The Scoop on Grains: Our Sourdough Adventure Continues!

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You’ve probably gathered that I’ve been experimenting with sourdough for the last few months.

I’ve made my own bread and baked goods from fresh-ground flour for years, and I’ve been aware of the benefits of soaking or sprouting it for several years also. In January, I decided we needed to try switching all instead of just part of our grains to soaked and/or sprouted, mainly because of my husband’s struggle with psoriasis, but I was hopeful it would be beneficial for the rest of us also. I started experimenting with converting my everyday bread recipe, and before long I decided to try my hand with sourdough.

Did you know that sourdough bread is much lower on the glycemic index than typical bread products, is easier to digest, and that the fermentation process makes essential trace minerals and elements more bioavailable? Most of us have some trouble digesting grains, whether we realize it or not, and sourdough provides a great alternative to giving up grain altogether. If you or anyone in your family has allergies of any type, or has any metabolic or autoimmune issues, this is something you should seriously look into!

Eight months later we’re still going strong with it, and we’re definitely seeing health improvements! We’ve replaced all our baked goods – even cakes, cookies, and other goodies – with sourdough versions. I just can’t believe the versatility! I knew you could make bread, biscuits, and pancakes, but over the last several months I’ve also made sourdough pie crust, cake, cookies, and even donuts!

Delicious Sourdough Chocolate Chip Cookies

Delicious sourdough chocolate chip cookies!

Apple pie with a sourdough crust.

Apple pie with a sourdough crust.

The only disadvantage I’ve found is the length of time it takes the sourdough bread to rise. The wild yeasts are bit more unpredictable than when you’re baking with commercial yeast. Sometimes my bread rises in only a few hours (which decreases the positive health benefits of the fermentation), and other times it takes two or three times as long. When I’m running errands and in and out during the day, it’s easy to miss the peak and end up with deflated loaves. To get around this issue, I’ve been making regular bread less frequently and we’ve been using English muffins and biscuits for most of our sandwich and bread needs. They’re quick and easy to make, super versatile, and there’s no worries about the rise time.

Beautiful sourdough loaves

Beautiful sourdough loaves

Rather than reinventing the wheel with my own explanation of the benefits of sourdough, I’ve compiled some of my favorite links here so you can investigate them for yourself. If you’re concerned about the negative impact of grains on your health but don’t want to give them up completely, sourdough may be your answer! And it’s not near as intimidating as you would think. I’ve worked my way through the Sourdough eCourse at GNOWFGLINS and *highly* recommend it!

Links on the health benefits of sourdough:

Some of my favorite sourdough recipes:

Again, I can’t recommend taking an online course that guides you through the process highly enough! I’ve found the GNOWFGLINS course invaluable, the free videos at Cultures for Health are fantastic, and I’ve heard great things about Cheeseslave’s course also.

More resources:

Sourdough is worth investigating! Don’t be intimidated, give it a try!

Click here for more “The Scoop on Grains” posts. 

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The Scoop on Grains: Experimenting With Soaking My Bread Dough

I’m going to take a break from focusing on specific grains to explore the technique of soaking grains. Some advocate simply fresh-ground grain as the healthiest option, while others insist grain is unhealthy no matter what form it’s in and should be virtually eliminated from our diets. I fall in the middle ground here. I definitely think nearly everyone will benefit from greatly reducing grain consumption, but I’m not convinced it’s necessary to eliminate them completely. Using quality fresh-ground whole grains and soaking, sprouting, or fermenting those grains seems like the best route to me at this point.

I’ve discussed before why soaked grains are better for us and easier to digest, so I won’t rehash it all here. I’m also including links for additional information at the end of this post.

I’ve done a lot of soaked grains for things like pancakes, muffins, and quick breads. I’ve tried it with my everyday bread recipe a few times, but haven’t made it a priority. But, it’s become more and more apparent that grain and/or gluten affects my husband’s psoriasis and probably other lesser issues in the rest of us, and the more I research it, the more convinced I become that soaking, fermenting, and sprouting grains are the healthiest options. So, I’ve renewed my efforts to soak all our grains, including adapting my everyday bread recipe.

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Is Your Flour Wet? A FREE Recipe Ebook on Soaking Grains

Several months ago I had the opportunity to contribute to a new recipe ebook put together by Katie at Kitchen Stewardship, featuring over 40 recipes plus information about the benefits of soaking grains. I’ve finally been able to get it set up so that my readers can download a copy.  I’m happy to be able to offer this FREE for you! There are some great recipes here and very helpful information about the health benefits of soaking your grains. Soaking grains increases it’s nutritional value and digestability for everyone and is especially beneficial for anyone with suspected gluten or wheat sensitivity or autoimmune issues. Click on the picture to be taken to a page where you can view and download this wonderful resource.



I’ll be discussing more about the benefits of soaking grains in the very near future; in the meantime, enjoy the free book and browse through a few of my favorite soaked grain recipes:

  • Simply Scrumptious Blender Oat Pancakes
  • Delicious Baked Oatmeal
  • Simple Blender Waffles
  • Super Simple & Flavorful Brown Rice
  • Popcorn Cornbread 
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    The Scoop on Grains: Spelt

    It’s been awhile since my last “Scoop on Grains” post. Last time, we talked about kamut, an ancient grain that makes a great alternative to ordinary wheat. This time, we’ll talk about another ancient grain, spelt.

    Spelt has been around since biblical times (check out Exodus 9:32, Isaiah 28:25, and Ezekiel 4:9). It was very prominent in early medieval Europe and is still used abundantly there, especially in Switzerland, Germany, and Austria. It was initially brought to the United States by Swiss immigrants, and was used primarily as horse feed until the early part of the twentieth century! A food production company finally began producing it for human consumption after receiving demands from European immigrants.

    Unlike ordinary wheat, spelt tolerates poorly drained, low fertility soils and thrives without chemical intervention or fertilizer. It requires a minimum of care, isn’t susceptible to typical grain diseases, and outproduces oats and wheat in most soil, making it a desirable crop.

    Many people who suffer from wheat intolerances and allergies are able to eat spelt just fine. It’s higher in protein, fat, and fiber than ordinary wheat…in fact, it can fulfill human daily protein requirements! It’s also high in B vitamins, potassium, and iron; and it’s ratio of complex to simple carbohydrates avoids causing blood sugar spikes and drops, making it ideal for diabetics and hypoglycemics.

    Spelt is also highly bioavailable. Unlike wheat, where the vital nutrients are found in the outer hull and wheat germ bud, spelt’s nutritional value lies in the inner kernel of the grain. Some theorize that this is why those who have trouble with wheat and gluten can tolerate spelt (which does contain gluten!): it’s so easily digested that it doesn’t irritate the intestinal villi. There are multiple other health claims about spelt, from it’s benefits for indigestion and nausea to preventing cancer.

    I use spelt in rotation with kamut and wheat for my bread and other baked goods. It has a pleasant, nutty flavor and adds a nutritional punch to anything! As I’ve mentioned before, I think using a variety of grains lessens the chance of becoming sensitized to any particular one, plus each one has unique nutritional benefits! I use spelt alone or in combination with other grains in nearly any recipe that calls for flour. Some of my favorites with spelt have been:

    If you’ve used spelt, what has it worked well in for you?
    I’ll be sharing more about other lesser-known whole grains in the future. In the meantime, don’t miss the rest of the series:
    Grains of Truth, Using Whole Grains the Easy Way


    You may also want to check out the book  Grains of Truth, Using Whole Grains the Easy Way by Donna Spann for a wealth of information about all types of grains. It’s one of the main sources I’ve used for this series of posts. 

    The Scoop on Grains: Kamut

    Don’t worry, I haven’t forgotten my “Scoop on Grains” series! In past weeks, I’ve shared my family’s journey and we’ve discussed whole grains in general: their history and health benefits, and then moved on to look specifically at wheat. This time I want to take a brief look at kamut. In future weeks, we’ll continue looking at different types of whole grains.

    Kamut is one of the most ancient grains. It originated in the Fertile Crescent and is probably a distant relative of our modern durum wheat (durum is the wheat generally used for pastas). The wheat in biblical times may have actually been more like kamut than our present common varieties of wheat. It was rediscovered and transplanted to America in 1949.

    In 1949, a US airman stationed in Portugal was given 36 grains of kamut, said to have come from Egypt (some say it was found in a tomb!). He sent them to his father, a wheat farmer in Montana, who planted them. Thirty-two of the kernels germinated, producing more than 1500 bushels of the grain in less than six years. They were shown at a county fair as “King Tut’s Grain”, but the novelty soon wore off and the kamut was sold as cattle feed.

    In 1977, Bob Quinn, a plant biochemist, remembered seeing the wheat at the county fair when he was young. He managed to collect a pint of the grain and began to do research on it. The results were promising, and by 1987 his family began producing the grain commercially.

    Kamut is genetically part of the wheat family, yet it is tolerated by many people who can’t tolerate wheat. It’s 20-40% higher in protein than ordinary wheat, slightly higher in 8 of 9 minerals, considerably higher in magnesium and zinc, up to 65% higher in amino acids, and significantly higher in all the major fatty acids. Because of the higher protein and fat content, it’s considered a higher energy food, although it’s highly digestible compared to ordinary wheat.

    The kernels are significantly larger than ordinary wheat, and a lighter, yellow color. The baked goods produced by kamut are lighter in both color and texture than ordinary wheat, a plus for those who are used to white flour rather than whole grain.

    It can be used just like wheat in any recipe, substituting cup for cup. It has a unique, “buttery” taste and works well for both yeast and quick breads, but I especially like it for cookies and muffins. I’ve also been told that it makes excellent, light pasta.

    Our family really enjoys kamut in a variety of items, from our favorite muffins and waffles to our ordinary yeast bread. We use kamut in a rotation with regular wheat and spelt, or I sometimes use it half and half. I mentioned before that rotating the types of grains your family eats is a good safeguard against developing intolerances or allergies. Kamut is a bit pricier than ordinary wheat, but not as expensive as spelt. I’ve ordered it both from Bob’s Red Mill and Breadbeckers.

    Here are a few recipes that have worked great with kamut for me:

    Try it in your favorite cookie or muffin recipe and see what you think!

    Next we’ll take a look at spelt, another great substitute for ordinary wheat.

    In the meantime, don’t miss the rest of the series:

  •  My Journey Part 1
  • My Journey Part 2
  • How Did We Get Here? (A Brief History of Whole Grains)
  • Whole Grains: Nutritionally Speaking
  • Wheat: Hard, Soft, Red, White, What’s the Difference?
  • The Scoop on Grains: Wheat-Hard, Soft, Red, White, What’s the Difference?

    Wheat. When the subject of whole grains comes up, this is the one that comes to most people’s minds. This week I want to delve a little bit into the characteristics of wheat. What is it’s history? What are the nutritional benefits? What are the different varieties and how should they be used?

    History
    Wheat is thought to be the oldest cultivated grain for human consumption. It may well have been the first crop, originating in the Fertile Crescent, and was an important food in ancient Israel and Egypt. The Egyptians in particular made baking into a fine art, especially once they discovered that the yeast produced in beer brewing would leaven bread dough. Eventually, they became the “bread basket of the Roman Empire”. Breweries and bakeries were often found side by side. The Hebrews, on the other hand, were the first to use the sourdough process. Phoenician sailors introduced Egyptian breadmaking to Greece. The Greeks eventually passed it on to the Romans, who were the first to establish baking schools and develop rotary milling stones.  Bakers were afforded such high status that they were exempt from military service and the Roman government provided each baker’s family a house. More than a livelihood, it was a family heritage. A baker’s child was required to marry another baker’s child.

    No part went unused:

    “The sheaves were woven into thatch and served as roofs and lacings for sandals. The canes of the stalk were used to keep stoves going and provide winter heat. The wheat berry itself was roasted as a cereal, boiled as a soup, braised as a stew with meat and vegetables and crushed into flour for bread. Talk about versatile!” (p. 114, Grains of Truth)

    Later Columbus carried wheat to the West Indies and Cortez introduced it to Mexico. English colonization brought wheat to the shores of North America, Australia, and Africa. The first colonists to Virginia and Massachusetts brought it,  but it didn’t thrive in the eastern climate and didn’t become an important crop here in North America until westward expansion.

    Due to mechanization, wheat farming is much more efficient now than in years past. Preparing, planting, and harvesting a single acre of wheat took more than sixty-four hours 100 years ago, today it requires three. As a result, wheat is a staple for nearly 50% of the world’s population and more of the world’s cultivated acreage (about 70%) is devoted to growing wheat than any other crop! It’s universally prized for it’s high gluten content, which produces light textured yeast breads (you may recall our discussion of gluten’s role in this).

    Nutrition
    We recently discussed the three parts all whole grains have in common: bran, germ, and endosperm. A wheat berry is, of course, made up of these three parts, and is rich in nutrients. In fact, of the 44 known essential nutrients needed by the human body, wheat is lacking only four: vitamins A, B12, and C and the mineral iodine!

    Varieties and Uses
    Until I began my journey into the world of fresh-ground whole grains, I never realized there was more to it than simply choosing white flour or “whole wheat” flour. As I began to learn more, I was confronted with an array of options: hard red, hard white, soft white, pastry flour. It can all get very confusing!

    Here are the basics:

    • Spring and Winter refer to the time of year the seed is planted.
    • Hard and Soft refer to the volume of gluten in the grain’s cellular structure.
    • Hard wheat is higher in protein and gluten, lower in moisture, and absorbs liquid easily; it’s considered the ideal variety for yeast breads. 
    • Soft wheat is lower in protein and gluten, higher in starch, and more malleable. It’s grown mainly in the South and Midwest and works best for non-yeast quick breads. When you see a recipe calling for “pastry flour”, it’s referring to flour made from soft wheat.
    • Red and White refer to the color of the berry, which indicates more or less fiber and bran. Red wheat has a stronger, heartier flavor and tends to produce a a somewhat denser, coarser bread than white wheat. 
    • Graham flour is simply coarsely ground winter wheat.

    I use a mixture of hard red and white wheat for my yeast bread, and soft white for other baked goods, alternating with lesser-known varieties like kamut and spelt. For more information, I highly recommend both Grains of Truth, Using Whole Grains the Easy Way by Donna Spann and Sue Gregg’s Baking With Whole Grains and Breakfasts  cookbooks. In the coming weeks, we’ll look at some of the less commonly known varieties of whole grains and how they can be used.

    In the meantime, make sure you’ve read the rest of this series and enjoy a few of my favorite soaked grain recipes (most of which can be made with a simple household blender):

  •  My Journey Part 1
  • My Journey Part 2
  • How Did We Get Here? (A Brief History of Whole Grains)
  • Whole Grains: Nutritionally Speaking
  • Bread Baking With Fresh Ground Flour 101 (my step-by-step tutorial for how I make my bread)
  • Bread Baking Resources…Getting Started
  • My Nutrimill
  • Simply Scrumptious Blender Oat Pancakes
  • Delicious Baked Oatmeal
  • Simple Blender Waffles
  • Super Simple & Flavorful Brown Rice
  • Popcorn Cornbread