and very workable in terms of the home baker. This flour will yield quite light dough, with lots of flavour, but with all the heavy duty bran removed. You would still call this flour a wholemeal flour though.
  • Light Unbleached - now we're getting towards white spelt flour. Essentially, this flour is 20/80, or 80% of the bran removed. A very nice general purpose breadmaking flour, still with a good amount of flavour, but with the ability to be used for producing fairly light breads and even pastries. Still imparts a very 'wholemeal' feel to the bread. It definitely isn't 'light'.
  • White - nearly all the bran removed, this is still a very flavoursome spelt flour. Suitable for fairly light breads, and depending on the country of origin and the quality of the spelt, is capable of making excellent bread. I have found that so far, USA grown and milled spelt is a far supeior product to the locally sourced varieties.

Why Spelt?

Posted in Flours

What is Spelt, and why would I want to use it?

I'm assuming that you've heard a bit about spelt already - and you probably already know that it's been cultivated since Roman times and possibly a whole lot earlier, a kind of prototype of modern wheat. If you've done more than a smidgin of research, you'll also know that it's quite possible that spelt is actually a hybrid of wild goat grass and emmer wheat. So it has direct links to native species of grass - it's actually been around since before we figured out how to cultivate things. This makes it old, old, old. Deserves respect, the time of day and all that.

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