(Health Secrets) Although bread has been a staple food for humanity since just after the Stone Age, it wasn’t until the mid 19th century that bakers started adding yeast to their bread. Originally dough was left to rise naturally, creating a healthier bread.
How does bread rise without added yeast? Small amounts of yeast are naturally present in the grain and the environment. Over time this yeast will proliferate if kept in a dark, moist environment. Once a batch of “cultured” dough is obtained, a small piece from the previous batch can be used as a “starter” to accelerate the rising process of the next batch.
Allowing bread to rise naturally is a time-consuming process requiring 2-3 days and thus more shelf space. However, we are now learning that the slower curing process offers many health benefits, primarily because naturally leavened bread has an alkalizing versus acidic effect on the digestive system.
The Discovery of Yeast
Louis Pasteur first isolated yeast in 1856 and soon after many forms of yeast became available. The one that became the most popular was Fleishmann’s Yeast, released in 1869. While most people believe adding yeast is required to get dough to rise, it is only required to get dough to rise quickly. Bakers learned that by using yeast they could make fresh bread every 8 hours instead of every 24 hours. Nearly 100% of them started using yeast.
However, one problem is that yeasted bread rises so quickly that the grain it contains is not quite ready to eat. Another is that many people must follow a yeast free diet due to stomach conditions such as Candida, which is an overgrowth of fungus in the digestive tract that can result from oral antibiotic use.
Over the years, wheat has been cross-bred into hybrid forms to intentionally increase the amount of gluten that is naturally present. This was done to give wheat a more pastry-like quality. After a century of cross breeding, even organic whole wheat today bears little resemblance to the wheat our ancestors harvested. Many individuals have developed a severe allergy to wheat called Celiac Disease, which actually causes scar tissue to form in the gut. Thus many have been seeking alternative grains that can still produce delicious bread. Spelt bread contains less gluten.
When Lactobacillis (or whey) is added as a culture, the dough is soured by the bacteria and becomes easier to digest. Whey can be obtained by using the broth often found at the top of yogurt. Since you will be breeding the culture, it is recommended that you choose organic or even biodynamic yogurt.
Spelt is an ancient cousin of wheat that has a hard protective hull so it requires mechanical processing. In the late 19th century, farmers had a choice between mass producing wheat or spelt. While spelt was generally considered a superior grain, farmers decided to plant wheat because it was easier to process. Spelt was largely forgotten until the late 1980’s when it was rediscovered in its original state.
Unlike corn and soy, which are likely to be genetically modified, spelt is nearly always organic. Unlike wheat, in which most of the nutrients are found in the bran, the nutrients in spelt are mostly found in the (white) kernel portion. Thus, while it is still preferable to consume the whole grain, white spelt does not compromise nutrition the way white wheat does. Spelt also tends to be more easily absorbed by the body due to its high water solubility. Though it contains less gluten, spelt does contain some, so those who have Celiac must also avoid spelt.
Recipe for yeast free spelt bread
While many commercial bread companies have to use microscopic font in order to fit all of the ingredients on their labels, consider that homemade bread requires only a handful of ingredients. Remember: flour does not need to be Enriched, Bleached, Bromated, Emulsified, Genetically Modified, Irradiated, or Preserved! However, since you are creating the ideal conditions for mold growth, clean the containers and utensils with vinegar prior to use. While not particularly dangerous, dough that develops mold should be discarded.
7 cups spelt flour
2 cups warm filtered water
2 Tbsp cane sugar
2 Tbsp baking powder
1 Tbsp sea salt
1 Tbsp olive oil
Optional: 1 Tbsp whey
In large bowl, add water, oil and whey.
To bowl, add sugar, salt and baking powder – mixture should fizz a good deal.
Quickly stir in 1/3 of the flour, taking advantage of the fizzing action for easier mixing.
Add 1/2 of remaining flour – mix about 40 more beats by hand. It will start to get thick.
Mix in remaining flour and knead lightly until a gummy consistency is achieved.
Transfer to clean container. Cover with towel and store at room temperature 2-3 days.
After dough rises to roughly double in size, store dough in refrigerator until ready to use.
Bake at 400 degrees for about 20 minutes or until golden brown. Makes about 2 loaves.
Photo by storebukkebruse