Monday, September 27, 2010

Just Loafin Around

Want to have a sandwich? A veggie burger? How about a nice crusty loaf with some bean soup? Bread is an essential part of the American diet, and, despite the stigma surrounding it, it can be a part of a healthy diet too.

There are a couple things when it comes to selecting bread in the grocery store. Most of us are pretty savvy to the fact that we want to choose things that are made from whole grains. Whole grains have fiber, vitamins and minerals, and help keep blood sugar balanced. Bear in mind that bread is often made from a mixture of whole and refined flours, the higher the percentage of whole grains the mix, the better. Also realize that wheat flour is not whole-wheat flour, so when you read this on the ingredient list it really means white flour.

Look to the list of ingredients and avoid items with high fructose corn syrup. Also be mindful that loaves with evaporated cane juice listed as the second ingredient might not be the best choice as that they are high in sugar. Sugar is not a necessary ingredient in bread and I have had many tasty store bought loaves that do not include it at all! One brand that I really like is Food for Life. They make sprouted grain bread that is 100% whole grains and has no added sugar. Also sprouting grains makes them easier to digest, and might be a good option for someone who has a hard time with whole-wheat flour.

Another thing that I like to do in the grocery store is buy the local bakery bread. It is expensive, but if you buy a nice artisan loaf, the ingredients are usually very basic such as whole-wheat flour, water, salt, and yeast. If you are in the Seattle area you have got to try Essential Baking Company’s Pain du George. It is made with 100% whole-wheat flour and is light, fluffy and deliciously crusty! (Plus, George is my dad’s name so I like it!)

As I just mentioned, artisan bread has very few ingredients and is relatively easy to make. I also just recently acquired a sourdough starter and have just begun the experimentation process of learning how to bake with it.

Sourdough starter is actually wild yeast. You use it instead of commercial yeast that comes in the little packets. It gives the bread a delicious sour flavor and also adds some lovely probiotics to your loaf. Honestly since I am not an expert on bread baking (yet!) I can’t say much except give it a try. You house will smell amazing and seriously who doesn’t love freshly baked bread. To inspire you I will leave you with some photos of my first sourdough loaf! (Recognize the beautiful Le Creuset you gave us for our wedding, Emily?)

(My starter, thank you to Karen Jurgenson's grandma Wilma! This one is 90 years old!)

(Proofing process)

(Final product!)

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