It’s 4:00 am. I’m lying awake in my bed, thinking about making bread.
It all started several months ago when I read Michael Pollan’s book, Cooked. In it, he learns to bake bread from Chad Robertson, who learned it from a Frenchman living in New England, who learned it from a Frenchman in France.
Anyway, Michael Pollan shares Chad’s basic country loaf recipe in his book that goes back to France, and produces quite possibly the most miraculous object to spring out of your home oven. Take a look- crunchy crust and soft chewy crumb, with tastes of sour, sweet and nutty all at once.
I forewarn you, it takes 3 days to prepare this bread, and another week, at least, to build what’s called a starter. But it’s worth it. For me it’s therapy, as well as a pleasure to serve it to my family and friends. There is a decent recipe on Martha Stewart’s site but If you’re a purist I recommend you buy Cooked, and for the holy grail, Tartine, by Chad Robertson.
Why this bread is healthier
Traditionally, there are only 4 ingredients in the healthiest breads- whole grain flour, water, salt and natural leaven, (more on leaven now). Besides using the best grains you can find, organic stone ground whole wheat, organic unbleached white flour, and organic whole rye flour, this bread is made with a natural starter and leavan that consists of water, flour and the wild bacteria and yeast that live in your kitchen and produce fermentation. This is the way humans had made bread before Wonder showed up and stole the show, while losing the health benefits and flavor. Fermentation makes the nutrients in the bread more available and digestible. People who eat whole grains generally have less chronic disease, and weigh less.
What about the gluten?
Because of the fermentation that goes on with the starter and leavan, the gluten is partially digested so your body doesn’t get overwhelmed with too much, which many people have an intolerance too.
Where can I get it if I don’t make it?
Look for bread with 4 ingredients- whole grain flour & unbleached white flour, water, salt, and natural leaven, (starter or yeast starter). A company called Bread Alone makes it and is available in NY, NJ and Conn. Search online for sourdough bread or natural leavened, fermented bread and you’ll find a local source.